The next SAA Records Management Section Hangout will be on Wednesday, July 24, at 1:00 PM Eastern/12:00 noon Central/11:00 AM Mountain on our section’s YouTube page. Our topic is “Laboratories of democracy: Records management and the public at the state and local levels.”
Federal records issues have dominated the news for the last couple years. But on a daily basis, the records management decisions made by state and local government officials affects citizens’ daily lives in dramatic ways. While all Americans have similar access abilities to federal records, the enormous variation in records management practices and freedom of information laws between states and local governments mean that citizens in one jurisdiction might be able to access one set of records that citizens in another jurisdiction may not have the same ability to access.
All are welcome to join the Society of American Archivists Records Management section in a discussion with Sarah Jacobson (Texas State Library and Archives Commission) and Kathy Marquis (Wyoming State Archives) about transparency and public interest regarding records at the local and state levels. We will be monitoring the YouTube comments section and Twitter for questions for our speakers. Please use the #saarms hashtag on Twitter to ensure maximum visibility for your question, or leave it as a comment ahead of time at the RMS Blog. Look forward to seeing you there!
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.
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
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.
One of my best friends is a proponent (albeit somewhat selectively) of radical honesty. Perhaps I’ve been spending too much time with him recently, but here goes: I have been contemplating a professional life beyond traditional records management. *RECORD SCRATCH*. Huh? Does he know what this blog is about?
Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy the archival and records management profession a lot. The work is interesting, challenging, and (most days) rewarding. I’ve developed many friendships and connections over my eight years in the field, from which I’ve grown personally and professionally. I would consider myself fortunate to continue to advance within the field.
However, lately I’ve been wondering what the retention period is (had to folks) for someone in my position. As university records manager at a major research university, how do I advance? Am I making an impact? How can I prepare myself through training or further education to reach my career goals? What are those goals?
As archivists and records managers we do a good job of defining what types of training, experience or expertise professionals within the genre require – digital this, archival that, record thing this. Continuing to improve as a record keeping professional is top priority, certainly, and something I continue to desire. But do we talk enough about how to leverage our MLIS and similar degrees to position ourselves beyond the traditional boundaries of our professional genre?
I recently thought to myself “there have to be people who have naturally transitioned from archives and records management roles to something larger, right?” I figured it would be easy to identify degree or certificate offerings that would complement my MLIS. Wrong! I was surprised to find out that identifying appropriate professional development or educational opportunities that would supplement my existing MLIS-based skill set was more difficult than I thought. Note: I’m specifically not addressing opportunities like CRM, CRA, or IGP here, one because I want to push past our profession’s boundaries and two because my current institution offers wildly good tuition benefits.
I turned to SAA’s RMS listserv for insight. Some common answers to my inquiry (what have you found to be professionally valuable in complementing a traditional MLIS-based skill set?) were as follows:
Business offerings (change management, organizational development, MBA)
Law or paralegal offerings
Project Management Certification (PMP or PMBOK)
Information Governance Professional (IGP) via ARMA
This got me thinking even more. If I were to seek out professional opportunities that didn’t explicitly have “archives”, “records management”, or even “records” in the description, what would they be? What types of opportunities are we, allied recordkeeping professionals, even qualified for? Project management? Heck yeah. Grant writing. Instruction. Governance modeling. Policy creation. Donor Development. Information management. You get the idea.
Admittedly, this is sort of a frightening thing to consider. I’m trained in this specific thing. I practice this specific thing. People know me (ok, some people) in the context of this specific thing. How could I leave that community, with shared interests and a collective sense of purpose? I’m not even entirely certain of the professional genre I would be interested in moving into if I put records management in the rearview.
That’s part of what makes thinking about expanding out of a traditional records management role or archival setting so difficult. Nevertheless, I find myself continuing to think critically about how one can effectively build out from the MLIS without starting over. If necessary, how can one leverage the skill set acquired through archival and recordkeeping work into different professional genres? What types of training or degrees would allow this to happen in a successful way?
It’s a question I have yet to find a good answer for. Maybe you have?
The Records Management Section (RMS) Steering Committee exists to direct and focus the annual business of the section, as well as to foster connections and professional growth amongst section members. Steering committee members participate in monthly conference calls, lead ad hoc initiatives, and contribute to the progress of the section throughout the annual cycle.
We encourage all RMS members to contact us directly with concerns, ideas, recommendations, or positives throughout the 2018-2019 cycle!
