Advocacy and Records Management

There is a school of thought that traditional records management is dead, a remnant of the past along with paper-based technologies. This is not entirely accurate. We know that records management continues to play, or has the potential to play, a vital role in the larger information governance framework.

Defining information governance is rather difficult. I particularly like Gartner’s official definition:

“Information governance is the specification of decision rights and an accountability framework to encourage desirable behavior in the valuation, creation, storage, use, archival and deletion of information. It includes the processes, roles, standards, and metrics that ensure the effective and efficient use of information in enabling an organization to achieve its goals.”

Information governance can be interpreted as a broad and inclusive framework or broad and exclusive. In Courtney Bailey’s survey of the membership to SAA’s Records Management Section, nearly 700 members belong to an academic institution or to a cultural/nonprofit organization. Approximately another 225 belonged to a governmental records management program. Just over 100 of our fellow section members identified themselves with a corporate organization.   

By and large, members of this section might not find ARMA’s Information Governance Implementation Model particularly inclusive. Within this figure, where do cultural heritage organizations such as libraries, museums, and archives reside? Perhaps with the vision-setting Steering Committee? This would presuppose that LAM environments are viewed as institutional information management authorities rather than as a cultural boon or as support services.

In Jackie Esposito’s Institutional Placement Survey – Records Management and Archival Services (published June 2017), nearly 40% of respondents reported that the placement of their institution’s records management program was in the archives; nearly 28% reported ‘Other‘, identifying units such as Library, Museum, IT, and the President’s Office. Of all the respondents, exactly half stated that while there is a Records Management Program in their organization, it “is more consultative in nature and not robust enough to manage 100% compliance”.

One can surmise that for many of us, while records management exists in our organizations, we often wield limited political power. How do we change this? Do we want to change this? Are we equipped with the appropriate labor and infrastructure to expand our reach? What exactly are we offering to the table at large? Can we deliver on our promises?

Regardless of the answers to these questions, we have a place on this hypothetical Steering Committee. The value we place on cultural memory, community partnerships, evidence, and historical record-building cannot be undervalued, nor should this value be underemphasized.

One area I believe we can cultivate is advocacy, represented on the above model as Service, Capabilities, Processes, and Authorities. Advocacy and outreach are complementary, but not synonymous. Advocacy is a political process in which an individual or group aims to influence policymaking. It is not enough to get our constituency to use the preferred archival boxes and folder list templates, to make them aware of our reading room availability. We need to know what we need, how to get it, and how to keep it.

Skills like negotiation, coalition building, risk assessment, change management, grand strategy – these are important qualities to cultivate, especially so for people who want to affect real change in the workplace. How do we grow and cultivate these skills? A traditional answer will include experience, but that surfaces even more questions – when contingent labor is de rigueur, how can archivists and records managers gain that political experience, especially when it is gained through interactions with the records creators themselves? Through committee work and policy engagement? Through previous work experiences?

In the course of the next year, it is my hope to explore these issues with you and to bring some voices to this conversation. Please stay tuned and as always, don’t hesitate to reach out to me with questions, comments, and suggestions.

 

Back to the Basics in Researching

As a reference librarian, I worked with many library patrons who would ask where they could find books on specific subjects. I would show them how to find possible sources that could answer their questions.  Sometimes they would come back with a narrowed subject.  Then, we would look at other sources that could answer their more focused questions.  Other library patrons would take the sources presented to them and take the information from those sources as the only answers that they could find.  The library patrons who kept asking questions were developing their skills on how to be more effective in reading comprehension.  Unfortunately, the patrons that left with what they had, without further focusing on their subjects, would come back with questions for other subjects and keep asking me for the sources with the answers that they needed.  They did not learn from the first reference interview how to conduct basic research.  I wondered how I could help the novice researcher to be more effective in researching their questions.  I found 6 steps that could help.

Researching

Continue reading “Back to the Basics in Researching”

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.

Digital Forensics for Archivists

A few weeks ago I attended the Digital Forensics for Archivists course offered by the Society of American Archivists (SAA) at the University of Michigan. It was taught by Cal Lee and Kam Woods both of the School of Information and Library Science at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Overall, I thought  the class was a very informative and engaging introduction to the field of digital forensics.

The focus of this course is the application of forensic techniques to archival work. Digital forensics (or computer forensics) is “the process of identifying, preserving, analyzing, and presenting digital evidence in a manner that is legally acceptable” (Rodney McKemmish 1999). It is used to discover digital data, recover deleted, encrypted, or damaged file information, monitor live activity and detect violations of policies.

Archivists (and records managers) may be very good at dealing with paper, but may not have as much experience with processing and making available digital content that comes in the form of floppy disks, CDs, and hard drives. The field of digital forensics is very concerned with the same principles as archivists, including provenance, original order, and chain of custody, to apply to criminal and civil investigations. By applying the techniques, archivists are able to identify, extract, and document information from digital media about how it was created without altering the content. It also focuses on finding sensitive or personally identifiable information that may need to be redacted or protected from public access.

Forensic Recovery of Evidence Device with a removable hard drive on the imaging bay prior to forensic capture from Stanford University Libraries and Academic Information Resources (SULAIR)

As a two-day event, this course was particularly helpful because we got to perform hands-on exercises of the tools discussed in the class. These included:

  • BitCurator (includes a number of free, open-source tools to be incorporated into workflows)
  • FTK Imager (creates disk images)
  • Bulk Extractor (scans and extracts information such as credit card numbers, email addresses, or keywords)
  • Fiwalk (creates an output of files in Digital Forensics XML)
  • MD5summer (generates and verifies checksums)

While we may not be seizing evidence from crime scenes, archivists do receive many types of media that require special care to process. I would highly recommend either taking this course if it’s available to you or exploring the materials available on this topic. I myself am looking forward to continuing to explore these exciting developments. I think some of the available tools could have applications in the records management sphere that we should examine and consider. For further reading, check out the BitCurator project, the Forensics Wiki, and the recently released OCLC research report Walk This Way: Detailed Steps for Transferring Born-Digital Content from Media You Can Read In-house. I would be very interested to hear about applications of digital forensics in the records management side of the house!