SAA/CoSA/NAGARA 2018 recap: Session 706

Guest post by Scott Kirycki, Digital Archivist, University of Notre Dame Archives

Session 706 – Opportunities in Change: Transition to Functional Records Scheduling in Washington, Wyoming, and North Carolina

Session chair Courtney Bailey (Records Analyst, State Archives of North Carolina) introduced the panel’s topic with the SAA Glossary’s definition of functional analysis: “A technique that sets priorities for appraising and processing materials of an office based on the relative importance of the functions the office performs in an organization.” The presenters then described how they applied functional analysis in creating functional records schedules for their states. They spoke in the order that their states implemented functional records scheduling (Washington, Wyoming, North Carolina), and Bailey mentioned in particular that she learned from what her colleagues had done, thereby illustrating that it is not always necessary to “reinvent the wheel” in records management.

In Washington, Russell Wood (State Records Manager, Washington State Archives) faced 28,000+ record series along with issues such as duplication of schedule numbers that were supposed to be unique. The schedules’ organization was based on which office created a record, and this led to the need for monthly changes to the schedules as office structures evolved. Switching to an approach based on the function of the records enabled Wood to develop a general schedule for records common to all state agencies and eliminate duplication. Making the schedules smaller helped get record creators on board with using them.

Mike Strom (State Archivist, Wyoming State Archives) told of a similar process of simplification by moving from office-specific to more general schedules. So far, the original 8,000 schedules have been reduced to 600. The process has involved some agitation, however, among agencies that were used to having their own sets of schedules. Strom emphasized communication and education as the keys to addressing the agitation. He gave examples of a training video that explains how to use the schedules and crosswalks that show how old and new schedules relate. He also suggested seeking input on proposed changes from the people who use the schedules.

Bailey spoke as well about the need to involve stakeholders in the making of schedules.

Over 200 individuals participated in meetings to evaluate North Carolina’s schedules as they were developed, and Bailey posted the schedules on a blog so those who were not at the meetings could provide feedback. To determine agency functions, she looked at their websites and previous schedules and asked records managers within the agencies to identify functions.

Later, when the schedules were ready, records analysts did training with the units. For additional training, Bailey wrote choose-your-own-adventure-style tutorials.

To show that the schedules are not arbitrary, Bailey included legal citations even though it was challenging to figure them out. She made an appendix listing the titles of series that come to the archives. This appendix helps record producers and managers, and also offers the public transparency about what kinds of records archives consider archival.

The session concluded with a question from the audience about whether members of the public might find general functional schedules harder to use when making records requests than agency-specific schedules. Wood recommended writing either type of schedule in a way that the public can understand. Bailey answered that uniformity in retention has cut down on confusion for the public. Strom indicated that Wyoming is not using the new schedules directly with the public in records requests, but he suggested that the new schedules may help cut down on the time it takes staff to find records to respond to requests.

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