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Cuadra STAR User Feedback

Page history last edited by Lisa Spiro 11 years, 10 months ago

Cuadra STAR/Archives User Feedback

 

In order to understand how archivists use Cuadra Star Archives, I conducted phone interviews with 3 archivists between May and June of 2008.  To encourage complete honesty, I promised anonymity to the interviewees.  I tried to capture the interviewees’ remarks as accurately as possible, but I paraphrased and/or condensed some comments.

 

If you are a current user of Cuadra STAR, feel free to add your own comments.

 

Reasons why archives selected Cuadra

  • “When I was at SAA I saw Archivists’ Toolkit & Archon presentations.  I got excited about them—I’m a one-man shop with one assistant, a paraprofessional. I started to look into it [Archon?], but when we tried to install it, our IT group refused.  They don’t support it and wouldn’t let us put anything on our computers that they couldn’t support.  Then we went to the librarian here in charge of computers; when he saw that it ran on MySQL, he said no. So I started looking at other options. I’m not very tech savvy.  We looked at ContentDM, but it was really for digital collections, less about managing administrative tasks and putting up finding aids. I liked Archon for allowing you to enter once and generate multiple reports. When we met with Cuadra STAR, we saw a demo; the electronic resources librarian understood everything, and I understood everything on archives side.  We both liked the service and liked it from the user side of things.  It’s pricier than freeware, but they worked with us to find the appropriate price based on how many users can use it at one time.  Since we’re small, we didn’t need many licenses.”

  • “We have lots of different types of materials—book, archival collections, history, A/V, etc.  Our regular library system didn’t handle photos or archives well, but Cuadra has different modules to address these areas.  Right now we are using MARC for library cataloging.  We also have Star Archive & Star Images. We are just starting to use Star Archive for finding aids; we have a few in an earlier version of Cuadra software called Finding Aids.  We’re also using Star Archives for a digital journals project.”

  • “I was not in on choosing it—but I think it was a choice based on flexibility.  There were the most options available with Cuadra.  The customer service was very good.  They were helpful.”

     

Installation and Maintenance

  • “We run it on our own server. It has worked very well, and we have successfully gone through upgrades.  The Cuadra folks put out nice instructions for updating.  If there is a problem, they can help us right away.”

     

Ease of Customization

  • “Depending on what you want to do, the system is customizable.  Originally it’s a database system, but they have made specialized modules to address different types of customers, such as information management for business users.  You can customize it, modify data entry screens, web searches, etc—but there is a steep learning curve if you want to do that in house.  I can do a lot of conversions and modifications in house.  If you want certain changes, you can always have Cuadra do it.”

  • “We hope to host our own server in 3 years so that we have complete control of the web interface.  Right now, we contract with Cuadra Star to make changes to web interface.  If we installed it, we could use our own staff to make changes—it would allow us the freedom to have changes made in house. We’ve focused more on content and haven’t really put much effort into customizing the web interface.  It took a little while to refine how information would be stored or would display.  We weren’t sure at the beginning what to ask for because we weren’t sure what the data would look like.  We have started to do some customization.  It hasn’t been difficult, but it’s a little slow—we submit a proposal, get a quote, get it paid for, and then it is changed.”

     

User Community/ Support

  • “They provide excellent support—it’s very timely.  When I had a question, the tech called me up, did a WebEx, and showed me what I needed.”

  • “There are help boxes next to different fields.  One thing is sort of lacking—I’m a book person, and I would like a book, a user manual, a quick down and dirty how to.  There is a book, but I didn’t find it helpful.”

  • “Cuadra is not a really big company— it’s not like you call an 800 number.  We can call to talk directly to someone who is familiar with our needs.”

  • “They have been responsive to problems.  There have been very few problems with the server, and never for more than 24 hours in the almost 3 years I’ve been working with them.”

  • “Overall, it’s good.  I think that the manuals and the guides that they distribute are not very good. But they are very quick to respond and are happy to sit with you and help you through something.  However, I wish they had more customer service reps with detailed technical knowledge.   It would be nice to have closer access to tech support rather than sales.  We funnel through one person.  I’m the one person who speaks with the one person at Cuadra; they don’t want every person at an institution calling them.”

     

Weaknesses of Cuadra

  • “Cuadra/STAR is very specific and I don’t have my finding aids in stand-alone files.  I was just talking with OCLC about ArchivesGrid, but to participate I would have to export each of finding aids as XML file.  I can’t get the export function to work.  Some of the functions in Cuadra/STAR don’t really work yet.  Sometimes it is limiting to be so contained within that one data management software.  I can print out a finding aid, but I can’t do much else.  If I have a patron and want to send them a container list, I can’t make an independent file. Ideally I could select a collection, export the finding aid into an autonomous file of some type such as EAD or HTML, and I could distribute it independently of software.”

