Advocacy and Records Management

There is a school of thought that traditional records management is dead, a remnant of the past along with paper-based technologies. This is not entirely accurate. We know that records management continues to play, or has the potential to play, a vital role in the larger information governance framework.

Defining information governance is rather difficult. I particularly like Gartner’s official definition:

“Information governance is the specification of decision rights and an accountability framework to encourage desirable behavior in the valuation, creation, storage, use, archival and deletion of information. It includes the processes, roles, standards, and metrics that ensure the effective and efficient use of information in enabling an organization to achieve its goals.”

Information governance can be interpreted as a broad and inclusive framework or broad and exclusive. In Courtney Bailey’s survey of the membership to SAA’s Records Management Section, nearly 700 members belong to an academic institution or to a cultural/nonprofit organization. Approximately another 225 belonged to a governmental records management program. Just over 100 of our fellow section members identified themselves with a corporate organization.   

By and large, members of this section might not find ARMA’s Information Governance Implementation Model particularly inclusive. Within this figure, where do cultural heritage organizations such as libraries, museums, and archives reside? Perhaps with the vision-setting Steering Committee? This would presuppose that LAM environments are viewed as institutional information management authorities rather than as a cultural boon or as support services.

In Jackie Esposito’s Institutional Placement Survey – Records Management and Archival Services (published June 2017), nearly 40% of respondents reported that the placement of their institution’s records management program was in the archives; nearly 28% reported ‘Other‘, identifying units such as Library, Museum, IT, and the President’s Office. Of all the respondents, exactly half stated that while there is a Records Management Program in their organization, it “is more consultative in nature and not robust enough to manage 100% compliance”.

One can surmise that for many of us, while records management exists in our organizations, we often wield limited political power. How do we change this? Do we want to change this? Are we equipped with the appropriate labor and infrastructure to expand our reach? What exactly are we offering to the table at large? Can we deliver on our promises?

Regardless of the answers to these questions, we have a place on this hypothetical Steering Committee. The value we place on cultural memory, community partnerships, evidence, and historical record-building cannot be undervalued, nor should this value be underemphasized.

One area I believe we can cultivate is advocacy, represented on the above model as Service, Capabilities, Processes, and Authorities. Advocacy and outreach are complementary, but not synonymous. Advocacy is a political process in which an individual or group aims to influence policymaking. It is not enough to get our constituency to use the preferred archival boxes and folder list templates, to make them aware of our reading room availability. We need to know what we need, how to get it, and how to keep it.

Skills like negotiation, coalition building, risk assessment, change management, grand strategy – these are important qualities to cultivate, especially so for people who want to affect real change in the workplace. How do we grow and cultivate these skills? A traditional answer will include experience, but that surfaces even more questions – when contingent labor is de rigueur, how can archivists and records managers gain that political experience, especially when it is gained through interactions with the records creators themselves? Through committee work and policy engagement? Through previous work experiences?

In the course of the next year, it is my hope to explore these issues with you and to bring some voices to this conversation. Please stay tuned and as always, don’t hesitate to reach out to me with questions, comments, and suggestions.

 

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“We’re all mad here”: Google Team Drives

Alice’s Abenteuer im Wunderland / 
Public Domain

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”

“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.

“I don’t much care where—” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.”

Chapter 6, Alice in Wonderland





Let me candid: I was not pleased with this announcement. 

I am not in IT and I certainly cannot fathom providing technological solutions to an institution as large, diverse and decentralized as the University of Michigan. Yet to give unfettered access to a shared storage service with nothing but a small page of “Best Practices” to read from…is this really what we need? Another – albeit virtual – basement to stuff documents into? Annoyed, my eye twitching a little, I closed my computer and went home for the evening.

The next day (and with a cooler head), I considered how we should address this potential new recordkeeping challenge.

ITS is focused upon providing technical solutions for records and information storage—> Archivists are charged with the identification of records and information of enduring historical value —> Records and information management is as much about understanding human behavior and bureaucratic processes as it is about the records and information —> I know how people are going to use Google Team Drives and….

