SAA Session 409: Working Together to Manage Digital Records: A Congressional Archives Perspective

At this session, panelists discussed the transfer and preservation of digital congressional archives, providing perspectives from a variety of records professionals who work with congressional archives in both a records management and archival capacity.

Elizabeth Butler, Deputy Archivist for the U.S. Senate Historical Office, described the basic functions of the Senate Historical Office and focused on their interest in capturing electronic records. The Senate Historical Office is working on developing guidance for Senator’s offices in order to better assist them with managing their electronic documentation. Elizabeth sees a significant need for stronger collaboration with IT Administration, particularly with the increase in born-digital records. Continue reading “SAA Session 409: Working Together to Manage Digital Records: A Congressional Archives Perspective”


SAA Session 503: “More Access, Less Process: Practical Born-Digital Access at Scale”

This session featured archivists from the American Heritage Center (AHC) at the University of Wyoming discussing their efforts to provide users access to born-digital materials.

Irlanda Jacinto described the AHC as an “access-driven institution” – fast, open, and responsive.  They create a catalog record and trunk EAD, which make the records discoverable in the catalog.

Amanda Stow reported that the digital files aren’t indexed.  If patrons want to download materials, they must purchase a flash drive from the AHC.  The patron agreement specifies that users are responsible for abiding by any copyright restrictions.

Tyler Cline described their process of ingesting a backlog of 1.5TB from physical material.  They developed an home-grown system because the vendor solutions they investigated seemed either incomplete or too expensive.  They have a dark archive and also produce access copies.  The in-house computer used by patrons is locked down with read-only access.  The system requires active intervention by an archivist to map user access to particular folders — in the survey, patrons reported resentment of this process.  Users also resented the limitation of only being able to access born-digital records in the reading room.  In response to the survey, the AHC moving forward plans to move restricted files up one level in the file structure so an archivist doesn’t have to monitor access within a folder.  He also contended that patrons need to be educated that access won’t be a Google-like search because the files aren’t indexed — instead, access looks more like a database, with a finding aid as an access point.

SAA Session 410: “The New Approach to Government Records in the Canadian Federal Government”

This session featured representatives from the Library and Archives Canada (LAC).  Nathalie Villeneuve explained they are using a risk-based approach to remove access barriers to records that are already in archival custody, and they are also asking departments to open records before sending them to LAC.  They are rolling out an EDRMS called OpenDocs, and by fall it should incorporate a transfer to archives element.  LAC no longer houses semi-active records – only inactive archival records transfer.

Michael Dufresne clarified that LAC isn’t responsible for government publications, ministerial records, or web/social media content – they collect only government records of historical or archival value.  They have applied macroappraisal:

  • helped distinguish more from less important institutions
  • employ multi-institutional disposition authorities (MIDA) and some institution-specific DAs (ISDA)
  • tried a social network analysis to guide appraisal, but it was too unwieldy

Dufresne asserted, “the focus of appraisal should be on narrowing the field of vision to identify and acquire the most succinct archival or historical evidence possible.”  Their emphasis is on identifying archival records, and the new DAs identify, at a high level, activities likely to generate records of archival value.  Then they employ a validation exercise to determine the list of archival records for activities of interest; records generated for all other activities may be disposed of immediately.  LAC suggests retention periods, which the agencies do generally follow.

SAA Session 301: “‘Capstone Officials’ and Public Records: Risk, Buy-in, and Archival Selection”

This session used NARA’s Capstone approach to email as a starting point for discussing the collection of all sorts of records from senior officials.

Arian Ravanbakhsh (NARA) provided the background to the Capstone policy.  The journey began in 2011 with the Presidential Memorandum on Managing Government Records that aimed to modernize records management in the federal government.  Many directives and bulletins later, we have the Capstone policy.  He asserted the biggest failure of records management is user-dependent policies.  Therefore, the big benefit of Capstone is preserving permanent email records automatically.  The Capstone policy has three categories:

  • permanent retention for senior officials (agency head and deputy, “C” (chiefs), executives, directors of major programs, directors of presidential libraries)
  • 7-year temporary retention for non-Capstone officials
  • 3-year temporary retention for support and/or administrative positions

