Join us at 2pm ET on Friday, May 21st for another in our series of virtual coffee chats — this one hosted by April Anderson-Zorn, University Archivist at Illinois State University, and Courtney Bailey, Records Analyst at the State Archives of North Carolina (SANC). The past 14 months have changed many of our lives in a myriad of ways, and records haven’t escaped the impacts of these changes. We’ll discuss some of the changes we’ve seen at our institutions, and I’m sharing here links to some resources developed at our institutions that can serve as discussion starters. We’d love to dialogue with you about what’s changed for you — along with what you may continue doing in a new way even after COVID restrictions ease. Here are some topics we’ll address:
When does a global pandemic affect the calculus of appraisal decisions? SANC provided some general guidelines.
What about all these new records we’re generating that we’d never even heard of before 2020? Do we have to retain Zoom recordings and symptom checklists and Teams chats? SANC provided some guidance to various audiences, such as state agencies and universities.
How can you train records custodians when in-person visits are not possible?
How can you gather input on a schedule update from subject matter experts when you cannot convene a meeting in your conference room?
When wet ink signatures have always been required on schedule approvals and other authorizations, what do you do when many people are working from home?
How can you receive archival donations with COVID restrictions in place?
How can you facilitate the collection of digital records?
No registration is required for this event. We look forward to seeing you on Zoom!
The SAA Records Management Section invites you to attend our free (!) RIM month virtual colloquium highlighting records and information management issues. Mark your calendars for April 7th, 2021 1pm-3pm EST.
Outline of Event:
7 wonderful presenters working in records management, with 7 minute lightning round presentations (see below!).
30 minutes will be allocated for discussion and questions following the lightning rounds.
This short presentation will discuss the ways that RIM is incorporated into the onboarding and offboarding of employees at the Office of the Governor of Texas. In addition to presenting at New Employee Orientation on a biweekly basis, the Records Management Officer developed RIM Entrance & Exit Checklists to ensure smooth transitions. The checklists are required for all incoming and departing employees and were developed in consultation with IT, Legal, and HR.
Hillary Gatlin, Duke University
Surveying and Collecting Electronic Records
With COVID-19 restricting our ability to collect and preserve physical materials, Duke University Archives has changed its focus to collecting electronic university records of historical value. This presentation will discuss the process of surveying and reviewing these records in situ, provide examples of inventories that are useful for Technical Services staff, and discuss lessons learned as the Records Management program continues collecting university records despite physical restrictions.
Betty Shankle, University North Texas Health Science Center
Wrangling a Struggling RIM Program
Backlog of records awaiting transfer to off-site storage, check; outdated records management software, check; dated records transmittal and disposition forms, check; and no RIM workflow in place, check. Inheriting a struggling records management program can be daunting; however, it is manageable. From creating a network of Records Management Representatives across campus to upgrading RIM software that is seven versions behind, step by step records management can be wrangled.
Alexander Hughes and Shannon Gavin Johnson, Troup County Archives
Redeveloping relationships with records creators
The Troup County Archives works with three different local government entities to provide records management services. These relationships began in the 1980s but became strained within recent years. Troup County Archives leadership worked to redevelop these relationships and found great success. A budget increase and an intergovernmental renovation of the largest records storage facility occurred in 2019. This presentation seeks to show how these relationships were redeveloped and archival advocacy occurred.
Beth Cron, National Archives and Records Administration
Records Management Requirements for Systems
Have you ever been tasked with coming up with records management requirements and don’t know where to start? Beth will share how you can use NARA’s Universal Electronic Records Management Requirements as a starting point when identifying how to meet records management requirements when procuring or implementing a new system.
Jessie Graham and Anita Vannucci, University of Virginia
Going Remote: Moving RIM Training to a Virtual World
The move to remote work at UVA during the COVID-19 pandemic called for a new approach to RIM training. The RIM Team identified cheap and easy ways to take training virtual via live Zoom sessions and on-demand pre-recorded courses. In this session, the RIM Team will discuss ways we modified content and made virtual training more accessible. We will look at the tools we used and lessons learned along the way.
