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Eloquent Archives User Feedback

Page history last edited by Lisa Spiro 12 years ago

Eloquent Archives User Feedback

 

In order to understand how archivists use Eloquent Archive, I conducted phone interviews with 4 archivists between May and July 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 Eloquent Archives, feel free to add your own comments.

 

Reasons for Selecting Eloquent

  • “We selected Eloquent back in 2000 when they were using GenCAT, a DOS based system.  It’s reasonably tailorable. We can make it work for our particular needs rather than changing our practices to fit a system.  It has worked well.  At beginning, none of the information was in an electronic format, so we had to do a lot of data entry.  It moved from DOS system to web-based system a couple of years ago—they did all of the migration for us.”

  • “I used Eloquent many years ago on another project and liked it at that time.  When I got the chance to buy software 10 or so years later, I looked at other companies and once again Eloquent was the one I chose.  It was the one most likely to do the job.  One selling point: the data conversion from our old system (Filemaker) to the new one was less expensive with Eloquent than with other vendors.  They delivered the converted data on time and with good results.  We also chose Eloquent because it is web based.  I can log on anywhere at our facility.” 

  • “We already had an Eloquent system in place, so they were very familiar with our data and data structure.  That familiarity facilitated a great deal of things.”  

  • “GenCat was chosen as the archival descriptive database back in 1996.  We used GenCat until 3 years ago when it was experiencing difficulties, such as corrupted data.  We weren’t happy with some of the support we were getting from Eloquent.  We did a review of different software available at that time; we looked at MINISIS.  We also looked at ContentDM as  means of holding of descriptive data, but our IT people said it might be useful for description, but not for other purposes because it wasn’t relational.  Because we weren’t totally happy with the other options, we liked WebGenCat better than anything else at the time.  We’re happy with some bits, but not so happy with others.  We’re using 3 modules: library, archives, and records management.  The records manager has not been happy with that module and may look to something like Documentum.  We’re happy with the library component that we’re using with theses; it’s flexible, shows the records extremely well, and is easy to tailor.  We didn’t purchase the part that would allow us to tailor the archives module, so we depend on Eloquent to do customizations.  We’ve found that the library component is superior to DSpace.  For the archives module, it has real possibilities that we have not realized.”

     

Ease of Use

  • “It would be easy to use if you train grad students to do it—especially if you have Eloquent do the work for you.”

  • “When we first installed it, we had a clerical person who had a difficult time understanding the hierarchical structure and the language because she didn’t have an archives background.  I think that paraprofessionals and grad students would be OK, but the system does presume that you know archives somewhat.”

     

Ease of Installation

  • “It was easy to install; it took less than an hour.  As for maintenance, there has been basically none.  The only problem we have is that from time to time the system hangs and we have to restart the system.  We can’t figure out what causes it.  It hasn’t been a big enough problem yet that we’ve invested time in solving it.”
  • “They’ve been very supportive throughout the entire process from migration to installation—they worked with us very closely and slowed down to my speed.  All in all, I don’t think it was that difficult.  The timelines we initially set were probably not as realistic as they should have been.  They were very willing to work with us.  All in all, it was a smooth transition.”

     

Ease of Customization

  • “I and one other archivist are the administrators and so we can do the tailoring for ourselves.  We create our screens so that they fit archival standards and what our users are used to.”

  • “We have done some customizing. We did purchase the architect component so that we can do some stuff here.  Usually when we use it we have their support on the phone with us.  They’ve been very helpful in terms of walking us through various changes.  When we used Eloquent’s DOS system, we had tweaked our system so much that when any upgrades came, we couldn’t do the upgrades any more. This time around, we went with the system based on what they had, and they were able to implement all of the stuff we had changed. It went pretty smoothly.”

     

User Community/ Support

  • “There are no training manuals, so we need to figure out what they’ve called things and how the scripts run.  We’re learning how to do things.”

  • “User support is really responsive to questions.  The main drawback is that they do not have a manual—often there isn’t anything in the help notes.”

  • “The service aspect is weak.”

  • “I had an assistant who did the most of the interactions with Eloquent and in general we found it to be good.  It sometimes takes a couple of hours or a day to get a response, but on the whole user support has been very good.”

  • “User support has been excellent.  They respond almost immediately.  They offer to walk you through something.  They’ll provide detailed instructions via email or the telephone.  We’re looking at the same thing as the changes are happening.  Their customer service up to this point has been really great.”

