(Reprinted from the Summer 2014 Records Manager, because a wide audience on this is important. Please share this post, and if you’re at SAA already, please bring your thoughts to the Business Meeting on Friday. Thanks!)
It’s a bittersweet occasion for me—this is my last column as RMRT chair (though between Twitter, the RMRT blog, and other happenings for the newsletter, you likely haven’t heard the last of me!). All in all, it’s been a good run, I think. Though there are certainly a number of projects or potential projects that are not at the place I would have liked, we have made great strides in our education area. Between the collaboration with Lone Arrangers on the RM handbook, the Google Hangouts, the Schedule blog, and our upcoming RM basics webinar, I am extremely happy with how we have expanded our ability to help roundtable membership (and other interested parties) meet their records management resource needs.
Needless to say, none of this would have been even remotely possible without the herculean effort put in by the various iterations of the steering committee and you, the roundtable membership, to coordinate, facilitate, or manage these projects. “Thank you” seems to be a wholly inadequate phrase to express the extent of my gratitude, but for now it must suffice. And yet, as August 15th approaches, it occurs to me that I have been fortunate in another way as well—the composition of the steering committee has been remarkably consistent. Sure, pretty much the entire committee lineup is different from what it was in 2011, but the changes happened gradually, rather than having the entire committee turn over at once. Under our current bylaws, which provides for every officer and member of the steering committee to have 1-year terms, this slow change was anything but guaranteed.
As such, for what will probably be my last effort as RMRT chair, I undertook an effort to amend the bylaws in such a way to ensure that the efforts of today’s steering committee are not forgotten by the completely new steering committee of tomorrow. Just as we advise our own organizations to have vital records planning and continuity of operations, the changes that I am proposing will help our roundtable maintain its own continuity, and thus ensure that new members and officers have the experience of continuing members to draw upon. Besides the typographical and stylistic minor changes, the main changes to be voted on later this year are as follows:
Formalization of Vice Chair/Chair/Immediate Past Chair succession.
While the vice chair of the RMRT traditionally runs for chair (and is usually unopposed), there is nothing in the current system that says that he/she is obligated to do so. This potentially creates a situation in which a candidate wins election for chair with no sense of the history of the RMRT steering committee’s activities—or worse, a situation in which nobody feels qualified/interested to run for chair. This situation last year meant I was quasi-obligated to run for one more term than I had wanted, while this year we had no vice chair candidates for (I suspect) the same reason.
Changing the function of Vice Chair to Vice Chair/Chair elect will take some of that pressure off of the organization, while also giving the VC a year to “learn the ropes” before taking over. (Hopefully this learning curve will also encourage more of our members to run for a leadership position!) The Immediate Past Chair will stay as an official Steering Committee position, but will serve as more of a President Pro Tem position, advising the current chair and representing the roundtable in the event both Chair and VC are unavailable.
Extension of Steering Committee Terms to 3 years, and staggering election of Steering Committee members.
As noted above, in theory the steering committee could turn over in its entirety in a single year, which would radically change the direction and level of experience of the steering committee. To mitigate the potential of this happening, extending the terms of the steering committee from one to three years gives members a little more time to “learn the ropes” while also providing some stability in the committee’s composition.
To further facilitate a gradual change, the proposed amendments would stagger election of steering committee members so that one-third of the committee (or 2-3-2; please discuss at the annual meeting!) would be elected every year. This is the system that SAA Council uses, and it serves the same purpose as does the formalization of the VC-Chair-Past Chair progression—to let the new members get acclimated to their new duties by receiving the advice of newer ones. The staggered elections provide for periodic infusion of new blood (and, hopefully, new ideas) to the steering committee.
Provision for transition from the old system to the new one.
These sections for both officers and steering committee members will necessarily expire eventually, but they are critical nonetheless to facilitate an orderly change to the new system. The provision for the vice chair transition is especially important, since that person will be appointed by the 2014-2015 steering committee, and for someone who will eventually be chair, the general RMRT membership deserves a vote. Should the proposed referendum on this person’s continuation as vice chair fail, a new special election will be held; in no case will we move to the new system without having an elected vice chair in place and ready to assume the duties of chair at the next Annual Meeting.
Formalization of new officer positions.
Time marches on, and so do the roles of the officers and members of the steering committee. It seemed when the bylaws were first written that the newsletter and SAA microsite would be the main communication channels for the foreseeable future. Is this still the case? It is unclear to me, and I encourage people to chime in on the listserv or at the Annual Meeting. In the meantime, it seems reasonable to empower the RMRT officers to appoint temporary officers to fulfill new functions, with the option to make them elected officers later. One officer position I hope we can formalize in particular is the secretary; although we do our best to get minutes of our monthly teleconferences posted on the microsite, recording of same is spotty at best, and they are not always delivered to the webmaster in a form that makes sense to members. A steering committee member specifically charged at every meeting to take notes would greatly help with this transparency initiative.
Questions? Comments? Sarcasm? Criticism?
We’ll take amendments to the amendments at the Annual Meeting on Friday; following that, we’re looking to put these to a formal vote in October. I hope you will all take the time to review these bylaw changes and help ensure that the RMRT maintains the continuity it needs to become a stronger resource and advocate for SAA’s records management community in the future.
Thank you again to all steering committee members and to our lovely members—literally none of what we’ve accomplished over the 3 years of my term as chair would have been possible without your participation and enthusiasm. I am sure that Beth Cron will be an excellent chair, and I look forward to helping with the next chapter of the RMRT’s growth.