RMS Annual Meeting Teaser #4

Our next exciting panelist for our upcoming meeting is Gregory Weideman of University of Albany, SUNY.

Teaser:

Working with “Decentralized” Records Management

This talk will describe an experience working at a public university with “decentralized” records management. In this environment, archivists cannot sit back and wait for transfers, but must actively reach out to creators and demonstrate their valve to campus offices – who often fear losing control over even inactive records. In this case, records laws may actually work to disincentivize transfers, and a lack of support for records management overall may mean that the archivist and the university will have to learn to live with incomplete documentation.

 

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RMS annual meeting teaser #3!

Our next teaser features our panelist Hillary Gatlin, Records Manager at Duke University!

Developing Proactive Outreach:

Duke University is restarting its records management program after years of dormancy. This lightning talk will discuss how the University Archives is working to develop and implement proactive outreach in order to expand the records management program and increase collecting opportunities. In 2019, Duke University Archives completed a survey of current collections to identify records gaps and implemented outreach strategies to proactively fill those gaps. Some of the challenges faced include expanding outreach beyond the library environment, developing a proactive strategy that was still responsive to unexpected requests, and managing contacts within an ever-shifting organization. Despite these challenges, the records management program is making significant strides in achieving a more proactive outreach and collecting strategy.

RMS Section Meeting: teasers!

As the Annual SAA virtual meeting and the Records Management Section virtual meeting approaches, we want to bring your attention to the fabulous panel we planned:

The Records Manager in the Library (panelists: Jessika Drmacich, Williams College; Krista Oldham, Clemson University; Eric Stoykovich, Trinity College-Hartford; Greg Wiedeman, University at Albany, SUNY; Elizabeth Carron, Boston College; Hillary Gatlin, Duke University)

In the weeks up until the gathering we will share weekly panel teasers! Our first highlights Elizabeth Carron of Boston College!

Please join us in August!

Tentative title: Records Management for Cultural Heritage Organizations

Cultural heritage organizations like libraries, archives, and museums create, use, manage, and share records every day in the course of daily operations. Records underscore every function within these organizations including acquisitions, building management, conservation, curation, human resources, marketing, and outreach. Records and data related to these functions are important corporate assets. They protect the organization’s legal rights and its ownership of property, ensure compliance with organizational and professional regulations, and provide the means for keeping its constituency informed of its activities, operations, and accomplishments. In this case study, the author explores the university archivist’s role in identifying opportunities for collaboration with academic campus museums; in the identification and management of records with permanent value to the museum and/or archival value; and in policymaking.

 

GDPR interview with Anne Gilliland, Scholarly Communications Officer, University of North Carolina

As part of an ongoing series on General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the RMS Steering Committee virtually met up with Anne Gilliland of the University of North Carolina to ask her questions regarding GDPR and records management. See her answers below! Please comment or send me comments/ questions at jgd1(at)williams(dot)edu! Thank you, Anne!

1.What are the risks of not being in compliance with GDPR for EU researchers in the United States?

I’m not sure if you mean researchers who are from EU countries who are conducting research in the U.S. or if you mean researchers in the U.S. who are conducting research about Europe or in Europe.  Regardless, there are likely to be some implications for most of these categories because GDPR applies to all EU residents and citizens. This means that the GDPR covers, for example, students from the U.S. who are studying in EU countries and citizens of EU countries who are residing in the U.S. 

I’ll give an equivocal, lawyer-like answer about risk—the risk for noncompliance is going to be very dependent on many factors—but I will discuss potential penalties under the GDPR.  In the worst case, fines can go up to 4% of a company’s annual turnover or 20 million euros—whichever is higher. In addition, the GDPR includes a private right of action, so that an individual may sue and recover damages or remedial action from a privacy breach.    

All that said, the GDPR has special carve-outs that privilege researchers and research endeavors.  For example, once researchers get consent from subjects to collect data for a particular study, the law does not require them to go back to the subjects for another round of consent before they analyze the data for additional studies.  The International Association of Privacy Professionals has a good overview of the GDPR’s exceptions for research.  

The conventional wisdom has been that the GDPR is aimed at the largest companies, such as a large fine levied at Google in France for violations in early 2019; however, there are still many good reasons for working toward compliance.  One is that as the GDPR’s requirements become the norm, enforcement is likely to increase.  Another is that many people, and I am one of them, believe that the GDPR’s requirements are representative of the kind of privacy laws that are likely to be enacted in the future.  And finally, the GDPR requirements embody the kinds of holistic care for privacy that we, who work for libraries and cultural institutions, should be eager to extend to our users.  

