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.

A Record Center is Not an Archives: Some thoughts from an interview

So, some context: one of my employees (I won’t name her here unless she sees this and asks me to) is currently pursuing her MLIS from SJSU. A recent assignment for one of her classes was to interview a practicing Archivist and/or Records Manager about the “qualified practices” of the profession and write up a paper/presentation/something else summarizing and analyzing it. Did she happen to know anyone like that in her immediate circle? As it happens, she did!

I think a lot of professionals on the archives/RM border have done these interviews, because we are still (somehow) an anomaly to MLS/MIS graduate students. Which, fair enough! I didn’t really even realize records management was a thing until I was already in the program. So some of the questions she asked me were pretty bog-standard… but then some of them were very insightful, particularly asking me to talk about the intersections and differences between the Archives and Records Management professions. Because of the vagaries of our schedules, she asked me to write the answers to the questions rather than conducting an interview per se… So, having written those, I said to myself, “I bet I could repurpose these somehow.” And so, following her permission now that she’s submitted these for credit, I have! Below the jump, a selection of her questions and my answers (lightly edited for the purposes of this blog). In addition to the discussion of intersections, there’s some hints at what I am trying to do to improve the archival component of the City’s records program (to be elaborated on further in a later blog post).

Am I blowing smoke about how the professions fit together? Do you disagree with my assessment of how the profession is changing? Let me know on Twitter or in the comments!

Continue reading “A Record Center is Not an Archives: Some thoughts from an interview”

SAA/CoSA/NAGARA 2018 recap: Session 605

Session 605 – Taming the Web: Perspectives on the Transparent Management and Appraisal of Web Archives [RIM]

Session 605 offered different organizational perspectives on the management and appraisal of web archives. The perspectives included a municipality, a university, and state and Federal government.

Local Government Perspective – Austin, TX

First up, Katherine Cranford described the types of records found on their websites – many of them permanent. She explained how stakeholders approach web archiving from different perspectives. They manage web content by connecting their document management system, OpenText eDocs, to their websites via API. This ensures documents are protected and maintained according to records schedules. They use ArchiveSocial according to their social media policy. To ensure only necessary information is in their content management system, Drupal, they use policies. She recommends using a style guide if policies don’t work. She emphasized the ongoing importance of content audit and governance.

University Perspective – Johns Hopkins University

Next, Jordon Steele explained how they use the Archive-It service to capture websites and Facebook. The web archiving labor includes:

  1. Deciding on seeds (working with IT and student center to get a list of all officially registered groups)
  2. Performing test crawls
  3. Troubleshooting issues
  4. Saving crawls
  5. Quality assurance
  6. Metadata creation (embedded in Archives Space)
  7. Preserving archival records
  8. Performing reappraisal on a regular basis
  9. Repeat (annual or semi-annually)

Jordon discussed the ethical considerations of documenting student groups. They managing the tension between their ethical obligation to document campus life and the ethical obligation to ask permission. If they decide not to ask, can they mitigate using redaction or access restrictions? Could they apply standard restrictions to the web archiving platform? They are trying to determine what they should do based on their priorities.

Jordon mentioned the following key resources in developing their program: Collecting Policy for Duke University Archives, Middlebury College Web Archives, University of Virginia Data Documentation & Metadata, and Documenting the Now.

State Perspective – State Library of North Carolina

Next, Krista Sorenson explained how the State Library works with the State Archive to manage state publications, documents, and public records. They began using Archive-It in 2005 and ArchivesSocial in 2012. They perform bi-monthly capture of state agency websites and content, including publications only available on web.

After 13 years, they reevaluated their approach. They are focusing on user experience as they know patrons may find it difficult to find what they need. They performed an audit and are reconsidering their approach to metadata and documentation. They’ve determined they have to periodically review their approach and create clear documentation to make a well-managed, transparent web presence.

State Perspective – State Archive of North Carolina

Jaime Patrick-Burns discussed hot they capture websites, blogs, and social media of official state organizations using Archive-It and ArchiveSocial. For quality control in ArchiveSocial they monitor accounts and for Archive-It, they download crawls, look at data, and check seeds to see how they appearing. Then they add rules and do test crawls of their 700 active seeds. They take top 5% and bottom 5%, review all errors, check how they appear in the Wayback Machine, and record actions taken. With this approach, they are looking at the seeds most likely to cause problems. They are rolling out a new approach to divide seed list and check a section at a time so all seeds get checked annually. Their ongoing issues include the maturation of web archives, scalability, communicating with stakeholders, and limits on the number of accounts in Archivesocial.  

Federal Perspective – National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)

Kyle Douglas gave an overview of the NARA guidance on managing web records. While the NARA Guidance on Managing Web Records is from 2005, it is still applicable. NARA is working on new guidance and considering various options, including pursuing Capstone-like approach to manage top-level web records.

NARA asked agencies about how they are managing website records in the 2017 Records Management Self-Assessment (RMSA). In response, 55% of agencies said they are managing their websites as records and 45% said they were automatically capturing web records. 28% said they were transferring to NARA.

