Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Government archives and records in the news

Sorry about the light posting over the past couple of weeks. Between being under the weather for most of last week and getting ready to go on vacation later this week, a few things -- blog included -- have fallen between the cracks. Posting will probably continue to be light until the second half of next week, but I'll do what I can.

In the meantime, this trio of stories concerning various state archives may be of interest to you:
  • Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has left office, but year-old public records requests for her e-mail are still outstanding. Alaska Democrats are starting to suspect that officials responsible for filling the request are stalling for some reason, but officials in charge of responding to the requests state that the delay is due to the staggering size of the requests and the state's limited resources. My own $.02: I'm really inclined to believe the officials. Given the fiscal climate, the generally wretched state of e-mail management within the public (and private) sector, and the unprecedented size and scope of the requests, they've got to be completely overwhelmed. And here's another $.02 for good measure: until governments do a better job of managing e-mail, requests of this nature will eat up a steadily increasing percentage of staff time and other resources.
  • California now has a replevin law! Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the bill, which was sponsored by Assemblymember Bill Monning, into law on the evening of 11 October. The legislation allows the Secretary of State, in consultation with the State Archivist, to take action to recover any "public record belonging to a state or a local agency . . . in the possession of a person, organization, or institution not authorized by law to possess the record.: Archival repositories that follow Society of American Archivists guidelines for managing and preserving historical records and observe state laws concerning access to public records are exempt from the provisions of this legislation, which is intended to protect records that may otherwise be lost to Californians.
  • The Indiana State Archives has a very, very leaky roof, and, owing to the state's fiscal situation, the problem likely won't be fixed anytime soon. My heart goes out to my Indiana colleagues: they're dealing with this terrible situation as best they can, and being the subject of this sort of news coverage is never pleasant. However, sometimes a little attention from the Fourth Estate is the spur to legislative and executive branch action -- which is why I'm drawing your attention to these stories. If you live in Indiana, please contact your legislators and Governor Mitch Daniels and request that they act before disaster strikes.
And here's a federal-level tidbit. David Ferriero, who has been nominated to serve as the next Archivist of the United States, recently completed a pre-hearing questionnaire at the request of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. The questionnaire is now available online, and Ferriero's statements concerning the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration's Electronic Records Archives program and electronic records generally are pretty interesting. (A sweeping tip o' the hat to the indefatigable Kate T. over at ArchivesNext for finding this document!)

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