2. Can you speak about data brokering, privacy policies with library databases, and subscription services and the sharing and monetizing of this information?

It’s a worry.  I certainly have a lot of concerns in that area.  We may conform to laws and ethical standards of patron confidentiality in the records we keep, but what about the vendors whose products we license?  We do try to exert some control by incorporating our vendors’ privacy policies into the contracts we sign rather than allowing vendors to change these policies at will.  Nevertheless, there are many situations where we don’t know what information vendors have collected from our patrons, or what they have retained, sold, or reused.  

3. Are there GDPR implications for storing electronic records? For instance, using a third party vendor in Europe?

Yes, the GDPR has regulations intended to safeguard the storage and transfer of records, notify subjects when their personal information is transferred, and for the repair of damage from data breaches.  Third party storage needs to have appropriate, approved safeguards. Records may be transferred outside the EU, but only to entities with approved methods of storage and handling and with mandatory disclosures to people whose data will be transferred.  

4. With increased reliance on centralized databases to manage patron information and public services, and with the promise of more accurate business intelligence, how can we be in better compliance with GDPR? What about transparency?

When businesses collect data about individuals, the GDPR requires that the companies obtain affirmative consent from the subjects, instead of the opt out routines we often see with U.S. privacy notices.  Additionally, the GDPR requires that businesses only gather the minimum amount of data necessary and keep it for a limited time. Until recently, business intelligence systems have gathered as much data as possible and have kept it as long as possible.  It appears likely that these systems will need to be retooled for a different environment going forward, and these companies will need to re-define their collection and retention use cases. 

5. What are small steps information professionals can take to be in compliance of GDPR? For example: cookie banners or clear articulate terms of services.

These small steps are good; however, I think that ultimately the GDPR demands a more comprehensive approach that should be beneficial but won’t be small or easy.  Many organizations are starting by doing a census of the data they collect, why they collect it, how long they keep it, and where and how it is stored. For a lot of entities, that’s not particularly easy, but it’s a crucial, early step.  

6. Is there an American equivalent of GDPR on the horizon?

Certainly, some people think of the California Consumer Privacy Act  as the U.S. equivalent of the GDPR.  It is like the GDPR in that it includes a private right of action and more comprehensive rights and remedies for consumers, but it is not as all-encompassing as the EU law.  Privacy laws throughout the U.S. are often called a patchwork, and I think that’s absolutely correct. In this piecemeal situation, privacy laws that populous states, such as California and Texas, have enacted tend to become de facto benchmarks. It will be interesting to see how U.S. laws develop, because, currently, many states are introducing and considering new privacy laws.  The International Association of Privacy Professionals has an interesting chart that shows the status of legislation in each state and the features of each law or proposed law.  

7. Any reading recommendations on GDPR?

Many!  I find the information from the International Association of Privacy Professionals and from law professor Daniel Solove especially helpful. Many of the books and articles that Solove has written or co-authored have shaped my understanding of privacy law in general. 

Resourceful Records Managers: Krista Oldham, University Archivist at Clemson University

The amazing Krista Oldham answers our records management focused questions!

Krista Oldham photo

What led you to choose your current career in Records Management?

I don’t want to say that I necessarily stumbled into records management as I think that archives and records management practice and theory are related and feed so much into each other, but I somewhat did. In my training as an archivist I had been exposed and knew records management theory, but records management was not part of my job responsibilities until I took the position at Haverford College as both the College Archivist and Records Manager. When I took the job I really was not expecting records management to appeal to me as much as it did. I was pleasantly surprised.

What is your educational background?

I earned both a B.A. and M.A. in History from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. I was enrolled in the Ph.D. program in History and after I wrapped up a good bit of my coursework, I came to the realization that I did not enjoy it anymore, that the career path to become a professor no longer interested me, and that I really loved working in the archives. At that point I think I had been working at the University of Arkansas Special Collections, first as a reading room assistant and then as an assistant archivist, for about six or seven years and decided that being an archivist was where my passion was and so I enrolled at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville where I got my M.I.S.

How did you first become interested in Records Management?

I first became truly interested in records management once I was thrown in to the deep-end of the process at Haverford. Having to develop and implement a institution-wide program forced me to become familiar with records management pretty quickly regardless if I was really truly interested or not. Through that process I began to really appreciate records management and realized that records management and archives are in many ways two sides of the same coin. Additionally, I discovered that there are structure and rules to records management that I really appreciate.

