Friday, December 7, 2012

Best Practices Exchange, day three

 The 2012 Best Practices Exchange (BPE) ended late yesterday morning, and my colleague Michael and I did some sightseeing in Annapolis before making the long drive back to Albany.  I'm sleep-deprived and still processing everything I learned, so this post is going to highlight some of the insights that Martha Anderson, the Director of Program Management at the Library of Congress's National Digital Information Infrastructure Preservation Program, shared during yesterday's plenary presentation:
  • In a digital world, "selection is rocket science."  We can't preserve everything, and we have to focus our efforts on saving only those things that are truly worth saving.
  • Over the past decade, we've developed a  wide array of good digital preservation tools and processes.  Now, we have to assemble them in ways that meet our local needs.  Wanting one tool to do everything is not realistic.
  • Archivists, librarians, curators, and other people who are trying to preserve digital content are running a relay race, and we should focus more on making sure that we're able to keep our digital content intact and accessible until the next generation of tools and processes emerge (or the next generation of cultural heritage professionals takes our place) and less upon the need to preserve our content  "until the end of time" or "forever."  Thinking of preservation as a ceaseless, ever-present responsibility can induce paralysis.  (It's also unrealistic.  A few years ago, I was chatting with a wise colleague and for some reason started bemoaning the lack of digital preservation solutions that would, in one fell swoop, enable me to stabilize a given set of records long enough to pass responsibility for their care on to the next generation of archivists.  I mentioned that the title of one superb resource -- the Digital Preservation Management:  Implementing Short-Term Solutions for Long-Term Problems workshop and tutorial -- highlighted the problem that electronic records archivists faced, and she looked at me, laughed, and said:  "Short-term solutions for long-term problems?  In other words, digital preservation is just like life.  What makes you think it would be otherwise?")
  • Our British colleagues are more adept than we are at casting their digital preservation needs in terms of the advantages preservation provides to business.  We can learn from them.
  • Earlier this week, influential Internet industry experts Mary Meeker and Liang Wu released a report asserting, among other things, that younger people are moving toward an "asset-light lifestyle." They think in terms of services -- online streaming of music and video, online access to publications and other information, Web services that enable sharing of cars and other durable goods -- instead of physical objects that they will purchase and maintain.  As yet, we don't know what the implications of this shift will be.  Will we move from a culture that views its heritage in thrifty terms or one that views its heritage as an abundance?  Will our next big challenge be selection of content, or will it be provision of access to content?
  • One of the biggest challenges we face when trying to find the resources needed to preserve digital content is our own unwillingness to ask difficult questions.  What are we doing that isn't good for our organization but somehow affirms someone's job?  How can we redirect energy and talent?  How can we use what we have in better ways?
Image:  Rotunda of Bancroft Hall, the mammoth Beaux-Arts dormitory in which all midshipmen reside, United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland, 6 December 2012.  The gifts under the tree are for the Toys for Tots program overseen by the United States Marine Corps Reserve.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Best Practices Exchange, day two

Yesterday was the second day of the 2012 Best Practices Exchange, and the sessions I attended were delightfully heavy on discussion and information sharing. I had some problems accessing the hotel's wifi last night and the BPE is still going on, so I'm going to post a few of yesterday's highlights before turning my attention back to this morning's discussion:
  • Arian Ravanbakhsh, whose morning plenary speech focused on the Presidential Memorandum - Managing Government Records and U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) efforts to implement it, made an important point that all too often gets overlooked: even though an ever-increasing percentage of records created government agencies are born-digital, government archivists will continue to accession paper records well into the future. Substantial quantities of paper federal records have extremely long retention periods and won't be transferred to NARA until the mid-21st century, and, judging from the nodding heads in the audience, most state government archivists (l'Archivista included) anticipate that they'll continue to take in paper records for at least several more decades. Sometimes, I forget that we as a profession will have to ensure that at least two future generations of archivists have the knowledge and skills needed to accession, describe, and provide access to paper records. At the moment, finding new archivists who have the requisite interest and ability isn't much of a challenge -- sadly, archival education programs still attract significant numbers of students who don't want to work with electronic records -- but things might be quite different in 2030.
  • Butch Lazorchak of the Library of Congress highlighted a forthcoming grant opportunity: the Federal Geographic Data Committee, which is responsible for coordinating geospatial data gathering across the federal government and coordinates with state and local governments to assemble a comprehensive body of geospatial data, plans to offer geospatial archiving business planning grants in fiscal year 2013. The formal announcement should be released within a few weeks.
  • Butch also highlighted a couple of tools about which I was aware but haven't really examined closely: the GeoMAPP Geoarchiving Business Planning Toolkit, which can easily be adapted to support business planning for preservation of other types of digital content, the GeoMAPP Geoarchiving Self-Assessment, which lends itself to similar modifications, and the National Digital Stewardship Alliance's Digital Preservation in a Box, a collection of resources that support teaching and self-directed learning about digital preservation.
  • This BPE has seen a lot of discussion about the importance and difficulty of cultivating solid relationships with CIOs, and this morning one state archivist made what I think is an essential point: when talking to CIOs, archivists really need to emphasize the value added by records management and digital preservation. As a rule, we simply haven't done so.
  • This BPE has also generated a lot of ideas about how to support states that have yet to establish electronic records programs, and in the coming months you'll see the Council of State Archivists' State Electronic Records Initiative start turning these ideas into action. As a particularly lively discussion was unfolding this morning, it struck me that most of the people taking part in established full-fledged programs only after they had completed several successful projects; in fact, intense discussions about the challenges associated with transforming projects into programs took place at several early BPEs. If you don't have any hands-on electronic records experience and are facing resource constraints, it makes sense to identify a pressing but manageable problem, figure out how to solve it, and then move on to a few bigger, more complex projects.  After you've accumulated a few successes and learned from a few surprises or failures, you can focus on establishing a full-fledged program.
Image:  storm drain marker on Randall Street at City Dock, Annapolis, Maryland, 3 December 2012.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

2012 Best Practices Exchange, day one

Today was the first day of the 2012 Best Practices Exchange (BPE), an annual event that brings together archivists, librarians, IT professionals, and other people interested in preserving born-digital state government information. The BPE is my favorite professional event, in no part because it encourages presenters to discuss not only their successes but also the ways in which unexpected developments led them to change direction, the obstacles that proved insurmountable, and the lessons they learned along the way.

As I explained last year, those of us who blog and tweet about the BPE are obliged to use a little tact and discretion when making information about the BPE available online. Moreover, in some instances, what's said is more important than who said it. As a result, I'm going to refrain from tying some of the information that appears in this and subsequent posts re: the BPE to specific attendees.

I'm also going to keep this post short. Our opening discussion began at 8:30, the last session ended at 4:45, and I was in a Persistent Digital Archives and Library System (PeDALS) meeting until almost 6:00. The PeDALS crew then hit the streets of Annapolis, Maryland. We started off with ice cream at the Annapolis Ice Cream Company (yum!), and then three of us split off from the group, rested a bit and caught up on the day's e-mail, and had dinner at the Ram's Head Tavern (also yum!) The BPE resumes tomorrow at 8:30, and I'm presenting at the end of the day, so I'm going to highlight the most interesting tidbits of information that I picked up today and then head to bed.

