Rules for Archival Description

In 1990, the Rules for Archival Description (RAD) were created to ensure that description was unified nationally (“Bureau of Canadian Archivists, Rules for Archival Description”). Prior to RAD, archives across Canada had their own descriptive method. This made it a lot harder for archive users using many archives across Canada. RAD helped to unify Canadian archival descriptions so that users could anticipate what to expect, making access to the records mush easier. Prior to RAD, many of the descriptions were designed to fit on a card in a card catalogue. This meant that the descriptions were very vague. RAD not only helped to nationally unify archival descriptions; it also created a system that would allow much more information to be included in a description allowing for better access to records.

RAD is not the only major development to occur; reference interactions within an archive have greatly changed since the 1940s to get to where they are now. At least in major archival institutions, a trained reference archivist is staffed and many have subject specialists. The goal of reference archivists today is to identify and respond to the unique needs of the clients of their archives (Yakel 2000). The reference interview is not just an important aspect of reference services in libraries; its function has carried into archives, where the questions asked help to get a better idea of what the patron is looking for. An increased focus on the patron, and what they are searching, helps provide better access to the records housed in an archive. To supplement reference services, search aids such as research guides have been created to assist patrons in doing research on their own (Yakel 2000). These search guides, coupled with better reference services have helped to increase patrons’ access to the records housed in an archive.