What is your role at your institution?

I am currently the University Archivist at Clemson University in South Carolina. In this role I provide leadership and expertise in the appraisal, acquisition, processing/descriptions, and the preservation of University records as well as supporting and promoting their use. I am also responsible for assisting in the development and administration of an institution-wide records management program.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I most enjoy the educational component that comes with being a records manager. I thrive on empowering people through knowledge dissemination, and the training component that is essential to the successful implementation of a records management program allows me to do that. As an educator at heart, I find it very satisfying when I see people in our workshops or consultations get excited and talk about how they are going to take what they learned back to their office or department and that they know we are a resource for them. It puts a smile on my face.

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

I would say that my greatest career achievement to date has been developing and implementing a records management program at Haverford College. I was the college’s very first records manager and I had to do a lot of preliminary work on raising the profile of records management at the college. I created an advisory group, developed policy and procedure documentation, conducted training and outreach, and collaborated on building out a web presence for records management. I was very fortunate to have multiple collaborators who were incredibly supportive during that process. Without their help and support none of it would have been successful. I have to admit that the records management program was not as far along as I would have liked it to have been, but I feel accomplished in the progress that was made and I know it was in a good place for my successor to make it into a great program.

What type of institutional settings have you worked in? Corporate? Government? Higher education? If more than one, how do they differ?

I have always worked at higher ed institutions- two research universities and one liberal arts college. All three have had very different environments and cultures. What has been consistent is the strong curricular tie/role that my position has been able to play in support of the institutions’ mission.

What advice would you give to an individual considering Records Management as a career?

Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty. Having your practice rooted in theory is necessary, but all the theory in the world will not prepare you the same way that actual experience doing records management will. My other piece of advice is don’t be afraid or intimidated to ask questions. I am a strong believer in the premise that we as professionals do not have to know everything and we shouldn’t be expected to. The field changes so rapidly, and the environments/institutions and stakeholders so varied, it can be hard to keep up with, and be an expert on, everything. Just know that you are able to tap into networks of other professionals, and are able to draw on the breadth and depth of their collective knowledge. We are a collegial bunch and are here to help!

Do you belong to any professional organizations?

I do! Probably too many. I have been a member of the Society of American Archivists and ARMA the longest…years at this point. I am also a member of South Carolina Archival Association, Palmetto Archives, Libraries, & Museum Council on Preservation, and South Carolina Public Records Association (SCPRA). Additionally, I am a member representative for Clemson to the National Digital Stewardship Association.

Thoughts on the future of records management?

Opportunities abound! I think there is some really exciting things to come/continue to develop with artificial intelligence. Additionally, I think there opportunities for records managers to be able to assert their importance and elevate the role of records management at their instructions/organizations as more and more those places are reimagining what sorts of information (records, and data) are assets that have value that they want to capitalize on.

What do you perceive as the biggest challenges in the Records Management field?

I think the handling of born-digital records and digital preservation is and will continue to be a challenge for many records managers for some time. I also think that there will be some challenges that arise as more and more institutions embrace sustainable digital preservation practices.

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

I am an active shopper (mainly clothes and shoes), an avid consumer of reality TV, and a budding knitter.

Do you have a quote you live by?

“Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good” – Voltaire (I think…)

 

 

SAA Austin Recap #3! Public Involvement and Transparency in Records Scheduling and Appraisal

Author: Cathrine Giles (Manager, State Records Branch, Archives and Records Management Division, Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives)

306 – Public Involvement and Transparency in Records Scheduling and Appraisal

Meg Phillips (National Archives and Records Administration) began the session by noting that there had recently been quite a bit of interest in NARA’s proposed records schedules, encouraging NARA to examine how they engage the public and audiences that aren’t only archives and records information management peers. NARA wasn’t satisfied with the way they were taking public comments on proposed records schedules in the past; a change was made to the process this past spring.

Maggie Hawkins (NARA) spoke on the past and current process of public comment on records schedules. Previously, NARA operated on an email/snail mail process. NARA would post to the federal register that they had proposed records schedules for review. If someone was interested, they would email NARA to request a copy of the schedule and appraisal memo. They would then have a certain period of time to make comments and send them to NARA. NARA would consider the comments and respond. This resulted in a lot of back and forth correspondence. The growing public interest in records schedules made this untenable and difficult to manage. In March 2019, NARA began using regulations.gov to make the appraisal memos and proposed schedules available for public comment. When the comment period closes, NARA reviews the comments carefully and posts a consolidated reply.