Mike Strom, the State Archivist of Wyoming, reported that their state IT department archives email for an indeterminate length of time – none of which to this point has been transferred to the state archives.  They have defined Capstone officials as elected officials, agency directors, and deputy directors.  All records of elected officials are deemed permanent, while records from agency directors and deputy directors come to the State Records Center for appraisal and disposition.  Wyoming has recently revised its retention schedules, shifting from agency-driven to function-based schedules and dramatically reducing the number of items (from 8000 to 600).  Strom suggested some disadvantages to functional schedules are that changing a schedule affects numerous agencies and the system doesn’t allow for special circumstances.  They have determined that general correspondence (related to day-to-day office administration and not identified in other records series) can be destroyed three years after date of creation.

Jim Cundy reported that the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives has defined their Capstone officials as agency heads (”the individual or collegial body in an agency that is responsible for entry of a final order”).  In addition, anything the Governor’s office sends is considered a permanent record.

Ruth Bryan, of the University of Kentucky Special Collections Research Center, said they consider faculty Capstone officials because of their role in University life.  To date, the University hasn’t decided what to do with adjunct/non-tenured faculty.  They consider faculty papers public records that document both scholarship and academic functions.  Faculty records are appraised, and student-related records are discarded.  Products of scholarship are faculty-owned and are not subject to retention schedules.

Tamar Chute (Ohio State University Archives) said their state universities were removed from the state records management system in 1992 and paid a consulting firm to create a general records retention schedule.  On that university schedule, Capstone officials/upper administration include the president, provosts, vice presidents, deans and directors, department chairs, and head coaches.  They’ve had the situation of needing to determine whether artifacts are university records.  In typical records management fashion, it depends!

SAA Session 205: “Coming Soon to a Local Government Near You: Adopting the Massachusetts Municipal Clerks Archives Education Program”

This session included representatives from the Massachusetts Archives, the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners, the Town of Westford, and Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science discussing their NHPRC-funded project to impart archival principles to municipal clerks in Massachusetts.

Michael Comeau, from the Massachusetts Archives, reported there are efforts to get two pieces of helpful legislation passed:

  • an act to establish a Municipal Records Preservation Commission
  • St. 2016, c.121 – An Act to Improve Public Records
    • mandates the creation of a “records access officer” in every city and town
    • mandates public records be maintained electronically if originally available in that form

Gregor Trinkaus-Randall of the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners described the Massachusetts Municipal Clerks Archival Education Program (MMCARP).  This 3-year grant-funded program has developed an archival curriculum for municipal clerks.  The introductory course covers basic archival concepts, including:

  • provenance, custody, original order
  • appraisal
  • arrangement and description
  • preservation
  • advocacy and outreach

The advanced course focuses on electronic records, including basic concepts alongside the application of archival principles and case studies.

They want the program to be transferable to other states.  Each module includes framing, application, assignments, resources, and a self-check.  A simulation includes core decision points and moderated discussions, set in a fictional town.  Credits for the coursework are awarded from the Massachusetts Town Clerks Association and from the International Institute of Municipal Clerks.

Kaari Mai Tari, clerk for the Town of Westford, described the assignments: inventory, office records retention schedule, finding aid, preservation assessment, and outreach plan.  She explained that in order to be effective, records management needs to be embraced as a program, not just a project.  This grant has demonstrated that it’s important for the state archives to learn what the clerks don’t know about implementing records management.

Katherine M. Wisser of Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science said it’s vital to create a rhythm for the learner in the online environment and to provide ways that the information learned can be applied.  They have three options for rolling out a national implementation:

  1. static website – problematic because there’d be no tracking/credentialing/feedback
  2. interactive modules – problematic because it’d be more expensive and difficult to adapt to different contexts (technology, states)
  3. online course (currently using Moodle software at Simmons)

SAA Session 104: “One Year into the NHPRC’s State Government Electronic Records Grant Program”

This session featured representatives from the State Archives of North Carolina (SANC), Wisconsin Historical Society (WHS), and Missouri State Archives.

