Building a National Finding Aid Network

OCLC Research was a partner on the California Digital Library-led, IMLS-funded project NAFAN to build the foundations for a national finding aid discovery infrastructure in the United States. OCLC led research efforts that would inform project outcomes.

Building a National Finding Aid Network (NAFAN), was an Institute of Museum and Library Services-funded (grant number LG-246349-OLS-20) research and demonstration project (September 2020 to August 2023) with the goal of providing inclusive, comprehensive, and persistent access to descriptions of archival collections, or "finding aids." NAFAN is guided by the belief that the archival community can more sustainably manage and equitably provide access to the collections in their care by developing a large-scale, national finding aid network that is community driven, sustained, and governed.

OCLC was responsible for conducting and synthesizing research to understand the needs of both archival researchers and cultural heritage institutions regarding finding aid aggregation. OCLC also undertook an evaluation of the quality of existing finding aid data at scale to scope the network's initial functionality and lay the groundwork for iterative data remediation and expanded network features in subsequent project phases. We employed a mixed methods approach to the research, gathering and analyzing both qualitative and quantitative data and considering the data sets in relation to each other.

Our findings indicate that there is significant value to be drawn from a national aggregation of archival description, and also point to significant challenges that must be overcome to build the community of participation that a national finding aid aggregation will require to be sustainable.

Related Links

NAFAN - Building a Natinal Finding Aid Network California Digital Library Portal

For more information on the Building a National Finding Aid Network (NAFAN) Project, please visit the California Digial Library's NAFAN project website.