Having public input helps clarify retention periods and make sure that items are written clearly. People are interested in whether records should be permanent and whether retention periods are too long. Openness and transparency helps people see what the government is doing with their records. However, there is a challenge in most people not knowing what record schedules are and making incorrect assumptions about how records are maintained. There are misconceptions about the process in addition to the public sometimes having difficulty grasping the scope and complexity of the records the US government creates and the resources it takes to maintain, transfer, preserve, and provide access to them.

NARA has begun receiving more nuanced comments. People are more interested in temporary records and establishing good retention periods. NARA has a much broader group of people commenting, reflecting the expanding pool of people interested in preserving records.

Eric Emerson (South Carolina Department of Archives and History) presented a case study of how records scheduling issues combined with public expectations and government transparency led to the creation of specific schedules for the governor’s office and eventually led to the most successful transfer in South Carolina of gubernatorial papers since the advent of electronic records.

The SC Department of Archives and History had made multiple efforts to implement schedules for different governors but were ultimately unable to do so. When Governor Nikki Haley was elected, the agency expected her administration to be just as enthusiastic in their efforts to implement a retention schedule. However, after news media learned of and reported on the governor’s office improperly deleting emails, SCDAH used this as an opportunity. If the governor’s office would allow SCDAH to prepare a schedule, and if the governor would sign and implement it, SCDAH would vouch for the administration’s transparency. Governor Haley could then claim that her administration was the most transparent in South Carolina history.

The resulting transfer of the administration’s born-digital records to the agency is one of the most successful in the agency’s history.

Patrice McDermott (Government Information Watch) recognized the changes NARA made to the public commenting process on retention schedules as useful and “a great first step BUT.”

McDermott discussed several concerns. Records stakeholders vary wildly and may have their own organizational work to accomplish which complicates attempts to make the commenting process simple. There doesn’t exist an efficient way to notify them of disposition requests that might be of concern. How can schedules be presented so that they are understood by non-NARA readers or “public stakeholders”? The implementation of big buckets or large aggregation schedules can raise concerns about scheduling and removing records series that are included in the buckets. These schedules also don’t make it clear what listed items and files are different agencies and sub-agencies within the department. A public education effort is needed. Not knowing when an agency plans to destroy records means the public cannot request records in advance. If the schedules don’t have sufficient descriptions, the public doesn’t know what they’re commenting on. Agencies may not make it easy or possible to find information about how they manage records or what those records are, raising public distrust and suspicion.

NARA is critical as the gatekeeper and preserver of documents of historical and other significance to the American public. Many are committed to working with NARA to develop a process that will ensure an open, transparent, non-mysterious for public comment and involvement.

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

SAA Austin Recap #2! Acquisitions & Appraisal & Electronic Records Section Joint Section Meeting!

Author: Scott Kirycki, Digital Archivist, University of Notre Dame

Acquisitions & Appraisal + Electronic Records Section Joint Section Meeting at ARCHIVES*RECORDS 2019 

On August 3, 2019, members of the Acquisitions & Appraisal Section of the Society of American Archivists joined members of the Electronic Records Section for a combined annual meeting. The standing-room-only gathering examined the topic of digital appraisal through presentations and breakout sessions.

Business Meetings

After a welcome, opening comments, and an icebreaker, Marcella Huggard, Manuscripts Coordinator at the University of Kansas and Jess Farrell, Project Manager and Community Coordinator at the Educopia Institute led the section business meetings and reported on election results as well as activities of the sections from this past year. The Acquisitions & Appraisal Section has a newly-named Outreach Subcommittee that is working on ways to increase outreach. The Best Practices Subcommittee is documenting collection development policies, and the results will be available on the section’s microsite along with the popular Zotero bibliography of appraisal resources. The Steering Committee will be seeking an early-career member to join them. The Electronic Records Section is also seeking an early-career member for a community resource project and survey focused on resources for digital preservation. The Electronic Records Section blog (bloggERS!) served up twenty-seven new posts last year, and the section microsite was updated. 

 

Presentations

The first presentation of the meeting came from Christian Kelleher, Head of Special Collections at the University of Houston Libraries and was titled “Advocating for Appraisal.” Kelleher encouraged appraisers to consider not only what are the best messages for advocacy but also how best to engage receivers of advocacy. Kelleher suggested talking creators through the “why” of collection policies and not just the “what.” Kelleher also brought up the implications that appraisal has for the amount of material stored and the consequent environmental impact of storage.