We had a great conversation with folks last week about what has worked for them and what they need in the field of records and information management education. As is the case with most things in the RIM field, it depends — more specifically, what people need in a training/education sense depends on where they are professionally and what resources they have to devote to their own professional development.
Here are some interesting comments, suggestions, and evaluations that were shared:
The content of most grad school RIM classes is too theoretical, so there’s a disconnect to RIM in practice.
It would be great to see RIM systems demoed by practitioners instead of having to sit through vendor-supplied sessions that are more sales pitch than practical evaluation.
Many existing training programs can be prohibitively expensive, especially for those new to the profession or without support for professional development.
Some existing training programs are too superficial to be of much use while others are too rigid and go into topics in depth that may not be relevant to all participants. There needs to be a good in-between option.
What’s the most effective way to allow emerging professionals to benefit from the expertise of more seasoned RIM professionals? Is it a formal mentoring program, or would something else work better?
Topics on which folks would like to see training opportunities:
Creating/refining retention and disposition schedules
Crossing over from traditional archives work into RIM
Starting a new RIM program
Conducting RIM outreach to colleagues and building alliances and mentoring relationships within the workplace
Developing RIM training for constituents and assessing its effectiveness
Researching legal requirements for records (retention and confidentiality)
Incorporating graduate assistants effectively into RIM work
Advocating for the resources needed for RIM work
Making RIM part of HR onboarding/offboarding
Storage and carrying out paper/digital migrations
Planning and carrying out a digitization initiative
Possible avenues to pursue:
Our new case study series might help to bridge the gap between theory and practice. You can find the overview here. Be thinking about what experiences you can share that could benefit someone else in the profession.
One suggestion was to have a Toastmasters sort of group that could get together to workshop training/workshops you plan to present to constituents. Let us know if you would be interested in participating in something like this.
Now that more of us are conducting workshops virtually, should we try to publicize upcoming training events that could accommodate “guests” who might be interested in learning from another RIM colleague/seeing how they present similar content?
In the long run, taking a wide approach to answering this question about RIM education is probably the best. So expect to see everything from more coffee chats to webinars to new SAA courses — and maybe even a track or certificate program somewhere down the line.
The RMS steering committee spent a good portion of last year investigating various RIM educational opportunities. You can view our findings here.
Now we’d like to have a conversation with our community to find out what topics and levels of depth are needed to support you in your work and your professional development. Join us this Friday (December 11) at 2pm ET for a Zoom chat. You are not required to have a camera available, though you are certainly welcome to use one. Most important will be having access to speakers and a microphone so you can participate in the conversation (although if you at least have a keyboard, you could participate via chat rather than orally). You can register for the session and receive the Zoom login information by registering here: https://zoom.us/meeting/register/tJIkfu6vqjktGNGI20qf9UUQgpXsdS7Ms_wW
If we were to design a track program through SAA Education, here are some already existing courses that could be included:
• Records Management Introduction • Basics of Managing Digital Records • Change Management: How Do You Tackle It? • Records Management for Archivists • Train the Trainer: Building a Successful Continuing Education Course • Designing and Presenting Effective Online Learning • Email Archiving: Strategies, Tools, Techniques
What else needs to be added? Is there sufficient interest in a certificate program? Are there folks who’d be interested in teaching particular topics?
Bring your questions and suggestions to this session. If you need any further information, please feel free to reach out to the steering committee leadership at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to your joining us on Friday.
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.
Over the past weeks, more and more businesses, government agencies, educational facilities, and cultural heritage organizations have shuttered their physical locations — either in a proactive attempt to prevent community spread of the coronavirus or in response to local shelter in place/stay at home orders — and have stood up teleworking and online options. As people involved with records and information management, we realize that the location at which folks are doing their work has no bearing on the record status of the files created. But in recognition that good RIM practices may not be on the forefront of many people’s minds during this crisis, allow me to call attention to some things to consider (many of which were contributed through the SAA Records Management Section listserv).
Rather than trying to maintain paper records outside the office in non-secure locations, try to conduct as much business electronically and take as few paper files home as possible. Also try to print as little as possible. Obviously, any paper files that are needed during this time should be maintained appropriately and returned to the office as soon as practicable, either to be filed or shredded as appropriate.