Alex J. Toner, Chair
Alex is the University Records Manager at the University of Pittsburgh, where he has worked for five years. He provides guidance and consultation on institutional record keeping and best practices, manages the University’s contract with its off-site storage and destruction vendor, and is currently leading a campus-wide working group in revising the University’s general retention schedule and associated policies. Alex has been a RMS steering committee member for three years.
Courtney Bailey, Vice Chair
Courtney has worked as a Records Analyst at the State Archives of North Carolina for five years. In this position, she consults with state and local governmental agencies and universities on the creation, maintenance, and disposition of public records. She also works for the Traveling Archivist Program through the State Archives and serves on the publications board of the Society of North Carolina Archivists. Courtney has been an RMS steering committee member since 2015.
Eira Tansey, Immediate Past Chair
Eira has worked as the Digital Archivist/Records Manager at the University of Cincinnati’s Archives and Rare Books Library since 2013. She served as the RMS section’s Vice Chair/Chair between 2016-2018. She was previously elected to the 2014-2015 SAA Nominating Committee, and was recently appointed to SAA’s Committee on Public Policy for a three-year term. Eira has been an RMS steering committee member since 2014.
Holly Dolan, Steering Committee Member
Holly is the Records Preservation Manager for Denton County Records Management in Denton County, Texas. As a part of the Department of Technology Services, the Records Management Division provides consultation, policy and compliance review, and Records Center services for the county. Additionally, Holly specializes in outreach and training for her customers. This is Holly’s first year as a RMS steering committee member, and she is excited for the opportunity to contribute to the section.
Jessika Drmacich, Steering Committee Member
As the Records Manager and Digital Resources Archivist at Williams College, a small highly selective liberal arts college located in Williamstown Massachusetts, Jessika leads both the records management program as well as collection development and preservation for digital collections. Jessika is passionate about digital personal archiving, diversifying the archival record, and working with various groups at Williams. She has been a RMS steering committee member for two years.
Elizabeth Carron, Steering Committee Member
Elizabeth is the Archivist for Records Management at the Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan. The position was created two years ago and marked the launch of the institution’s Records Management Program. Although Elizabeth’s primary role is providing guidance and consultation on institutional record keeping and IG best practices, she’s deeply committed to raising public awareness about a variety of record keeping and archival topics. Elizabeth is currently serving her second year as a RMS steering committee member.
Hillary Gatlin, Steering Committee Member
Hillary is the Records Manager at Duke University. As part of the University Archives, Hillary works with departments and offices to identify, transfer, and preserve Duke University’s historical and business records. Hillary has been a RMS Steering Committee Member since 2015.
Brad Houston, Steering Committee Member
Brad is the the City Records Officer for the City of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Previously, Brad served as the University Records Archivist at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He has given numerous presentations on born-digital records, digitization, and research data management for a variety of user groups. Brad served on the 2018 SAA Conference Program Committee and is active in MAC. From 2011-2014, he served as chair of the Records Management Section, and has been a RMS steering committee member for nearly 10 years.
Ivy West, Steering Committee Member
Ivy is the Digital Curator, Archivist, and Manager of Records at the Johns Hopkins University – Applied Physics Laboratory. Ivy also works as a Research Librarian at Trinity Washington University. At JHU/APL, Ivy utilizes her knowledge of archives and library research tools to access monographs, serials, photographs, and geospatial information. In addition, she performs research, and retrieves and attaches metadata to a collection of military, science and defense related records. She previously worked at the Library of Congress. Ivy has been a RMS steering committee member since 2017.
Our most recent records manager profile: Eira Tansey, Digital Archivist/Records Manager at the University of Cincinnati! If you want to be included contact Jessika Drmacich at jgd1(at)williams(dot)edu!
1. What led you to choose your current career in Records Management?
After college, I worked for several years in a paraprofessional capacity in New Orleans. Once I received my MLIS, I knew that I wanted to return closer to home (Cincinnati) for family reasons. The timing was perfect, as a digital archivist/records manager position opened up at my alma mater (University of Cincinnati).
2. What is your educational background?
I attended the University of Cincinnati for undergrad (I have a BA in Geography), and I was a student worker at the library where I now work full-time. I did my MLIS through San Jose State’s online program while working full-time at Tulane University’s Louisiana Research Collection in New Orleans.