Doug Robinson, executive director of the National Association of Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) was this morning's plenary speaker, and he made a couple of really interesting points:
  • CIOs are juggling a lot of competing priorities. They're concerned about records management and digital preservation, but, as a rule, they're not worried enough to devote substantial attention or resources to improving records management or addressing preservation issues.
  • Cloud computing is now the number one concern of state CIOs, and CIOs are starting to think of themselves less as providers of hardware and software than as providers of services. Moreover, the cloud is attractive because it reduces diversity and complexity, which drive up IT costs. Robinson suspects that most states will eventually develop private cloud environments. Moreover, a recent NASCIO survey indicates that 31 percent of states have moved or plan to move digital archives and records management into the cloud.
  • CIOs are really struggling with Bring Your Own Devices issues and mobile technology, and the speed with which mobile technology changes is frustrating their efforts to come to grips with the situation. Citizens want to interact with state government via mobile apps, but the demand for app programmers is such that states can't retain employees who can create apps; at present, only one state has app programmers on its permanent payroll.
  • Cybersecurity is an increasingly pressing problem. States collect and create a wealth of data about citizens, and criminals (organized and disorganized) and hacktivists are increasingly interested in exploiting it. Spam, phishing, hacking, and network probe attempts are increasingly frequent. Governors don't always grasp the gravity of the threats or the extent to which their own reputations will be damaged if a large-scale breach occurs. Moreover, states aren't looking for ways to redirect existing resources to protecting critical information technology infrastructure or training staff.
  • Most states allocate less than two percent of their annual budgets to IT. Most large corporations devote approximately five percent of their annual budgets to IT.
I had the privilege of moderating one of the afternoon sessions, "Tearing Down the Borders: Coast-to-Coast Archives; Record-Keeping in the Cloud," in which Oregon State Archivist Mary Beth Herkert discussed her state's development of a cloud-based electronic records management system for state agencies and local governments, Bryan Smith of the Washington State Digital Archives detailed some of the Digital Archives' recent technical innovations. They then discussed their joint, National Historical Publications and Records Commission-funded effort to explore expanding Oregon's records management system to Washington State and ingesting Oregon's archival electronic records into Washington's Digital Archives.

I was really struck by Mary Beth's explanation of the cost savings Oregon achieved by moving to the cloud. In 2007, the Oregon State Archives was able to develop an HP Trim-based electronic records management system for its parent agency, the Office of Secretary of State. It wanted to expand this system, which it maintained in-house, to all state agencies and local governments, but it couldn't find a way to push the cost of doing so below $100 per user per month. However, the State Archives found a data center vendor in a small Oregon town that would host the system at a cost of $37 per user per month. When the total number of users reaches 20,000 users, the cost will drop to $10 per user per month.

Bryan made a couple of really intriguing points about the challenges of serving as a preservation repository for records created by multiple states.  First, partners who don't maintain technical infrastructure don't always realize that problems may be lurking within their digital content.  Washington recently led a National Digital Information Infrastructure Preservation Program (NDIIPP) grant project that explored whether its Digital Archives infrastructure could support creation of regional digital repository, and the problems that Digital Archives staff encountered when attempting to ingest data submitted by partner states led to the creation of tools that enable partners to verify the integrity of their data and address any hidden problems lurking within their files and accompanying metadata prior to ingest.

Second, the NDIIPP project and the current Washington-Oregon project really underscored the importance of developing common metadata standards. The records created in one state may differ in important ways from similar records created in another state, but describing records similarly lowers system complexity and increases general accessibility. Encoding metadata in XML makes it easier to massage metadata as needed and gives creators the option of supplying more than the required minimum of elements.

I'm going to wrap up this post by sharing a couple of unattributed tidbits:
  • One veteran archivist has discovered that the best way to address state agency electronic records issues is to approach the agency's CIO first, then speak with the agency's head, and then talk to the agency's records management officer. In essence, this archivist is focusing first on the person who has the biggest headache and then on the person who is most concerned about saving money -- and thinking in terms of business process, not records management.
  • "If you're not at the table, you're going to be on the menu."
Image:  Maryland State House, Annapolis, Maryland, 4 December 2012.  The State House, which was completed in 1779, is the first state capitol building completed after the American Revolution, the oldest state capitol that has been in continuous legislative use and the only state house that has an all-wooden dome.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Reconstructing an organization's history in the wake of a disaster

On 29 October, Hurricane Sandy devastated eastern New Jersey and southeastern New York State. Dozens of people died, scores of homes and commercial buildings were destroyed, and the region's transportation infrastructure suffered extensive damage. Thousands of people are still struggling to salvage damaged possessions from houses that are damaged beyond repair or living in houses and apartment buildings that still lack electricity, gas, water, and other utilities. The governors of New Jersey and New York estimate that the total cost of their states' recovery will be approximately $79 billion.

Since 29 October, several of my colleagues have been fielding calls from state and local government agencies, colleges and universities, libraries, non-profit organizations, and other entities in New York State that have been affected by Sandy. I expect that we'll continue to get these calls for at least a few more weeks; several of the people who have been in contact with us have yet to receive permission to enter their facilities and inspect their records in person.

My involvement in the recovery effort has been pretty much limited to answering occasional questions relating to salvage of damaged electronic media, but I have been in touch with a non-profit organization that lost over twenty years' worth of archival records and publications when its storage space flooded. The records might have been salvageable, but they were discarded by building management, which didn't consult with the organization -- or any of the other organizations that used the same storage facility -- before doing so.

The organization -- which does life-saving work -- has a keen sense of its own history and wants to ensure that its work is documented appropriately. It has some ideas about how to recover its lost institutional history, but would appreciate suggestions from people who have gone though similar experiences. My colleagues and I were able to supply some suggestions, but we're more accustomed to helping people salvage damaged records. Moreover, the archival professional literature doesn't devote much attention to this topic. I thought that at least a few of this blog's tens of regular readers might have some additional ideas. If you have any ideas to add to the following list of strategies for reconstructing an organization's history in the wake of a disaster, please comment on this post.  Thanks!

1. The organization has a substantial social media presence, and its staff recognized right away that issuing a call for donations of older publications and other items might help to replace at least some of the materials that were lost.

2. The organization's office space wasn't damaged, and staff should search their file cabinets, laptops, desktops, and server for older files. A full-scale records inventory is probably in order.

3. The organization is headquartered in New York State but has several geographically distant branch offices. The other offices probably have paper or electronic copies of at least some lost records and publications.

4. The organization has a board of directors and an advisory group, and we suggested reaching out to current and former members of these bodies. (I'm really hoping that at least one member has pack-rat tendencies.) Current and former staff members may also have kept copies of records and publications that they helped to create; they may also have photographs and other materials that might help to document the organization's history.

5. An oral history project centering on current and former board members and staffers may help to recapture information that isn't present in surviving records.

6. The organization's finances are audited by an outside firm, and the firm may have copies of older financial records. The organization's outside counsel may also have copies of records of enduring or operational value.

7. The Internet Archive has been crawling the organization's site since the late 1990s, and a cursory review of the oldest crawls reveals that publications and other content that is no longer part of the organization's live site are available through the Internet Archive. A systematic review of the Internet Archive's crawls of the site may be in order.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

SAA 2013

Apologies for the long silence.  During the past four weeks, I've driven over 2500 miles, written and delivered two presentations, reviewed 137 conference session proposals, tended a seriously ill (and now recovering) cat, and flown to Chicago in order to help turn those 137 proposals into a 70-session conference -- and that's just the stuff I did when I wasn't at work. 

As a member of the Program Committee for the 2013 joint annual meeting of the Council of State Archivists (CoSA) and the Society of American Archivists (SAA), it gives me great pleasure to state that the meeting program is going to be really exciting.  Unfortunately, I can't share any details at this time.  However, I can tell you that some of the Saturday sessions are going to be fantastic; if you have to book your airfare before the preliminary program comes out next year, keep this fact in mind!

I'm particularly glad that I got the opportunity to serve on the 2013 Program Committee:  next year's meeting will be held in New Orleans, and those of you who follow this blog know that the Crescent City holds a special place in my heart.  SAA last met in New Orleans in 2005, and the meeting ended less than two weeks before Hurricane Katrina exposed catastrophic weaknesses in the city's levee system.  I'm elated that SAA is finally returning to New Orleans this year.   If you've never visited the city, you're in for a treat -- it's like no other place in the United States.  If you attended the 2005 annual meeting, you know that New Orleans archivists are incredibly proud, gracious, and vivacious hosts, that the city itself is fascinating, and that the Hilton New Orleans Riverside is a great venue.

I'm heading home to Albany tomorrow morning.  Once I get settled in, you'll see a little more activity around here.  In the meantime, I hope you're well and that I'll see you in New Orleans next August.

