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!
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!
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 receivingcriticism. 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
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!)
As the digital age fully takes hold of modern society, the traditional concepts of a library, archives, museum are evolving into something far beyond just a place where books are stored. And as these institutions change, so too must librarians, archivists, curators, and media specialists and the resources they manage (https://tinyurl.com/y9hr2txj). Google Classroom , just as SharePoint, is designed to help them effectively manage document sharing and provide feedback to the users of their collections on Google Drive for Google Classroom (or MSDE with SharePoint). Classroom and SharePoint can replace or work alongside your existing solutions (i.e. integrated library management system, archival collections management system, etc).
Google Classroom, just as SharePoint, is designed to be used by non-IT users without too much input from IT or Tech Support. Unfortunately, the initial set-up for SharePoint is IT related unless you are using a hosted site giving rights to all of the features available. Google Classroom only requires a Google account and then you can build your Google Classroom up as you would a SharePoint site with your choice of modules to use for your work needs in less than 5 minutes per classification.
Do you want to show archived video to your collection’s users? I had archived videos of a 10 year study I performed on a local natural resource, Lake Artemesia. To share the videos with students, parents, teachers, and administrators, I created a Google Classroom that allowed all of these user types to experience Lake Artemesia through engaged exercises by answering questions after watching the videos. This could also be a mini tour of your collection for your collection users to experience before coming to the actual exhibit onsite (see https://librariansandlibrarymediaspecialists.blogspot.com/2017/12/3-steps-for-quick-management-of.html).
In my previous blog postings, I have identified that discovery programs (maker space) that librarians and library media specialists create require busying the hands of young children when working in elementary schools that cover grades Pre-K to 6th. The same could be said when dealing with fellow co-workers during online conferences conducted for office staff. The topic for the In-house Field trip or office webinar may be developed by a librarian or library media specialist. 4 Steps could be implemented in order to have the ability to busy the hands of children and adults while the guest speaker is talking and interacting back and forth with the audience (see https://librariansandlibrarymediaspecialists.blogspot.com/2017/12/quick-and-dirty-roadmap-to-classroom.html)
And it came to pass that Brad was preparing materials for records management training sessions, as one does;
And the frustration with the records management practices put in place by his predecessor did boil over.
Then did Brad throw together a quick-and-dirty records management graphic, and he shared it on Twitter for a lark.
Lo! That graphic became Brad’s most RT’ed Records Management-related post ever, for Brad hath toucheth a nerve.
…Enough of that. Anyway, I put this together to deal with the new type of decentralization in place at the City of Milwaukee, to wit the records
coordinator network. On the one hand, having dedicated records people in departments is nice and cuts down on your workflow… but the records management experience of these folks is, shall we say, varied, as is their control of the schedules their department may already have in place. As a result, my big records retention project for the first year or so here is eliminating the duplicate, obsolete, and superseded schedules in our database, of which there are 4500, give or take a few dozen. So, that’s a thing.
In any case, due to the unforeseen popularity of the 10 RM commandments, Eira asked me to go through them in a bit more detail. After all, these are Milwaukee-specific, but they speak to some very basic records management principles and best practices. So with that, away we go:
I. THOU SHALT have a records schedule for every type of record created or used by your office.
This is the basic point of retention scheduling—you’re only going to get a complete picture of your records ecosystem if you have all of your records scheduled, because that’s going to tell you how the various series work together. My frustration here has been departments saying “well, we keep these forever so we don’t need a schedule, right?” Wrong. A schedule is still useful for permanent records because it provides business continuity—the rest of your office sees what records are in the series, what they’re used for, and that they even ARE permanent in the first place.
II. THOU SHALT NOT create schedules for non-official copies of records, unless those copies have special destruction requirements.
Seems pretty obvious to us as information professionals, but I cannot count the number of schedules in the database that are pretty obviously for copies of the official record, held by the official office. Given the ease in which copies, especially electronic copies, proliferate, the idea of the “non-record”, and the fact that you can destroy non-records when no longer useful in most cases, is critical. (There is a line of thought that the record/non-record distinction is obsolete; I don’t see it. You’re still looking for the record used to document the actual business transaction, and the fact that other copies can still be discovered is all the better reason to get rid of the non-record copies sooner.)