This is when it hit me. I don’t actually know how people are going to use Google Team Drive. I don’t actually even know if IT knows about the University Archives outside of “old things”. 

This realization has inspired an outline of a plan. I need evidence to support or disprove my assumptions.

Plan Part I.

ITS provides a comparison matrix to assist members of the University community to make decisions as to what collaboration and document storage services they need. We can build upon this framework and evaluate these services against additional high-level business needs for managing digital records. Once completed, perhaps ITS will be better positioned to spread word of the services offered by University Archives and Records Management Program. Perhaps they’ll even see the value in evaluating future services by the same criteria.

(see NARA’s Universal Electronic Records Management Requirements for inspiration.)

Plan Part II.

Find out how Google Team Drives is being used across campus. If approved, a large-scale study would at the very least involve cooperation from many parties including: IT, IT divisions within each school and college, administrative leadership, and staff from across a wide variety of business areas.

As this is still only a sketch of a plan, I am very interested in hearing from anyone* who is:

  • Currently experiencing the roll out of Google Team Drives
  • Has survived the roll out of Google Team Drives
  • Is currently reviewing Google Team Drives
  • Have developed a set of workarounds e.g., recommended apps that extend the functionality of Google Apps for Education
  • Has a set of ERM requirements to share or recommend
  • Uses Google Team Drives in your own work

*Although I work in a public higher education system, we all have experienced similar challenges and concerns in our work. I value your thoughts, reactions, and questions! Feel free to message me at ecarron@umich.edu or via Twitter at @heyellee.


SAA/CoSA/NAGARA 2018 recap: Session 204

Scheduling the Ephemeral: Creating and Implementing Records Management Policy for Social Media

Speakers

Bethany Cron, “Creating Records Management Policy and Guidance for Federal Government Agencies”

Kristen Albrittain, “Implementing Agency-wide Social Media Records Management Across 100+ Enterprise Accounts”

Laura Larrimore, “Communications and Content Creator Perspective on Social Media Records Management”

Link to the PowerPoint presentation with presenters’ notes here.

Key Takeaways

  • Do not delete content from live sites.
  • If you do have to delete content, have a documented process in place.
  • Have (and share publicly) a Comments Policy.

Overview

Beth, Kristen, and Laura presented a program in which they each brought their unique perspective to the management of social media as records within the Federal Government. By doing so, they effectively demonstrated how vital cross-team collaboration really is, and how clear policy informs good practice.

I’d like to begin the session recap by focusing on Laura’s presentation, as hers is a perspective many archivists and records managers may not have heard before.

Communications and Content Creator Perspective on Social Media Records Management

Laura is a social media person who creates content. She shared insight into her daily workflow, which is running agency social media accounts such as @USPTO and @CommerceGov, as well as the accounts of individual leaders, such as the Secretary of Commerce. Laura works closely with leadership in communicating their priorities as heads of the agency and the agency’s priorities. She also works with leaders to assess how the public received the content sent out, and what the leaders might want to say next.

Troubleshoot #1

A week before the 2016 election, Laura was brought in on a 6-month detail to the Secretary of Commerce’s office to help with the presidential transition, focusing on website and social media. Like many other cabinet leaders, the secretary had a named account in addition to the agency accounts. One of her main tasks was to retire the outgoing Secretary of Commerce’s presences, and stand up the presence for the incoming Secretary of Commerce.

There was no precedent for this. This was the first presidential transition in the social media age. So, she collaborated with other staff to do what they could with what they had.

The transition team looked at how the Department of Commerce (DOC) had handled changes to the website, and adapted that model to fit their needs. DOC had a history of taking a screenshot of the site right before it changes in a major way and then making it available as an online searchable archive. They do this with various redesigns and when a new Secretary is confirmed. This allowed DOC to make changes to the website, but direct the public to old content in as close to its original state as possible.

Troubleshoot #2

The Secretary of Commerce’s official government account used her real name as her Twitter handle when it was set up.

pennyYou should always ID the leader’s position in the handle, so that it is clear the account is a function of their position. By doing this, the leader can keep their name for personal use, and so that it is intuitive that when the person’s time in that role ends, so does the use of their official government account. Laura likened handles to a company car – it helps you do company business, but once you leave the company, you do not get to keep using the car.