  • “There are a couple of pages where when you explode hierarchy out, you have to touch every single folder.”

  • “The person who set up my archives didn’t always do the hierarchy right, so I have to figure out how to put stuff into the hierarchy.”

  • “I had to get used to how it looks.”

  • “I don’t really like the web display very much.  I wish that I could play around with it some. I can’t really do that troubleshooting because we don’t have that freedom with them hosting our installation.”

     

Strengths

  • “They provide support—they take care of issues and host everything on their server.  The data is backed up at their location, not here, which is good in terms of hurricane preparedness.”

  • “Since we got it, we’ll spend a few weeks intensely working with it, then spend time away from it.  It’s not hard to come back to.”

  • “I love how you can search keywords in a Google way”

  • “You can cut and paste an entire legacy finding aid.”

  • “If I have the time, I could take a small collection, scan everything and put it on the finding aid.  I could look at everything associated with the finding aid.”

  • “Cuadra/STAR was designed I think by archivists.  The terminology and hierarchy are familiar—scope/content, biographical/historical note—all the elements that you would put into finding aid template is there for EAD.”

  • “They’ll take your legacy finding aids and put them in for you.”

  • “I have only generated one EAD file.  It was an easy, one step process, but I don’t know what to do with it once I have it.”

  • “I use the accessioning function, which is fabulous and has so many different things to use.  We don’t use all of the features.  Let’s say you have a collection that people like to cite from and you need to give permission—you can add in every time something is cited and where.  You could log donations, provide contact info for the donor and his daughter, and then switch her to the main contact if he dies.  The sky is the limit; there so many pieces we haven’t used.  If you move the record from accession to processed, you can move things over easily.  You can even wait to make it live and flag it for release.   They’ve thought of a lot.”

  • “You can maintain and enhance levels of description, from collection to item.  You can set up and maintain repository data, do inventory control, manage circulation and loans, and maintain name authorities and the administrative interface.  You can set accessions, review, and delete records.  Inside the collection level descriptions, there is all kinds of stuff. Once you figure it out, it is pretty easy.  You can manage finding aids; you can flag records as ready to release and generate EAD.  You can also generate MARC, I think.  When you go into accessions, you can flag all kinds of things.  It’s easy to search and pull up a record.  You have an accession component, transfer settings, acquisition methods, value attached, donor, etc.  You can put in all of the contact info, a credit line, and a brief description at accession level—everything that you might need.  Once you actually do the top level collection record, you can input basic information, such as collection level, display dates, arrangement and description, extent for finding aid, scope/ content, top-level finding aid information, location, bibliographic summary, creator, etc.  You can put in the authority level, history, retention, do you expect accruals, date range, assigned location.  You can assign it to a shelf.  There is additional descriptive data—media, required technology (?), subjects, condition, acquisition source and ownership data, rights permission, access, reproduction rights, all kinds of stuff—as much or as little as you want to put in.  You can get something up quick and could actually put in item level records in later. You can put in photos.”  

  • “You can search by keyword or browse collections.  When you pull up the result, you get a hierarchy on left with series level, and on right you see EAD.”

  • “I like the support.  You know who you’re talking to.”

  • “It’s customizable to meet your needs—a system out of the box probably doesn’t meet needs that well.”

  •  “I think it really gives me the framework for description—all I have to have is the data.  I don’t have to worry about formatting or identifying my data because the software gives you so many options to fill in.  With Cuadra Star, it’s very flexible, you have a lot of options, and you can really customize how you present your information because there are so many options. “

  • “Cuadra is flexible in accommodating different types of media.  That was its main selling point.  We deal with many types of materials and it allowed us the freedom to describe to those materials.  We have a staff interface, and a web session for the public.  There’s a link on our web site to our public catalog—we can mount files of any type to records, so we can upload pdfs of docs, jpgs, maps, and we can also do mp3, wav for oral history, etc. Cuadra Star is so appealing because you can upload files straight to the catalog and you don’t have to have a finding aid—it’s all linked together.”

     

Overall Assessment

  • “I’m happy that we ended up with Cuadra because I can get support when I need it—they email you back almost immediately.  There are no stupid questions to them; they provide very good support.  The search interface is almost like a google search.  Especially as a small shop without much support, Cuadra is a good choice.”

  • “In general, I really like the system—it works well and is reliable and easy for day-to-day.”

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