Camille Tyndall Watson talked about the TOMES project in NC — Transforming Online Mail with Embedded Semantics.  According to executive order, all email in NC must be retained for 5 years.  In order to simplify the retention of email and guarantee the transfer of archival email, SANC is evaluating a Capstone approach (similar to the three-bucket approach by NARA).  Collaboration has been a key to the work thus far — partnering with the Government Records Section at SANC, the Department of Information Technology, and the Office of State Human Resources.  SANC will use some of the grant funds to hire a programmer to develop a natural language processing tool.  Although they haven’t yet determined all the specifics of how email will be processed, they do intend to apply an MPLP approach to identifying PII.  The code developed will be available on GitHub, and progress can be tracked on their website.

Carey Clifton-Myers talked about the WiSPER project (Wisconsin State Preservation of Electronic Records Project).  The WHS currently only receives electronic records from one state agency, but they intend to expand that base.  They’re focusing on the transfer process of PSTs as well as SharePoint and shared drive content.  They’re developing workflows for long-term preservation and began by testing the procedures internally:

  • inventoried personal drives – used TreeSize reports
  • dealt with orphan files
  • migrated formats
  • will also inventory shared drives, tag disposition to folders, deduplicate, and reorganize by function rather than person

They’ve also developed an employee tracker that includes records retention disposition authorizations (RDAs) along with names, position, department, and start/end dates, and they created an RDA cheatsheet by department.  They’re trying to educate agencies about the importance of identifying official records as well as file formats and naming conventions.

John Dougan talked about SMART – State of Missouri Agency Records Transfer, which is built on InfoLinks.  He identified two primary problems:

  • most e-recs ingests fall outside existing workflows
  • massive chunks of unstructured data are transferred at once

RM and metadata are built into SMART system (although transfers can happen separately).  It’s designed for in-house use rather than public access (poor GUI, no web interface).  Their work has been slowed by early partners dropping out and newer partners having more complicated records issues.

During the Q&A, an attendee recommended looking to Tufts TAPER Project for guidance on transfers.

RMRT at Archives*Records 2016

Almost 50 people gathered early Friday morning for the joint business meetings of the Records Management Roundtable (RMRT) and the Local Government Records Roundtable.  Eira Tansey chaired the meeting for the RMRT, and Linda Barrett hosted for Local Government Records.

Meg Phillips, external affairs liaison for NARA, introduced Laurence Brewer, who has been at NARA since 1999 and became Chief Records Officer for the U.S. federal government May 1, 2016.  He oversees Training, Policy and Guidance, and Operations and is responsible for promoting the goals of the Managing Government Records Directive.

Veronica Martzahl, digital records archivist at the Massachusetts State Archives, provided an update on the Council of State Archivists (CoSA) State Electronic Records Initiative (SERI) and the PERTTS (Program for Electronic Records, Training, Tools and Standards) Portal.  SERI evaluated training related to electronic records and has accumulated those resources in PERTTS Portal.  In addition to aggregating tools and resources, CoSA wants to collect user comments about these resources.  This Resource Center is currently focused on electronic records, but CoSA intends to expand this to other topics in the future.

Jackie Esposito, Penn State University Archivist, provided an update on her survey concerning the organizational placement and functions of college and university records management programs.  This survey became active June 1, 2016.  The survey takes about 30 minutes to complete and will remain live until 12:00pm on August 15, 2016 and is open to colleges, universities, state governments, and business enterprises.  It gathers information about policies and procedures as well as the litany of services provided by college and university archivists.  It employs the seven element operational excellence management system to evaluate sustainable improvement of key performance metrics.  The results of the survey will be best practices and next steps.  All of the survey data will be made available January 2017, and articles are planned on survey results, records liaisons programs, structure and work plan for records management advisory committees, and best practices for each industry segment.

Helen Wong Smith introduced Erin Lawrimore as the incoming council liaison for the RMRT.  Wong reported that council accepted the following recommendations on affinity groups:

  • eliminate distinctions between sections and roundtables – all will become sections
  • SAA members may join as many sections as they choose
  • non-members can participate in up to 3 discussion lists; SAA is looking into new software to manage listservs
  • all groups must have standard bylaws and submit information about the annual meeting and their leadership
  • new groups can be formed with 100 members signatures

SAA Council also approved an information brief on archives and the environment and a revision to the Statement on Diversity and Inclusion.  The EAD Roundtable is now known as the Encoded Archival Standards (EAS) Roundtable.  Mark Matienzo was appointed to conduct an environmental scan about metadata and digital practice.