Since the team had this naming issue, they had to work with Twitter to move the followers and content to a new account. In doing so, they would be able to release the @PennyPritzker handle back to former Secretary Penny Pritzker.

The team indicated on the @SecPritzker that is was an archived account and inactive.

Troubleshoot #3

Snapshots are good, but they won’t capture deleted tweets. Another day-to-day aspect of records management is having a protocol for if, when and how you might delete tweets. It makes sense to determine if your agency would ever delete anything, for what reasons, and develop a protocol for this prior to such time as you actually need it. For example:

  1. Take a screenshot of the error tweet
  2. Save it in the ‘deleted tweets’ folder
  3. Write up why it was deleted and how to improve/avoid the issue in future
  4. Email screenshot and description to leadership

Lessons Learned

  1. The social media people and records people need to communicate and have a plan BEFORE a big change occurs.
  2. The idea of dealing with records can be more intimidating than actually doing it.

Creating Records Management Policy and Guidance for Federal Government Agencies

During her presentation, Beth talked about NARA’s high-level requirements and best practices for capturing records created when Federal agencies use social media. This guidance utilizes principles that can be adopted by a variety of institutions, not just Federal agencies.

NARA’s policies are social media include:

Challenges

Beth identified not a few substantial challenges in managing social media as records.

Identifying records

While one can consult the Federal definition of records as defined in the Federal Records Act (44 U.S.C. 3301), some questions to ask yourself include:

  • Does it contain evidence of an agency’s policies, business, or mission?
  • Is the information only available on the social media site?
  • Does the agency use the tool to convey official agency information?
  • Is there a business need for the information?

If you have answered yes to any of these questions, then there is a chance that these records meet the definition of Federal records. However, are comments part of the official record? Should they be?

Appraising records

Social media posts are ephemeral in nature may not hold ephemeral value. Due to how quickly the social media environment shifts, the process of appraising, capturing, and bringing social media under intellectual control is incredibly challenging.

Locating records

Where is the social media post of record located? Who owns that post? While a copy can be found on the platform it was distributed through, but perhaps there is a screenshot of the post saved on an office shared drive somewhere. Perhaps an automated tool is capturing the posts. Since there are so many copies….

Scheduling records

…scheduling social media through either a general records schedule or a programmatic schedule is needed.

Negotiating public expectations

Since social media is considered a public space, there is an expectation that all posts will remain public and available, preferably in its native format, including any content that has been deleted or altered in some way.

FERMI

The Federal Electronic Records Modernization Initiative complements NARA Bulletin 14-2.

Implementing Agency-wide Social Media Records Management Across 100+ Enterprise Accounts

Currently, social media is unscheduled, so NARA has been treating everything as if it’s permanent. Staff spend a great deal of time evaluating social media platforms to determine whether posts are original, substantive content or are mainly being used to point followers to more substantial content. Staff also evaluate how content users are using the platform – appraisal is not only about what is being communicated, but also a question of who and why.

NARA’s Corporate Records Management team ultimately decided to take a Capstone approach, designating records as either permanent or temporary based on the content owner. They focus their energy on original content created by senior executives (or their representatives) in the course of their work.

nota bene Content created by all other offices is temporary. Kristen emphatically stressed the following: disposition dictates that COPIES of the content should be deleted/destroyed after three (3) years. Copies, not the original social media post, which in this case is considered the non-recordkeeping copy. DO NOT DELETE YOUR LIVE SOCIAL MEDIA POSTS.

Market Research Lessons Learned

In September 2017, a one-year subscription to the social media records management tool, PageFreezer, was purchased. PageFreezer maintains a record of all NARA-created content on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Tumblr, and WordPress blog channels, as well as user-generated content posted to NARA-owned pages. At the moment it’s capturing 122 separate channels across those six platforms. The system works by connecting with the platform APIs and capturing data as often as each tool allows, which means it’s as close to real-time as possible.

Authenticity, Integrity, and Completeness

One of the key benefits that an automatic capture tool like PageFreezer has over previous manual approaches is that it can ensure the authenticity, integrity, and completeness of the records.