Image:  decorative metalwork entryway to the Sullivan Center (originally the Carson, Pirie, Scott and Co. building) at 1 South Street, Chicago, Illinois.  Sullivan Center was designed by Louis Sullivan, and the distinctive metalwork is commonly attributed to George Grant Elmslie, who served as Sullivan's chief draftsman following the departure of Frank Lloyd Wright.  This entryway is literally a stone's throw away from SAA's headquarters at 17 North State Street.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

University of Tennessee at Chattanooga seeks a Digital Archivist

I love job postings that emphasize the importance of professional development . . . .

If you're an experienced archivist who's comfortable with preserving and providing access to born-digital, digitized, and analog materials and would like to live in a mid-sized Southern city that is home to several colleges and universities, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga may have a job for you:
Reporting to the Head of Special Collections and University Archives, the Digital Archivist plays a leadership role in the development, planning, promotion, delivery, and evaluation of digital initiatives involving Special Collections materials and services.

Specific responsibilities include:
  • Arrange, process, catalog, preserve, and make accessible to the public born and/or converted digital archives and special collections materials though the acquisition, appraisal, description, management, and preservation of such records with historical, evidential, research, or administrative value to the University.
  • Plan, schedule, implement, and document standards, policies and best practices related to digital collections, metadata and schema, workflow, and oversee the quality control of digital work.
  • Participates in the creation of documentation, finding aids, and web guides for print and digital collections.
  • Participate in the active management and preservation of a wide array of types of collections, including but not limited to university records and websites, manuscripts and personal papers,
    faculty research datasets, and scholarly publications.
  • Participate in the development of the University’s institutional repository.
  • Promote Special Collections and University Archives materials and services to the campus community through online finding aids, exhibits, special events, and outreach activities, and providing collection access to a global community.
  • Participate in other duties in Special Collections such as guiding interns and student assistants, assisting with donors, and monitoring the Special Collections Reading Room.
  • In addition, this position will collaborate with other library departments on digital projects, has responsibility for regular reference desk work (approximately 1‐2 hours per week), collection
  • development in assigned subject areas, outreach activities, committee assignments and other library-wide efforts.
Required Qualifications
  • Master's degree from an ALA‐accredited program.
  • Knowledge of archival and digital theory and practice in managing, preserving, and providing access to digital objects in an academic library setting.
  • Knowledge of preservation planning for print and electronic materials, including the creation of preservation policies, procedures, and a disaster recovery plan.
  • Knowledge of emerging trends in digital technologies as they relate to archival and preservation practices, and the ability to effectively use current technologies, acquire new technological skills, and resolve problems in a resourceful and timely manner.
  • Knowledge of web archiving, working with born digital personal papers or university records, and issues related to working with large and complex research data sets and related collections.
  • Knowledge of digital content standards, cataloging and metadata standards and schema such as MARC, XML, EAD, Dublin Core, METS, MODS, LCSH, MeSH, TGM I, NAF, AAT, as well as authority records, AACR2 and RDA; and classification schema such as LCC and NLMC.
  • Proven experience in managing digital collections, digital scanning, image editing, and/or webpage design, and managing format conversion.
  • Proven experience using a digital asset management system (e.g. Content Pro, CONTENTdm, DSpace).
  • Ability to promote the use of the department's collections to university faculty, students, other members of the scholarly community, and the general public and experience incorporating primary source research in the curriculum and outreach.
    Demonstrated experience as a successful project manager and the ability to organize, prioritize work and manage time.
  • Possess a positive attitude and the ability to be flexible, future‐oriented in a dynamic team oriented environment.
  • Strong writing and oral communication skills.
  • Strong interpersonal skills evidenced by the ability to work cooperatively and maintain effective working relationships with colleagues, faculty, staff and students.
  • Possess strong customer focus, a passion for the profession, and a deep commitment to service and outreach in an academic community 
  • Preparation and commitment to conduct independent scholarship consistent with a tenure-track faculty appointment.
  • Commitment to engage in continuing professional development.
UTC Librarians are expected to participate in library‐wide and system‐wide planning, University governance and service, and to be professionally active.

Desirable Qualifications
  • Experience in collection development, instruction, and reference desk experience for an academic library.
  • Demonstrated experience with repository platforms (e.g., Fedora, DSpace).
  • Knowledge of copyright, intellectual property and privacy laws as they relate to published and unpublished materials.
  • Archives experience in an academic setting.
The minimum salary for this position is $43,500.  Review of applications will begin on 5 November and will continue until the position is filled.  For more information about the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, employee benefits, and detailed application instructions, consult the position description.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Rollins College is searching for a Digital Archivist

If you have theoretical and practical knowledge of electronic records management and digital preservation, solid project management skills, a desire for a tenure-track position at a liberal arts institution, and live or would like to live in the Orlando, Florida area, Rollins College may have a job for you:
Rollins College is looking for a service-oriented library archivist to help with the design, development and implementation of a digital archive and record management program at Rollins College. Reporting to the Head of Archives & Special Collections and collaborating with the Collections & Systems Department, the Digital Archivist will play a key role in collecting, organizing, and making accessible digital resources relating to the history of the institution.

As the oldest institution of higher education in Florida, Rollins maintains a rich archive of the history of the college and of central Florida, and an impressive array of special collections. We already have a decade of experience in digitizing archival documents, managed using ContentDM, years of experience in creating online finding aids, most recently using Archon, and since 2009 we have maintained an institutional repository of faculty and student scholarship, using Digital Commons. The existing staff of one professional archivist/librarian, one support professional, and two student employees are excited to be joined by a digital archivist who can lead our efforts to collect, organize, and make accessible the born-digital documents and objects created by the Rollins community. Consult our website for more information on our Archives & Special Collections.

This is a tenure-track faculty position. Librarians with faculty status at Rollins College are expected to show a pattern of growth and development in librarianship, teaching, scholarship and service that is expected to continue throughout their career at Rollins. The successful candidate will, like all full-time librarians at Rollins, participate in reference service, instruction and liaison with academic departments.

MLS from an ALA-accredited library school or an equivalent degree, and working experience or significant coursework in archival science, records management, digital curating or digital preservation are required.

A second master’s in an academic discipline is preferred. Two or more years of experience in electronic record management or digital archives are strongly preferred.

The successful candidate will demonstrate most of the following knowledge, skills, and abilities: working knowledge of modern archival practices and understanding of digital record management; familiarity with standard principles and practices for item description/metadata; ability to effectively plan and manage projects from vision to evaluation; solid computer skills and the ability to learn new tools quickly; ability to communicate well orally and in writing; ability to interact with the public effectively and courteously; ability to work in a team environment and independently; an appreciation for the liberal arts and the role of the library in higher education; and the potential to present, publish, or otherwise contribute to the library/archival profession.
This job was posted on 5 October and applications will be accepted until the position is filled. The salary is "competitive." For more information and detailed application instructions, consult the position description.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Day of Digital Archives