III. THOU SHALT NOT create records schedules before confirming that a schedule for that series (office-specific or global) does not exist.
Violation of this Commandment is why several records series in my database have 3 different record schedule numbers assigned to them. In most cases, these are created because the previous records schedule couldn’t be found in time for the submission to the WI public records board. This is testament to the need for a) the records manager to organize his/her/their schedules in a way that they will find them again later, and b) the records creator to maintain awareness of the department’s schedules and whether there’s an existing schedule for the documents he/she/they “discovered” in a closet.
Even better, use general schedules. These are easy to make available online, and you don’t have to worry about renewing a million specific schedules (see Commandment 9).
IV. REMEMBER that the existence of a records schedule does not imply a mandate for creation of that record series.
Currently, use of general schedules at the City is opt-in. I’ve already had one discussion where I was told a department didn’t want to opt in to a general schedule because “we don’t create all of the records on that schedule.” The response to this, of course, is, “That’s cool, you’re not obligated to. Records schedules specifically provide guidelines for existing records; they don’t make you create records for the sake of complying with the retention schedule.” This is not as much of a problem with specific schedules, for obvious reasons.
V. HONOR thy retention period; do not destroy records before they have expired.
Again, the whole point of retention periods, to wit giving you a time after which you can defensibly destroy/delete records. If your records creators are destroying records before that, they are doing anything from opening up their institution to spoliation sanctions, to actually breaking state or federal law, in the case of things like Sarbanes-Oxley records and records subject to public records acts.
What I *don’t* usually say in training is that most retention periods are minimums, and that the law doesn’t impose penalties for overretention except as part of the operational consequences of that decision (e.g. data is leaked that would not have been leaked had it been destroyed on time). I’m not going to *lie* if asked point-blank about it, but keeping quiet helps wear down the resolve of many a hoarder.
VI. THOU SHALT NOT create records schedules for the same records in different formats.
There are SO MANY of these in the City schedule database. SO MANY. People who do this are worse than Korach. THESE SCHEDULES ARE WHY WE CAN’T HAVE NICE THINGS.
Well, not really, but they ARE why records creators get confused about retention with multi-format series. “Now, do I keep the paper permanently and scrap the electronic, or do I convert all of it to Microfilm and THEN destroy it, or…” Keep It Simple, Smarty. Record value, being based on content rather than format, should remain constant regardless of format, so why bother with 3 schedules when one will do the job? (Having said that, it may be worth indicating that records from one format may be disposed of once converted to another, e.g. via imaging.)
VII. THOU SHALT group functionally-related records with identical retention periods into as few schedules as possible.
My predecessor *really* liked building records schedules. Unfortunately, this often meant that individual forms or document types would get their own schedules, creating 3-4 schedules where one would have done the job. In general, I have been encouraging departments with a lot of these mini-series, where the various records support the same function and require the same retention period, to supersede the smaller schedules with a broader one that encompasses the whole series vs. individual documents. I was able to eliminate 37 License Division schedules this way—the old way of doing things had individual schedules *for each type of license*, all with the same retention period. Unreal.
VIII. THOU SHALT NOT create records schedules for specific projects or time periods, unless the records are unique and/or scheduled for archival retention.
This is something that would happen from time to time at UWM as well, where departments would submit requests for records schedules for particular projects they were working on. This is, needless to say, not an efficient way to do records scheduling. If you just do one schedule for ALL project files, you cover retention needs for all similar records and don’t have to keep filling out the form every 9 months. The City introduced a new variant that I hadn’t seen before, where one series existed for records before a given date (1846-1900, say), and then a second for records after that date… but again, with the same description and retention period. This is making scheduling harder than it needs to be. Conservation of schedules never hurt anyone.
