For immediate release | September 23, 2014

Using extensible processing to reduce backlogs

CHICAGO — A 2010 OCLC report found that an Internet-accessible finding aid existed for only 44 percent of archival collections. Undescribed collections are essentially hidden from users, and much of the blame can be assigned to the strain of processing backlogs. Extensible processing offers an alternative, allowing collection managers to first establish a baseline level of access to all holdings, then conduct additional processing based on user demand and ongoing assessment. Daniel A. Santamaria’s new book “Extensible Processing for Archives and Special Collections: Reducing Processing Backlogs,” published by ALA Neal-Schuman, details this important approach, which adheres to archival principles and standards while emphasizing decision-making and prioritization. Santamaria, a recipient of the Society of American Archivists' 2013 Coker Award for innovative developments in archival description, has overseen the processing of thousands of linear feet of organizational records and personal papers. Showing how technical services staff can reassert control of collections while improving user experience, this invaluable resource"

  • lays out the six key principles of extensible processing, from creating a baseline level of access to all collections material and crafting standardized, structured descriptions to managing archival materials in the aggregate;
  • provides a start-to-finish workflow adaptable to any collection, with practical tips such as using collection assessment surveys to reduce backlog;
  • advises how to limit physical handling and processing through a holistic approach;
  • explains the use of Describing Archives: A Content Standard (DACS) and Encoded Archival Description (EAD);
  • covers recent developments in the digitization of archives, including alternative strategies like low-resolution scanning and repurposing existing metadata;

  • presents several case studies, ranging from a one-person shop to large universities, that include examples of processes, systems, software and metadata.

Santamaria is director of digital collections and archives at Tufts University. He previously served as head of technical services at the Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library at Princeton University from 2005 to 2014. At Princeton he led projects related to digitization, description, and discovery that have received national recognition. He previously worked at the New York Public Library and both the Special Collections Library and the Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan. He is the author of Designing Descriptive and Access Systems, a module within the Society of American Archivists’ Trends in Archival Practice series. He also developed and teaches SAA’s “Implementing More Product, Less Process” workshop and teaches advanced archival description in the Rutgers University School of Communication and Information.

ALA Store purchases fund advocacy, awareness and accreditation programs for library professionals worldwide. Founded in 1976 by Patricia Glass Schuman and John Vincent Neal, Neal-Schuman Publishers, now an imprint of ALA Publishing, publishes professional books for librarians, archivists, and knowledge managers. Contact us at (800) 545-2433 ext. 5052 or

Related Links

"Extensible Processing for Archives and Special Collections: Reducing Processing Backlogs"

"Linked Data for Libraries, Archives and Museums: How to Clean, Link and Publish your Metadata"

"How to Manage Processing in Archives and Special Collections: An Introduction"


Rob Christopher

Marketing Coordinator

American Library Association

ALA Publishing