     

Weaknesses

  • “We have to do communication with the company by phone or pay someone to come here.  It would be nice if we had an in-house system so we would have someone to fix problems here.”

  • “We have had big problems working with Eloquent in getting what we needed adjusted to suit our needs.”

  • “The behind the scenes things like creating your own report or importing and exporting can be somewhat difficult.  We do have the Architect’s module, but that sort of work is still difficult to do.”

  • “We’re unhappy with basic reports.  It seems that there is basic information that any archival institution would need when doing a search, such as an accession number. Some reports don’t have the basic information you need.  For instance, the collection lacks a file number, which is basic information that any repository would need.  When we ask them to make changes, it just doesn’t happen for a long time… There’s been a lot of frustration.”

  • “We’ve been trying to get them to export metadata for one of our collections so that we could put it into ContentDM.  In the old version of GenCat, you could import and export data easily.  We’ve been trying to get this data out of Eloquent for about a year now.  We can’t do that in the Web version and having trouble getting a response from them.”

  • “There is no written documentation.  Some of the architectural stuff is difficult to do.  They really could use documentation.”

  • “There’s not really a weakness that comes to mind.  When we typically have a problem, we either email or telephone the help desk and they’re ready to help us.  You always find quirks when you start something, and they expedite everything and tell you how to do it. Merv Richter, president of Eloquent, was involved through all of the steps, insuring that his staff was there to help us.  They pretty much held our hands through the entire process.” 

     

Strengths

  • “We use it for all of our workflow—receiving, accession, creating descriptive records, tracking researchers, appraisal, authority control, retention schedules, etc.”

  • “You can create EAD with the system, but we haven’t done that yet.  Supposedly you can push a button and automatically generate it.”

  • “Comparatively they are cheaper, at least when we were initially looking around.”

  • “It’s tailorable.  We’re not stuck with an out of the box model—that’s our high point.  We envision sticking with them for next several years, since the system fits everything we wanted to.”

  • “I think the product itself has a lot of potential. I liked GenCat, I like Web GenCat OK.  There are hotlinks to subjects and authors.”

  • “What’s nice about the system is that it would be easy to export—every field is delineated and it’s straightforward where the data lives.”

  • “It’s very easy to use and does exactly what you would want in an archival system. An archival system is really quite difficult in its organization.  We had tried to design our own, but to have all of those problems thought out in advance is very useful, since Eloquent includes features we didn’t even imagine we needed.”

  • “I like being able to make changes and immediately post them to the Internet.  I like the immediacy of it.  If someone discovers a typo, we can immediately make the change and post it.  We can digitize something and immediately attach that file to its description.  I know a lot of folks use Content DM, but Eloquent allows us to attach images immediately to descriptive record.  Everything is in a single system.  We can link any descriptive item to a digital image, PDF, mov file or whatever, and have it displayed on the Web immediately.  Reference requests have more than doubled as a result, which is something we’re struggling with now because we’re short staffed. It’s definitely improved our web presence.”

  • “Right now Eloquent is doing what we need it to do.  They met me where I was at and they really slowed down the process so that I could get on board.  They really worked with us closely from the data mapping to migrating the data to implementing the software.  Merv Richter came down himself to do the training.  We walked through all of the screens and all of the configurations.  That made for a well-rounded experience from beginning.”

     

     

Eloquent’s Response to User Feedback

In response to user comments, Eloquent’s president, Merv Richter, gave the following (slightly edited) response:

"Some of the negative comments may have come from customers migrating from the old DOS version of the Eloquent GENCAT product. Applications built with it were usually custom built, so when moving to the Web-based packaged application, some of the personalization was lost. Also some chose not to purchase the WebGENCAT Toolkit for the new product, so they had to pay for custom tailoring to their new application. The package product would not accommodate the old data structure.

 

Customer service is available by calling the hotline. Those calls are usually resolved by the person answering the phone. Voice messages are responded to in less than two hours.

 

The Eloquent Archives application is delivered with utilities to export data in a number of formats including ASCII tab-delimited and Excel. Eloquent consultants can configure a custom export to gather all related data out of the database and string the data fields out in any sequence the customer requests. The customer then uses the powerful search tools to select the desired records and send them to the custom export utility. The entire project usually does not exceed 3 to 8 hours of the consultant’s time after the customer approves the format."

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