Records Management in the Time of COVID-19

Join us at 2pm ET on Friday, May 21st for another in our series of virtual coffee chats — this one hosted by April Anderson-Zorn, University Archivist at Illinois State University, and Courtney Bailey, Records Analyst at the State Archives of North Carolina (SANC).  The past 14 months have changed many of our lives in a myriad of ways, and records haven’t escaped the impacts of these changes.  We’ll discuss some of the changes we’ve seen at our institutions, and I’m sharing here links to some resources developed at our institutions that can serve as discussion starters.  We’d love to dialogue with you about what’s changed for you — along with what you may continue doing in a new way even after COVID restrictions ease.  Here are some topics we’ll address:

  • When does a global pandemic affect the calculus of appraisal decisions?  SANC provided some general guidelines.
  • What about all these new records we’re generating that we’d never even heard of before 2020?  Do we have to retain Zoom recordings and symptom checklists and Teams chats?  SANC provided some guidance to various audiences, such as state agencies and universities.
  • How can you train records custodians when in-person visits are not possible?
  • How can you gather input on a schedule update from subject matter experts when you cannot convene a meeting in your conference room?
  • When wet ink signatures have always been required on schedule approvals and other authorizations, what do you do when many people are working from home?
  • How can you receive archival donations with COVID restrictions in place?
  • How can you facilitate the collection of digital records?

No registration is required for this event. We look forward to seeing you on Zoom!


The future of RIM education

We had a great conversation with folks last week about what has worked for them and what they need in the field of records and information management education. As is the case with most things in the RIM field, it depends — more specifically, what people need in a training/education sense depends on where they are professionally and what resources they have to devote to their own professional development.

Here are some interesting comments, suggestions, and evaluations that were shared:

  • The content of most grad school RIM classes is too theoretical, so there’s a disconnect to RIM in practice.
  • It would be great to see RIM systems demoed by practitioners instead of having to sit through vendor-supplied sessions that are more sales pitch than practical evaluation.
  • Many existing training programs can be prohibitively expensive, especially for those new to the profession or without support for professional development.
  • Some existing training programs are too superficial to be of much use while others are too rigid and go into topics in depth that may not be relevant to all participants. There needs to be a good in-between option.
  • What’s the most effective way to allow emerging professionals to benefit from the expertise of more seasoned RIM professionals? Is it a formal mentoring program, or would something else work better?

Topics on which folks would like to see training opportunities:

  • Creating/refining retention and disposition schedules
  • Crossing over from traditional archives work into RIM
  • Starting a new RIM program
  • Conducting RIM outreach to colleagues and building alliances and mentoring relationships within the workplace
  • Surveying records
  • Developing RIM training for constituents and assessing its effectiveness
  • Researching legal requirements for records (retention and confidentiality)
  • Incorporating graduate assistants effectively into RIM work
  • Advocating for the resources needed for RIM work
  • Making RIM part of HR onboarding/offboarding
  • Storage and carrying out paper/digital migrations
  • Planning and carrying out a digitization initiative

Possible avenues to pursue:

  • Our new case study series might help to bridge the gap between theory and practice. You can find the overview here. Be thinking about what experiences you can share that could benefit someone else in the profession.
  • One suggestion was to have a Toastmasters sort of group that could get together to workshop training/workshops you plan to present to constituents. Let us know if you would be interested in participating in something like this.
  • Now that more of us are conducting workshops virtually, should we try to publicize upcoming training events that could accommodate “guests” who might be interested in learning from another RIM colleague/seeing how they present similar content?

In the long run, taking a wide approach to answering this question about RIM education is probably the best. So expect to see everything from more coffee chats to webinars to new SAA courses — and maybe even a track or certificate program somewhere down the line.

As always, if you have thoughts or feedback, please feel free to reach out to the Steering Committee at

RIM education chat this Friday

The RMS steering committee spent a good portion of last year investigating various RIM educational opportunities.  You can view our findings here.

