Working for the University Archives

Hello, my name is Zaynaib Giwa but everyone calls me Ola for short. I just started my stint at the University Archives during the beginning of this fall semester. I was entrusted with the task of organizing and converting the University Board of Trustees (BOT) meetings into PDF/A documents.

Who are BOT?

The University of Illinois Board of Trustees or BOT for short consists of thirteen members. Nine of the members are appointed by the Governor and three of these members are student trustees. One of these student trustees is appointed by the Governor.  The student trustee has an official vote. The purpose of BOT is to make the rules and regulation of the University of Illinois (each campus). These meetings date back from the 1867 all the way to present day.

Why convert PDF documents into PDF/A documents?

PDF is a standard for encoding documents in an “as printed” form, so that files are portable between systems.  It is widely used for distribution of archival documents.

The suitability of a PDF file for archival use depends on options chosen when the PDF is created. PDF/A is an international standard that defines the use of the Portable Document Format (PDF) for archiving and preserving documents. The goal of PDF/A is to electronically archive documents in a way that will ensure preservation of their contents over an extended period of time, and will further ensure that those documents will be able to be retrieved and rendered with a consistent and predictable result in the future. For example, a file saved in PDF/A format included all of the fonts needed to display the document, embedded right in the file.  That way, the PDF document does not need to rely on external files (which may not be found when you move the file to a different computer, just to make it display like the author intended).

There was a lot of troubleshooting when it came to converting PDF documents into PDF/A, but with a little ingenuity and collaboration we figured out not only how to convert full sized volumes of the BOT minutes meeting into PDF/A documents, but also how to split them into individual meetings so they will be easier to search. Why don’t you give it a try?  The files are located at  You can even download the entire set as a zip file.

Working in the University Archives was an awesome experience.  The staff are nice, respectful, and hardworking individuals.  It doesn’t hurt that they tend to bring free snacks from time to time for everyone—which they keep far, far away from their precious archival documents.  My favorites are chipotle chocolate chip cookies (courtesy of University Archivist William Maher). I am looking forward to working with them in the coming New Year.

Updated on