Today is the second annual Day of Digital Archives, which seeks to:
raise awareness of digital archives among both users and managers. On this day, archivists, digital humanists, programmers, or anyone else creating, using, or managing digital archives are asked to devote some of their social media output (i.e. tweets, blog posts, youtube videos, etc.) to describing their work with digital archives. By collectively documenting what we do, we will be answering questions like: What are digital archives? Who uses them? How are they created and managed? Why are they important?
For me, this particular Day of Digital Archives was -- with the exception of this blog post -- completely devoid of digital archives.  I'm visiting my parents at the moment, and today has been more about talking with my mom and dad, driving around, buying food, and going through stuff (physical objects, not digital files or emotional issues) than anything else.  However, I do have a few minutes in which to dash off a quick post, so I'll outline the things that I've during the last five working days:
  • Since 2006, my repository, the New York State Archives, has been using OCLC's Heritrix-based Web Harvester to capture state government Web sites.  We've now documented three (!) gubernatorial transitions and a host of other changes in state government, so now is a good time to step back, assess what we've captured, and determine whether we should capture specific sites more frequently, less frequently, or at roughly the same rate, so a colleague and I have been sifting through a subset of our captured sites and preparing a draft report and recommendations. 
  • Our preservation copies of our Web captures are housed in OCLC's Digital Archive, and we're starting to explore the possibility of using the Digital Archive for remote storage of some of our other electronic records.  OCLC's Digital Archive documentation is pretty good, but it doesn't answer all of our questions, so earlier this week, one of my colleagues and I sat down for a conference call with an OCLC staffer.
  • I put together the first draft of a document that discusses the basics of electronic records disaster preparedness, particularly for small organizations that aren't likely to have full-fledged disaster preparedness or business continuity plans, and outlines how to salvage and stabilize damaged electronic media in the wake of a disaster.  Several colleagues are currently reviewing it.
That's what I did at the office.  I've also been focusing on a couple of extracurricular projects:
  • I coordinated the assembly of a session proposal for the 2013 joint annual meeting of the Council of State Archivists and the Society of American Archivists that focuses on records management and digital preservation in cloud computing environments.
  • My former colleague Jim Tammaro is now teaching an Advanced Archives Management course at SUNY Buffalo, and next Tuesday I'm speaking to his students about archival preservation of Web sites and social media content; in addition to various policy issues, I'm going to highlight Heritrix, HTTrack, and various other tools.  I began working on my slides and handouts several weekends ago, and I'll put the finishing touches on them tomorrow and Sunday.
  • At the upcoming Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference (MARAC) meeting in Richmond, Virginia, Paul Wester and Arian Ravanbaksh of the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and I will be taking part in a session focusing on the recent Presidential Memorandum on Managing Government Records.  Paul and Arian will talk about the memorandum, which heavily stresses the need for appropriate management of federal electronic records, and NARA's efforts to provide advice and guidance to federal agencies seeking to comply with this directive.  I'll discuss the implications of the memorandum for state governments, and I devoted a couple of evenings to pulling together an initial outline and compiling background statistics re:  recent changes in state archives staffing levels in the MARAC region.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Wyoming State Archives is looking for a Records Management Supervisor

If you're an experienced records manager who would like to live in a small Western city situated in a semi-arid climate, the Wyoming State Archives may have a job for you:
The successful applicant will enjoy a small town atmosphere only 90 miles from Denver, CO. In 2011, Cheyenne was named one of the 10 most "liveable" cities in America with no state income tax, clean air and water, a low crime rate, an average of 300 days of sunshine per year and nearby access to skiing, hiking, fishing and other outdoor activities. In addition to enjoying all that Wyoming has to offer, the successful candidate will join the State Archives during an exciting time as we start our digital records initiative. The Records Management Supervisor will manage the Records Management unit of the Wyoming State Archives; collaborate with the State Archivist on the implementation of a centralized repository for digital records created by state agencies; work with state agencies to facilitate the transfer of records to the state records center and digital repository; and promote the mission of the Records Management unit and the Wyoming State Archives.
  • Establish objectives and set priorities for the Records Management unit.
  • Evaluate the performance of the staff in the Records Management unit.
  • Conduct needs assessment and develop policies and procedures for all aspects of records management.
  • Develop strategies and administer programs relating to acquiring, preserving, managing and providing access to various records of the State of Wyoming in the state records center and digital repository.
  • Explain policies, procedures and practices to other agencies, concerned individuals and/or groups.
  • Coordinate records retention requirements for state and local government entities.
  • Lead the collection of statistics and the production of unit quarterly and annual reports.
  • Measure and document the effectiveness of the records management program and lead long and short range planning.
  • Assist with reference requests.
  • Maintain specialized record storage system(s).
  • Train representatives from other state agencies on the use of specialized record storage system(s).
  • Lead development of request for proposal (RFP) and contracts.
  • Serve as agency liaison for certain contracts and associated exchange of services between agency and contractor(s).
  • Assist in hardware and software acquisition and development purchases with regard to/for records and data management and installation of hardware and software
  • Knowledge of records management theories, principles and practices.
  • Knowledge of archival science theories, principles and practices.
  • Knowledge of governmental records systems.
  • Knowledge of principles and concepts of program management and project management.
  • Understanding of and skills in information technology.
  • Excellent communication skills
Preference will be given to applicants with a Master's degree in Library or Information Science PLUS three years of progressive work experience in Records and Data Management, INCLUDING two years of supervisory experience. Professional certification desirable (CRM, Information Certification, CDIA, and/or CA).
By my calculations, the hiring range for this position is $50,244-$59,100.

For more information and detailed application instructions, consult the position description.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Georgia Secretary of State seeks a State Records Manager

Yep, you read that right: Georgia's Office of the Secretary of State -- the very same Office of the Secretary of State that is planning to close the Georgia Archives and lay off seven of its ten remaining staffers at the end of this month -- is hiring a State Records Manager who will, among other things, be responsible for contributing to "the development and implementation of the state’s digital records center." 

I honestly don't know what to make of this posting; the folks at Georgians Against Closing State Archives are equally flummoxed.  I do have a few suspicions.  The position description states that the person who takes this job will be "responsible for maintaining and expanding services at a fee-based records center and will help develop a business model to ensure the sustainability and appropriateness of the State Records Center and its services."  Someone's looking for some new sources of revenue!  I suppose that it's also possible that Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who stated yesterday that his office has had to divert resources to keep up with the citizenship checks that Georgia law now requires when anyone applies for or seeks to renew a professional license, is playing some sort of high-stakes game of chicken. 

The position description, which was posted yesterday, also indicates that the deadline for applying is next Thursday, which suggests to me that the Office of the Secretary of State hopes that the candidate pool will be very small -- and that it will be dominated by the Georgia Archives employees who received layoff notices last month.

In the interest of completeness, I'm posting the particulars below.  However, unless you're truly desperate for a job or already live in the Atlanta area and can live with the idea of working for an employer that has repeatedly laid off records professionals, you might want to think twice before applying for it.
Duties & Responsibilities
The State Records Manager plans, organizes, directs, implements, and evaluates statewide records management services on behalf of the Division of Archives and History. The position manages the State Records Center; ensures the proper storage, retention and destruction of state agency records; provides training in records management for state and local government agency personnel; applies appropriate technologies to the management of records; manages the Media Security Vault for state and local government agencies; assists with the preparation of retention schedule proposals to the State Records Committee; and assists with the development and implementation of the state’s digital records center.

The State Records Manager is responsible for maintaining and expanding services at a fee-based records center and will help develop a business model to ensure the sustainability and appropriateness of the State Records Center and its services. The State Records Manager position is a highly visible position with statewide influence on the direction of records management programs in Georgia that requires the ability to think strategically and innovatively, extensive knowledge of records management, and the ability to work well with colleagues, government employees, and elected officials.

 Minimum Training & Experience
 Completion of a Bachelor's degree in a related field from an accredited college or university AND three years of experience managing professional level staff in an Archival Institution or a Records Management program. OR Seven years of experience in an Archival Institution or a Records Management program, three years of which managing professional level staff.

Agency Specific Qualifications
A Master’s degree in a related field and two (2) years of relevant professional experience or a Bachelor’s degree in a related field and four (4) years of relevant professional experience in an Archival Institution or a Records Management program.

Supervisory Experience
Two (2) years experience at the management or administrative level involving direct supervision of professional staff and/or responsibility for a major program element.

Agency Specific Qualifications and/or Preferred Qualifications
Bachelor’s Degree in a relevant field and four years of professional experience related to the management of records, or Master’s Degree in Information Technology, Archival or Public Administration, Records & Information Management, Library Science (from ALA accredited program), or related field and two years of professional experience related to the management of records.
The salary range for this position is $50,000-$57,000.  For additional information and detailed application instructions, consult the position description.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

"Little Boxes (in the Archives)"

In honor of American Archives Month, here's a sweet little parody of the folk song "Little Boxes" that transforms a critique of suburbia into a tongue-in-cheek portrayal of the work that archivists do and the little boxes ("there's a gray one and a gray one and a gray one and a gray one") into which they place paper records. I don't know who LettersFromTheAbyss is, but it's quite evident that he's either an archivist or someone who spends a lot of time around archivists.