Now we’d like to have a conversation with our community to find out what topics and levels of depth are needed to support you in your work and your professional development.  Join us this Friday (December 11) at 2pm ET for a Zoom chat.  You are not required to have a camera available, though you are certainly welcome to use one.  Most important will be having access to speakers and a microphone so you can participate in the conversation (although if you at least have a keyboard, you could participate via chat rather than orally).  You can register for the session and receive the Zoom login information by registering here:

If we were to design a track program through SAA Education, here are some already existing courses that could be included:

• Records Management Introduction
• Basics of Managing Digital Records
• Change Management: How Do You Tackle It?
• Records Management for Archivists
• Train the Trainer: Building a Successful Continuing Education Course
• Designing and Presenting Effective Online Learning
• Email Archiving: Strategies, Tools, Techniques

What else needs to be added?  Is there sufficient interest in a certificate program?  Are there folks who’d be interested in teaching particular topics?

Bring your questions and suggestions to this session.  If you need any further information, please feel free to reach out to the steering committee leadership at  We look forward to your joining us on Friday.

Announcing the new RM Case Studies series

SAA’s Records Management Section is excited to announce the launching of a new peer-reviewed case study series under the umbrella of SAA Publications. This series seeks to support the practical as well as the theoretical and scholarly aspects of the records and information management (RIM) profession.

Suggested case study length is 2,500 to 5,000 words.  Elements of the case study include:

  • introduction
  • background/prior relevant work/institutional context
  • challenge addressed
  • strategies and resources employed
  • analysis of successes and setbacks
  • future plans

Illustrations, including tables, charts, images, etc., are welcome and should be embedded in the Word document.  Authors are responsible for understanding and following the principles that govern the “fair use” of quotations and illustrations and for obtaining written permission to publish, where necessary.  Accuracy in citations is also the author’s responsibility.

A submission will not be considered if it is being reviewed by another publishing outlet at the same time, nor if it has been published previously.  

Submissions are accepted on a rolling basis.  All members of the RIM community are welcome to submit case studies.  The submission form can be found at  Submissions will be reviewed by two members of the Records Management Section and evaluated according to a rubric.  The reviewers will send their analysis to the Chair of the Records Management Section within 3 weeks of receipt; the Chair will then review the feedback and make a publication recommendation to SAA’s Publications Editor.  Within 5 weeks after submission, the case study author will be notified of the publication decision.

SAA will provide light copyediting and, in some instances, may also request minor revisions to be made by the author.  The author will approve the final version.  SAA will format the case study and post it on its website as a PDF.  Copyright of the case study will remain with the author, and SAA will acknowledge that in the copyright line that will appear with the case study.  Authors will consent, grant, and assign to SAA the right to publish and/or distribute all or any part of the case study throughout the world in electronic or any other medium.  

Any questions prior to submission can be sent to

Archives Records 2020 RMS Virtual Annual Meeting

Last week, over 130 people came together via Zoom for the annual meeting of the SAA Records Management Section.  We first had a visit from Cal Lee, editor of The American Archivist, who made a plug for submissions of records management related articles.  You can find submission guidelines here.

As the current chair of the section, I presented a brief business report of the steering committee’s activities for 2019-2020.

  • We posted monthly steering committee meeting summaries to the listserv and our microsite.  (If you wish to join our listserv community, you can create an account here.)
  • We revamped our microsite and added an RM toolkit with links to various best practices.
  • We had 41 blog posts, including a continuation of the Resourceful Records Manager series and the introduction of two new series exploring the intersections between archives and records management work — one a series of testimonials from practitioners and the other a series of brief literature reviews exploring these intersections.
  • We also posted an interview with a scholarly communications expert about the ramifications of GDPR in the U.S.
  • We updated resources in our Zotero bibliography.
  • We hosted three virtual coffee chats during COVID times.
  • We produced calculators for the costs of storing paper and electronic records.
  • We collaborated with SNAP for a Twitter chat.
  • We submitted a draft proposal to the SAA Committee on Education for an RIM certificate program.

I also reported our election results, with nearly 200 section members participating:

  • Krista Oldham, University Archivist at Clemson University, will be stepping into the role of Vice-Chair for the coming year, to be followed by a year as Chair, and then a year as Immediate Past Chair.
  • We have a new steering committee member who will serve a 3-year term — Ryan Leimkuehler, who is University Records Manager at Kansas State University.
  • We are welcoming two early career members, who will serve 1-year terms:
    • Madison Chartier is a Metadata Librarian at Oklahoma State University
    • Jes Martell is a Records Center Specialist at Pennsylvania State University

Stay tuned in the coming weeks for more information here on our blog about our new committee members.

