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Description Assistance

Description Assistance: Cataloging California

What collections are hidden in your backlog?

Need an item-level inventory or catalog records?

Looking to digitize your unique collections but unsure where to begin?

California Revealed offers up to $3,000 in reimbursements to help cultural heritage organizations describe and catalog California-related library and archival materials. Description Assistance provides California libraries, archives, historical societies, and other cultural heritage organizations with the financial assistance necessary to create item-level inventories and cataloging records of physical or digital collections, with the end goal of submitting nominations for California Revealed’s 2023/2024 Digitization and Preservation. Awardees create high quality descriptions optimized for digitization and online discovery.

The 2022/2023 Application for Description Assistance is now open!

To be considered for the 2022/2023 Cataloging California program, please complete the application by Wednesday, November 30, 2022

In addition to creating more robust collection descriptions, Description Assistance will help an organization: 

  • Address collection backlogs  
  • Rehouse materials and plan future preservation actions
  • Increase intellectual and physical control over materials 
  • Foster processing and cataloging skill-building 
  • Increase access to materials through accurate description and online discovery 

Along with cataloging workshops and training days, the California Revealed team will be available for consultation throughout the grant cycle in order to help.

The timeline for the grant cycle is January 1, 2023 through June 30, 2023. Work must be completed, and all deliverables submitted, by the end of the grant cycle. 

We hope that you will take advantage of this unique opportunity to give your resources the attention they deserve! 


Application Information 

Awardees will be reimbursed up to $3,000 for labor and supplies costs upon receipt of deliverables at the end of the 2022/2023 cycle.  

Collections must fall within California Revealed’s Selection Criteria and contain content of statewide or local historical significance that contributes to an understanding of the histories of California and its people. Cataloging Assistance contracts are based on the following parameters:  

  • Significance of the proposed resources to local and state history  
  • Timeframe and cost of the proposed project relative to its deliverables 
  • Clarity of the plan of work to complete the proposed project  

Please apply using the Cataloging California 2023/2024 Application Form.

Application Components 

  • Collection(s) overview
  • Description of the collection(s) 
  • Types of materials to be cataloged (audiovisual recordings, print materials, or digital materials) 
  • Significance of the proposed collection(s) to local/state history 
  • Justification of why this collection should be cataloged now 
  • A preliminary cataloging plan briefly outlining: 
    • Estimated number of items/records to be cataloged and/or rehoused 
    • Existing and proposed levels of description (collection, series, and/or item) - How are the materials currently described? How will description be improved with this cataloging assistance? Please note item-level description is required. 
    • Proposed cataloging and metadata standards for description – What standards will you use to catalog/describe the items? If using local description practices, please summarize.  
    • A budget proposal (sample in Funding Details section) 
    • A timeline for the work to be completed between January 1, 2023 – June 30, 2023 

Assistance is limited by the availability of LSTA funding. While reviewing applications, we give preference to new partners, as well as to organizations and collections that reflect communities who have been historically underrepresented in the narratives of California.  


Funding Details 

Awardees will be provided with a contract agreement allowing for up to $3,000 in reimbursements for cataloging expenses. Please keep in mind that we estimate it takes ~6 minutes per item to capture the required description specified in California Revealed's Metadata Guidelines.

Sample budget:  

To create 1000 item-level records for 1000 documents, we estimate: 

  • 100 hours @$28/hr = $2,800 
  • 1,000 acid-free folders @ $20/100 = $200 
  • Total= $3,000 

Funding can cover: 

  • The creation of item-level records as well as finding aids 
  • Staffing and benefits (up to 30% of hourly rate) 
  • Minimum pay must be $28/hour.  
  • Rehousing supplies (e.g., file folders, archival boxes, and individual containers) 

Funding cannot cover: 

  • Computer hardware 
  • Storage furniture 
  • Other equipment 
  • Indirect costs such as rent and utilities 

Project expenses incurred by the institution are reimbursed at the end of the contract after receipt of deliverables. 



Description Assistance Award deliverables are due Friday, June 30, 2023 and must include: 

  • Robust and consistently formatted item-level records that follow California Revealed’s Metadata Guidelines. Item-level records must be submitted using California Revealed's .xlsx spreadsheet form. Collection-level records can be submitted as a .pdf and/or as a link to a finding aid, if the finding aid is online. 
  • Reimbursement requests: 
    • Payment stubs or timesheets 
    • Invoice(s) for paid time
    • Receipts for rehousing supplies 
    • Invoice(s) for supplies

Please send electronic versions of the deliverables to Pamela Vadakan: 

Upon submission of final deliverables, complete the 2023/2024 Application for Digitization and Preservation Awards, which will be posted in July 2023, pending budget approval. Applications will be reviewed in Summer 2023. Collections processed and cataloged with this funding are considered automatically as nominations for California Revealed’s next digitization cycle. The organization may choose a subset of the collection for consideration if preferred.


Item Level Records 

Awardees are expected to create robust item-level records that conform to a consistent descriptive standard in accordance with California Revealed’s Metadata Guidelines.  

Standardized descriptive metadata promotes wider discovery of your materials and helps create connections between collections.  

Here are some of our favorite free, common, and easy-to-use description standards: 

For additional guidance regarding item-level record creation, please do not hesitate to reach out! The California Revealed team is here to help.

Item-Level Record Metadata Fields Must Include 

  • Title 
  • Format 
  • Number of parts 
  • Dimensions or duration 
  • Date created 
  • Significance   
  • Condition  
  • Description  
  • Creator   
  • Rights  

Item-Level Record Metadata Fields Ideally Include 

  • Generation   
  • Subject topics and entities  
  • Spatial and temporal coverage  

Records that do not conform to program standards will not be accepted. The Awardee must make corrections before record ingest into the California Revealed repository. 


Cataloging California Introductory Webinar: Recording and Slides

Recorded December 10, 2021. This webinar reviews the application process and expected deliverables and also walks participants through California Revealed's essential fields to inventory mixed collections.


Cataloging California Grantee Meet & Greet #1: Slides



Contact Pamela Vadakan, Director, California Revealed 
(916) 603-6719/