Thanks to Nathan Tallman for drawing my attention to this charming little video.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Future of the Georgia Archives is still uncertain

Today is the first day of American Archives Month, and the news out of Georgia remains deeply worrisome.  Two weeks ago, Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp announced that, in response to a directive to cut his agency's expenditures by 3 percent, the Georgia Archives will be closed to the public effective 1 November.  Shortly afterward, news that Kemp was planning to lay off 7 of the Georgia Archives' 10 employees ricocheted around various listservs and social media sites; appalling as this news is, it takes on added resonance when one remembers that that as recently as 2006, the Georgia Archives had a staff of 47.

A few days after Secretary Kemp made this announcement, Governor Nathan Deal raised the hopes of family historians, scholars, attorneys, land surveyors, scientists, and other users of the Georgia Archives when he stated that the Georgia Archives would remain open.  However, in Georgia the office of the Secretary of State and the office of Governor are constitutionally separate, and Governor Deal doesn't have the authority to rescind layoff notices issued by the Secretary of State or to dictate how the Secretary of State expends its allocated funds.  Secretary Kemp opted to make the Georgia Archives bear the entire brunt of the 3 percent budget cut; other divisions overseen by the Secretary of State will continue to operate as they did before the budget cut was announced.

Georgia's legislature is ultimately responsible for approving the proposed budget cuts, but the next legislative session won't begin until January -- well after the layoffs go into effect.

As of 1 November, anyone seeking access to the holdings of the Georgia Archives will have to make an appointment in advance -- and might not be able to secure one in a timely manner.  At the time of this writing, the Web site of the Secretary of State indicates -- unsurprisingly -- that "the number of appointments could be limited based on the schedule of the remaining employees."

What a wretched state of affairs.  As noted above, the holdings of the Georgia Archives are used by a wide array of users.  Some are interested in the histories of their families.  Some are scientists trying to figure out how to best to reintroduce the American chestnut in Georgia.  Some are local historians conducting research in connection with the Civil War sesquicentennial -- and helping to pave the way for an influx of tourist dollars into the state's coffers.  Some are lawyers -- in many instances representing the State of Georgia or one of its local governments -- preparing for trial.  If they can't obtain the records they need in a timely manner, the state and its localities will likely be forced to enter into costly out of court settlements even if they are squarely in the right.

Moreover, reducing the staff of the Georgia Archives to a mere three people will have devastating effects.  There's simply no way three people can respond to more than a handful of inquiries at any given time.  Moreover, the Georgia Archives, which has already suffered crippling hemorrhages of expertise, is going to lose even more of its institutional knowledge.  We archivists struggle mightily to pour our knowledge of our holdings into finding aids, MARC records, and accession files, but as yet there's no substitute for deep familiarity with the content and quirks of one's own holdings.  This familiarity comes slowly and once lost it's incredibly hard to reconstruct. 

Finally, one can't help but wonder about the long-term effects of the closure and layoffs upon Georgia's historical record.  When people think of historical records, they think of linen or cotton paper bearing elaborate handwriting, ornately bound record books, and manuscript maps.  They don't think of the masses of paper records created ten years ago or the ever-increasing number of digital files that Georgia's state agencies and local governments create in the course of conducting the people's business.  However, some of these records are every bit as valuable as those record books and manuscript documents, and the Georgia Archives is responsible for working with records creators to identify records of enduring value, ensure that they are managed properly, and arrange for their eventual transfer to the archives.  There's simply no way that three people can simultaneously provide access to the existing holdings of the Georgia Archives, provide records management guidance to local governments and state agencies, and continue to take in new accessions of archival records and make them accessible to researchers.

(By the way, Georgia is not the only state affected by such challenges.  Last week, Kim Severson of the New York Times asserted in a must-read article that "an amalgam of recession-driven budget cuts and fast-moving technological changes could result in a black hole of [state] government information whose impact might not be understood for decades.")

In honor of American Archives Month, I encourage you to do the following:
  • Sign the online petition Leave Our State Archives Open to the Public.  You do not have to be a Georgia resident to do so.
  • "Like" the Facebook group Georgians Against Closing State Archives, which has been a consistently excellent source of up-to-date information about the impending closure and the struggle against it.  (It's also a great source of protest cartoons, among them the cartoon featured at the start of this post).
  • Check out the Web site of Friends of Georgia Archives and History, which has been instrumental in coordinating the campaign against the Georgia Archives' closure.  (Pay particular attention to the slideshow presentation outlining the importance of the Georgia Archives -- its clarity, coherence, and visual attractiveness make it a useful model for other advocacy efforts.)
  • If you're going to be in Atlanta on 3 October, attend the "Support the Archives / Save the Seven" rally that will be held in the State Capitol Rotunda at noon.
  • Write letters to Governor Deal and Secretary of State Kemp or call their offices and explain why you object to the closing of the Georgia Archives.  Letters and phone calls still mean a lot to politicians.  If you need some help composing your letter or preparing your comments, be sure to check out the action alert issued by the National Coalition for History.
  • If you're a Georgia resident, call or write your state senator and assembly representative.  All of Georgia's legislators serve two-year terms, and there's an election coming up in a few weeks.  Now really is the time to make your concerns known to them.  The Society of Georgia Archivists has put together a series of handy tips for legislative contacts.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Alabama Dept. of Archives and History seeks an Electronic Records Archivist

If you have theoretical and real-world knowledge of electronic records and at least two years of professional work experience, would like to live in or near a good-sized Southern city, and relish the thought of interacting wth capable, dedicated, and gracious colleagues, the Alabama Department of Archives and History may have a job for you:
Job Description
The Alabama Department of Archives and History seeks a highly motivated, innovative and collaborative Electronic Records Archivist to lead preservation activities within the organization. Reporting to the head of the Government Services Division, the archivist will be responsible for the acquisition, appraisal, description, management, policy-formation, and preservation of born-digital and imaged records with legal, historical, evidential, research, or administrative value.

This position announcement is not for a technician whose job responsibilities would include scanning records, creating metadata for scanned images, and placing both into a digital assessment management system. Instead the ADAH is looking for a self-motivated, big-picture thinker who can take the current industry best practices regarding electronic records management and preservation and develop a clear, directed program for state and local agency officials to implement.

  • Bachelor’s degree in archives/library/information science or a related field with completion of graduate level course work in archives. (A degree specializing in archival science, digital curation, or digital preservation is preferred.) Plus two years of professional experience in archival work and records management in an archival repository.
  • A Driver’s License
Desired Experience
  • Application of archival theory and practice to the management and preservation of electronic records. 
  • Demonstrated experience with repository platforms Windows, Unix, Voyager, ContentDM, and/or LOCKSS.
  • Project management experience as it applies to management of electronic/digital content.
  • Experience generating checksums, creating preservation metadata, and working with tools that verify file authenticity and tools that identify potentially restricted content strongly preferred. 
Consult the position description for detailed salary information and application instructions.  Information about benefits available to Alabama government employees is available through the Alabama State Personnel Department.

If you're interested in applying for this position, be sure to check out the Web site of the Library of Congress-funded Persistent Digital Archives and Library System (PeDALS) project and PeDALS project information maintained by the Library of Congress.  The Alabama Department of Archives and History joined PeDALS well after the project started, but it (and another new partner, the New Mexico State Archives) jumped in, mastered a very steep learning curve, and got a fully functioning LOCKSS system up and running with remarkable speed.  Even though the project is no longer grant-funded, Alabama and several of the PeDALS partners are still expanding and refining the PeDALS system architecture, so take a little time to explore the project's technical components and goals.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Seventeenth Capital Region Archives Dinner

The Capital Region Archives Dinner Committee, in co-operation with the New York State Archives Partnership Trust and Capital Area Archivists of New York, is proud to present the Seventeenth Annual Capital Region Archives Dinner. It will be held at the historic Gideon Putnam Spa Resort in Saratoga Springs, New York on Thursday October 4, 2012.

The keynote speaker is Dr. Jennifer Dorsey, Director of Siena College’s Center for Revolutionary Era Studies, who will be speaking about draft dodging during the War of 1812. Her talk is based on a larger research project based on the life of tenant farmer George Holcomb and the diary that Holcomb maintained for fifty years in Rensselaer County, New York.

