In Conversation with Diane Biunno

Diane Biunno is metadata archivist for the Institute of Jazz Studies.

Diane Biunno joined the Libraries as metadata archivist for the Institute of Jazz Studies back in February. Here, we catch up with her to learn more about her experience and what she has been working on since the shift to online-only service.

Tell us a bit about your background prior to coming to Rutgers.

Prior to joining the team at the Institute of Jazz Studies in February 2020, I served as a project archivist at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania (HSP) in Philadelphia. At HSP I worked on several projects including the Hidden Collections Initiative which was a grant funded project to improve the accessibility and discoverability of archival collections housed at Philadelphia-area small repositories. As part of the initiative, I helped staff and volunteers at local historical societies, ethnic organizations, and religious institutions better arrange, describe, and care for their collections. I enjoyed working on this project because it gave me an opportunity to get to know members of the local archival community and their amazing collections.

Before coming to Rutgers, I also worked on several innovative digital projects that were focused on improving the discoverability of archival and special collections materials. For example, I served as a digital project assistant at Penn Libraries for the Bibliotheca Philadelphiensis
project, an initiative to digitize and make freely available all the known medieval manuscripts in the Philadelphia region. In addition, I was a digital project associate for the Historical Images, New Technologies Project, which explored how to better describe archival visual materials using TEI (Text Encoding Initiative) markup. Through working on these projects, I learned a great deal about metadata standards and formats, as well as, digital preservation and digital project management best practices.

I received my B.A and Ph.D. in Italian from Rutgers University and my Master’s in Library & Information Science from Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

What have you been working on during the quarantine?

I’ve been working with my colleagues at IJS to copyedit and publish the approximately 200 finding aids that the IJS created last year. A finding aid is document that describes an archival collection and helps guide researchers in using the collection. The IJS finding aids will be published online and made accessible to the general public and researchers, with the goal of helping our patrons better understand our collections and how our materials can meet their research needs.

What does the process look like?

Before beginning the process of copyediting the finding aids, we quickly realized that we needed a style guide to ensure that all finding aids would be edited according to the same capitalization, punctuation, and grammatical guidelines. Unfortunately, there isn’t a standard style guide for archivists, so we decided to create our own and base it on the Chicago Manual of Style, a style guide widely used in academic publishing.

Next, we created project workflows, as well as spreadsheets for keeping track of the project’s progress. We made sure to keep the project style guide, spreadsheets, and other documentation in a shared folder that was easily accessible to everyone working on the project. Most importantly, used software tools that allow us to easily track changes to documents and to view the edits of our coworkers in real time.

How far along are you and what are the next steps?

At this point, we are halfway through the project and have published approximately 110 finding aids. We’re moving at a steady pace and hope to wrap up the project in a few weeks.

While working on the project, I began thinking about how the IJS might use Wikipedia to help guide researchers and the general public to our collections. Because patrons use Wikipedia as a starting point to find general information on a topic, as well as, additional resources, I’ve begun adding links to the institute’s finding aids in the “External Link” section located at the bottom of Wikipedia entries. For example, at the bottom of the Benny Goodman Wikipedia entry, I’ve added a link to the IJS finding aid for the D. Russell Connor collection of Benny Goodman audio recordings. Moving forward, I hope to add additional links to our collections and explore other ways to make our finding aids and collections more broadly accessible to the public.

Where can people learn more?

People can visit the repository page for Institute of Jazz Studies to view the finding aids that we’ve already published.

People can also check out the IJS Facebook page for more information about events and other news: as well as the institute’s page:

Matt Badessa