After reading an SAA Council update prepared by our liaison, we launched into our lightning round presentations centered around carrying out records management responsibilities in academic settings.

  • Jessika Drmacich, Records Manager and Digital Resources Archivist at Williams College, talked about “The Records Manager in the Library.”
  • Krista Oldham, University Archivist at Clemson University, spoke about “Getting a Seat at the Table.”
  • Eric Stoykovich, College Archivist and and Manuscript Librarian at Trinity College, talked about “Remote Records Management.”
  • Greg Wiedeman, University Archivist at the University of Albany, talked about “Why our records program is bad, and how I’m okay with that.”
  • Elizabeth Carron, currently Accessioning Archivist at Boston College, reflected on selecting RM projects and partnering with GLAM institutions while she worked at the University of Michigan.
  • Hillary Gatlin, Records Manager at Duke University, talked about “Developing Proactive Outreach.”

We intended to have breakout sessions that would focus on some of the issues that were raised by our query on our recent ballot, but technology interfered with that plan.  So instead, we had more generalized discussions and will plan in the coming weeks to organize times that we can have virtual meetings about those topics like developing RM programs, e-records management, and RIM education.

You can access the slide deck from this meeting here, and a recording will be made available by SAA.  And remember, if you have a topic or a work product that you’d like for us to consider adding to our developing agenda, please contact any steering committee member or send us an email at  You can also post to our discussion list through SAA Connect, and if you’d like to write a post for our blog, once again, please reach out to the steering committee.

Update: The recording of this meeting is now available at

2020 RMS annual meeting

SAA is going virtual this year, and the annual meeting for our Records Management Section will take place Monday, July 27th from 2-3:15pm Central Time.  This is a free event, but you need to register in advance in order to receive the instructions for joining our Zoom session.  This meeting will be recorded and made available at a later date, but we highly encourage you to join us live so you can interact with your fellow practitioners.  You’ll notice when you register that we’re also asking you to choose the breakout session you wish to attend during our meeting; although you’ll be able to hear the summaries of these sessions on the recording, participating in the live event will provide you the opportunity to share your ideas and shape the priorities of the RMS section for the upcoming year.

In addition to our brief business meeting, we’ll have six panelists present lightning talks and respond to your questions about doing records management work within academic libraries.  You can find out more about the topics of our lightning panel here on our blog.  Then we’ll conclude our meeting by hosting breakout sessions to focus in on a particular aspect of records management work, including:

  • RIM education
  • E-records and archiving email
  • Outreach
  • Developing RM programs
  • RM toolkit
  • GDPR

We hope to “see” you at our meeting next week.

RMS annual meeting teaser #2

Another panelist who will be presenting during our annual meeting is Krista Oldham, University Archivist at Clemson University.  She will speak on “The Struggle is Real: Getting a Seat at the Table.”

The unending pursuit of getting the proverbial “seat at the table” and having a voice when it comes to records management decisions and concerns is a constant struggle for records managers. This struggle is compounded when records management authority is perceived to be buried in an institution’s organizational structure. In my experience working at higher education institutions as an archivist with records management responsibilities, I have found that we are often ignored or forgotten when it comes to decision making, especially in regard to electronic records. Additionally many of those making decisions do not fully understand the authority, value, and expertise archivists/records managers possess. At Clemson, the Records Management Team is currently changing that perception and has successfully secured a “seat at the table” by demonstrating our proficiency in understanding Clemson’s information environment. “How?” you ask. Through collaborative and mutually beneficial partnerships. For the past six month the Records Management Team has worked closely with the Chief Data Officer, the Office of Institutional Effectiveness, Office of the VP for Finance and Operations, Enterprise Risk Management,  and Clemson Computing and Information Technology (CCIT) to address issues related to IT vendor management and customer IT needs as part of the larger University IT governance framework. Our goal is for stakeholders to understand all/most/some of the risks, costs, and benefits of the data associated with the proposed solution before approval (the point of no return). Clemson has been practicing this activity in a piecemeal fashion via various mechanisms, but we are now attempting to do this more intentionally. Playing a central role in this initiative, the Records Management Team has been able to deliver real solutions to address the ever changing information environment of the University.  My presentation will focus on sharing my experience getting to “the table” and the strategies I adopted to build relationships and deliver results that demonstrated why I needed to be “at the table.”