Fixity

PageFreezer preserves original content, including responses, with its original look and feel.

Benefits for FOIA and E-Discovery

PageFreezer’s digital signatures, history audits, and complete metadata satisfy Open Records requirements such as FOIA, ensuring that records meet legal requirements for e-discovery.

The Principles of Recordkeeping Primer: Accountability

 

The New England Primer (call no. Franklin 391 1764n)
A primer is a small, introductory book on a given subject. They used to be part of every child’s education. The New England Primer (ca. 1690), was the first to be printed in North America. Image from Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

Accountability is equated with answerability. It is not about scapegoating, or taking the blame when something goes wrong. Neither is it a confession. It is about fulfilling a responsibility to a commitment or an outcome. In the United States, our framework for applying accountability is steeped in Western European ethical and moral heritage. That which is right or wrong is colored by our personal philosophical and/or religious beliefs. For someone to hold themself accountable to a standard, or for us to hold them accountable for their actions, would imply a shared set of behavioral expectations. In short, an understanding that human behavior has consequences for the welfare of others and if there is no accountability, then there is a serious ethical failure.

Definitions of Accountability

Merriam-Webster

  • An ‘account’ is a statement explaining one’s conduct, or an exposition of reasons, causes, and motives.
  • To ‘account for’ is to furnish a justifying analysis or explanation.
  • To be ‘accountable’ is to be subject to giving an account, to be answerable, or to be capable of being accounted for.

Society of American Archivists

  • Accountability is “the ability to answer for, explain, or justify actions or decisions for which an individual, organization, or system is responsible”.

ARMA

  • Accountability is the “ act of holding an individual or organization responsible for a set of activities, requiring them to ensure that the activities meet desired outcomes, and expecting them to explain any variances or non-conformances”.
  • The Principle of Accountability is a Generally Accepted Recordkeeping Principle; A senior executive (or a person of comparable authority) shall oversee the information governance program and delegate responsibility for records and information management to appropriate individuals. The organization adopts policies and procedures to guide personnel and ensure that the program can be audited.

Types of Accountability

Political Accountability

Anchored in Western democratic principles, political accountability is a means to exert political control or oversight and is arguably the strongest form of governance.  

Bureaucratic Accountability

The fundamental feature of hierarchical accountability is the delegation of authority from superior to subordinate and commensurate accountability from subordinate to superior. Usually, a strict performance management system of standard operating procedures is well established. In this approach, bureaucratic accountability is achieved by strategies, administrative rules, budget reviews or performance management systems. 

Citizen Accountability

Citizens can hold government administrators accountable through laws and forums. Communication technologies are being utilized to empower citizens’ ability to directly access bureaucratic information, monitor government activities, and supply real-time feedback on public service delivery.

Legal Accountability

A central purpose of law is accountability. Law is designed to expose and sanction people, organizations, and nations when they violate a public norm or breach an enforceable private agreement.

Professional Accountability

Professional accountability is a means of relying upon skilled employees to provide appropriate solutions for technically difficult and complex problems. Authority can be enforced through performance standards, codes of ethics, or licensure.

In Ethics, Accountability, and Recordkeeping in a Dangerous World, the authors suggest that, “in terms of archives, records and information, accountability assumes issues such as explaining the importance of records, working against unwanted secrecy, the importance of corporate and societal memory, and the trust that is necessary between government and its citizens”. 

Society of American Archivists – Core Values of Archivists

“Accountability:  By documenting institutional functions, activities, and decision-making, archivists provide an important means of ensuring accountability. In a republic such accountability and transparency constitute an essential hallmark of democracy. Public leaders must be held accountable both to the judgment of history and future generations as well as to citizens in the ongoing governance of society. Access to the records of public officials and agencies provides a means of holding them accountable both to public citizens and to the judgment of future generations. In the private sector, accountability through archival documentation assists in protecting the rights and interests of consumers, shareholders, employees, and citizens. Archivists in collecting repositories may not in all cases share the same level of responsibility for accountability, but they, too, maintain evidence of the actions of individuals, groups, and organizations which may be required to provide accountability for contemporary and future interests.”

