Comparison of three ACA exam results

What can we learn from an admittedly small sample, comparing the scoring on three ACA exams?:

Domain 1 – Selection, Appraisal & Acquisition….86%……….71%……….79%

Domain 2 – Arrangment & Description …………….93%……….93%……….93%

Domain 3 – Reference Services & Access ………….86%……….64%……….57%

Domain 4 – Preservation & Protection ……………..64%……….57%……….50%

Domain 5 – Outreach, Advocacy & Promotion …..86%……….64%……….71%

Domain 6 – Managing Archival Programs …………79%……….79%……….93%

Domain 7 – Professional, Ethical & Legal ………….80%……….73%……….67%

The scores on Domain 2 are the first thing that sticks out.  Is it mere coincidence that three different people taking the test at three different locations would all have the same score for this domain?  Perhaps.  Or could it also indicate that there were not many questions for that domain and that those questions were easier or more basic?

By contrast, all three people had a tough time of it with Domain 4, Preservation & Protection.  Would this indicate that the questions presented for this Domain were generally more difficult, or perhaps more obscure?

The main thing that I get out of this comparison is that I think it would be very helpful if the Academy were to provide a comparison column, showing for each domain the cumulative average score of all test-takers.  Did everyone, or nearly everyone taking the test this year score 93% for Domain 2?  Or if I scored 64% for Domain 4, how did that compare with the rest of those taking the test?  Did most people score higher?
I may just write to ACA and see if I can get that information.

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ACA Exam results are in

The results are apparently in the mail for the 2010 archival certification examination, as sponsored by the Academy of Certified Archivists

I received mine with the day’s mail at work today.  My overall score was 82%.  The passing score this year was 65%.  As I understand, the Academy will throw out those questions that everyone misses, which is what lowers the minimum passing score from 70% down to 65% this year.  In one previous year, the minimum passing score was 67%.

UPDATE, 8 Nov. 2010 : I stand corrected.  Contrary to my statement above, there is this note by Mary Elizabeth Ruwell in the latest [Fall 2010] ACA Newsletter :

Congratulations to all archivists who passed the exam this year! The average score on the exam was 72.89. The passing score was 65%. There seems to be some misunderstanding about how the exam is scored. ACA does not discard questions that everyone misses which then somehow affects the passing score.  The Exam Development Committee is guided by Dr. Holly Traver, Professor in the Cognitive Science Department at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, who ensures the reliability and validity of the certification examination. Before the 2010 exam was given, a survey of ten certified archivists was made to rate each item on the exam in terms of the likelihood that the least-competent test taker would get the test item correct (the Angoff Procedure) and this information is used to set the cut score on the exam. Dr. Traver receives all the exams and electronically scores them.  She conducts item analyses to assess reliability.  Each item is scored in terms of its difficulty, which is the percentage of test takers who got the item correct.  There is also a discriminability index, which is a bi-serial correlation between responding correctly to the item and one’s total test score.  Only then does Dr. Traver generate a report of the exam results and provide individual scores.
[Issue 71, page 3]

The notification letter also provide a breakdown of score by domain.  My best performance was in Domain 2 – Arrangement and Description, and my weakest area was in Domain 4 – Preservation & Protection.

One thought on how the Academy might make the scoring feedback more effective:
Provide some insight into how the rest of the testing population performed in each of the domain categories.  If I scored 93% in Domain 2, how did that score compare with the rest of those taking the test?

Regardless, I’m very pleased.

Now, what’s next?

P.S.  Be sure to check out the Facebook page that Tim Mottaz has set up for those studying for the next ACA exam:
Aspiring Certified Archivists–Study Group for Future ACA Exams

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A Favorite Moment

My wife is a great fan of Alexander McCall Smith’s works and she was right in thinking I would enjoy his short series concerning the inimitable Professor Dr. von Igelfeld.  Three short works of gentle humor, the first of which is titled Portuguese Irregular Verbs. One of my favorite moments comes toward the end of this volume, when Prof. von Igelfeld is visiting Venice and while there, he pays a visit to his friend, Dottore Reggio Malvestiti, Librarian of the Biblioteca Filologica of the University of Venice.  Prof. von Igelfeld has been troubled by things he has seen while in Venice and he puts the question to his friend:

