Sunday, August 16, 2009

SAA 2009: Engaging Your Chief Information Officer in Records Retention and Access (Session 705)

Bats flying over Lady Bird Lake, as seen from the Congress Street Avenue Bridge, Austin, Texas, 14 August 2009.

Charlotte-Douglas International Airport, Charlotte, North Carolina, 3:05 PM. Yesterday was a very busy day, and I'm taking advantage of a long layover to do some catching up.

The New York State Office of the Chief Information Officer/Office for Technology and the New York State Archives are working together to address openness issues in state government, and I’m interested in how other state government CIO’s and archivists are collaborating. This session was a bit short on the details of such partnerships, but I learned quite a bit about how archivists can align their needs and goals with those of CIOs, interesting initiatives drawing together university archivists, and CIOs, and the future plans of the Washington Digital Archives.

Doug Robinson of the National Association of State Chief Information Officers opened the session by highlighting the results of a recent survey of state CIO concerns and priorities, which indicates that CIOs are devoting increasing attention to electronic records management, digital preservation, and e-discovery and to budgeting and cost controls. He also noted that CIOs are moving toward enterprise architecture and asserted that archivists should actively support this trend: enterprise architecture emphasizes cross-boundary processes and capabilities and improved information access and sharing, and archivists can help to ensure that retention and preservation needs are incorporated into reference models and solutions architecture. Moreover, as he noted during the discussion segment of the session, fiscal hardship may help to make enterprise architecture a reality; separate agency IT installations may come to be seen as a luxury or needless duplication.

Robinson also encouraged archivists to monitor other issues important to CIOs: digital infrastructure investments, renovation and replacement of legacy systems, new risks associated with electronic records, digital preservation, and e-discovery, increasing demands for transparence, Web 2.0, cloud computing, and innovative funding models.

Claire Bailey, the CIO of Arkansas, emphasized CIOs’ need for technology that never fails (e.g,, robust emergency communications systems), and need to ensure that citizens’ information is protected, share information without boundaries so that it can be analyzed and reused, and employ environmentally sound, cost-effective solutions.

David McCartney of the University of Iowa focused on the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC), which facilitates collaborative work between archivists and records managers and CIOs at Big 10 universities. Last year, it sponsored a conference in East Lansing, Michigan that focused on enterprise-wide approaches to e-records management and a host of other issues. It enabled archivists to grasp the challenges CIOs faced and the legal implications of electronic records management and led to the creation in creation of forces addressing, among other things, establishing records management guidelines, distinguishing between preservation and backup, identifying archival requirements for recordkeeping systems. The conference brought together McCartney and his CIO, and enabled them to learn about each other’s challenges and move beyond oppositional conceptions of their relationship. They began working together to refine the campus’s IT strategic plan and appraising records series and Web sites at the point of creation. It also led the campus to participate in a proposed CIC Shared Storage Initiative for Big 10 schools; this initiative may get American Reinvestment and Recovery Act funding.

Jerry Handfield of the Washington State Archives started by making an important point: archivists have been dealing with technological obsolescence of analog audiovisual recording formats for more than a century. He then furnished an overview of the development of the Washington Digital Archives. Asserting that Washington is the only state with a digital archives because it possesses both a strong IT base and the requisite political will, he stated that digital archives are needed in order to comply with statutory and regulator mandates, avoid loss of legally and historically valuable records, preserve rare paper records, manage risk and avoid litigation loss, and provide centralized access to the permanent electronic records of state government. Washington’s digital archives first took in digitized paper records because it wanted to garner support from local governments and prove its usefulness to citizens, but it will soon begin taking in e-mail and other born-digital records. It is also planning to make its digital audio files searchable, improve records ingestion and transfer, add bandwidth, and develop a disaster recovery tape retrieval system that uses RFID technology.

He also shared some important lessons that Washington has learned.
  • Archivists must be integrated into the process of describing content.
  • Cross-training of staff is more important than ever.
  • Maintaining one’s own staff is a necessary risk and expense, and staff turnover can be managed.
  • Vendors are often reluctant to export data, even if the law specifies that the data is a pubic record.
  • Archivists are still wedded to paper.
  • It is actually cheaper to make a record available online at no charge than to charge a nominal fee for a copy.
  • People widely believe that online public records are great sources of information for identity thieves. However, studies indicate that mailboxes are thieves’ most common information source, and in Washington State one thief used information gleaned from tombstones.
  • It is essential to select good partners.

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