 Each year, the Archives Dinner Committee recognizes individuals who or organizations that have made significant contributions to the preservation and enhancement of local archives as part of our annual celebration. This year we will recognize the Conference on New York State History, the New York State Military Museum and Veterans Research Center, and Town of Queensbury Historian Marilyn Van Dyke.

Tickets for this year's Archives Dinner are $35.00 each, and you have a choice of three entrees:
  • Slow roasted, thyme-rubbed turkey breast with cranberry pan gravy
  • Chef's choice of seafood du jour
  • Vegetable Napoleon in a sauce of fire-roasted tomatoes
I've had the pleasure of dining at the Gideon Putnam -- checking out prospective venues is one of the perks of being an Archives Dinner Committee member -- and I can assure you that the food will be delicious, the ambiance will be pleasing, and the service will be first-rate. 

If you're interested in attending this year's Archives Dinner, the deadline for making reservations is 1 October 2012.  For more information, consult the Archives Dinner Web site.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Clayton State University is looking for a Temporary Assistant Professor

If you're a seasoned electronic records/digital archivist or records manager who has hands-on experience with tools such as Archivematica, BagIt, and Curator's Workbench and who relishes the thought of educating future archivists, Clayton State University may have a temporary faculty position for you.  Clayton State's Master of Archival Studies program is exclusively online, so you must be comfortable with teaching students you may never meet face-to-face.

Given that archival and library/information science programs are rapidly moving online, it behooves the budding archival educator to move into the online teaching environment as soon as possible.  And if you take this particular job, you'll get to spend time -- in "meatspace" and online -- with Archival Studies program director and Digital Preservation Pioneer Richard Pearce-Moses, whose quicksilver mind, sharp wit, kind heart, and boundless enthusiasm for archivy make him the very best sort of colleague.
Job Description
The Master of Archival Studies Program in the College of Information and Mathematical Sciences at Clayton State University invites applications for a temporary graduate faculty position at the rank of (temporary) Assistant Professor for Spring 2013. A search for a tenure track faculty position for Fall 2013 is anticipated to commence in Spring 2013. An individual hired for the temporary faculty position will be eligible to apply for the tenure-track position.

Application procedures
Each applicant should submit the following documents for the consideration: 1) a letter of application summarizing the applicant’s qualifications, 2) a current curriculum vita, 3) transcripts of all college coursework (sent directly to the Provost’s Office), 4) a statement of teaching philosophy, 5) a statement of research interests and 6) at least three letters of recommendation, one of which directly addresses the candidate’s teaching abilities. Review of applications will begin immediately and will continue until the position is filled. Full consideration will be given to all applications submitted by 15 October 2012. Additional supporting materials may be requested at the discretion of the program director. For additional information, please contact Richard Pearce-Moses, Clayton State University, 2000 Clayton State Blvd., Morrow GA 30260, rpearcemoses[at]

The Program
The Master of Archival Studies program began in 2010 and has strong support from a large community of professional archivists in the state who assist as adjunct faculty, provide internships, and are willing to work with students on specific projects in courses. The program began offering online courses in 2011, and as of Fall 2012 the program is completely online. Because the Master of Archival Studies is an online program, students may live outside the Atlanta area.

The University
Clayton State University is located in a beautiful lakeside setting fifteen minutes southeast of downtown Atlanta. The University currently offers nine master's degree programs and 39 baccalaureate degree programs, with an enrollment of more than 6500 students. The University is ranked by U.S. News & World Report as having the most diverse student population among comprehensive baccalaureate-level colleges and universities in the Southern United States. The University was named one of the "Top 100 Workplaces in Atlanta" by the Atlanta Journal Constitution. A national pioneer in "ubiquitous mobile computing," Clayton State was the third public university to require that each student have access to a notebook computer and has distinguished its learning environment as one of a small number of "Notebook Universities." Clayton State is adjacent to the Georgia Archives and the National Archives at Atlanta.  

Job Duties
The individual will teach three graduate courses per semester in a synchronous, online environment. Course topics will include archives, records management, and archival technology. Because the program emphasizes digital archives, applicants must have a strong background in information technology. Strengths in records management; reference, access, and outreach; and digital preservation and curation are desirable. The temporary position will support the development of the program, but does not require research or other service as expected of tenure-track faculty. The position is based in Morrow, Georgia, fifteen miles southeast of Atlanta.  

Required qualifications
  • An earned terminal degree in one of the following areas: archival studies, library and information science, information technology, public history, or another closely related field. 
  • Candidates having an advanced degree in one of the above fields and significant recognition for substantive and distinctive contributions to the field of archival studies or digital curation may also be considered. 
  • Candidates must be eligible to work in the United States by the time of appointment. 
Additional, desirable qualifications
  • Certification by the Academy of Certified Archivists or the Institute for Certified Records Managers strongly preferred. 
  • Doctorate in archival studies, library and information science, information technology, public history, or another closely related field.
  • A record of or potential for distinguished graduate teaching directly related to archival studies. -The ability to engage students in online courses. 
  • Three or more years’ experience as a professional archivist or records manager. 
  • Evidence of current involvement in scholarly research. 
Salary will be competitive with comparable programs.
There's just one more thing you need to know:  final candidates for this position will undergo a criminal background investigation.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Northeast Document Conservation Center seeks a Director of Preservation Services

If you're a verbally adept preservation expert who has worked with both paper and electronic materials, relishes the thought of developing innovative educational initiatives, excels at multitasking, and lives or would like to live in the Boston area, the Northeast Document Conservation Center wants to hear from you:
Position Summary
The Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC) is seeking an experienced preservation professional to lead and manage its nationally-recognized education programs and consulting services. The Director of Preservation Services designs ground-breaking projects and programs; manages a staff of in-house educators and consultants; lectures on a variety of preservation topics; is active in professional associations; serves on advisory committees of peer institutions; and works closely with NEDCC’s marketing and public relations manager to reach a national audience. The Director of Preservation Services reports to the Executive Director and is a member of NEDCC’s senior leadership team.

Applicants must have:
  • A broad knowledge of and experience in traditional collections preservation and digital curation
  • Demonstrated experience in managing a variety of projects, employees, and consultants at one time
  • A high level of maturity and solid reputation in the field 
  • Clear, concise, and eloquent written and oral communication skills 
  • Excellent relationship-building skills, and 
  • A master’s degree in library and information science and/or preservation management
NEDCC’s Preservation Services department is currently staffed with three in-house educators/consultants and one technology/events coordinator. Services include general preservation needs assessments, digital collections needs assessments, webinars, workshops, conferences, 24-hour disaster assistance, and answering technical inquiries. Products include print and online publications, online self-help tutorials, and a variety of preservation- and disaster-planning tools. The Preservation Services staff also serves as an in-house reference resource for NEDCC’s conservation and digital imaging staffs.
The position description, which contains detailed application instructions, states that "salary and benefits are competitive" and that applications will be accepted until this position is filled.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Hillsborough: archive as memorial

We archivists devote a lot of thought to the informational value of archives, but archives can also have profound symbolic value. Recent developments in the United Kingdom highlight just how closely informational value and symbolic value can intertwine.

On 15 April 1989, two British football teams -- Liverpool and Nottingham Forest -- were scheduled to play a Football Association Cup semi-final match in Sheffield's Hillsborough Stadium, which featured a mix of seated areas and standing-only terraces.  Two of the terrace "pens" allotted to Liverpool fans became horrifically overcrowded.  Spectators at the front of the pens were pushed against the safety barriers and fences installed at the front of the terrace, and by the time the match was suspended -- six minutes into play -- dozens of people were dead or dying.  Some fell to the floor and were trampled underfoot, and others died of compressive asphyxia while still on their feet.  Ninety-four people died on 15 April, and two others later succumbed to injuries suffered in the crush.  Hundreds of other fans suffered serious injuries, and countless others were traumatized.

The Hillsborough Disaster, as it is commonly known, was the subject of several high-profile official investigations that identified the failure of the South Yorkshire Police to control the crowd as the chief cause of the disaster.  However, several of these investigations also concluded that spectators' drunkenness and last-minute rush to enter the stadium were also contributing factors, and none of them examined the police and medical response to the disaster as it unfolded.

