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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NARA’s Federal Electronic Records Modernization Initiative: An Overview

Today’s post comes from NARA’s Office of the Chief Records Officer. 

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) launched the Federal Electronic Modernization Initiative (FERMI) to help agencies procure the services and solutions they need to manage their electronic records. We are approaching this in a few different ways. While Federal agencies may have different missions, structures, and resources, they do have common needs for managing their electronic records. They all need to manage their records in compliance NARA’s statutes, regulations, and guidance. We want to make it easier to figure out which services and solutions meet the requirements.

FERMI image 5-22-18

FERMI emerged from the Automated Electronic Records Management Plan, written to support the Managing Government Records Directive (M-12-18). FERMI aims to to provide a government-wide, modern, cost-effective, standardized, and inter-operable set of records management solutions providing common, core functionality to support records management services for Federal agencies.

First, we are working with two groups at the General Services Administration (GSA): the Unified Shared Services Management (USSM) office under the Office of Shared Solutions and Performance Improvement (OSSPI) and the Schedule 36 team under the Federal Acquisitions Services (FAS).   

Unified Shared Services Management

NARA is the Standards Lead for Records Management and participates on the Business Standards Council. We provide records management input to the other Services Areas (Human Capital, Financial Management, Grants Management, IT, etc.). USSM produced the Federal Integrated Business Framework (FIBF)  to help the Federal Government better coordinate and document common business needs across agencies and focus on outcomes, data, processes and performance.

GSA’s Schedule 36

We worked with GSA to create a Special Item Number (SIN) for Electronic Records Management (ERM) in Schedule 36. The existing SIN 51 504 was updated to solely include services related to physical records management. SIN 51 600 – Electronic Records Management Solutions was created for services necessary to provide a total ERM solution.  Vendors must self-certify they meet the Universal ERM Requirements to be included in SIN 51 600.

Universal ERM Requirements

The Universal ERM Requirements identify high level business needs for managing electronic records. They are baseline ERM program requirements derived from existing NARA regulations, policy, and guidance. They are a starting point for agencies to use when developing system requirements. Records management staff should work with acquisitions and IT personnel to tailor any final system requirements.

In addition, we worked with our stakeholder groups to develop the following two products:

Electronic Records Management Federal Integrated Business Framework (ERM-FIBF)

The ERM-FIBF is a model framework that identifies the key functions, activities, and capabilities necessary for agencies to manage their electronic records. The ERM-FIBF was developed according to standards set out in USSM’s FIBF. This document maps capabilities to authoritative references, including statutes, regulations, guidance, and standards.

Use Cases for Electronic Messages

The Use Cases for Electronic Messages serve as a tool agencies can use when procuring services or solutions to manage electronic messages. They can be used by agencies to demonstrate how vendors perform the described requirements and workflows. These are built directly off the ERM- FIBF. They tell the “stories” of how to manage electronic messages.

We posted the ERM-FIBF and Use of Cases for Electronic Messages for comment in January and received over 200 comments.

We are excited to share these updates about our FERMI project. If you are planning to attend the Joint Annual Meeting in August, you can hear more about FERMI by attending Session #405. Also you can follow NARA’s Record Express blog for FERMI updates!

Records Managers: Not Making This Stuff Up, Part the Billionth

So! The Office of the Inspector General released its report on Hillary Clinton’s emails today. Perhaps you’d heard about it.

The report itself is here (Warning: major TL;DR alert). It reads like a litany of “everything that can go wrong with a digital records management program”–poor communication, lack of executive buy-in, technology not up to the job of meeting requirements– and my plan is to break down the whole thing at some point to take a closer look at what happened from a purely records management standpoint. But in light of Eira’s excellent post on institutional silences and the digital dark ages, I wanted to quickly hit one paragraph that jumped out at me:

Two staff in S/ES-IRM reported to OIG that, in late 2010, they each discussed their concerns about Secretary Clinton’s use of a personal email account in separate meetings with the then-Director of S/ES-IRM. In one meeting, one staff member raised concerns that information sent and received on Secretary Clinton’s account could contain Federal records that needed to be preserved in order to satisfy Federal recordkeeping requirements. According to the staff member, the Director stated that the Secretary’s personal system had been reviewed and approved by Department legal staff and that the matter was not to be discussed any further. As previously noted, OIG found no evidence that staff in the Office of the Legal Adviser reviewed or approved Secretary Clinton’s personal system. According to the other S/ES-IRM staff member who raised concerns about the server, the Director stated that the mission of S/ES-IRM is to support the Secretary and instructed the staff never to speak of the Secretary’s personal email system again.

Holy moly. I am simultaneously astonished and not at all surprised that this conversation happened. Without attempting to divine the source of this supposed gag order or the motivation behind it, there is at minimum a failure to communicate happening here, and in all likelihood a deeply ingrained culture of subordination. Two employees, rightly concerned that use of a personal email account posed a recordkeeping and security risk, were specifically told that they were there “to support the Secretary”, and as a result questioning her use of personal email was anathema. That is really an incredible directive, if substantiated. I would argue that pointing out vulnerabilities in information security and governance IS supporting the Secretary (by, say, helping her avoid a prolonged investigation into her email management practices during an election year), but that’s just me.