‘Is there something wrong with Venice?’ he asked.  ‘Please give me a direct answer.  That is all I want.’
Malvestiti, about to reveal a further perfidy on Morati’s part, was stopped in his tracks.
‘Venice?’ he asked.  ‘Something wrong?’
Von Igelfeld nodded.  ‘Yes, Venice.  I have seen men in white coats peering into the canal and taking samples of the water.’
For a few moments Malvestiti appeared to be thinking about this and said nothing.  Then he sighed.
‘Alas, you are right,’ he said quietly.  ‘There is a great deal wrong with Venice.  The water is rising.  The city is sinking.  Soon we shall all be gone.  Even this library. . . ‘  He stopped, and spread the palms of his hands in a gesture of despair.  Then he continued:  ‘We have already lost an entire floor of this library — our entire Slavonic collection.  It is now completely underwater.’
Von Igelfeld drew in his breath sharply.  Surely the books themselves could not be submerged.  Malvestiti, as if anticipating his question, smiled ruefully.
‘Yes,’ he said.  ‘It may seem ridiculous, but we just didn’t have the time to save them.  Come, let me show you.’
They made their way down further corridors, lit only with weak, bare bulbs.  Then, faced with a small paneled door, Malvestiti pushed it open.  There was a staircase immediately beyond the door, and this descended sharply into water some two or three feet below.
‘There,’ said Malvestiti sadly.  ‘Look at that.’
Von Igelfeld stared down at the water.  Malvestiti had taken a torch from the wall and was shining it on to the surface of the water, just below which he could make out the beginnings of a bookshelf and the spines of books.
‘I can hardly believe it,’ he said.  ‘Were you unable to do anything to save the books?’
Malvestiti looked down at the water, as if willing it to retreat.
‘It happened without our realising it,’ he said.  ‘Very few people ask for those books, and months, even years can go by with nobody going downstairs.  Then, suddenly, an archimandrite working in the library asked for a work on Church Slavonic, and there we were . . . . Now, if you see the mark s.a. on a book’s catalogue card, you know it means that it is sub aqua.  It is very sad.

[excerpted from Portuguese Irregular Verbs, by Alexander McCall Smith.  New York: Anchor Books, 2005.  Pp. 120-121.

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Archives, Documentation and Institutions of Social Memory (2007)

Archives, Documentation and Institutions of Social Memory: Essays from the Sawyer Seminar.  Edited by Francis X. Blouin, Jr. and William G. Rosenberg.
University of Michigan Press, 2007.  503 pp.

Searching this morning for articles by Canadian archivist Hugh Taylor, I came across the above work, available for review on Google Books.  While not the whole of the work is available for viewing, there is enough presented to allow you to make a more informed decision for possible purchase.  The content looks promising.  Here is an overview of the content structure:

I. Archives and Archiving
II. Archives in the Production of Knowledge
III.  Archives and Social Memory
IV. Archives, Memory, and Political Culture
V. Archives and Social Understanding in States Undergoing Rapid Transition

And from among the 45 articles, here are some of the highlights that caught my eye:

“The Problem of Publicité in the Archives of Second Empire France,” by Jennifer S. Milligan
“Not Dragon at the Gate but Research Partner: The Reference Archivist as Mediator,” by Kathleen Marquis
“Between Veneration and Loathing: Loving and Hating Documents,” by James M. O’Toole
” ‘Records of Simple Truth and Precision’ : Photography, Archives and the Illusion of Control,” by Joan M. Schwartz
“The Question of Access: The Right to Social Memory versus the Right to Social Oblivion”, by Inge Bundsgaard.
“Remembering the Future: Appraisal of Records and the Role of Archives in Constructing Social Memory, by Terry Cook
“Creating a National Information System in a Federal Environment: Some Thoughts on the Canadian Archival Information Network,” by Laura Miller
“Archives, Heritage, and History,” by David Lowenthal
“The Role of Archives in Chinese Society: An Examination from the Perspective of Access,” by Du Mei.

The article by Inge Bundsgaard looked particularly interesting, given some current research interests, but I found it wasn’t included as part of what had been made available.  No problem:  just a bit of further searching and there it is in an earlier form from 2002, available in Comma, a publication of the International Council on Archives.
Here’s the direct link:, though that article turned out to be disappointing, not taking the matter to sufficient depth for my purposes.

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Review: “The Power of Archives” by Mark A. Greene (2009)

“The Power of Archives: Archivists’ Values and Value in the Postmodern Age,” by Mark A. Greene, The American Archivist, 72.1 (Spring/Summer 2009): 17-41.

This is Greene’s inaugural address upon taking his post as president of the Society of American Archivists. His concern here is to take up the issue of our visibility and power within society at large, due, in sum, because we have a weak sense of identity. Green posits ten archival values to promote in an effort to counter this weakness.

1. Professionalism, which must be made a matter of ethics, striving for excellence in our professionalism, recognizing that a profession is by definition based upon specialized knowledge. We need then to internalize a common set of values and communicate those values to others, particularly to those in leadership of the archives’ host organization. We need to define our own importance and claim power, according to Greene. I would counter Greene at this point, as a Christian, and say that we need to define our calling and role, and proclaim our place and purpose.

Under this value category, Greene also takes up consideration of some of the reasons why archives are essential. He states that examples can be inspiring, but abstract. Or they might be linked to current societal values, or they might be more prosaic–simply a listing of the many uses.