Several organizations representing survivors and the families of those who perished as a result of the disaster continued to press the British government to conduct a more comprehensive investigation and to release public documents reviewed by previous investigative panels, and in 2010 the government established the Hillsborough Independent Panel and charged it not only with identifying the causes of the disaster but also with examining authorities' response to it and making investigative materials accessible to survivors, families, and the public at large.

The panel released its final report a few days ago, and its findings are damning:
  • In 1981, overcrowding on the terraces during a Sheffield Wednesday Football Club match at Hillsborough very nearly resulted in tragedy, but the club, which didn't want to spend large amounts of money to upgrade the facility, and the South Yorkshire Police, which was more concerned about crowd control than spectator safety, neglected to take steps to avert future incidents.
  • On 15 April 1989, South Yorkshire Police, which again was chiefly concerned about crowd control, failed to monitor conditions on the terraces and made a series of decisions that routed large numbers of Liverpool spectators to terrace pens that were already dangerously over capacity.
  • Police and stadium officials were slow to recognize that fans at the front of the pens were in desperate trouble, and even after the gravity of the situation became apparent they neglected to follow their own emergency response procedures.  The failure to bring in medical personnel and supplies in a timely manner and establish systematic triage was particularly devastating:  post-mortem reports suggest that as many as 41 of the 96 people who died might have survived had they received prompt, appropriate care.
  • South Yorkshire Police gathered detailed statements from all personnel who had been assigned to work at the stadium that day -- and senior officials altered 164 of these statements in an effort to save face and minimize financial liability.
  • Contrary to police and press allegations, Liverpool fans were not drunken hooligans, did not conspire to rush into the stadium immediately before kickoff, and did not attack or impede emergency personnel.  The people who died had consumed alcohol in quantities that might be expected of people enjoying an outing, and the overwhelming majority of those who survived followed police orders before and during the disaster and did whatever they could to save the dying, aid the injured, and assist police and ambulance crews.
The panel's charge also compelled it to "work with the Keeper of Public Records in preparing options for establishing an archive of Hillsborough documentation, including a catalogue of all central governmental and local public agency information and a commentary on any information withheld for the benefit of the families or on legal or other grounds," and one chapter of the report details its efforts to develop a Permanent Archive for the Hillsborough Disaster.  This archive, which currently consists of digitized images of 25,000 of the 450,000 pages of records that the panel examined, brings together materials created by approximately 80 organizations and a number of private individuals.  It will exist only in digital form; the paper originals will remain in repositories in Sheffield and  Liverpool and at the National Archives facility at Kew.

 The report explains that the Permanent Archive is designed to increase "public understanding of the context, circumstances and consequences of the disaster and why no satisfactory resolution of the issues raised by the families and survivors has been achieved."  Its contents "provide the most complete record of events available, disclosing the decisions taken and actions progressed by those involved throughout an extended period before and since the disaster." 

The Permanent Archive is also meant to serve as "a lasting national memorial to those who died, survived or were affected by the tragedy [emphasis added]."  That a collection of documents might serve as a memorial may seem a bit odd, but in this instance, it seems entirely fitting.  Erik Ketelaar has argued that archives should be seen as"repositories of meaning," and Hillsborough Independent Panel -- whose members include a former Keeper of Public Records -- clearly see themselves as revealing the existence of meanings and truths that had been suppressed or denied:  as the panel's chair, the Right Reverend John Jones, explains in the report's foreword, the documents that comprise the Permanent Archive provide conclusive proof "that the fans were not the cause of the disaster" and "that the bereaved families met a series of obstacles in their search for justice." The creation of the Permanent Archive is, in and of itself, an acknowledgement of "the legitimacy of the search for justice by the bereaved families and survivors of Hillsborough."

The report and the Permanent Archive have already spurred other efforts to right past wrongs.  Over the weekend, the editor in chief of the tabloid The Sun, which in 1989 published a front page story alleging that Liverpool fans picked the pockets of the dead and dying, urinated on a constable as he attempted to resuscitate a victim, and assaulted other first responders (is it any wonder many Liverpudlians still boycott this paper?), issued an abject apology.  Families of many of the victims, whose deaths were ruled accidental after abbreviated inquests, are pressing for new hearings.  Earlier today, the Home Secretary stated that officials who broke the law in the wake of the disaster may be subject to criminal prosecution. Twenty-three years after the Hillsborough Disaster, a national coming to grips is finally taking place.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Help save the Georgia Archives!

On 13 September, Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp announced that the Georgia Archives will be closed to the public as of 1 November 2012.  Georgia agencies have been instructed to reduce their budget expenditures by 3 percent, and Secretary Kemp has opted to take the required cut of $750,000 entirely and only from the State Archives.  Staff reductions will be announced soon.

The Georgia Archives was among the first state archives established (1918).  It has won many awards for its programs and state-of-the-art archival facility and has been a respected leader in archives, government records programs, and research use.  It's also done some important electronic records work.  However, in recent years, the Georgia Archives has repeatedly suffered budget cuts, staffing reductions, and reductions in public hours.  At present, the repository is open to the public only two days a week.  Secretary Kemp now wants to make it virtually impossible for Georgia's citizens to access their own history.

Georgians appalled by this proposal have started an online petition protesting against these cuts and are sharing information via a new Facebook group, Georgians Against Closing State Archives.  Please sign the petition and "like" the group, but keep in mind that online activism simply isn't enough.  Elected officials pay more attention to paper letters, faxes, telephone calls, and in-person visits than to e-mail messages or online petitions.  Given the seriousness of this situation, I urge you to write, call, or visit Georgia's Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Secretary of State and urge them to reverse this devastating decision.  If you're a resident of Georgia, you should also write, call, or visit your state Representative and your state Senator.\
When you call, write, or visit the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, or legislator, ask him or her to:
  • Restore a minimum of $1 million to the Georgia Archives budget.  Doing so will enable the repository to open its doors five days a week and avoid projected staff reductions.
  • Reverse the Secretary of State’s proposed budget cuts to the Archives to ensure uninterrupted service to the public after 1 November.
You should also focus on a few of the points below, putting them in your own words and using your own examples -- particularly if you are a Georgia citizen:
  • The Secretary of State was directed to reduce his budget expenditures by 3%.  The entire sum needed to accomplish that has been taken from the Archives budget alone and will result in the termination of all public hours.   The proposed "access by appointment…limited based on the schedule of the remaining employees" effectively denies access based on "reasonable time and place" required by Georgia law.
  • Access to government records promotes government accountability and safeguards the legal rights of citizens:
    • The proposed closure deprives citizens of regular and predictable access, as mandated in the Georgia Public Records and Open Records Act which states that all public records "shall be open for a personal inspection by any citizen of this state at a reasonable time and place, and those in charge of such records shall not refuse this privilege to any citizen."
    • It is contrary to the practice of government transparency by depriving citizens of predictable and ready access to the records that are essential to providing evidence of government accountability.
    • It deprives citizens, as well as Georgia’s own government, of access to records needed to support due process of law.   The Georgia Archives holdings have been used in a range of court cases, including land claims, boundary disputes, utility right-of-way, and claims against state agencies.
    • Access to records is essential to avoid costly litigation that will result if records cannot be located or accessed.
  • The proposed closure will also hamper efforts to research the history of the state and its citizens:
    • As the Civil War Sesquicentennial begins, researchers need access to the historical record in the Georgia Archives to provide accurate, factual evidence of that experience.  Many of Georgia’s governmental records were destroyed during Sherman’s March.  Closing the Archives similarly deprives Georgians of access to their heritage—but this time the fault does not lie with an invading army, but with Georgia officials themselves.
    • The Georgia Archives holds records actively sought by genealogists and family historians; in particular, they provide essential evidence for African-American history and genealogical research not available in many private historical collections.
    • The Georgia Archives has been an essential resource for environmental research and activities, including efforts to reintroduce the American chestnut tree in the state and issues relating to pollution.
    • The Georgia Archives has been the site of research for television and films, including episodes of the popular NBC series Who Do You Think You Are featuring Paula Deen and Spike Lee, as well as Emmy award-winner Ben Loeterman’s documentary The People v. Leo Frank.
Here's where to direct your letters, calls, and visits:

Governor Nathan Deal
203 State Capitol
Atlanta, GA 30334
Phone:  404-656-1776
Fax:  404-657-7332
E-mail ("Contact Us" form):

Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle
240 State Capitol
Atlanta, GA 30334
Phone:  404-656-5030
Fax:  404-656-6739

Secretary of State Brian Kemp
214 State Capitol
Atlanta, GA 30334
Phone:  404-656-2881
Fax:  404-656-0513

The Web site of the Society of Georgia Archivists provides detailed contact information for individual Representatives and Senators and legislative committee heads as well as tips for communicating effectively with them.