The next presentation was a lightning round on tools for born-digital appraisal​:

  • Dorothy Waugh, Digital Archivist at Emory University, described Emory’s experience with the appraisal module of ePADD, a software package that supports archival processes for email archives. ePADD is designed to be used by donors on their own or by donors and archivists working together. Waugh found that less technically-savvy donors had difficulty using the appraisal module on their own, but it was still helpful for focusing conversations between donors and archivists about sensitive content that might be in the email. The archivists could then label the sensitive content prior to transfer to ePADD’s processing module.
  • Jessica Venlet, Assistant University Archivist for Records Management and Digital Records at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill introduced the tools Brunnhilde and Bulk Extractor. Brunnhilde is a characterization tool for directories and disk images. Venlet said that the summary reports from Brunnhilde help structure discussions with colleagues about large, heterogeneous collections. File format breakdowns facilitate technical and content appraisal and can surface unusual, unexpected, or unwanted files in collections. Bulk Extractor searches collections for strings of text. Venlet confirmed that Bulk Extractor is effective at finding text although the results of searches can be voluminous and hard to parse.
  • The tools that Waugh and Venlet covered are open source; Cat Lea Holbrook, Archivist at the Schlesinger Library spoke about FTK, a paid program that has some functions similar to those in the other tools as well as functions that go beyond. FTK offers format characterization and collects additional details that can be the basis for appraisal work. It also does deduplication of files and can be used to make bookmarks that correspond with finding aid arrangement. 
  • The lightning round was followed by a case study of a student project on appraising electronic state agency records​. Pat Galloway, archival educator at the School of Information, University of Texas at Austin and students Amy Padilla, Natasha Kovalyova, and Haley Latta were part of a team that worked to make sense of Texas Department of Agriculture files for the first Texas State Library and Archives Commission born-digital integration. The team came up with an appraisal approach for community development block grant files that lacked organization and did not map well to a retention schedule based around “documents” instead of digital materials. Recommendations included standardized naming conventions, linking retention periods more closely to grant period requirements, and smaller, more frequent transfers to make appraisal more manageable. 

The final presentation on collective approaches to electronic appraisal took the form of a panel discussion. 

  • Carla Alvarez, from the Benson Latin American Collection at The University of Texas at Austin explained how a whole team (rather than an individual archivist) makes the determination of whether or not a potential project fits the scope of the collection. The team involves donors in the appraisal process and works through the donor guidelines face to face. 
  • Bonnie Gordon and Jen Hoyer from the Interference Archive, a volunteer-run library and archive of materials about social and political activism, described how their organization is set up from the start to be collective. Working groups begin with the principle that everyone’s knowledge is valuable. Rather than one person deciding what to do, all make suggestions. All volunteers and donors have access to the published collecting policy, and reappraisal discussions take place as collections are added to.

Breakout Sessions

The section meeting concluded with an opportunity for attendees to process the wealth of information they had received from the presenters. Breakout sessions formed for further discussion of the topics raised. Links to session notes are here: http://bit.ly/SAAERS19.

SAA Session Overviews- Post #1! Session 702 (“Documenting Current Events and Controversial Topics”)

Author: Steven Gentry

“The speakers consider innovative collections of born-digital materials from both the fringe and mainstream related to current events that contain controversial or sensitive materials. They address challenges related to collection scope, ethics of collection and access, liability, contexts for the collection, appraisal, access, technology, and staff safety. This session is relevant to any archivist who is considering web archiving or social media collection of current events.”

(https://archives2019.sched.com/event/NjR2/702-documenting-current-events-and-controversial-topics

Recap: Recap Introduction

Session 702 focused on web archiving efforts related to content that simultaneously documents recent events and–by its very nature–could be considered sensitive and/or controversial. In addition to discussing their specific case studies, the three panelists–Jennifer Weintraub (Librarian/Archivist for Digital Initiatives, Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University), Jane Kelly (Web Archiving Assistant, #metoo Digital Media Collection, Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University), and Samantha Abrams (Web Resources Collection Librarian, Ivy Plus Libraries Confederation)–also spoke of issues and questions that had to be addressed when collecting these challenging web resources.

