July 24, 2019 Hangout announcement: “Laboratories of democracy”

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!

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How (not) to schedule electronic messages: a case study/cautionary tale

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.

*”Passive Voice is the refuge of scoundrels”—Unknown Continue reading “How (not) to schedule electronic messages: a case study/cautionary tale”

Building Out the MLIS: Beyond Records Management

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)
  • Leadership Development
  • 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?

Meet Your 2018-2019 Records Management Section Steering Committee

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 Toner

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 ChairBailey

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 ChairEira-22-200x300

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 Dolan

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.

Next RMS hangout: Records Managers Outside of Archives speak up!

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!

Developing a Records Management Program: The People Part

Hello Readers:

My name is Elizabeth and I’m the Archivist for Records Management at the Bentley Historical Library for the University of Michigan. In my role, I am responsible for the development of a records management program that will fit – and ultimately benefit – the University. While the program builds upon the work of past Bentley archivists responsible for the development of university collections, what we really seek to bring is a collaborative approach to University-wide recordkeeping and to align that approach with the University’s overall information governance strategy. At the time of this post, the program is just over a year old.

My work is most closely affiliated with that of the field archivists. The five of us constitute the Collections Development Unit. Together, we manage donor relationships and collecting priorities. Managing donor relationships is a substantial conversation on its own and it is one I will be musing upon from time to time. To be frank, I’ve been a bit dissatisfied with the literature I’ve read on the subject of building a records management program. In particular, the bulleted lines of advice such as “get buy-in”, “find stakeholders”, and “develop a liaisons network”. Easy-peasy!

Hold up.

Of course it is not that simple.

When talking about donor relationships, many archivists envision individuals and families in keeping with the manuscript tradition. Institutional archivists and records managers don’t do that per se. Our donors are departments and units and business functionaries. We also have individual contacts within those bodies. So, in addition to managing relationships with our donors over a long period of time, we also must manage the contacts we make. Whether those contacts are the agents of transfer, records liaisons, sources of institutional knowledge or potential allies, the cultivation and stewardship of those contacts ranks among the most important functions of any institutional archives and records management program.

Gosh, if managing relationships isn’t a skill on its own. There are plenty of articles on emotional intelligence and soft skills. Career guidance for records managers usually include a call for ‘good communication skills’. Just this past summer I attended a lovely session titled Soft Skills for Hard Tech at SAA. There are articles and one-pagers dedicated towards crossing that IT/Archives/RM/IG barrier. However, the challenge I face while building the program is not just a matter of parlance. It’s a matter of experience, strategy, relationship-building and negotiating bureaucratic politics.

Thinking back to collections development, let’s take a moment to consider what “development” entails. In the nonprofit world, a part of development is the creation, nurturing, and maintaining of relationships that hopefully will lead to charitable contributions. And this is how I came to be sitting in the office of Ceci Riecker, the Bentley’s Director of Development.

Ceci’s origin story is that of an English major. Like some English majors (*ahem*), she didn’t have focused career advisement and she didn’t mean to set out into the world as the next Rory Gilmore. Ceci worked for some time as an administrative assistant in a local bank before moving on to work for the well-known Ann Arbor Summer Art Fair. She found a position at the Museum of Natural History in development and gradually worked her way up into leadership positions at St. Joseph’s and EMU. During this time, she explored the world of nonprofits and cultural heritage on her own, finishing work in Historic Preservation at EMU. When she heard that the Bentley was seeking applicants for a Director of Development, she resolved to apply with a simple message: “You need me.”

Ceci’s appreciation for our mission, combined with the skills and network of contacts she has cultivated in the course of her work, really spoke to me. Chatting with her has only strengthened my suspicion that those of us intent upon building a records management program can stand to take a few cues from our partners in the nonprofit development sector.

“Think of development as education. What did Terry* say the other day, educate up, mentor down?” I smiled at this, and agreed. Yes, every meeting I have, whether I’ve partnered with my field colleagues or not, usually includes a solid 15-minute pitch crafted through research (donor files, a gap analysis of the finding aid, and a good ol’ fashion newspaper) and the feel of the conversation. Maybe they’ll contact me for a records schedule, maybe not, but the seeds have been planted.

“It’s about trust and a relationship. Manage the ask.” In other words, going in with a list of demands may be heavy-handed at best, off-putting and tactless at worst. Managing your asks and those touches (“Hey, I thought of you when this came through our door…”,) may take time but the relationship you cultivate will last. If something comes up, that relationship you’ve taken the time to forge means you’ll have an ally in the office more willing than not to assist you.

On the matter of research, she summed it up succinctly. “Knowledge. Interest. Respect.” Doing the research beforehand goes to show that you are interested and knowledgeable without you having to say you are interested and knowledgeable. Putting that effort in demonstrates respect for their time and their conversation.

What about building a network? “It’s about identifying the points of connection.” This, too, makes sense. Some months ago we began to receive packages in the mail from one of the units on campus. After several of these unsolicited offers of “old yearbooks”, I reached out via telephone to personally thank my contact for the time she had taken to send us the materials and to also fish for a little information. Was she cleaning out a closet? Was she aware of the records scheduling and transfer services we offer to units? The answer was yes and no – in fact, it was several forgotten closets being unearthed by architects during a swing space evaluation. This particular building is being renovated and all the administrative units and student organizations housed there are being headquartered elsewhere for the next year. This move is a major trigger event, and we’ve been able to partner with dozens of new allies.

(n.b. Nonprofit development staff also have moved beyond Excel spreadsheets and have invested in tools and products which help them to identify and manage those points of connection, such as Raiser’s Edge and Salesforce. I personally think it interesting to think about possible applications of these tools when considering traditional archival donor management techniques.)

Like many, I dislike receiving criticism. The reality is that we need that criticism to know ourselves. We are asking that others share with us an intimate knowledge of their office dynamics and information. We are asking that they trust us with our professed expertise. Thus, I am not embarrassed to write that I asked Ceci point blank what she found to be her greatest weakness. “Long-term planning is a tough one. Things pop up and I could just do it myself, but it won’t be half as good as if I did it with the way it’s supposed to be done…with my team!” Her honesty on this was – is – reassuring for me to hear. As a relatively early careerist in higher education, I often find that pace is challenging. How long should it take to build a program? How do I best manage my expectations for its development? Why don’t people email me with questions?! We have a website!

There is no real conclusion to this post other than for me to say that I’m happy to have explored another perspective. Archivists and records managers extol the virtues of being interdisciplinary. When it comes to managing and improving our own business processes, what harm is there in looking outside the profession for a little inspiration?

For those of you interested in building a network of records liaisons and contacts more strategically, Ceci has recommended the Council for Advancement and Support of Education as a good starting place to learn more about development tools and techniques.

*Terry McDonald, Director of the Bentley Historical Library

And now: Archives/Records Carols!

Sometimes I get earworms. Sometimes those earworms involve the creation of filk snippets. Sometimes those snippets are so, ahem, compelling that I feel the need as a musician to finish them. The result of all of those sometimes around the winter holidays is the below, originally shared on Twitter and now brought here for your viewing/singing pleasure. I would apologize, but I’m not really sorry at all. THE FILK MUST FLOW.

In any case, whatever winter holiday you celebrate– or none at all– have a happy one! (And don’t forget to follow the retention period on your gift receipts!)

Continue reading “And now: Archives/Records Carols!”