ARMA – Generally Accepted Recordkeeping Principles

“Accountability is the act of holding an individual or organization responsible for a set of activities, requiring them to ensure that the activities meet desired outcomes, and expecting them to explain any variances or non-conformances. The Principle of Accountability is a Generally Accepted Recordkeeping Principle; A senior executive (or a person of comparable authority) shall oversee the information governance program and delegate responsibility for records and information management to appropriate individuals. The organization adopts policies and procedures to guide personnel and ensure that the program can be audited.”

 

URLs Aren’t Archives ¯\_(ツ)_/¯, and Other Stories

I have not spent much time in recent months following the travails of media organizations such as Gawker and the Gothamist other than to casually peruse tweets on my timeline. A retweet caught my eye the other day, and here we are. Today’s post is mainly in response to “Digital Media and the Case of the Missing Archives,” written by Danielle Tcholakian who in turn seems to have been inspired by an article in the Columbia Journalism Review.

Tcholakian’s article provoked a strong reaction from me – sharp, keen frustration. I found the assumptions made by the author to be frustrating. The lack of input in the piece by any institutional archivist, records manager or content management administrator was frustrating. The absence of details, such as the ownership of material posted on sites such as Gawker, was frustrating. The expectation of action on the part of institutions such as the Library of Congress was frustrating. Frustration all around.

I do not in any way wish to devalue the anxiety that journalists or their readership must feel when the URLs to their articles are moved or deleted. Those of us in academic and legal environments have been dealing with link and citation rot for ages. Artists, too, are experiencing the fragility of their online portfolios.

Journalists are not alone.

A Question of Vocabulary

So let us start a mutual conversation with me first asking journalists, what do you mean by “archives”? What are your archives? How are you employing the term? To describe the platform on which your articles are published and disseminated? A collection of PDFs saved on a networked server? Printouts of the articles neatly bound in a Trapper Keeper? Are you including the records of the organization in your definition of archives? The records in which the history of hiring practices, revenue sources, internal policy and decision-making is documented?

Archives the word is a challenging concept. Within the context of archives and records management, archives can refer to:

  • verb, “to transfer records from the individual or office of creation to a repository authorized to appraise, preserve, and provide access to those records”.
  • noun, “an archives”.

Information technologists, data librarians, and information governance professionals may broaden those definitions to include data backups, but generally, archivists tend to shy away from “Big Data” and instead focus on that small bit of material that is deemed archival.

Institutional archives do not have indefinite financial resources. Archivists and librarians are often overworked, underpaid, underresourced, and frankly, undercited. The provision of access and long-term sustained preservation go hand-in-hand. Services such as Archive-It require institutions to make a financial commitment towards server space and the employment of technical archivists to manage institutional collections.

Importantly, modern archivists do not make it a practice of taking things, or blindly capturing online records, without first attempting to identify and secure the right to do so. Violating this principle is wrong, legally and ethically.

I think it would also behoove us to discuss “vital records” for a moment. The Electronic Code of Federal Regulations defines vital records as the essential agency records that are needed to meet operational responsibilities under national security emergencies or other emergency conditions (emergency operating records) or to protect the legal and financial rights of the Government and those affected by Government activities (legal and financial rights records). While important, newspapers are not vital records. Janice Okubo of the Hawaii Health Department was most likely talking about records such as birth certificates and taken far out of context.

Media Archives

Since newspapers and media publication serve a variety of business functions, extant newspapers do not exist purely by chance. In the past, publishers recognized the business value of their print and retained copies for their own identified business needs. Perhaps they wanted to have a reference resource, as shown in the Oscar-winning film Spotlight. Maybe their intention was more mercantile.

Circulation and subscription models expanded to include the sale, or rental, of microfilmed versions of these publications. Publishers retained the original long-lasting microfilm masters to make even more copies from, or add to their business archives, rendering the retention and management of paper versions moot. Computers made it possible to digitize that microfilm, secure it in a database, distribute publications even more widely.