Part 1: Documenting Current Events and Controversial Topics (Jennifer Weintraub)

Jennifer Weintraub began the session by introducing the panelists and highlighting some of its major themes and points:

  • “Controversial material”: Weintraub defined “controversial material” broadly–”it depends”– and noted that the Schlesinger Library, along with many other institutions, already collect this kind of content. She further emphasized the ubiquity of this kind of content in archivists’ professional lives.
  • “Current events vs. regular collections”: Weintraub further emphasized that archivists who may work with digital collections–especially those that have sensitive/controversial content–must act quickly and intelligently to preserve these resources. Archivists may need to conduct research, deploy novel tools, and implement imperfect, yet efficient, solutions–while also forming collaborative relationships with fellow professionals who are also engaged with this kind of work (e.g. other archivists and  information technology staff).
  • “Ethics”: Due to its nature, ethical concerns frequently arise when working with these archives. At the Schlesinger Library, an ethics statement guides archivists’ endeavors as they collect content related to the #metoo movement
  • “Emotion”: In addition to various ethical considerations, collecting controversial web archives can be an emotionally charged, difficult endeavor. Although these kinds of projects can be difficult to accomplish, Weintraub emphasized that emotions can, ultimately, help us better understand and embrace this kind of work.
  • “Some Caveats”: All of the panelists come from well-funded institutions, for example, and the panel itself only discusses two web archiving efforts. Therefore, the panel cannot claim to be comprehensively describing these kinds of web archiving efforts.

Weintraub then introduced the Me Too movement and the #metoo Digital Media Collection project, “a large scale project to comprehensively document the #metoo movement and the accompanying political, legal, and social battles”. She highlighted the necessity of collecting this exceptionally ephemeral, at-risk content owned by external parties–especially given the focus of the Schlesinger Library and the overall importance of the Me Too Movement–while also crediting Documenting the Now as one of the project’s major influencers. Other topics briefly addressed include a description of the initial steps involved in this project, such as developing a grant and forming relationships with other Harvard University staff and faculty members; the Schlesinger Library’s previous experiences doing web archiving work; and the project’s collecting scope.

Part 2: Jane Kelly: Collecting Material about the #metoo Movement

Jane Kelly continued the conversation about the #metoo Digital Media Collection project by discussing the effort in greater detail. Kelly addressed ethical considerations first and she noted that their research–which produced an ethics statement as well as a significant bibliography–produced in the following ideas and questions:

  • Legality and ethics are two very separate ideas. Therefore, Kelly emphasized approaching ethics from the position of individuals creating content.
  • Contextual approach to privacy,” which includes questions such as, “What do content creators believe about their right to privacy on the web? How does their personal context shape their understanding and expectations of privacy and anonymity?”
  • “Social network theory of privacy”, which emphasizes that users’ “expectations regarding their privacy [is]…based on the number, depth, and breadth of connections that users have on the web”.

Next discussed were the tools and workflows used to capture relevant forms of content–all of which can be learned and implemented by archivists, as Kelly emphatically articulated. These tools included:

  • Web content: Archive-It (the primary tool employed) and Webrecorder (content captured via Webrecorder was uploaded to Archive-It). Nearly 900 seeds have been collected, the bulk of which are single page crawls that have been crawled only once.
  • Twitter content: Social Feed Manager, as well as Twitter’s Historical PowerTrack (to capture older tweets). Ultimately, about 19 million tweets will be archived as part of this project.
  • News articles: Media Cloud. Ideally, Archive-It would be used to de-duplicate the approximately 384,000 resources captured via Media Cloud.

After discussing tools, Kelly addressed the kinds of questions that guided her collecting efforts–especially given the somewhat limited resources that were devoted to the project. Some of these questions included the following:

  • “Whose voices are represented?”: The content of those whose voices were less represented in this movement (e.g. non-white celebrities) could be considered more important to capture.
  • “Is it technically possible (and reasonably easy) to capture?”: Content that proved more difficult–especially if it was deemed less important or already present in other collections–could be disregarded.
  • “Is it valuable to have this content in this collection, even if it’s also captured elsewhere?”: Vitally important content that could be quickly obtained could be captured, even if such efforts were duplicative. This helped researchers understand the captured content, meaning that this non-unique content has value.
  • “How much context do we need to provide and do we have the resources…to do so?”: How much additional, related content should be captured in order for researchers to understand the web content? And is this additional effort worth the cost?

Kelly also briefly discussed an experimental workflow that uses Zotero to create descriptive metadata for web archives. In essence, metadata about various web resources was captured in a Zotero library and exported into a CSV spreadsheet where it could be cleaned up, mapped to Archive-It’s Dublin core metadata elements, and uploaded to Archive-It.

