Archiving Transparency and Accountability: Step 3 to Information Literacy

After the first semester that a new course is taught, I have noticed teachers asking each other for a copy of their lesson plans for that course, if they survived a semester teaching it.   This echoes the cries of the United States educational system wanting a miracle teaching method that could be used in any subject for any course for any student’s educational level.  This is the same for information professionals.  They are teachers who are using the same steps to archive, manage records, and perform reference services to help customers gain access to the information housed in various institutions and organizations throughout the world.  Everyone wants the transparency on how to find that information.  Basically, this is the transparency of how we have done are jobs to provide access to this information.

Through my series of steps to information literacy, I have found that the memory is a great place to store how we do our duties but what if others could benefit from knowing “how” we did it?  This goes back to wondering if your clients remember how to use your search tools to access the information stored at their educational institution or other type of organization.  I created a virtual assistant to review with clients the search methods that were covered face to face.  ELA, my Electronic Library Assistant, travels to the clients’ offices, homes, and classrooms, to review those searching methods with them 24/7.  So, it is like me “traveling” with them to help them “tinker” with the methods we discussed before and then “talk” about Step3other ways that they could search on their own through the Three T’s method.

ELA has been found to be very compatible with the customers’ computer skills since they could manage to always keep communications with family, fellow classmates/employees, and friends through their smart phones, tablets, and laptops.  I created a virtual teaching assistant in a blended-animated flipped classroom environment that would incorporate the technology that the customers held dear and allowed them to keep a constant flow of customer engagement inside and outside of their workplaces.  Through this virtual environment, a video archive is created that customers could go back to anytime and anywhere with lessons based upon what I had experienced with them and/or other customers (no customer names are stored).  The teaching methods are stored for continual viewing.

Any archivist, records manager, or other type of information professional, can do this for accountability and transparency of their work to be shown to their customers and departments.  If you are interested in finding out more about it, I will be giving a webinar, for Innovative Educators, Wednesday, March 4, 2015, on how to create accountability and transparency in your job through a virtual teaching assistant.  Information professionals and administrators are shown how to make a virtual teaching assistant and how to incorporate it into their presentations through GoAnimate.com, Screencast.com, and Camtasia.

Stay tuned for more adventures in information literacy.

Read more about ELA:

Editor’s Note – this article first published in Computer Savviness – and republished with the author’s permission.

Advertisement

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.

The Records Lifecycle: Moving Permanent Records from the Records Management Phase to the Archival Phase

For those of us working in a university or institutional archives setting records management is not just about risk management and efficiency, but also about documenting the history of our institution. This happens through the scheduling of records that have been appraised by archivists to have enduring historical value.

Examples of records that are often scheduled for permanent retention because of enduring historical value include annual reports, executive correspondence and memoranda, even photographs.

My own institution, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), has created a list of the most common types of permanent records found in our university’s departments and offices for quick reference. That list can be found here.

Take a moment to enjoy these digital photographs from December 2002, when an early winter storm encapsulated UNC in a layer of ice. You can easily see why an archives would want to acquire and preserve this type of material, and why archivists and records managers should work together to ensure that these types of records are scheduled as permanent and transferred to an archival repository.

 

[Digital photographs of ice storm, December 2002, in Medical Illustration and Photography of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Records #40307, University Archives, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill]

And just to map this process to the records lifecycle, these photographs were (1) created by the Department of Medical Illustration and Photography in UNC’s School of Medicine, (2) maintained and used by that department until they had met their retention period, at which point they were (3) transferred to the University Archives at UNC, and then (4) accessioned into the archive’s holdings.

Then, they were (5) arranged and described by archivists and (6) ingested into the Carolina Digital Repository (CDR), UNC’s digital preservation repository. Today, we are able to (7) access them through the CDR and even share them through a blog like this!