For the purposes of records management, public records requests, audits, etc., to the greatest extent possible, employees should maintain files within agency-managed environments (e.g., SharePoint, OneDrive); if these resources are not available, files that are maintained on personal devices must be transferred to agency resources as soon as practicable. In the meantime, auditors, general counsel, and public information officers should provide guidance about how records requests will be handled.
Publicly available Wi-Fi systems are not secure, so data security protocols demand that any confidential agency documents should not be accessed while using public Wi-Fi.
If documents with personal identifying information or other confidential matters are handled in a home office, make sure they are not available to other parties. If they need to be destroyed before you can return to your business office, they should be shredded rather than placed in the trash.
There are already some good resources available — although they predate this situation, they certainly address many of the issues of teleworking:
There are also questions that remain about the impacts of this situation:
Good Continuity Of Operations Plans should include information about essential records. As early as 2015, the Alabama Department of Archives and History listed pandemic influenza training and exercises in its COOP template — I wonder if anyone had undertaken exercises before this current crisis that prepared your institution and employees? If so, it’d be interesting to find out how effectively your training translated to actual deployment and what, if anything, you wish you’d done differently.
What happens when people need access to paper files that are in remote storage? I haven’t seen these businesses specifically identified as essential in the various government orders, but can a legal argument be made that they are?
Does anyone already have procedures in place about how records requests will be handled when employees are working remotely and may or may not be capturing all records in agency platforms in real time?
For the longer term, it will also be interesting to see how this crisis affects people’s definitions of essential records and organizations’ procedures for guaranteeing access to essential records. In a wider scope, is there a way for workers to identify the electronic version of a go-kit (i.e., the electronic files that need to be accessible remotely if teleworking is required, even if they are not technically essential)?
If anyone has any stories to share, please comment here or post to the listserv through SAA Connect. And if you prefer not to share your comments publicly, you can always reach out to the Records Management Section directly, and we can anonymize/aggregate this information for the benefit of the whole community.
“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.
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 email@example.com or via Twitter at @heyellee.
Welcome to RIM Month! I have been promising/threatening my fellow Steering Committee members to write this post for a while now. My ability to write it, however, has been significantly impacted by the extent to which I have been absolutely BIFFING the process. Stakeholders have been angered; records management best practices/commandments have been violated; capstone models have been altered; hair has been pulled out in frustration; records managers have been called on the carpet*. The worst part is that it’s not even done! I’m at, at best, a holding pattern to a point where I can maybe, MAYBE submit a schedule to be approved by the state board next quarter. The frustration continues.
The tl;dr of the below: Scheduling electronic messages is COMPLICATED, particularly in the public sector. You are walking a fine line between the dictates of the historical record, the operational needs of the organization, the technical capacity of your IT department, and the political/legal considerations of the public officials affected. These four factors are, more often than not, diametrically opposed (yes, there’s four of them and they’re ALL diametrically opposed; that’s how complicated it is). I, frankly, did not walk the line very well. If we represent the hazards as shark tanks on all sides, I am currently on dry land, but bloody and scratched and missing some chunks. So: Learn from my mistakes! Don’t go charging in without considering the ramifications! This is a case where “better to ask forgiveness than permission” definitely does not apply.
This is, as per usual, going to be a long one; I’m probably breaking it up into at least 3 installments. For the purposes of this blog post (and what I was actually focusing on), I am going to refer specifically to scheduling text messages below, but the lessons learned can apply to emails, social media, and other forms of electronic communication as well (and, to a certain extent, to all formats of record). Read on after the jump.
The following is a RMS guest post by Maarja Krusten, a retired Federal government historian who worked on records, archives, and historical research assignments and served for 14 years as an archivist in NARA’s Office of Presidential Libraries.
Margaret M. H. Finch once said that working with permanently valuable Federal records made the people described in them “almost become living people.” Who was Finch? And what provides context for her own story? Records!
After the death of her husband in 1918 during the influenza epidemic at the end of World War I, M. M. H Finch joined the Pension Bureau. She became a branch chief and top expert in the pension records of the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. In 1940, the Pension Bureau transferred the records to the National Archives.