NARA is in the process of developing Use Cases for Website Records as part of FERMI. The use cases can be used by agencies to evaluate vendors’ ability to manage web records. Kyle also pointed to Documenting Your Public Service as a resource.

SAA/NAGARA/COSA 2018 Recap: Session 305

Making Policy Work: Creating and Implementing Information Guidance in the Age of Open Government

Christopher Magee from NARA kicked off the session by discussing the importance of policies: they can help you improve consistency across your organization. When creating policies, be sure to include as many users as possible and be transparent about your work and overall purpose. Be sure to consider immediate as well as long-term business needs.

Gail Snow from King County Records and Archives in Seattle, Washington spoke on promoting transparency during the policy creation and implementation process. King County is a large and complex local government where it is extremely difficult to get any policy adopted across the entire county. Some of the challenges include having policies which technically only apply to the executive branch of government as well as providing policy guidance to employees who are not stationed at a traditional desk. One solution that worked for them involved prioritizing the overall records management policy, an on-boarding policy, and an exiting/transferring employee policy, as these were common functions throughout the entire county. They also leveraged services provided by the RM program to get buy-in from other government branches and elected officials. In addition, they used the county’s Public Records Committee to sponsor policies. To increase transparency and accountability, they have pushed all RM policies to the web.

Continue reading “SAA/NAGARA/COSA 2018 Recap: Session 305”

SAA/NAGARA/COSA 2018 Recap: Session 201

Email Archiving Comes of Age

This session was composed of lightning talks about various email archiving projects, including the first NHPRC electronic records case studies focused on email archiving.

Chris Prom from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign reported on the CLIR Report on Technical Approach on Email Archiving (CLIR 175). The report is available here. The purpose of the report is to document how archivists are currently preserving email as well as to frame email preservation in terms of what technology is available and how it can be used. The report includes topics such as why email matters, technical definitions, lifecycle models, tool workflows, as well as an agenda for email archiving moving forward.

Continue reading “SAA/NAGARA/COSA 2018 Recap: Session 201”

SAA/CoSA/NAGARA 2018 recap: Session 706

Guest post by Scott Kirycki, Digital Archivist, University of Notre Dame Archives

Session 706 – Opportunities in Change: Transition to Functional Records Scheduling in Washington, Wyoming, and North Carolina

Session chair Courtney Bailey (Records Analyst, State Archives of North Carolina) introduced the panel’s topic with the SAA Glossary’s definition of functional analysis: “A technique that sets priorities for appraising and processing materials of an office based on the relative importance of the functions the office performs in an organization.” The presenters then described how they applied functional analysis in creating functional records schedules for their states. They spoke in the order that their states implemented functional records scheduling (Washington, Wyoming, North Carolina), and Bailey mentioned in particular that she learned from what her colleagues had done, thereby illustrating that it is not always necessary to “reinvent the wheel” in records management.

In Washington, Russell Wood (State Records Manager, Washington State Archives) faced 28,000+ record series along with issues such as duplication of schedule numbers that were supposed to be unique. The schedules’ organization was based on which office created a record, and this led to the need for monthly changes to the schedules as office structures evolved. Switching to an approach based on the function of the records enabled Wood to develop a general schedule for records common to all state agencies and eliminate duplication. Making the schedules smaller helped get record creators on board with using them.

Mike Strom (State Archivist, Wyoming State Archives) told of a similar process of simplification by moving from office-specific to more general schedules. So far, the original 8,000 schedules have been reduced to 600. The process has involved some agitation, however, among agencies that were used to having their own sets of schedules. Strom emphasized communication and education as the keys to addressing the agitation. He gave examples of a training video that explains how to use the schedules and crosswalks that show how old and new schedules relate. He also suggested seeking input on proposed changes from the people who use the schedules.

Bailey spoke as well about the need to involve stakeholders in the making of schedules.

Over 200 individuals participated in meetings to evaluate North Carolina’s schedules as they were developed, and Bailey posted the schedules on a blog so those who were not at the meetings could provide feedback. To determine agency functions, she looked at their websites and previous schedules and asked records managers within the agencies to identify functions.

Later, when the schedules were ready, records analysts did training with the units. For additional training, Bailey wrote choose-your-own-adventure-style tutorials.

To show that the schedules are not arbitrary, Bailey included legal citations even though it was challenging to figure them out. She made an appendix listing the titles of series that come to the archives. This appendix helps record producers and managers, and also offers the public transparency about what kinds of records archives consider archival.

The session concluded with a question from the audience about whether members of the public might find general functional schedules harder to use when making records requests than agency-specific schedules. Wood recommended writing either type of schedule in a way that the public can understand. Bailey answered that uniformity in retention has cut down on confusion for the public. Strom indicated that Wyoming is not using the new schedules directly with the public in records requests, but he suggested that the new schedules may help cut down on the time it takes staff to find records to respond to requests.