3. Do you or did you have a mentor who has helped you in the Records Management field?
I have not had formal RM mentors, but I have many colleagues who have been incredible sources of guidance over the years – particularly Dan Noonan and Pari Swift of Ohio State University. The Ohio Electronic Records Committee has also been a fantastic resource in sharing ideas and understanding records issues pertinent to the state of Ohio.
4. How did you first become interested in Records Management?
I took one course on records management during graduate school, but that was the extent of my records management background before I got my current job.
5. What is your role at your institution?
I am the Digital Archivist/Records Manager for the University of Cincinnati. I am responsible for the university’s records management program, and for the planning and development of workflows related to born-digital archives and digital preservation of electronic records.
6. What do you enjoy most about your job?
The University of Cincinnati is a major urban research university that has undergone a lot of academic and cultural transformation since I was a student ten years ago. As university records manager, I get to access many areas of the university that are often invisible or unknown to my colleagues. I have a sense of what is happening at many levels of the university, and this adds a lot of rich context to the non-records management aspects of my job.
7. What would you consider to be your career highlight or greatest success?
Implementing the University of Cincinnati’s first general records retention schedule in fall 2016. Prior to that, I was juggling hundreds of individual departmental schedules. It was an enormous accomplishment in terms of efficiency and encouraging a shift to greater uniformity in recordkeeping practices on campus.
8. What type of institutional settings have you worked in? Corporate? Government? Higher education? If more than one, how do they differ?
My institutional experience is almost entirely non-profit arts organizations and higher education. However, my briefest work experience – several months at Starbucks during college – taught me a lot of lasting lessons about smoothing over cranky undercaffeinated strong personalities!
9. What advice would you give to an individual considering Records Management as a career?
Learn about how to find, read, and monitor legal and regulatory information. I wish I had discovered that there were legal dictionaries for non-attorneys much sooner than I did!
10. Do you belong to any professional organizations (SAA, ARMA…)?
I am primarily active in archivist organizations, such as SAA and the Midwest Archives Conference.
11. Thoughts on the future of records management?
I always joke that being a records manager has made me a better archivist. Being responsible for writing the retention schedules authorizing the destruction of a majority of my institutions records means I have become far less susceptible to romanticizing archival work than many archivists who do not have records management experience. This sounds dramatic, but ultimately I think my experience as a records manager has liberated me to make better appraisal decisions that serves the needs of current and future users.
12. What do you perceive as the biggest challenges in the Records Management field?
Many of the funding and labor issues that affect archives also affect records management. But to take a specific RM concern – I am extremely concerned about how we measure and enforce compliance with records schedules. It’s not just about ensuring records are destroyed – what do we have in place to ensure that records scheduled for long-term preservation in archives make it through the doors of the archives? At my institution, it seems that the “full filing cabinet” was its own trigger to ensure periodic transfers of material. But a full hard drive is easily solved (from the point of view of records creators) by just buying more cheap storage. Within highly decentralized organizations like universities, this means we are very much in danger of losing much of our contemporary digital history.
13. Besides focusing on work, what are some of your other interests or hobbies?
I love hiking, and watching obscure environmental documentaries about things like icebergs.
14. Do you have a quote you live by?
“Everything in moderation, including moderation” (variously attributed to a lot of people!)
After a few months’ hiatus, the Records Management Section Hangout Series is back!
On Thursday, March 29 at 12:00 CDT, join members of the RMS steering committee in a discussion on ““What RMs Want: Records Managers On What They Wish Archivists Knew About Them (And Vice-Versa)”. Experienced records managers Dennis Larsen (retired, formerly Records Manager for the University of Wisconsin-Colleges and Extension) and Connie Schumacher (Content and Records Manager, Argonne National Laboratories) will answer questions about their experiences in records management environments in which archivists are removed from the immediate administrative hierarchy, but still interact with the records management staff to fulfill organizational and research mandates. Records Managers in such environments often have very different concerns and priorities than records managers also working as or under an archivist. During the hangout, we will examine those priorities and determine how archivists can work to help meet them, as well as how these different perspectives can benefit an organization’s archival program. (As a municipal records manager under the Milwaukee City Clerk but with working relationships with at least two different City archival or quasi-archival repositories, I will weigh in on this as well!)
To tune in live to the hangout, please visit the YouTube watch page; following the discussion, the recording will be available at that same URL. RMS staff will be monitoring the page feed and social media for questions for our speakers; please use the #saarms hashtag on Twitter to ensure maximum visibility for your question, or leave it as a comment ahead of time at the RMS Blog. Look forward to seeing you there!