Eira Tansey provided a business update for the RMRT steering committee:

  • Alex Toner put together a research data management series for the blog
  • Courtney Bailey began a series of posts on open source records management tools
  • Plans are in the works for interviews of records managers
  • RMRT hosted Google Hangouts on ePADD for Email Archives and Processing Email Using Predictive Coding
  • The records management bibliography has been migrated to Zotero
  • Tansey is the student liaison for the RMRT and presented on “Records Management for Archivists” to the CSU-Sacramento and SJSU SAA student chapters – contact Tansey with ideas for future opportunities
  • RMRT hosted a joint Twitter chat with the SNAP roundtable

Michelle Bradley, supervisor of the training implementation team at NARA, presented on “Lifecycle of a Records: A Concept or a Process?”  NARA training talks about the creation/receipt of a record, its maintenance and use, and its disposition.  In 1944, Philip Brooks drew an early diagram of the concept of the life cycle of records.

life cycle of recordsRecords management at the ground level is usually a collateral duty for people, most of whom have little relevant training.  The result is that people do the best they can with the resources (time, money, knowledge) available to them.  Educating users about how federal government records are organized is vital.  Ultimately, the lifecycle of a record is primarily a process that involves many people.

Bradley provided two examples of records management in action.  While working in Germany, she found a World War Two document in the basement of the building and was told by the director, “I thought it looked historical but I didn’t know what to do with it, so I just left it there.”  The Bancroft Library at the University of California Berkeley holds a letter written by Dr. Luis Alvarez to his 8-year-old son as he returned from Hiroshima, Japan, on the Enola Gay on August 6, 1945.  In the former case, the path to the archives was not direct, but at least the document was preserved.  And in the latter case, someone recognized that a document which had met its required retention also had long-term historical value.HiroshimaTansey posed the question of how we get elected officials to care about records management.  Brewer explained that NARA frequently meets with Congressional staffers – usually prompted by RM crises but also filling reporting functions.  He reported that in recent years there has been much more awareness of and attention to issues of records management at the federal level, especially regarding electronic records.

Back to the Basics in Researching

As a reference librarian, I worked with many library patrons who would ask where they could find books on specific subjects. I would show them how to find possible sources that could answer their questions.  Sometimes they would come back with a narrowed subject.  Then, we would look at other sources that could answer their more focused questions.  Other library patrons would take the sources presented to them and take the information from those sources as the only answers that they could find.  The library patrons who kept asking questions were developing their skills on how to be more effective in reading comprehension.  Unfortunately, the patrons that left with what they had, without further focusing on their subjects, would come back with questions for other subjects and keep asking me for the sources with the answers that they needed.  They did not learn from the first reference interview how to conduct basic research.  I wondered how I could help the novice researcher to be more effective in researching their questions.  I found 6 steps that could help.


Continue reading “Back to the Basics in Researching”

Save the dates for two upcoming RMRT events!

The Records Management Roundtable (RMRT) is pleased to share with you two upcoming events.

Save the date for the next installment of RMRT’s Virtual Hangout series, airing Wednesday, May 4 at 10:00AM PDT (1:00PM EDT).

Join the project team from ePADD as they talk about their open source and freely downloadable software that harnesses machine learning, including natural language processing and named entity recognition, to support the appraisal, processing, discovery, and delivery of email archives.

Watch the ePADD for Email Archives broadcast live here. We’ll also update the blog with links to the archived YouTube video.

The RMRT Steering Committee is also hosting a webinar with the Sacramento State and San Jose State University SAA student chapters. Eira Tansey, Digital Archivist/Records Manager at the University of Cincinnati, will be talking about support and careers in records management. Eira is also the Student Committee coordinator for the RMRT Steering Committee.

Join the live discussion Sunday, May 1 at 4:00 PM PDT (7:00 PM EDT):

Listen to the recording:

RMWebinarGraphic (1)

Hope you will be able to tune in!

Storify of joint SNAP and RMRT Twitter chat

The Records Management Roundtable was delighted to join forces with the Student and New Archives Professionals Roundtable last week for a Twitter chat on records management. For those of you who missed it, or just want to relive the great time, SNAP Roundtable senior social media coordinator Ariadne Rehbein created this Storify of the conversation.

We thank SNAP for the great opportunity to share and learn from each other.