Georgia archivists are trying to keep track of advocacy efforts relating to the Georgia Archives, so please be sure to send copies of any letters you send or summaries of any contacts you make to Kaye Lanning Minchew [kaye-at-troupcountyarchives-dot-org] of the Troup County Archives.

The text of this post is based upon a draft action alert developed by representatives of the Society of Georgia Archivists, the Council of State Archivists, the Society of American Archivists, the National Coalition for History, and other organizations.  The image was created by Georgians Against Closing State Archives.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Harvard Business School is looking for a Project Archivist

If you're comfortable arranging and describing paper and electronic records, have experience managing a variety of different types of projects, and live or would like to live in the Boston area for two years, Harvard Business School's Baker Library may have a job for you.  (And, at least in this instance, "may" truly is the appropriate word:  at the time of this writing, the university is still awaiting final approval of this particular project.)
Job Description
As a key member of the Special Collections team that oversees the extensive archival and manuscript collections of Baker Library, responsible for planning, prioritizing, identifying, transferring, preserving, and setting procedures for establishing and providing intellectual access to the full archival collection of a leading financial investment management firm, including paper and electronic records and digital content such as web files, video, audio etc.. Organizes and documents the archival materials to create a complete historical record. Coordinates the development of oral histories and interviews that supplement the artifacts and allow a deeper understanding of the creation and history of the firm. Coordinates the development an organizational structure for ongoing records and a taxonomy and standard metadata to provide innovative access to both archival and current materials. Makes recommendations to the Director, Special Collections, about content appraisal and privacy issues. Handles confidential information in accordance with University, state, and federal policies and regulations. Establishes and administers policy guidelines concerning internal and external research access and use of materials. Communicates regularly with the firm; works closely with its staff to identify and describe records of key significance. Acts as the lead researcher for the archives. Actively engages in corporate projects that utilize the Archives such as marketing and the production of publicity products, documentaries etc. Identifies innovative approaches to incorporate materials from the Archives into the HBS curriculum. Collaborates with the Special Collections Outreach Team and the KLS Information Products and Innovation group as appropriate in the development of digital collections, web products, and programs that encourage a greater understanding and knowledge of the story and use of the firm’s Archives. Under the general direction of the Collections Conservator, manages the re-housing and other recommended preservation actions for processed collections including preparation of materials for digital reformatting. Participates as appropriate in relevant professional organizations and monitors the print literature and online discussion groups of the profession. May supervise and train staff, temps, and/or interns.

Team player; excellent communicator who embraces change, seeks out opportunities for innovation and improvement, and is committed to providing excellent customer service. Advanced degree with relevant professional concentration or experience, including formal training in the management of archives. Four+ years of progressively responsible professional and administrative experience in the archival field, including two years’ experience appraising, arranging and describing archival materials using DACS and MARC for original cataloging of manuscript materials and EAD for creating finding aids. Demonstrated organizational skills in planning, prioritizing, and achieving goals with evidence of successful project management experience. Ability to handle confidential and sensitive information with discretion. Strong knowledge of the principles and practices of archiving electronic records. Excellent research, writing, and analytical skills. Excellent communication, interpersonal, and critical thinking/ problem-solving skills. Must be able to regularly lift 40 lbs.

Degree or course work in History/American Studies or related field desired; strong interest in financial and/or business history. Experience with appraising, acquiring and processing electronic records preferred. Familiarity with EAD, MODS, METS, XML/XSL and other data structure standards relevant to the archival control of digital collection materials. Experience processing, cataloging, indexing and preserving media materials (digital files, audio, and film). Enthusiastic interest in identifying new trends in providing access to archival materials and creative approaches to demonstrating the value of archives. Ability to work well independently as well as collaboratively in a team-oriented environment.
The salary range for this position is $70,000-$74,000.  For more information and detailed application instructions, consult the job description.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Library of Virginia seeks a State Records Archivist

If have experience describing archival records, are comfortable working with both paper and electronic records, are knowledgeable about Virginia history and politics, and live or would like to live in a Southern city that has ample quantities of history and culture, the Library of Virginia may have a job for you:
Job Description
The Library of Virginia, the archival agency for the Commonwealth of Virginia, is seeking a State Records Archivist for the State Records Program in the Description Services Branch. The State Records Program is responsible for acquiring, accessioning, arranging, describing and preserving permanent state government records that are transferred to the Library of Virginia.

Major responsibilities of the state records archivist position include processing collections and preparing finding aids in EAD; the creation of MARC catalogue records; processing and preserving born digital records; providing access to electronic records and other digital collections; evaluating the physical condition of records; collaborating with records management staff and consulting with state agencies; and conducting research. 

Minimum Qualifications
  • Formal training and/or experience in archives required. 
  • Working knowledge of archival standards, theory, and practice. 
  • Working knowledge of archival automation, using EAD for finding aids and online cataloging using MARC format, and applying DACS to both. 
  • Working knowledge of state government records. 
  • Working knowledge of records management theory and practice. 
  • Working knowledge of Virginia legal processes and state and local history. 
  • Working knowledge of archival conservation and preservation guidelines. 
  • Working knowledge of electronic records preservation and processing. 
  • Demonstrated ability to examine, analyze, arrange, and describe collections accurately. 
  • Demonstrated ability to communicate effectively, orally and in writing. 
  • Demonstrated ability to work as an effective member of a team. 
  • Ability to work with accuracy and within expected time frames. 
  • Demonstrated ability to use appropriate online databases and tools, such as Aleph and Infolinx.
  • Demonstrated research skills.   
Preferred Qualifications
Master's degree from an accredited institution in U.S. History, Library Science, or a related field preferred, but not required.
For more information and detailed application instructions, consult the position descriptionN.B.:  The deadline for applying for this position is 19 September 2012.

The minimum salary for this position is $31,979 . . . which I initially found a bit shocking.  Even though this position is open to candidates who don't have master's degrees in Library/Information Science, Archival Studies, history, or a related discipline, I'm willing to bet that all of the strongest candidates will have at least one master's degree and at least a couple of years of work experience.  Even in this job market, $31,979 is a lowball figure.

However, I took a look at the Web site of the Commonwealth of Virginia's  Department of Human Resource Management and was pleased to discover that the minimum salary is just that.  The department assigns each job title a salary "band" that defines the minimum and maximum salary, and this position falls into salary band 4.  According to the slightly outdated salary schedule on the department's Web site, as of 2007 the minimum salary for band 4 jobs was $31, 352 and the maximum salary was $64,347.  (FYI, the Web site also contains information about fringe benefits.)

Bottom line:  if you're interested in this job, be prepared to negotiate for a salary that does justice to your education and work experience.  I'm sure that the hiring committee doesn't expect that the successful candidate will passively accept the $31,979 minimum.  

If the mere thought of negotiating makes you queasy, be sure to check out Lynne Thomas's excellent advice about how to broach the subject in a cheerfully assertive way.

(None of the above should be taken as a criticism of the Library of Virginia, which isn't responsible for setting the Commonwealth of Virginia's employee salary bands or the overall format of the Commonwealth's job postings, which don't include salary maximums.  Every Library of Virginia staffer I've ever encountered has been kind, dedicated, and incredibly talented, and I've consistently gotten the sense that the Library of Virginia is an energetic, supportive employer -- so don't let the prospect of salary negotiations scare you out of applying for this job.)