Finch transferred to the National Archives at the time the pension records were accessioned and worked there until her retirement in 1949. In 2015, the staff of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) shared Finch’s story on Social Media:
“She continued to help researchers locate pension files but also gave numerous talks about researching in the records. . . .In an interview conducted upon her retirement, she explained the files made the men who served ‘almost become living people, and their descriptions of battles in which they fought are so real you feel like you’ve been an actual participator.’”
The research I’ve done on the construction of office buildings in Washington, DC. enhances and provides context for Finch’s story. The National Archives holds textual and photographic records from the Commission of Fine Arts (Record Group 66) and the Public Buildings Service (RG 121). These include a wonderful photo taken in 1940 of the Pension Building where Finch once worked. I tweeted the photo in 2017—note my inclusion of the source information!
We can use such stories to show why records matter. Records managers ensure the proper disposition of records, including the retention of those that have historical value. But information professionals know that the people they serve in academic, corporate, government, and other offices are busy with day-to-day mission work.
Where do employees hear about what is happening with records created outside their employing organizations? Sometimes, it’s in a negative context—a data hack, the leak of internal documents, controversies over who said what and when. But there are positive examples out there, as well. And not just in the history books some of us love to read.
I’ve been thinking about that in the context of working many Education and Public Programs Division events at the National Archives and Records Administration. Some relate to temporary displays, others to long-term exhibits, such as “Remembering Vietnam,” which ran November 10, 2017 to February 28, 2019.
I met many Vietnam war veterans over the course of the last year as I helped staff programs related to the exhibit. I found seeing veterans reconnect with their past experiences through the records shown in the exhibit and displayed during panel discussions deeply poignant.
Last February I talked to visitors to the National Archives Museum about the Emancipation Proclamation. It’s a fragile document displayed only once a year, at most, and then only for three days. I especially enjoyed the questions from students, one of whom pointed to a faded circle on the last page and asked if someone had set down a cup of coffee!
A great opportunity to talk about conservation—not just the iron-based ink, but why the seal and ribbons at the top of the last page deteriorated over time. And why President Abraham Lincoln signed his full name., not just the A. Lincoln he used in routine documents.
Employees participate in records management training sessions in-person or online. But unless they work as historians, policy analysts, lawyers, or in other knowledge-dependent functions, they may not have time to think about why saving historically valuable records is as important as destroying or deleting ones that only have short-term value.
Sure, they may see news of an important records release by the National Archives. Or they go to see exhibits in archives, museums, historical societies. But they may not think about the insights records preserve about their own places of employment. Let’s help them see that their stories matter, too.
Whether we work in academic, corporate, or governmental settings, we can look for stories about the places where we work. And use them to bring the past to life. By providing interesting historical information about the construction of the buildings in which they work. Or how the employing organization’s workplace evolved over time. And what it took to make change happen.
To connect past and present. And to remind employees that they are part of a valuable through line. One that stretches from those who came before to those who will follow. Preserved for future use by records managers–and those who support them.
So, some context: one of my employees (I won’t name her here unless she sees this and asks me to) is currently pursuing her MLIS from SJSU. A recent assignment for one of her classes was to interview a practicing Archivist and/or Records Manager about the “qualified practices” of the profession and write up a paper/presentation/something else summarizing and analyzing it. Did she happen to know anyone like that in her immediate circle? As it happens, she did!
I think a lot of professionals on the archives/RM border have done these interviews, because we are still (somehow) an anomaly to MLS/MIS graduate students. Which, fair enough! I didn’t really even realize records management was a thing until I was already in the program. So some of the questions she asked me were pretty bog-standard… but then some of them were very insightful, particularly asking me to talk about the intersections and differences between the Archives and Records Management professions. Because of the vagaries of our schedules, she asked me to write the answers to the questions rather than conducting an interview per se… So, having written those, I said to myself, “I bet I could repurpose these somehow.” And so, following her permission now that she’s submitted these for credit, I have! Below the jump, a selection of her questions and my answers (lightly edited for the purposes of this blog). In addition to the discussion of intersections, there’s some hints at what I am trying to do to improve the archival component of the City’s records program (to be elaborated on further in a later blog post).
Am I blowing smoke about how the professions fit together? Do you disagree with my assessment of how the profession is changing? Let me know on Twitter or in the comments!