Archival Processing Specialist, Northwestern University

By IS Lab February 26, 2021

Northwestern University

The principal duties of this position include assisting in the management of the daily operations of the unit under the direction of the Head of Collections Services and performing hands-on processing of archival collections within the McCormick Library of Special Collections and University Archives workgroup. Works with curators, other library units, and the Collections Services team to arrange, describe, preserve, secure, prioritize, and make accessible archival collections.

This position will be on-site on the Evanston campus for a minimum of 60% of time (three days a week) immediately upon hire, with the expectation that the individual will work on-site 100% as in person staffing levels on campus resume. This will continually be evaluated and terms may change based on business needs and/or as conditions related to the pandemic evolve.

Job Responsibilities

Archival Processing:

  • Create, review, revise, and publish finding aids for traditional, born-digital, and hybrid archival collections in order to ensure factual accuracy and adherence to current professional and internal standards.
  • Create and review accession records for incoming archival acquisitions.
  • Plan and implement—individually or as part of a team—processing plans for collections
  • Perform or supervise the processing of collections in a variety of formats and physical conditions according to current professional and internal standards.
  • Determine and maintain appropriate physical housing and storage of collections, maintaining inventory control and security across multiple locations.
  • Train and/or supervise students and/or interns in the preferred methods of processing collections and handling of materials in a variety of physical formats.
  • Create detailed inventories, indexes, container lists, etc., of acquired collections.
  • Develop and produce finding aids, applying DACS in a fashion best suited for the collection and research needs.
  • Maintain confidentiality in working with restricted collections and personal information, per donor stipulation, FERPA, etc.

Management and Supervision:

  • Actively collaborates in the development and implementation of the unit’s standards and policies. Collaboratively or individually determines procedures and workflows for the archival processing unit; continuously streamlines and standardized work processes.
  • Applies the use of project management tools for the efficient management of collections and unit’s projects.
  • Serves as mentor and/or trainer as needed for staff processing archival collections.
  • Supervises students and/or interns.
  • Collaborates with curators and Head of Collections Services to plan and prioritize projects and in order to ensure appropriate and accurate levels of description for collections.
  • Assists curators and Accessions Specialist in determining the disposition of incoming collections, advising in donor stipulations, assisting in donor’s relations, etc.
  • Assists in the managing and/or delegates the paging/shelving of archival materials as needed for research, classroom activities, exhibits, etc.
  • Collaborates, coordinates, and/or implements preservation treatment and methods with the Preservation workgroup to ensure the safety, appropriate care, and handling of rare and delicate materials. Coordinates the acquisition of specialized supplies.
  • Partners with Metadata Services staff in the cataloging and description of collections.
  • Coordinates the scheduling and management of digitization projects as related to archival collections with curators and Repository and Digital Curation staff.
  • Collaborates with exhibit curators/teams in the planning, research, organization, and curation of exhibits using archival materials. Serves as lead curator on exhibits as appropriate.
  • Coordinates collection reappraisal work and digitization proposals in support of library Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiatives.

Public Services:

  • Provides research and reference assistance to staff, faculty, students, and researchers.
  • Writes promotional pieces, as needed, to promote or support collections.
  • Collaborates with curators and researchers, as appropriate, to provide expert research assistance.
  • Engages in continued professional development and scholarship, and represents the library in local, state, and national organizations, as appropriate.
  • Maintain in-depth knowledge of changes and trends in archival arrangement, description, and access methodologies.
  • Other duties as assigned.

Job Qualifications


  • 5 years’ library experience or other relevant experience required, with a minimum 3 years’ experience processing and working with archives, including experience in creating finding aids in accordance with national standards and best practices.
  • Experience with collection management tools such as ArchivesSpace and reading room management applications such as Aeon.
  • Familiarity with standard Microsoft software applications, online catalogs, and bibliographic utilities.
  • Experience in training, supervision, and creating documentation
  • Familiarity with current developments in archival processing techniques, along with flexibility and adaptability in the context of conceptual and technological change.
  • Knowledge of current archival arrangement and description standards, relevant descriptive standards, and cataloging standards (RDA, DACS, LCSH).
  • Demonstrated ability to plan, manage, and complete projects, including maintaining workflows and meeting deadlines.
  • Able to work independently and show initiative in taking on projects and solving problems.
  • Able to work collaboratively with colleagues, faculty, students, and the general public.
  • Strong attention to detail and organizational skills.
  • Able to work on multiple projects at a time and prioritize day-to-day work.
  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills.
  • Organized, flexible, with the ability to adapt and work creatively in a complex, rapidly changing academic environment.
  • Knowledge of basic preservation practices.
  • Interested in continuing education and developing skills and knowledge.
  • Supports the concept of “Team Library” by collaborating and communicating across teams and workgroups.
  • Promotes a culture of trust, respect, and positivity in the workplace.
  • Able to lift 40 pounds.


  • Master of library science or international equivalent or post-graduate degree in history or other related degree, with relevant coursework in archival or records processing and management, or an equivalent combination of education and experience.
  • ACA certification, certificate in archives or museum studies, or related.
  • Specialized subject expertise in one or more disciplines relevant to topical collecting areas in the McCormick Library of Special Collections & University Archives