In her conclusion, Kelly addressed the consequences of working with these controversial and/or sensitive materials. In addition to advocating that the archivist take frequent, necessary breaks, she mused on whether working with these resources impacts our professional capabilities (e.g. via desensitizing the archivist who is constantly exposed to this content). Ultimately, Kelly argued that archivists should seek out “empowerment through empathy”–or positive examples– while also asking two key questions as they work on these projects:

  • “Does our work empower individuals and communities?”
  • “How can we advocate for changing practices to ensure that this is possible?”

Part 3: Samantha Abrams: Ivy Plus Libraries Partnership Framework for Collection of Web Archives

For her portion, Samantha Abrams focused on the Ivy Plus Confederation, several of its web archiving projects, and challenges associated with those projects. Abrams began her portion by introducing Confederation–“a partnership between thirteen leading academic research libraries…that collectively provide access to a rich and unique record of human thought and creativity through resource sharing and collaboration” and its Program, “a collaborative collection development effort to build curated, thematic collections of freely available, but at-risk, web content in order to support research at participating libraries and beyond”. She also briefly described the selection process for these various web projects–how, for example, subject specialists and information professionals from the Confederation’s many institutions come together to determine which web archiving projects will be undertaken. She also highlighted that projects brought forward by an individual from one institution must have support from someone affiliated with another institution–which, as noted later, can be a blessing and a curse.

After briefly introducing and discussing the Web Collecting Program’s evolution, Abrams discussed several web archives attempted or completed as part of this program (their descriptions from the Ivy Plus Confederation’s website are listed below):

  • State Elections Web Archive: “Campaign websites of declared candidates running for state elective offices in 2018 in California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island”.
  • Brazilian Presidential Transition Web Archive: “Brazilian government websites in the areas of human rights, the environment, LGBTQ issues, and culture, for the period following the election of Jair Bolsonaro as president of Brazil on October 28, 2018, up to his inauguration of January 1, 2019”.
  • Web content relating to immigrants trying to acquire political asylum in the United States: Ultimately, this collection was not created, as discussed later in the session.
  • Extreme Right Movements in Europe Web Archive: “Documents the rise of extreme right movements in Europe in the twenty-first century. Access is restricted to on-campus use within the Ivy Plus Libraries Confederation”.

Key questions that Abrams found herself addressing while working on these projects included the following: 

  • Speed (“How fast is too fast?”): Web content–as exemplified by the State Elections Web Archive–can rapidly change, even as the organizations that comprise the Ivy Plus Confederation more slowly discuss enacting and supporting various projects. This prompted Abrams to consider how to implement imperfect solutions that most effectively and efficiently collect relevant content.
  • Matter (“Who matters most?”): Although documenting recent events is vital, Abrams emphasized the necessity of considering the impact of archival efforts prior to engaging in a project. This question ultimately resulted in the rejection of one project related to undocumented immigrants seeking asylum, as there was concern that other institutions (e.g. the police) could use this web archive to the detriment of those individuals featured in it. Questions also arose concerning protecting staff members associated with the project as well as ethically acquiring content from creators.
  • Context (“What’s important contextually?”): Abrams noted the importance of questioning the home of these particular archives. She asked, for example, should the Ivy Plus Confederation host these web resources–or would they be more useful/understandable if they were kept at another institution, such as the Southern Poverty Law Center? 
  • Access (“How do you provide access?”): Access to these web archives was occasionally a fraught question–for example, should the Ivy Plus Confederation provide unfettered access to the Extreme Right Movements in Europe Web Archive, for example, and what are the consequences of doing so? Here, Abrams argued that archivists should draw upon their experience restricting access to physical collections to guide their decisions with restricting access to web archives.

Abrams concluded her portion of the session by asking critical questions about web archiving efforts and, importantly, if it supports our communities.