The one exception to this commandment is that if a series is no longer created, and either of historical value or needing a new records series in order to destroy it, I will reluctantly consent to a project-specific or date-limited series. My overall preference, however, is to go general when possible—and unless you like filling out the same schedule 50 times, it should be yours too.
IX. THOU SHALT review thy records schedules yearly and renew expiring schedules before they lapse (10 years after effective date).
In Wisconsin this is easy, because the Public Records law requires schedules to be renewed every 10 years in order to remain in effect. Fine… but the City of Milwaukee didn’t follow the procedures of the state records law for a long time with regards to schedule adoption, with the result that there are many, many schedules in my database that don’t have any expiration date at all. Even if the 10-year sunset period didn’t exist, however, it still would be a good idea to go through schedules periodically and make sure that they all reflect current workflows and legal and administrative needs, so I am not sure why that wasn’t done (Well, aside from the fact there were 5000 of them). So now I am doing the renewal and related research on updating schedules largely all at once for Department records, which does help me get a sense of what the different departments do or did. I would definitely rather do this a bit at a time rather than all at once, though.
X. THOU SHALT make the City Records Officer aware of any state, federal, or industry-specific legislation or regulations affecting retention or confidentiality of your series.
This Commandment is why Records Coordinators are so useful in the first place—they have knowledge of the specific industry or functional context of their own records in a way that a centralized records manager never will. As such, when writing retention periods, knowledge of any laws/regulations/etc. that govern the creators’ need to keep records around for a specific period of time is invaluable. Records Managers can, of course, look for inspiration in other institutions’ schedules for similar records, as well as in statutes and regulations they’re already familiar with for setting retention and privacy levels… but why go to the trouble if the records coordinator can just tell you “our professional organization suggests keeping these for 6 years”?
Thus did Brad share the rationale for his Records Management 10 commandments; Yea, he did so at his usual great length, approaching 2000 words.
Brad spaketh, “Please feel free to use/tweak these in your own institutions—they have served me well.”
Whereupon, he wandered off to call down the wrath of the Records Management LORD on those kids on his lawn.
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:
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:
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.
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.
On February 8, the Records Management Section was pleased to host a Hangout with Snowden Becker of the UCLA Department of Information Studies to discuss law enforcement body-worn camera footage and recordings.
If you missed the Hangout, you can watch the recorded version here. In addition, Snowden prepared some additional readings on her website.
We had record turnout for this Hangout, and time for some excellent questions from viewers about exemptions from public records laws, transfer of recordings from devices to repositories, the role of bystander video, how vendors handle records, and differences between public and law enforcement perspectives on video recordings.
This topic is being addressed elsewhere within SAA; recently the Issues and Advocacy Section addressed the topic on their blog, and the Committee on Public Policy is currently circulating a draft to selected SAA sections in order to prepare an issue brief on body camera footage.
Anyway! With White House pages on key issues disappearing (though not permanently! Thanks, NARA), information lockdowns being passed down to entire agencies (at least temporarily), and the possibility of science from the EPA being subject to political review before release, one’s mind tends to drift to questions of an archivist/records manager’s ethical responsibility in an institutional setting. (Didn’t you already write this post, Brad? Yes, I did, on multiple occasions, but this one’s different, I promise.) Yes, you have a responsibility towards your institution/government/whatever, but what is your responsibility towards society? Are archivists, particularly in records management roles, obliged to serve as whistleblowers? Do we save records of historical import on our own volition, despite orders (or, at best, strongly-worded suggestions) from the Powers That Be to show them the business end of a shredder? What do we make of reports that a top advisor to the president is actively avoiding creating a paper trail?
Well. I Have Opinions about all of these things. Unfortunately for me (but fortunately for you), an official group blog for a component group of a professional organization is not the place for them. But those sublimated opinions have to go somewhere… in this case, I thought, “why not take a look at what the professional literature has to say about these issues?” I put out a Twitter call for recommendations, did some poking around on some of my library’s databases, and the result is a brand new category on the RM bibliography, which I am tentatively calling Institutional Records and Human Rights. More on this after the jump. Continue reading “Towards a Social Justice in ARM bibliography”→