Managing Records, Managing People

 Last month I attended an All Day Educational Event sponsored by several ARMA chapters in the New York Metropolitan area. The event featured many excellent speakers who presented on topics including e-discovery, privacy of information, information governance trends, the Presidential Records Management Directive (PRMD), and career development and workplace presentation skills. Perhaps breaking good conference protocol, I bounced around and listened to presentations from several of the different designated tracks and attended sessions on executive report writing, navigating achieving the goals of the PRMD, and the future of information governance. Each presentation had a different message, but I still walked away with the same overall takeaway: it’s all about the people.

                As archivists and records mangers we can become narrowly focused on the information that we govern. Appraisal, access, preservation, dissemination, exhibition, retention, disposition, compliance, regulation…on and on we focus on handling the documents and records of which we are custodians. In my experience with other professionals in the field, many of us have an innate sense of value. It’s the degrees of value we discuss in class, but for many of us it’s a natural understanding: informational value, historical value, intrinsic value, administrative value. Most of us just get it, and we care about it too, but it does not come naturally to everybody. So what about those who lack that je ne sais quoi? How can we do what we need to do as professionals if people who create or use records are not engaged?

                This is why archivists and records managers need to be just as skilled at managing people as they are managing information. To be a manager is to guide and to influence, to teach, and to catalyze progress and change when necessary. In a recent RMRT blog post fellow Steering Committee member Christie Peterson wrote with insight about our OTHER skills as records managers. Being an effective manager of personnel should be included in all of our skill sets.

As I’m sure we all have experienced, records, documents, and information can be personal. Within organizations, workflows are unique and individualized. We sometimes have the touchy job of getting in the thick of important business and operations that to others might not seem like OUR business. How can we tell people how to organize their email or use particular file naming conventions? This is where our management skills come in. On top of our know-how of standards and best practices regarding information, we must effectively guide others to work with information from the start of its lifecycle. The buzz of “information governance/IG” seems to incorporate the importance of this active voice of records managers and archivists as key individuals in any organization. Of course, this is all easier said than done. The mix of corporate environments, individual personalities, and general management will make our tasks either harder or easier.

Good records management will boil down to good management of people. We must gently balance our understanding of records value and the great lengths to manage this information, and understanding the needs of the people who create these records by showing up to work every day and doing their job. So, add one more line item to your resume. Even if you are a lone archivist or records manager, you’re still managing and supervising every day.   

Archiving Email: Two Innovative Projects Video Posted

Our most recent virtual Hangout, Archiving Email: Two Innovative Projects, is now available via the RMRT’s YouTube channel.

A special thank you to our participants from the Smithsonian Institution Archives and the Library of Virginia for volunteering to talk with us about these two projects. And of course to our moderators from both RMRT and ERS for leading such an interesting and inspiring discussion!

Archiving Email: RMRT, ERS join forces for next Virtual Hangout

Please join the Society of American Archivists’ Records Management Roundtable (RMRT) and Electronic Records Section (ERS) for Archiving Email: Two Innovative Projects the next installment of our Virtual Hangouts series, airing Thursday, April 10th at 1 pm EDT.

Lynda Schmitz Fuhrig, Electronic Records Archivist at the Smithsonian Institution Archives, and Ben Bromley, Roger Christman, and Susan Gray Page from the Library of Virginia will be discussing two innovative email preservation and access projects.

Schmitz Fuhrig will give an overview of The Collaborative Electronic Records Project (CERP), a collaboration with the Rockefeller Archive Center to develop, test, and share technology to preserve email.

Bromley, Christman, and Page will discuss The Kaine Email Archiving Project @ LVA, which focuses on processing the approximately 1.3 million email records received from the administration of Governor Timothy M. Kaine, and making the identified public records searchable and viewable to users.

We’ll start with an overview of both projects, and then dive into a moderated question and answer session.

As always, we’ll be accepting questions for our speakers from you. If you have a question or topic for discussion please leave it as a comment on this post.

Archiving Email will be broadcast live via the RMRT’s YouTube channel. We’ll also update The Schedule with links to the archived YouTube video.

View past Hangouts here.


Our OTHER Records Management Skills

It seems that every time un- and under-employment among archivists and librarians comes up as a topic for public discussion, at least one person chimes in with the usual trope about all the OTHER things one can do with the skills and qualifications of a librarian or archivist. Records management is often high on that list. So it struck me as somewhat humorous when I recently found myself, as a records manager, listing off my skills and the ways that I am of service to my institution OTHER than creating and managing records retention schedules.

As a records manager in a highly decentralized organization, I have to use persuasion rather than authority to convince individual units to participate in records management activities, a position I’m sure many of the roundtable’s members find familiar. Despite having it as a goal, I often find that scheduling records – that core RM activity – is one of the least attractive, or least urgent, services I can offer the units I serve.

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Two items on authenticity

Two items had me thinking about authenticity of digital records this week. Both exist in that somewhat nebulous region between (consisting of both?) records management and digital preservation. They are both unrelated to one another, so here’s a head’s up about the coming rough transition.

Over the past couple years the institution that employs me has been working with an organization to preserve their records (big surprise, eh?). Last week we started discussing their electronic records. Without getting specific, the organization operates in multiple, geographically disparate locations and has demonstrated itself to be highly organized and with a grasp on records/information/knowledge management. When it came, however, to discussing their electronic records, they had little perception of the issues attendant in making minor changes to clean up files that were created ca. 1996. Leaving aside the (in)ability of modern software to render files from that time period, losing the creation and modification dates associated with the files calls into question, on some level, the authenticity of the records. If we’re unable to acquire the original media, the issue immediately becomes one of how well they have documented their custody of the digital material, including when files were migrated, edited, or otherwise changed. And my role becomes one of counseling the organization on what to document about their electronic records and how to organize them so that users not familiar with the contents can attempt to navigate to the desired information without viewing each and every file. While this sort of pre-custodial intervention is demonstrably different from past practice with many physical record groupings, it is not, I believe all that different from the consulting work records managers perform with record creators and their active records.

Okay, so the abrupt tonal shift happens here. A doctoral student at the University of British Columbia has sent out a call for participation in a survey on digital records and authenticity. If you’re on the E-Recs Listserv, you have likely seen this request already. So while it’s not specifically a records management issue, I think it’s worth your participation if you do any management of electronic records. Information about her study, and a confidentiality statement are included after the jump.

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Archiving Snow?


How are you archiving your snow memories?  Please share your stories and pictures of what you are doing to remember the great March 2014 Snowstorm on the East Coast.

Send your method in a brief 120 word narrative in MS Word or in the body of the e-mail before March 14, Friday, 2014 close of business to

We would be interested in your most interesting pictures that you are archiving personally or for your job.  These pictures and stories will appear in our Spring Newsletter for your reading pleasure.

Thanks and happy snow days!


Lorette Weldon

Librarians Using SharePoint Blog  (

Newsletter Editor, The Records Manager (

Global Information Governance Day – February 20, 2014

Did you know that the third Thursday in February is Global Information Governance Day? Join Twitter discussions using #GIGD to celebrate the day at 11 AM EST. Share an GIGD e-card with your colleagues and RM friends here and find out some more general information and prize opportunities sponsored by RSD here. Enjoy!