May 2023

Research Findings from the Building a National Finding Aid Network Project 

From 2020–2023, OCLC was a partner on Building a National Finding Aid Network (NAFAN), an IMLS-supported research and demonstration project to build the foundation for a national archival finding aid network to address the inconsistency and inequity of the current archival discovery landscape (LG-246349-OLS-20). The project was led by the California Digital Library (CDL), with partners at OCLC, the University of Virginia Library, Shift Collective, and Chain Bridge Group.  

OCLC led research for the project, undertaking an investigation of both end user and contributor needs in relation to finding aid aggregations, and an evaluation of the quality and consistency of existing EAD encoded finding aid data from regional archival aggregators.  

The NAFAN findings represent an unprecedented effort in research serving the archival community. This research provides valuable insight that can be used by the NAFAN project and inform other projects serving archival researchers and archivists, those wishing to leverage archival descriptive data, and researchers of archives and archival users for exploring new paths of inquiry for their own research.

EAD Analysis Findings

by Bruce Washburn, Merrilee Proffitt, Chela Scott Weber

This report details the methods and findings from a quantitative analysis of a corpus of EAD encoded collection descriptions provided by current regional finding aid aggregators in the US. The analysis sought to assess current EAD data as raw material for building a finding aid aggregation by looking for common elements and data structures present in the data and probing for gaps that could impede user discovery of archival collections. 

All reports are available in the California Digital Library eScholarship repository.

EAD analysis

Quick Links


Washburn, Bruce, Merrilee Proffitt, and Chela Scott Weber. 2023. EAD Analysis: Findings from the Building a National Finding Aid Network Project. Dublin, OH: OCLC Research.  

This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, through grant LG-246349-OLS-20. The IMLS is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s libraries and museums. To learn more, visit

OCLC Research