But I would want to examine further this idea of linking archival value to current societal values. That course of action seems potentially fraught with problems. Current values may be passing values and thus temporary morals may actually turn out to be pitfalls. Archival values should be attached to enduring standards and not to the fadish standards of the day, however impermanent they may seem at the moment.

2. Collectivity – Greene stresses the importance of context and aggregation. He says that “a relentless focus on the aggregate is part of what sets us apart from librarians and museum curators in the cultural heritage business. . . ” and thus “our ability to work in the aggregate is also an important source of our power.” Collectivity can also bleed over into collegiality and a greater facility in working with colleagues, sister institutions and allied professions.

3. Activism has three components in Greene’s view:

a. Agency – our work shapes and interprets the historical record. The decisions we make define what our organizations and society can remember, attain and conceive.

b. Advocacy of archival issues and values. We must more consistently project our strong belief in the importance of what we do and why we do it.

c. Activism – giving voice to otherwise undocumented people and groups

4. Selection – “The appraisal process determines the fate of our documentary heritage and thereby contains perhaps the only socially significant element of archival power.” (Roy Schaeffer) Archivists preserve that material which has enduring value, and accordingly should be the professionals best educated to make the required selection. Appraisal requires an engaged, active discretion; get over fear of mistakes: “The documents may be unique, but the information is usually not.” (Gerald Ham).

5. Preservation – Not all accessioned materials are worth extraordinary conservation measures. Some use is better than no use. “We must more clearly define the place of preservation in our constellation of archival values. While in some respects fundamental to all we do, it is a means rather than an end. We preserve in order to use. And we preserve only what we consciously and methodically select. We are not preservationists, we are archivists.

6. Democracy – “…archivsts have a vested interest in protecting the fundamental tenet of democracy that holds leaders accountable not solely to history in the long term but to the electorate in the short term as well.” [to which some might say, well and good in a free nation, but …]

7. Service – Our first obligation is to our institutions and their clients and only then do we have a value as a social good. Service is the linchpin between access and use. “Ultimately, archives and archivists are foremost about people and not things–we serve our users first, not our collections. . . Service results in more than good will; it results in good allies who can assist the archives.”

8. Diversity – Greene here echoes one of the core values of the American Library Association, “We value our nation’s diversity and strive to reflect that diversity by providing a full spectrum of resources and services to the communities we serve” I think it might be more helpful in application to the local archives to think in terms of equal coverage and treatment in our collections, not playing favorites, and equal service and respect towards all our patrons.

9. Use & Access – “Use is the end of all archival effort, and we must give it a priority value.” (T.R. Schellenberg) If this is true, then find ways to speed along the tasks of processing. Recognize where “good enough” is good enough. Do what you can to make collections accessible to users. Also recognize that not all use is direct, and that there is such a thing as symbolic use (pride of ownership, etc.)

10. History – “The principle justification for archives to most users, and to the tax-paying public at large, as also reflected in most national and state archival legislation, rests on archives being able to offer citizens a sense of identity, locality, history, culture, and personal and collective memory.”

Greene offers this summary statement in conclusion: “Archivists are professionals with the power of defining and making accessible the primary sources of history, primary sources that protect rights, educate students, inform the public, and support a primal human desire to understand our past.”

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Protocols for Native American Archival Materials

I  just came across this publication on the web, and it looks like something that would be good to include as part of your reading in preparation for the ACA exam, particularly in reference to ACA Domain 7:

It prints out to 17 pages in length, and there is a helpful bibliography at the end, along with a short glossary.

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ACA Bibliography: Introduction and Background Information


*Academy of Certified Archvists Website, including Handbook
Link to ACA website

*O’Toole, James M and Richard J. Cox. Understanding Archives and Manuscripts, Archival Fundamentals Series II, Chicago: Society ofAmerican Archivists, 2006.
OR O’Toole, James M. Understanding Archives and Manuscripts, Archival Fundamentals Series, Chicago: Society ofAmerican Archivists, 1990.

Chapters ?1-4 in Schellenberg, Theodore R. Modern Archives: Principles and Techniques, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1956. SAA Archival Classics Series. Chicago: Society of American Archivists, 2003.
OR Chapters 1-4 in Schellenberg, Theodore R. Modern Archives: Principles and Techniques, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1956.

*Chapter 1, Daniels, Maygene and Timothy Walch, editors. A Modern Archives Reader, Washington: National Archives and Records Administration, 1984.

Pearce-Moses, Richard. A Glossary of Archival and Records Terminolgy, Archival Fundamentals Series II, Chicago: Society of American Archivists, 2005.also on-line

ADDED 2010: Ellis, Robert, ed. Selected Writings of Sir Hilary Jenkinson, Gloucester [Eng.] : Alan Sutton Pub., 1980.

ADDED 2010: Hunter, Gregory. Developing and Maintaining Practical Archives: A How-to-do-it Manual, New York : Neal-Schuman Publishers, 1997.

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