Unlike print newspapers, digital-only news has no physical form. A subscription to digital content usually provides an institution or reader with rented, limited access to files that are managed by the newspaper producer via a digital asset management system, and the legal terms associated with access. There is a critical difference between this short-term access model and long-term ownership. Under this model, archives and libraries usually do not take custody of the digital objects that comprise the “news”— including images, websites, social media, text, apps,  and other content forms.

This is not to say that there are no media archives. Many media outlets maintain internal corporate archives or employ records managers to manage the CMS. There is a degree of archiving required of these folx in their work, but much of their work is curation – making sure that assets are discoverable and maintained.

Examples of media archives who have made this transition include:

WNYC is a smashing exemplar of how institutional archives can partner with the community it serves. While Gawker is under siege by political and economic forces outside the scope of this post, the Gothamist will continue to exist. WNYC received funding from anonymous sources to purchase the intellectual property rights along with the published material. It is crucial to note that the WNYC archives did not take, or “capture,” the Gothamist website. WNYC worked with the Gothamist to obtain the legal right to retain and disseminate the archives for the future.

The Freedom of the Press Foundation is also doing impressive work. They have recently set out to capture Gawker.com with the understanding that the articles disseminated for public consumption are not intellectual assets of Gawker. In other words, Gawker.com is no more protected property than copies of old newspapers found in your grandparents’ attic.

What can journalists do?

Brush up on your information literacy, for one. If your work is changing the world, then you need to carve out some time. Look into services such as Perma.cc and the Wayback Machine. Practice good hygiene in the management of your records. Ask questions at work: does the organization have an archivist or records manager? Who maintains the content management system? What would happen to your work in the event of bankruptcy or a change in ownership? Is our website even technically archivable? Look for opportunities like Personal Digital Archiving for Journalists to expand your knowledge about managing your media for the long haul. Most importantly, please always feel free to reach out to archivists and librarians! Society of American Archivists is one resource. ARMA is another. Explore Open Scholarship with a renewed commitment to maintaining your body of work.

Developing a Records Management Program: The People Part

Hello Readers:

My name is Elizabeth and I’m the Archivist for Records Management at the Bentley Historical Library for the University of Michigan. In my role, I am responsible for the development of a records management program that will fit – and ultimately benefit – the University. While the program builds upon the work of past Bentley archivists responsible for the development of university collections, what we really seek to bring is a collaborative approach to University-wide recordkeeping and to align that approach with the University’s overall information governance strategy. At the time of this post, the program is just over a year old.

My work is most closely affiliated with that of the field archivists. The five of us constitute the Collections Development Unit. Together, we manage donor relationships and collecting priorities. Managing donor relationships is a substantial conversation on its own and it is one I will be musing upon from time to time. To be frank, I’ve been a bit dissatisfied with the literature I’ve read on the subject of building a records management program. In particular, the bulleted lines of advice such as “get buy-in”, “find stakeholders”, and “develop a liaisons network”. Easy-peasy!

Hold up.

Of course it is not that simple.

When talking about donor relationships, many archivists envision individuals and families in keeping with the manuscript tradition. Institutional archivists and records managers don’t do that per se. Our donors are departments and units and business functionaries. We also have individual contacts within those bodies. So, in addition to managing relationships with our donors over a long period of time, we also must manage the contacts we make. Whether those contacts are the agents of transfer, records liaisons, sources of institutional knowledge or potential allies, the cultivation and stewardship of those contacts ranks among the most important functions of any institutional archives and records management program.

Gosh, if managing relationships isn’t a skill on its own. There are plenty of articles on emotional intelligence and soft skills. Career guidance for records managers usually include a call for ‘good communication skills’. Just this past summer I attended a lovely session titled Soft Skills for Hard Tech at SAA. There are articles and one-pagers dedicated towards crossing that IT/Archives/RM/IG barrier. However, the challenge I face while building the program is not just a matter of parlance. It’s a matter of experience, strategy, relationship-building and negotiating bureaucratic politics.

Thinking back to collections development, let’s take a moment to consider what “development” entails. In the nonprofit world, a part of development is the creation, nurturing, and maintaining of relationships that hopefully will lead to charitable contributions. And this is how I came to be sitting in the office of Ceci Riecker, the Bentley’s Director of Development.

