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”

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A Records Center is not an Archives: Transfer Forms!

[Note: This was a forum post to the Records Management Section list on SAA’s site that got a little out of hand. Rather than clog everyone’s mailbox, I decided to post it here. The fact that I can add Futurama GIFs to posts here, and not on SAA Connect, had absolutely nothing to do with this decision (he said, unconvincingly.)

For your reference, the original question:]

I’m interested in ANY AND ALL advice you’ll give me on forms and procedure for transferring records to a Record Center.

Our Records Center is revising the information that we ask for from our departments when they transfer records to us for storage, scanning, and/or destruction. I’m interested in seeing your version of a Records Center transfer form.

Do you ask for information at the box level, file level, or both? Do you require a full inventory of each box transferred? Why or why not?

With complex records policies, I’m concerned about overwhelming our customers with another complex form. What methods have you used to educate your users on how to transfer records to your facility? 

Thanks for your help!

Holly

Continue reading “A Records Center is not an Archives: Transfer Forms!”

Don’t be caught in an archival haze, fearlessly appraise!

This year’s annual meeting kindled my interest in diving deep into appraisal. Coming up on my 2 year anniversary of being in the records management trenches, I have a new appreciation for appraisal when I am developing retention schedules, which tend to take a blunt instrument to questions of appraisal when it comes to disposition.

 

I went a bit wild at the SAA meeting bookstore this year, and got some good recommendations on Twitter. I’ll be reading many of these over the next year and sharing some of my records management thoughts here on The Schedule. Here is my tentative reading list — what am I missing? Any appraisal topics you’d love to hear a records management perspective on?

Continue reading “Don’t be caught in an archival haze, fearlessly appraise!”

RMRT Meeting Agenda at SAA 2015 – Please attend!

Please join the Records Management Roundtable at SAA 2015 for a series of lightning talks on various records management topics. We have a great lineup and look forward to having good discussions. The meeting will be held Friday, August 21 from 4:30 – 6:00pm in the Grand Ballroom A at the Cleveland Convention Center. If you can’t attend follow along with #rmrt #saa15.

For the agenda, we will have a brief business meeting with announcements followed by these lightning talks:

  Speaker Topic
1 Anthony Cocciolo, Ed.D.
Associate Professor
Pratt Institute, School of Information and Library Science
A study that explores options for expediting the appraisal of email records for permanent retention, using a New York art museum as a case.
2 Sarah R. Demb
Senior Records Manager/Archivist
Harvard University Archives
Records management as a tool for risk mitigation that can be embedded into university governance structures.
3 Lori Ashley
Principal Consultant
Tournesol Consulting
How to better leverage the appraisal and records scheduling process to advance active preservation while records remain in the custody/control of the records producers.  
4 Sarah Wagner
Amway
Historical designation on Corporate Records Retention Schedule: Amway’s process of ‘purging’ to the Archives
5 Janice Schulz
Records Manager
Omya Inc.
The records manager’s role in legal discovery. How to leverage your knowledge to increase your visibility and value
6 Josh Schneider
Assistant University Archivist
Stanford University
ePADD as a tool to appraise, process, and provide rich access to email archives
7 Jessica Williams
Utilities Records & Info Management Coordinator
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
Hiring student work – job descriptions for graduate assistants, undergrad/graduate hourlies, expectations for those roles, etc.
8 Christine Schmid Engels  
Archives Manager
Cincinnati Museum Center
How do you fit in records management when you’re also running an archive of other historical material, doing exhibits, working at the reference desk, etc. Or address administrative support or the lack thereof.
9 Arian Ravanbakhsh
Office of the Chief Records Officer
National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)
2016 or Bust: Updates on Federal Records Management

For Your Consideration: Adjusting the level of Archival (and RM) appraisal

A signal boost to this important post on NDIIPP’s The Signal blog, in which Meg Phillips discusses the impact of distant reading/text mining/computational analysis on the nature of archival appraisal (and, incidentally, the records management scheduling that supports same). The key passage, in my opinion, is the following:

The interesting thing about these questions is that the answersmay rely on the presence of records that would clearly be temporary if judged on their individual merits. Consider email messages like “Really sick today – not coming in” or a message from the executive of a  regulated company saying “Want to meet for lunch?” to a government policymaker. In the aggregate, the patterns of these messages  may paint a picture of disease spread or the inner workings of access and influence in government.  Those are exactly the kinds of messages traditional archival practice would try to cull. In these cases, appraising an entire corpus of records as permanent would support distant reading much better.  The informational value of the whole corpus cannot be captured by selecting just the records with individual value.

If we adjusted practice to support more distant reading, archivists would still do appraisal, deciding what is worth permanent preservation.  We would just be doing it at a different level of granularity – appraising the research value of an entire email system, SharePoint site or social media account, for example.

Yee-ikes. In a way, this isn’t new– the Capstone plan for dealing with email of the top administration of federal agencies is kind of based on the same principle, for example– but this is talking about the issue at an entirely different scale. Providing permanent access to the entirety of an organization’s information ecosystem seems like it would be a herculean task logistically, not to mention the privacy/confidentiality concerns that would come into play. Plus, I wonder if maintaining a system in its entirety would have a deleterious effect on the ability of researchers who DO still want to do close reading of individual documents to find what they’re looking for. Quicker searching and location of documents by the records creator is, after all, on of our profession’s major selling points for why people should practice records management. (To be fair, Meg does acknowledge these difficulties in her post.)

On the other hand, the overall point is a good one, and sort of gets to the heart of one of the major archival appraisal arguments: “Who are WE to determine what it is that future researchers will find useful?” Even in our own analog materials here at UWM, we have a number of records in our collections that I as a records manager would recommend be destroyed if they were being produced today–except that those records get a LOT of use from researchers looking for historical context. So maybe this shift is just proof of cycles in Archival and RM practice.  In any case, a lot to chew on– Please weigh in on the comments there or here.

Oh, also, an aside from Meg’s post: “Incidentally, on a practical level this level of appraisal might also lead to disposition instructions that are easier for creating offices to carry out.” Possibly THAT is the key point, rather than the above.