Part 4: Questions for Panelists

In this final section, the panelists opened up the floor to questions and comments from audience members. Some of these questions are noted below:

  1. How will the #metoo Digital Media Collection project be made available–and when?Response: Ideally by Fall 2019, although it depends on the kind of material (i.e. the web archives will likely be made available on time, while the availability of the Twitter data depends on when the data requested via Historical PowerTrack becomes accessible). Ultimately, web content will be made available via Archive-It and Twitter data will be made available via Harvard’s Dataverse.
  2. Has any of the panelists explored at commercial content moderation and its impact? Response: Not really. However, Kelly referenced an article recently published in the Journal of Contemporary Archival Studies concerning traumaResponse: An audience member also recommended that folks interested in this topic reach out to Wendy Duff, at the University of Toronto, who is currently researching this topic.
  3. What legal advice did Harvard’s counsel provide, especially concerning making Twitter feeds accessible as part of the #metoo Digital Media Collection project?Response: Ultimately, the archivists will hold to Twitter’s terms of service. Response: Additionally, Harvard’s counsel said there should be no issue concerning the collection of copyrighted content, since it will take researchers quite a while to find  this data. This means that there will be no negative financial impact associated this collecting effort.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Resourceful Records Managers

Finally… an installment of resourceful records managers! This time we are featuring Holly Dolan, Denton County – Records Management Officer! If you want to be featured, please fill out the form here.

holly

1. What led you to choose your current career in Records Management?

Like so many records managers, I kind of fell into it! In my last semester of grad school I began searching for job options that would leverage my information and data management skills. I always assumed I would end up working for an academic library, archives, or similar cultural heritage institution. When a management position opened up with Denton County’s Records Management division, I was attracted to the idea of learning more about local government and the aspect of working with government information. At the time, I didn’t understand the depth of the Records and Information Management field, so I’ve definitely learned a lot along the way!

2. What is your educational background?

I hold a MS in Library Science as well as a graduate certificate in Digital Curation and Data Management from the University of North Texas. My undergraduate degree was in Art History. I’m sure that my love of historical preservation is a product of my art background.

3. Do you or did you have a mentor who has helped you in the Records Management field?

Wow, where do I start? My career has been shaped by several wonderful women who have acted as role models and provided support and guidance to help me overcome my constantly-looming impostor syndrome. I can’t name them all here, but I’ll give a special shout out to Nancy Lenoil and Jennifer Pickler. A little over a year ago I signed up for SAA’s Mentor Program and was matched with Nancy Lenoil, the State Archivist of California. I can’t believe I got so lucky. She has been amazing in helping me grow as a RIM professional. Not only has Nancy helped me navigate the records and archives world, she’s taught me a lot about how to manage people. My boss, Jennifer Pickler, has become a key support figure in my career. I honestly never thought I would climb the ladder so quickly, so I’ve needed some extra help to feel confident in my decision making. Among the many lessons she’s taught me, the most important has been: work to the best of your ability, and at the end of the day go home and enjoy the things that make you happiest in life.

4. What is your role at your institution?

I’m Denton County’s Records Management Officer. I work for the County’s Technology Services department and manage the Records Management Division. As Records Management Officer for the county, I’m in charge of coordinating our Records Management Program in the more than 90 business units that we serve. My main functions are consultation, training, and running the Denton County Records Center which currently holds over 34,000 boxes of government records.

5. What do you enjoy most about your job?

The thing I enjoy the most is providing training and outreach. Most of my customers are internal to the County, so a big part of my job is training people how to efficiently manage their records. Sometimes it takes a bit of creativity to fit policy information into an easily digestible format. I hold instructor-led “Records Management 101” classes about once a month. I love getting feedback from the trainees saying that they expected the class to be boring, but ended up enjoying it.

6. What advice would you give to an individual considering Records Management as a career?

I think my biggest advice is to do a bit of research and make sure that it’s right for you. Records Management is much more policy-heavy than other archival professions. To flourish in this career, you really need to take pride in following the rules.

7. Do you belong to any professional organizations (SAA, ARMA…)?

Along with SAA, I’m also a member of the National Association of Government Archives and Records Administrators (NAGARA) and the American Library Association (ALA).

8. What do you perceive as the biggest challenges in the Records Management field?

I think one of our biggest challenges in this field is learning how to work with technology rather than against it. I often see records managers panicking every time a new piece of technology has implications on their policies. At the end of the day, records management is about efficiency and transparency. By rejecting the efficiency that certain technology provides, we’re working against these goals. I also think that, by catastrophizing when new technology is introduced, we’re sending the wrong message to our stakeholders about our purpose in the organization and potentially alienating decision makers. I think we need to get better at putting our problem solving skills to work and finding realistic ways to leverage new technology to achieve the goals of efficiency and transparency.

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

When I’m not at work I might be enjoying the outdoors, playing tabletop games, or spending time with my favorite humans and pets.

10. Do you have a quote you live by?

“We need to remember what’s important in life: friends, waffles, work. Or waffles, friends, work. Doesn’t matter, but work is third.” –Leslie Knope