Ceci’s origin story is that of an English major. Like some English majors (*ahem*), she didn’t have focused career advisement and she didn’t mean to set out into the world as the next Rory Gilmore. Ceci worked for some time as an administrative assistant in a local bank before moving on to work for the well-known Ann Arbor Summer Art Fair. She found a position at the Museum of Natural History in development and gradually worked her way up into leadership positions at St. Joseph’s and EMU. During this time, she explored the world of nonprofits and cultural heritage on her own, finishing work in Historic Preservation at EMU. When she heard that the Bentley was seeking applicants for a Director of Development, she resolved to apply with a simple message: “You need me.”

Ceci’s appreciation for our mission, combined with the skills and network of contacts she has cultivated in the course of her work, really spoke to me. Chatting with her has only strengthened my suspicion that those of us intent upon building a records management program can stand to take a few cues from our partners in the nonprofit development sector.

“Think of development as education. What did Terry* say the other day, educate up, mentor down?” I smiled at this, and agreed. Yes, every meeting I have, whether I’ve partnered with my field colleagues or not, usually includes a solid 15-minute pitch crafted through research (donor files, a gap analysis of the finding aid, and a good ol’ fashion newspaper) and the feel of the conversation. Maybe they’ll contact me for a records schedule, maybe not, but the seeds have been planted.

“It’s about trust and a relationship. Manage the ask.” In other words, going in with a list of demands may be heavy-handed at best, off-putting and tactless at worst. Managing your asks and those touches (“Hey, I thought of you when this came through our door…”,) may take time but the relationship you cultivate will last. If something comes up, that relationship you’ve taken the time to forge means you’ll have an ally in the office more willing than not to assist you.

On the matter of research, she summed it up succinctly. “Knowledge. Interest. Respect.” Doing the research beforehand goes to show that you are interested and knowledgeable without you having to say you are interested and knowledgeable. Putting that effort in demonstrates respect for their time and their conversation.

What about building a network? “It’s about identifying the points of connection.” This, too, makes sense. Some months ago we began to receive packages in the mail from one of the units on campus. After several of these unsolicited offers of “old yearbooks”, I reached out via telephone to personally thank my contact for the time she had taken to send us the materials and to also fish for a little information. Was she cleaning out a closet? Was she aware of the records scheduling and transfer services we offer to units? The answer was yes and no – in fact, it was several forgotten closets being unearthed by architects during a swing space evaluation. This particular building is being renovated and all the administrative units and student organizations housed there are being headquartered elsewhere for the next year. This move is a major trigger event, and we’ve been able to partner with dozens of new allies.

(n.b. Nonprofit development staff also have moved beyond Excel spreadsheets and have invested in tools and products which help them to identify and manage those points of connection, such as Raiser’s Edge and Salesforce. I personally think it interesting to think about possible applications of these tools when considering traditional archival donor management techniques.)

Like many, I dislike receiving criticism. The reality is that we need that criticism to know ourselves. We are asking that others share with us an intimate knowledge of their office dynamics and information. We are asking that they trust us with our professed expertise. Thus, I am not embarrassed to write that I asked Ceci point blank what she found to be her greatest weakness. “Long-term planning is a tough one. Things pop up and I could just do it myself, but it won’t be half as good as if I did it with the way it’s supposed to be done…with my team!” Her honesty on this was – is – reassuring for me to hear. As a relatively early careerist in higher education, I often find that pace is challenging. How long should it take to build a program? How do I best manage my expectations for its development? Why don’t people email me with questions?! We have a website!

There is no real conclusion to this post other than for me to say that I’m happy to have explored another perspective. Archivists and records managers extol the virtues of being interdisciplinary. When it comes to managing and improving our own business processes, what harm is there in looking outside the profession for a little inspiration?

For those of you interested in building a network of records liaisons and contacts more strategically, Ceci has recommended the Council for Advancement and Support of Education as a good starting place to learn more about development tools and techniques.

*Terry McDonald, Director of the Bentley Historical Library