The Selection Process

Before moving on to the process of selection, a few preliminary explanations are required. It should be stressed that this paper has to do with spoken word, although it may also apply to music. Also, the figures used by way of explanation about the effectiveness of selection are based upon both experience and speculation. If they have any significance it is because they may stimulate the discussion and provide a kind of model for calculating. Lastly, the article is restricted to matters of personnel, not investments and costs in the material sphere, because the costs of equipment and materials are usually far less forbidding than the costs involved in hiring staff.

Finally the selection process has been related to the cataloguing. Records which have been selected for further use will, in any case, pass through the cataloguing process in order to become accessible. It is, however, doubtful if all of them will also go through a stage of copying and further preservation. After passing the selection process many recordings will indeed return to storage without further preservation. Including preservation in this calculation model would complicate things unnecessarily.

The selection process consists of a series of actions which lead to the decision to send the collection or the single record for further processing through the archive (positive selection), or to exclude it from further processing or even to destroy it (negative selection). Within that kind of process there are many possibilities, differing in degree of intensity relative to the needs of the archive and the kind of input of records in the archive. At one end of the scale we find coarse-mesh selection, and at the other end fine-mesh selection. Coarse-mesh selection is the evaluation of complete collections of recordings without going into each record specifically. Fine-mesh selection is based upon a record-for-record approach necessary, for instance, in case of probable copying, bad technical quality, etc.

In the first case the selection process is usually not very time consuming, which means that the ratio of the size of the collection and the time spent on selection is advantageous for the archive. However, coarse-mesh selection is risky whenever the collection is not already well defined and well documented. If this is not the case, one may end up with a lot of rubbish and a few really valuable recordings.

In considering fine-mesh selection it is worthwhile to go into the question of effectiveness of selection in more detail. The process of selection with a fine-mesh approach consists of several stages:

  1. Getting the record from storage;
  2. Inspecting the container, the sleeve, the label and the eventual documentation with the record;
  3. Listening to the complete record or to part of it, and/or studying an eventual detailed list of items of the recording;
  4. Filling in a selection-form with headings for a few primary dates;
  5. Sending the records back to storage;
  6. Evaluating the findings and taking a decision about positive or negative selection. Completing the selection form.

Stages 1 through 5 can be described as a pre-cataloguing process because, in the case of positive selection, the selection-form can, amongst other things, serve as a tool for cataloguing proper.