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Experiencing archives at universities: Archivists, librarians, understanding, and collaboration

Diana K. Wakimoto (University Libraries, California State University, East Bay, Hayward, CA, USA)
Christine Susan Bruce (Information Systems, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia)

Reference Services Review

ISSN: 0090-7324

Article publication date: 8 June 2015




This paper aims to explore the varying ways in which academic archivists in the USA experience archives, how these experiences compare to those of academic librarians and how we can use these findings to improve communication and collaboration.


Using a phenomenographic research approach, academic archivists were interviewed and the transcripts were examined to develop categories reflecting varying experiences.


There are three different ways of experiencing archives: as organizational records, as archival enterprise and as connection. The connection category is a more complex way of experiencing archives as it incorporates the aspects of the other two categories as well as the awareness of archives connecting people to their histories.

Research limitations/implications

This study is limited to academic archivists in the USA.

Practical implications

Understanding that there are different ways of experiencing archives means that information professionals should clarify their definitions of before beginning collaborative projects. Also, by understanding these varying experiences, information professions should be able to communicate and engage more fully with each other and their users in projects and programs that leverage archival collections.


This is the first study to use phenomenography to investigate archivists’ experiences of archives. This understanding of the lived experience of archivists, combined with understanding how librarians experience archives, should enable better communication and ultimately collaboration between the two professions.



The authors would like to thank the study participants, and Tina Inzerilla and Clarence Maybee who provided valuable feedback on the manuscript before submission.


Wakimoto, D.K. and Bruce, C.S. (2015), "Experiencing archives at universities: Archivists, librarians, understanding, and collaboration", Reference Services Review, Vol. 43 No. 2, pp. 182-198.



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Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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