SAA Session 205: “Coming Soon to a Local Government Near You: Adopting the Massachusetts Municipal Clerks Archives Education Program”

This session included representatives from the Massachusetts Archives, the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners, the Town of Westford, and Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science discussing their NHPRC-funded project to impart archival principles to municipal clerks in Massachusetts.

Michael Comeau, from the Massachusetts Archives, reported there are efforts to get two pieces of helpful legislation passed:

  • an act to establish a Municipal Records Preservation Commission
  • St. 2016, c.121 – An Act to Improve Public Records
    • mandates the creation of a “records access officer” in every city and town
    • mandates public records be maintained electronically if originally available in that form

Gregor Trinkaus-Randall of the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners described the Massachusetts Municipal Clerks Archival Education Program (MMCARP).  This 3-year grant-funded program has developed an archival curriculum for municipal clerks.  The introductory course covers basic archival concepts, including:

  • provenance, custody, original order
  • appraisal
  • arrangement and description
  • preservation
  • advocacy and outreach

The advanced course focuses on electronic records, including basic concepts alongside the application of archival principles and case studies.

They want the program to be transferable to other states.  Each module includes framing, application, assignments, resources, and a self-check.  A simulation includes core decision points and moderated discussions, set in a fictional town.  Credits for the coursework are awarded from the Massachusetts Town Clerks Association and from the International Institute of Municipal Clerks.

Kaari Mai Tari, clerk for the Town of Westford, described the assignments: inventory, office records retention schedule, finding aid, preservation assessment, and outreach plan.  She explained that in order to be effective, records management needs to be embraced as a program, not just a project.  This grant has demonstrated that it’s important for the state archives to learn what the clerks don’t know about implementing records management.

Katherine M. Wisser of Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science said it’s vital to create a rhythm for the learner in the online environment and to provide ways that the information learned can be applied.  They have three options for rolling out a national implementation:

  1. static website – problematic because there’d be no tracking/credentialing/feedback
  2. interactive modules – problematic because it’d be more expensive and difficult to adapt to different contexts (technology, states)
  3. online course (currently using Moodle software at Simmons)
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