And yet… what do you even DO in this case as a records manager? In a lot of institutions records managers are so far down the totem pole that there’s not a lot of pushing back to be done if a C-level staffer doesn’t want to follow records management directives to the letter. It’s easier to stand up to your negligent or reluctant official if you’re based out of the Legal department (and even easier if you are yourself a lawyer), but for a records manager based out of an administrative department, or the library? How do you make the case for good records practices when you have been explicitly told not to pursue it? How far do you stick your neck out for the sake of the historical record and transparency, vs. the short-term interests of your institution? Particularly if, as in so many cases, the records law which you are following has no real penalty for non-compliance other than the hypothetical/tangential “you might get sued”?

I don’t have an answer to any of the above questions. I’ve struggled with the right level of aggressiveness in pursuing records of high-level officials at my own institution, and have almost certainly lost some key electronic records being kept on a personal hard drive or in an email account because of it. (Elsewhere in the report records staff reports “not feeling comfortable” directing the Secretary to use the internal records system and looking for an automatic system to capture the records; I feel this anxiety acutely.) In this *particular* case Secretary Clinton released (most of) the emails after the fact, so the damage to transparency and the historical record is perhaps not as great as it could have been. In other cases? Who knows what’s being lost because the records manager is not as much in control as he/she would like to be.

These are the kinds of questions that keep me up at night, because I am an enormous nerd and am kept awake by records management questions. (Well, that and a one-year-old baby.)

Enter the Personal Health Records Librarian (when Managing Patients’ Records, Part 3)

In Part 1 of this discussion of Managing Patients’ Records, a mobile healthcare digital assistant was identified.  It could help patients to be more engaged with managing their medical issues.  In Part 2 of this discussion, the patient, Anne, was described.  Her healthcare was not managed well due to miscommunication or no communication.  It was not because she did not want to follow-up.  She did not know when and for what to follow-up on in her healthcare until it was almost too late.  In order for the patient to understand what is going on, there has to be true patient engagement.

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Making the Connections (when Managing Patients’ Records in an information management system like SharePoint , Part 2)

As we discussed in Part 1 of Managing Patients’ Records in an information system like Sharepoint (https://saarmrt.wordpress.com/2016/02/01/managing-patients-records-part-1/), it was pointed out that in the lifetime of a patient, a patient could have one or more physicians that specialize in their different healthcare needs.   With so many healthcare professionals in the patient’s life, there should be a connection to all of them with the patient at the center.  Without the connection, the patient will have difficulty effectively managing their healthcare.  Through the following six steps, that one patient had to endure, other patients can be helped so that this patient and many others will know how healthy they are.

Continue reading “Making the Connections (when Managing Patients’ Records in an information management system like SharePoint , Part 2)”

A (probably doomed) attempt to desensationalize Public Records reporting

So, I suspect that Journalists on a political beat pay more attention to potential changes in public records law than is warranted by public interest in the topic. This is not altogether surprising– Freedom of Information-like acts have a direct impact on journalists’ ability to do their jobs properly by collecting key information about the actions of state government and bureaucracy. Because of this impact on their livelihoods, however, stories about potential restrictions to public records access tend to be… um… a bit overexcited. We saw this on this very blog a few years ago with the Franklin County Brouhaha, and now we’re seeing it again closer to my own home with some stories about a change to retention schedules in Wisconsin.

On the one hand, great! Happy to see Public Records Law and retention scheduling in the news. On the other hand, both of these stories get a lot wrong about what is really going on in this situation. If only there were someone on a group blog who was informed about how Records Retention and Disposition worked in the State of Wisconsin…Hmm… Well, if there is such information I bet it’s past the jump.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I am technically an employee of the State of Wisconsin, and while the schedule mentioned in these stories does not apply to UW, I do work with the Public Records Board to approve our local schedules. Because of that position I am also not going to comment on the political implications of these retention changes. (Much.)

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How the Library Deals with Copyright

As we explore the 21st century, we need to realize that the library is composed of paper and digital formats.  The digital books started off as public domain paper documents. On the Internet’s predecessor, Arpanet, Michael Hart created the oldest and largest digital library in 1971.  He named it Project Gutenberg.  It was going to contain all public domain books in electronic format for free to anyone who wanted to download them and read them (https://archive.org/details/gutenberg&tab=collection ).  “Its goal, formulated by Mr. Hart, was “to encourage the creation and distribution of e-books” and, by making books available to computer users at no cost, “to help break down the bars of ignorance and illiteracy.” http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/09/business/michael-hart-a-pioneer-of-e-books-dies-at-64.html?_r=0). This digital library now houses more than 30,000 books in 60 languages.  The categories for this library are: “light literature,” “heavy literature” and reference works to the general reader.  It also contains a few copyrighted books that are reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner.   Ann Gilliland, one of the professors of the “Copyright for Educators & Librarians  Course”  stated that, “Material that is not in copyright, and or that is not copyrightable, and is free to use, is in the public domain” (Duke University, Emory University & The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill).

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