SAA Session 602: “Building Effective Relationships with Legal Counsel”

This session featured a variety of archivists discussing the necessity of having a good working relationship with legal counsel.

Kathleen Roe, former SAA president and retired from the New York State Archives, noted two trends — an increasing professionalization of archives and an increasingly litigious society.  She asserted all archivists need to know about FOIA, the PATRIOT ACT, state public records laws, HIPAA, FERPA, and IP laws.  She counseled that ignorance of the law will not stand up in court – even if it’s how your predecessors did it!  She provided several words of wisdom:

  • “archivists need to be proactive, not reactive”
  • “everything’s an advocacy opportunity”

Roger Christman of the Library of Virginia explained that their processing guidelines haven’t been vetted by an attorney, so they err on the side of caution, and many items are restricted that probably only need to be redacted.

Samantha Cross works at CallisonRTKL, Inc.  Their archives has been housed in IT, Operations, and now resides in Legal.  She contended that it’s vital to be assertive and to have an advocate.  She suggested the importance of helping people understand that records management is a liability and risk management issue.

Javier Garza work at the Historical Resources Center, University of Texas MD Anderson (MDA) Cancer Center.  They have conducted oral histories with MDA administrators, doctors, and nurses – some of whom were also patients.  So they created a HIPAA decision tree to determine access to these oral histories.  He clarified that any type of health information is protected if that person is a patient of MDA – even if MDA didn’t treat that particular issue.

Christina Zamon from Emerson College explained the copyright complications that arose when a musician/humorist wanted to donate works and make them freely available.


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