A Record Center Is Not An Archives: Dispatches from a ARM sector change

Welcome back from SAA! Or, if like me, you were #saaleftbehind, welcome back from the weekend, I guess. I’ve been pretty quiet on The Schedule for a while; part of that has been my natural tendency to fall behind on blog posts, but the other part has been this:
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That’s right! In case you missed it on social media or in the MAC Newsletter, I have left my position of 10 years as University Records Archivist at UWM and moved across town to become the Records Officer and Document Services Manager for the City of Milwaukee. In some ways it’s kind of an odd position, born out of the Document Services Section’s previous life as Milwaukee Printing and Records. I manage the City’s Records Management program, yes, but also the City Records Center, the City’s imaging service for long-term inactive records (previously the microfilming service), and, for some reason, the City Mailroom (which has of course had the most major issues crop up, since it’s the part of this job I know the least about). Despite this sort of odd present, the position has an exciting future—City Records is going to be merging with the Legislative Reference Bureau library and the Historic Preservation Office to create a City Research Center, the nature of which is still being determined. Coming in now thus gives me a great opportunity to help shape not just my position, but the way that active, inactive, and archival information is managed across the whole city going forward.

But anyway! Local government! I’ve spent most of my career doing Archives and Records Management in an academic setting, and have a pretty good chunk of experience from undergrad and grad school working in a Federal government records setting, but municipal government is a new beast for me (and for this blog, I think!). Don’t get me wrong—I am enjoying the challenge of working in a new context, but it IS a challenge. Moving to a new institution and setting has given me a lot to chew over and learn about. For the sake of not writing a 5000-word post, three examples:

Continue reading “A Record Center Is Not An Archives: Dispatches from a ARM sector change”

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Request for information: RM bibliography

As Beth Cron posted last December, the Records Management Section steering committee has been working to update the Records and Information Bibliography that was first published in 2008.  We chose to make this new version accessible through Zotero so it can be more dynamic and collaborative.

This is where you come in: we’d like to invite volunteers who can assist us with revisions.  While we’ve tried to update broken links and remove dated or inaccessible resources, we know there are recent studies and articles that have been overlooked.  You are welcome to submit individual items for inclusion, but we’re also seeking volunteers who’d be willing to take on a systematic search through a particular journal.  Here are the publications whose resources we’d like to include in our bibliography:

To contribute to the bibliography, you must first create a Zotero account.  Then you can request access to join the SAA RMRT Group.  Please contact Courtney Bailey if you are willing to review the 2008-present articles of one of the above publications to identify the relevant records management articles.  Thanks in advance for helping us improve this valuable resource.

Records Management Outreach to Elementary Schools and Colleges

It all started in the beginning of the year.  My school sent out a call to parents and guardians to see who would be interested in coming to our school’s career day.  Guest speakers were sought to provide students with meaningful experiences that motivate and promote career/college readiness.  There had already been curiosity centering on the media center. What did the library media specialist do for the students?

Whenever students had free time (recess and/or lunch), they would volunteer to come and help the library media specialist in the library.  Shelving books was a popular job.  As the same students would come to the media center, they started to make the connection to information collected on them when they would check books out.  What was this all about?

The students started to understand about library records.  The library database could alert the library media specialist when books were overdue or tell her where books were located in the library collection.   All of this information could be found in a record.  The students wanted to know how records could help in different job positions.  To answer this question, Career Day speakers were found to explain their positions which also helped the students understand the importance of records for institutions, media centers, and presidential collections.

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Suddenly, the students were exposed to a type of job that they never really thought about—the archivist.  Students found out that this job can be an adventure.  “Without archives many stories of real people would be lost, and along with those stories, vital clues that allow us to reflect and interpret our lives today” (Laura A. Millar, Archives: Principles and practices, p. 74, https://goo.gl/7MVzX2).

This job type helps researchers, such as students, to gain access to information that they may need for various projects during their schooling.  Archivists preserve documents (papers, books, etc.) by keeping them in an order that would help students find the documents when needed but easy to find when stored in bookcases.  The archivist knows the documents and the authors who had written them so that they could better find documents meeting students’ informational needs.  This information can be about something from the past that could help the students understand a topic in the present.

This development started me to create an archive of interested career day speakers who want students to know that people in the information management profession are very important people to know.  This has expanded into a need for my college students as well.

Just because the students are not studying in that major does not mean that they do not want to know about it. They need to be informed that such major and/or position exists.  This will expand and open new possibilities for the students and for all of us.  Actually, this opens new doors to other ways to find information to meet students’  informational needs.

Want to join this archive of career speakers for elementary and college students?  Please fill in the form at this link:  https://goo.gl/forms/ejEOUPImQvveKqzp2

 

 

Managing Federal and Presidential Records

Mark your calendars for the next Records Management Section Google Hangout!

On Thursday, July 6 at noon Eastern, the Records Management Section will be hosting a hangout on the Federal Records Act and the Presidential Records Act. We will be joined by Gary Stern, (General Counsel), Hannah Bergman (Assistant General Counsel), John Laster (Director, Presidential Materials Division), and Laurence Brewer (Chief Records Officer for the U.S. Government) all from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

You may have additional questions after reading NARA’s Role in Preserving Presidential and Federal Records by David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, in the latest Archival Outlook. Here is your chance to ask!

Be sure to tune in live to ask questions or watch later at your convenience. You can view the Hangout here.

We will be accepting questions for our speakers from you.  If you have a question or topic for discussion please leave it as a comment here or use the #saarmrt hashtag on Twitter.  We will also monitor the comments on the YouTube live streaming page.

