Resourceful Records Managers! Courtney Bailey, Chair, SAA Records Management Section 2019-2020

As Jessika knows, I’ve hesitated to participate in her series on Resourceful Records Managers because I suffer from a bit of imposter syndrome.  I’ve been on the Records Management Round Table/Section since 2015, and I think I’ve done some good work over the years on things like reviewing open source software programs and migrating and updating a records management bibliography into Zotero.  But I don’t actually manage records as a part of my job, hence my imposter syndrome. However, now that I’m Chair of the Records Management Section, I’ve decided I can’t put this off any longer!

1. What is your educational background?

I earned a Bachelor’s degree in history and a Master of Arts in Teaching at Duke University.  After teaching in a public high school in Durham for 16 years, I decided I needed a new intellectual challenge.  During the summers when I was teaching I often participated in professional development workshops, and I was fortunate enough to travel to a number of presidential libraries.  And as a history student, I’d done a lot of research in archives, so it seemed a logical transition to consider archival work. I got an MSLS from the School of Information and Library Science (SILS) at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill, focusing on the archives and records management (ARM) track.

2. What is your role at your institution?

I’m a Records Analyst at the State Archives of North Carolina.  In this role, I consult with state and local governmental agencies along with community colleges and UNC system institutions on the creation, maintenance, and disposition of information in all formats and media.  I provide advice on public records concerns, electronic records, filing and storage systems, and disaster recovery. And I regularly conduct records management workshops.

3. How did you first become interested in records management?

In my formal coursework, the primary exposure to records management came in an appraisal class.  Whenever I had the opportunity to focus my own research, I tried to focus on a topic that would fill in a gap for me, and in this case, I looked into records management in the business arena.  I discovered there’s a logic to good records management that really appeals to me.

4. What led you to choose your current career in records management?

There’s no glamorous way to answer this question.  I fell victim to the surfeit of archival students that are pumped out of library science schools every year, and I didn’t have the flexibility to chase a job anywhere around the country.  Because of my teaching and research backgrounds and my good people skills, I thought I would be a good reference archivist. But when a job became available at the State Archives of North Carolina in the Records Analysis Unit, I saw a way to develop my skills in the records management arena while also being able to use my teaching abilities in creating and delivering workshops and online tutorials.

5. What do you enjoy most about your job?

I like the opportunities I have to employ my expertise to ease people’s fears about possibly doing the wrong things with their records and to provide them with the knowledge and confidence to carry out their duties successfully.  As someone who likes to solve problems and who thinks well on my feet, I operate well in situations where people ask me very specific and sometimes quite technical questions about their records. And I also love that my job is not a traditional desk job.  I’m frequently out of the office for a number of reasons:

  • consultations with state agencies about records management questions
  • workshops for government employees about records management and public records law
  • appraisals of materials that might transfer to the State Archives
  • pickups of archival materials from local courthouses

 

6. Do you have a mentor who has helped you in the records management field?

About a year after I took my job as a records analyst for the State Archives of North Carolina, a colleague and I were tasked with leading a functional scheduling initiative to overhaul the way records are scheduled for state agencies.  Although both of us had good academic training in archives and records management, we were both relatively new to the field, so we were interested in learning what other states had already accomplished in this field. I realized when I was doing research for my master’s paper that archivists are generally ready and willing to share their expertise, so based on that assumption, we contacted Russell Wood at the Washington State Archives.  He’d been brought in from Australia based on his knowledge and experience with functional scheduling, and he graciously answered our many questions about his work on both continents and helped us get on the right path. When I attended the SAA annual meeting in 2016, I learned about the work Mike Strom had done in Wyoming, so I later followed up with him to discover more information about their development and implementation processes. After successfully launching the new Functional Schedule for North Carolina State Agencies in December 2017, I got back in touch with Russell and Mike, and they graciously agreed to team up for a panel discussion at the 2018 SAA annual meeting.

7. What would you consider to be your career highlight or greatest success?

The functional scheduling initiative that was originally a two-person assignment became a one-person job when my colleague moved on to a new position.  But I was still able to meet all of our benchmarks and complete the project on time. Where we’d previously had over 40,000 separate records series on hundreds of retention schedules for specific entities within state government, I was able to consolidate these into 700-some records series within 16 functions on the new schedule.  (You can find all the details in the case study I wrote for the Government Records Section.)

As I was working on these functional schedules, I was also working with university records officers from the UNC system institutions in order to update their decade-old general schedule.  This provided us with an opportunity to craft a schedule that more accurately reflects the recordkeeping practices of current institutions of higher learning by engaging with subject matter experts representing the various functions of university institutions.

8. What type of institutional settings have you worked in?

In both my teaching and ARM careers, I have worked in the public sector.  There are certainly advantages that come from this because you can find people who are incredibly devoted to their work (and must be to accept the lower salaries!).

9. What advice would you give to an individual considering records management as a career?

Be willing to ask for assistance.  There is a lot of very specialized knowledge involved in records management, so it’s hard for one person to be great at all of it.  I’ve found it especially useful to make my relationships with other government employees two-way streets – for instance, I used my expertise to help an HR office craft a good electronic records policy, then when I needed some clarifications about the proper handling of immigration documentation, I looked to them as subject matter experts.

10. Do you belong to any professional organizations?

I joined both the Society of North Carolina Archivists and the Society of American Archivists when I was a student at SILS, and I have maintained both memberships.  I was also a member of ARMA while I was a student, but once that rate was no longer available to me, I found it no longer feasible to remain a member.

11. Thoughts on the future of records management?

We as records managers need to do a better job of convincing people that good records management is the foundation for success in every realm, be it healthcare, corporate work, government work, or academic institutions.  The compliance aspect of RM is obvious, but I think it’s also important to emphasize the role good RM plays in continuity of organizations, whether that be in disaster recovery, strategic planning, or institutional memory in the face of staff turnover.  And although the professional literature may lead us to think otherwise, I believe there’s a great deal of synergy between records management and archival work. In any sort of institutional setting, good records management can ensure the records that have been appraised as having enduring value will be available to the archive.

12. What do you perceive as the biggest challenges in the records management field?

While I was a student at SILS, I became interested in how manuscript repositories handle born-digital records, and I wrote my master’s paper on this topic.  Although it’s been a number of years since I wrote this paper, some of the issues I raised especially about appraisal and access have still not been resolved with any consistent solutions throughout the ARM realm.  I also think maintaining privacy is a big challenge for records management, especially as more and more records are created and maintained electronically. Take something like health records – records managers had pretty much figured out how to protect the privacy of paper patient records, but with the proliferation of EHRs/EMRs, there are many more factors to consider (e.g., the vendor who stored the records, the browser that is used to access the records, etc.).  I also think it’ll be interesting to see how GDPR filters into the U.S. realm.

13. Besides focusing on work, what are some of your other interests or hobbies?

I’ve played tennis for a long time, and I also sing in the Chapel Choir at Duke University.  And because writing isn’t something required in my day-to-day job, I try to keep my skills sharp by maintaining my own blog about issues related to records management, archives, and libraries (https://cbaileymsls.wordpress.com/).

14. Do you have a favorite quote?

“Mediocrity knows nothing higher than itself, but talent instantly recognizes genius.”

– Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

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