Archivists and Records Managers, part 13

In the September/October 2018 issue of Information Management, William LeFevre wrote a piece entitled “Leveraging Legacy Historical Records to Create Organizational Value.”  He explained that the “data explosion” has blurred the lines between active and inactive records that typically divided records managers from archivists.  He encouraged information management professionals to consider additional uses of records beyond their typical administrative, fiscal, and legal uses, including:

  • marketing and communications
  • employee training and education
  • strengthening corporate identity
  • documenting mission and history
  • data mining

He pointed to success stories from Coca-Cola and Ford to justify the retention of historical corporate records and suggested it may be appropriate to engage external appraisers (i.e., archivists) in identifying records.  He concluded,

“Telling stories through corporate records can enhance efforts to brand or rebrand, advance the organization’s mission, boost employee loyalty programs, enhance training efforts, and improve community outreach efforts, all of which will bolster the organization’s internal and external brand.”

Archivists and Records Managers, part 12

With too many other things consuming time during RIM month, I took some time off from investigating the intersections between archivists and records managers.  But it’s time to return to this effort.

A few years ago, ARMA International Fellow David O. Stephens wrote an article in Information Management about the evolution and future of the records and information management (RIM) profession.  He delved into the transition for RIM professionals over the past decades from overseeing primarily paper records to primarily electronic records:

“they transitioned gradually from focusing on direct control over paper records to being largely concerned with policy planning, compliance monitoring, and other aspects of information governance (IG) across all media types, but especially on the predominant one – digital.”

He also recounted his appraisal of the business records from a closed copper mining company, lamenting that “these important paper records were preserved by accident rather than design; had they been electronic, they would have been lost to history.”

So it seems like the question for archivists, especially when it comes to electronic records of enduring value, is how to be a part of the policy planning as well as the discussions of creating file plans/document classification schemes/taxonomies for electronic records so that the records of today can be identified and preserved for future days.

The close of RIM month

Today brings a close to Records and Information Management month.  Needless to say, the circumstances of a worldwide pandemic have affected all of us, personally and professionally.  Anecdotally, it seems that some people are finding very little time to worry about RM in the midst of crises while others are finding that with fewer public obligations there is more time to dig into the retention and disposition schedule.  And across the board, RIM training is in vogue.

So while some of our celebration has been muted due to the swirls of concern and confusion currently engulfing the world, we sincerely hope that some of what we’ve brought to the table this month has been useful to you:

  • We posted topics for discussion on the listserv on everything from scheduling shoes to how this emergency has changed your work.
  • We’ve had blog posts about RIM month in a state of emergency and about calculating storage costs.
  • We hosted a coffee chat to discuss the impacts of COVID-19 on the work of records managers.
  • We unveiled on our microsite our initial list of RM toolkit resources.
  • We held a Twitter chat with the SNAP section about the current state of the field.

In a time that necessitates some escapism from time to time, I sometimes find myself taking solace far, far away at the space station known as Deep Space Nine.  (And yes, I realize I’m blurring the franchises!)  In an episode that originally aired in 1993 (“Necessary Evil”), we hear the voiceover of Constable Odo:

“Commence Station Security Log, Stardate 47282.5.  At the request of Commander Sisko, I will hereafter be recording a daily log of law enforcement affairs.  The reason for this exercise is beyond my comprehension except perhaps that humans have a compulsion to keep records and lists and files, so many in fact that they have to invent new ways to store them microscopically. Otherwise, their records would overrun all known civilization.  My own very adequate memory not being good enough for Starfleet, I am pleased to put my voice to this official record of this day.  Everything’s under control.  End log.”

Now while Odo may not perceive RM as an important responsibility, you do have to admire his concision!  Watching these old episodes has also given me pause to consider how records managers are depicted in popular life.  Librarians and archivists certainly have a stereotype as rules-oriented folk that are fond of old things and quiet spaces.  But it strikes me that the people depicted as being good at records management are usually the bad guys.  Take the Cardassians in DS9 or the Galactic Empire in Star Wars.  As my parting gift for RIM month, I welcome feedback about positive role models for records managers by Hollywood!