Last night I participated in a panel about emerging standards in archival description sponsored by the Student Chapter of the Society of American Archivists (SCoSAA) at Simmons College. Kate Bowers, one of the other panelists, gave a great talk about integrating physical and born-digital archival records at the Harvard University Archives that reminded me of the Managing Electronic Records workshop I took a few weeks ago. She talked about maintaining the continuity of records, regardless of format, explaining that the web pages and tweets of today serve the same fundamental purpose as the broadsides and other ephemera of past centuries, just as the course catalog that exists today as a complex database is still the same basic vital record of the University that the simple print version used to be. I found that idea somewhat comforting; electronic records seem less mysterious when viewed as continuations of existing records series that can be described using the archival knowledge we already have at our disposal.
It struck me that we all touched on how our work as archivists - particularly where access to digitized or born-digital material is concerned - now involves other professionals, particularly from the IT field. Though we may not be IT experts ourselves, we need to understand their world enough to be able to communicate our needs effectively. Our role as archivists is to help design the tools we need by articulating the functionality we want, and by continually coming up with new ideas to make our metadata do more for us and for our users.