Revising a Retention Schedule: Lessons Learned

This spring, Michigan State University completed the first phase of a multi-year records retention schedule project by revising the Human Resources Records Retention Schedule. The new schedule, which is the first major revision since 1990, aligns with regulations and best practices, is easier to read, and clearly identifies a number of active and legacy business systems as well as offices of record for each record series.

The first phase of the project took over two years to complete and involved significant support from a number of critical stakeholders, including Human Resources, Academic Human Resources, Office of Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives, and General Counsel. Before jumping into the next phase of the project (Fiscal Records, here I come!), I wanted to reflect on some lessons learned regarding retention schedule revisions. Continue reading “Revising a Retention Schedule: Lessons Learned”

Making it Stick: Records Management Training Approaches

Several weeks ago the University Archivist and I conducted our bi-annual University Archives and Records Management training session, part of our Office of Human Resources Faculty and Staff Development Program. This got me thinking about the various strategies, methods, and approaches records managers employ when conducting training and outreach. I reached out to my peers via SAA’s records management and ARMA’s EDU listservs to get a sense of just that, and hopefully learn some new tips and tricks!

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The following is an overview of responses through which themes of visibility, focus, repetition, and trust were reoccurring. Thanks to Peggy Tran-Le, Cheryl Badel-Stevens, Peg Eusch, Chris Wydman, George Despres, and Hillary Gatlin for sharing their insights.

Visibility is vital. While records professionals may want to nerd out on recordkeeping topics, our users may not be as pro-active. So how to improve participation in records management training (RM)? Make it hard to miss. Incorporate records management training classes with new employee orientations, or pair it with your organization’s annually required training on information security or compliance. Reserve a slot in professional development services programs, or space at annual events or expos. In true lifecycle fashion, don’t forget to consider departing employee check-ins and exit interviews as points at which to engage users concerning record transitions and purging.

Focus your approach. Once you’ve captured some attention it’s time to drop some knowledge. Develop training consultations around specific recordkeeping topics such as developing effective filing systems, understanding retention schedules, shared drive management, or email retention. Create job aids like RM cheat sheets, quick reference guides, PowerPoint modules, or a Libguide (which tracks usage stats). Focus on particular needs that users can implement directly in their daily work.

Virtual potential. Many records managers may work in decentralized organizations, with distributed offices or campuses. Providing a virtual RM training presence boosts program visibility and increases engagement opportunities. Rather than reinventing the wheel, co-opt the service of an internal learning management system, like Blackboard, or a platform like YouTube to create training videos. These can range from voice-over PowerPoint presentations and subject specific Skype sessions, to casual discussions describing what RM is all about and off-the-cuff Google hangouts.

Repetition rules. Effective and consistent engagement comes from strong relationships, and that starts at the employee level. Target specific user groups like financial or human resource administrators, IT facilitators, or committees such as an Administrative Data Users Committee. Get more granular by conducting one-on-one consults where applicable. Develop repetitive outreach through quarterly newsletters or monthly emails. Consistency in RM training opportunities and resources leads to buy-in, which leads to trust, the keystone of any relationship.

Have fun with it! The following are some fun outreach ideas you can employ in your organization to build visibility and develop relationships:

  •          Post weekly RM tips on your organization’s media platform of choice.
  •          Monthly quizzes with prizes. Chocolate is effective!
  •          “RM Nuggets”, or short pointed articles, in other department’s newsletters.
  •          RM Literature distributed to departments annually to cover employee turnover, or included in new employee and departing employee packets.
  •          Web tutorials and quizzes reporting on completion by department to up gamesmanship.
  •          At trainings, encourage attendees to introduce themselves and what they hope  to learn. Attempt to address those concerns directly, or use them to craft a new training!
  •          Share RM in the news. Make it real and tangible.
  •          RM on Demand; Quick, topic-specific, ready-to-be shared modules.

Open Source Tools

To round out this year’s look at open source tools, I want to provide an overview that can serve as a primer to the Hangout we intend to host early in 2017.  Open source software is “software with source code that anyone can inspect, modify, and enhance.”  Opensource.com goes on to provide a more expansive explanation of the purpose of open source software:

“Open source projects, products, or initiatives embrace and celebrate principles of open exchange, collaborative participation, rapid prototyping, transparency, meritocracy, and community-oriented development.”

As I noted in previous posts, NARA published a report in 2015 entitled “Open Source Tools for Records Management.”  This report points to the generally free cost of open source software and the “very robust user and developer communities that are actively working to report bugs and improve the tools” as advantages of its use.  However, this report also acknowledges (1) care must be taken to guarantee adequate security when deploying open source software and (2) customization may be required — which will probably also necessitate time and IT know-how.

Open source software differs from closed source, or proprietary, software because its code is open to all to see and change.  Although open source software is often times provided free of charge, it is not the same as freeware, which may be closed source software.  Notable open source technologies include the Linux operating system and the Apache web server application.  The Linux OS is a good example of the practice where the software is open source but the support comes with a price — such as that provided by Red Hat.  Opensource.com lists a number of reasons why developers prefer open source software:

  • control over what the software does
  • training by being able to see the source code
  • greater security due to quicker updates to address vulnerabilities
  • stability even after the original creators discontinue their work on the software

In August 2016, Wired released an article entitled “Open Source Won.  So Now What?”  This article points to the first official federal source code policy, which requires government agencies to release at least 20% of any new code as open source software.  It also acknowledges that open source development can be challenging due to lack of funding and because it’s hard to break into the field, which is increasingly being dominated by big companies.

If you’re interested in open source software, stay tuned for more blog posts and our Hangout in 2017.