Monday, February 16, 2015

University of Georgia seeks a University Archives and Electronic Records Archivist

If you've got extensive descriptive experience and electronic records know-how, relish the thought of working in a large university special collections department, you just might become the University of Georgia's new University Archives and Electronic Records Archivist. Here's what you need to know:
Purpose and Scope
The University of Georgia Libraries seeks a University Archives and Electronic Records Archivist who will be responsible for the development and management of the University Archives, the historical records of the University of Georgia, and the University Records Management program, which handles official university records as prescribed by state-wide guidelines. This position reports to the Co-Director of Technical Services and University Archives of the Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library. The position supervises two full-time and one part-time staff, as well as student employees, and participates in the general activities of the Hargrett Library. Some weekend and evening work is required.

Duties and Responsibilities
  • Oversees and participates in the processing of University Archives collections by arranging and describing materials in accordance with departmental procedures, DACS, and other archival standards; creating entries and completing revisions to records in Archivists’ Toolkit; and accessioning new collections.
  • Collaborates with the Co-directors to develop and maintain a robust university archive program by actively participating in soliciting and evaluating materials.
  • Oversees the university records program by interpreting and promoting awareness of state regulations and schedules; developing local policies and procedures for records management; and directing and participating in the intake, evaluation, recording and disposition of records.
  • Coordinates the appraisal, transfer and accession of electronic records into Hargrett Library collections; converts, validates, describes, preserves and makes accessible these records; updates EAD records in the Hargrett Library’s finding aid database.
  • Supervises and trains two records management staff positions, interns, and student assistants through effective communication and a fostering of shared goals that yields knowledge, productivity, and dependability.  
  • Provides reference service to the University community and the general public by participating in staffing the department's reference desk and reading room, by developing and maintaining knowledge of collections within the library. 
  • Contributes to the Hargrett Library, as well as the Libraries, by maintaining awareness of changes in the organization, contributing to the development of policies and procedures, and serving on appropriate Libraries’ committees as assigned or elected. 
  • Develops and maintains professional skills by participating in continuing education and professional development actives, such as workshops and conferences; staying current with the professional literature and engaging in research or other creative activities. 
  • Participates in library-wide communication by reading, responding to, and initiating information transmitted via GRAPEVINE (the Libraries’ listserv) and other communication tools, and appropriate library-wide or departmental meetings and asking questions, seeking clarification, or initiating discussion on library issues. 
  •  Maintains flexibility and awareness of changes and needs in the department and organization by assuming similar duties and responsibilities as assigned.
Required Qualifications
  • ALA-accredited MLIS (or relevant Master's degree with ACA certification expected in 5 years for continued employment) 
  • Two years of experience in an archives or special collections arranging and describing historical collections, or an equivalent combination of education and experience; Demonstrated experience applying DACS and EAD, and familiarity with Dublin Core, AACR2, RDA, LCSH, and MARC
  • Working knowledge of current archival descriptive standards, intellectual property rights, and issues related to born-digital content and digital conversion of archival materials; Experience processing born-digital records; Working knowledge of digital preservation standards, including OAIS, Trusted Digital Repositories, and PREMIS
  • Ability to function as a contributing team member in a production-oriented environment
  • Demonstrated initiative to complete projects
  • Excellent research, writing, and communication skills
  • Excellent interpersonal skills and the ability to collaborate with other departments, as needed
  • Working knowledge of historical research methodology and experience with standard bibliographic tools
  • Supervisory experience
  • Ability to tolerate dust and inactive mold spores
Preferred Qualifications
  • Experience with Archivists’ Toolkit or other archival management systems desired
  • Complex organizational papers processing experience preferred
  • Experience establishing or improving workflows for accessioning, processing, and providing access to digital records preferred
Minimum salary is $39,500. UGA librarians are non-tenured faculty members. UGA offers an attractive benefits program including a choice of health and retirement plans, dental plan, tuition remission and paid relocation, 21 days annual leave, 12 days sick leave, and 12 paid holidays. The application deadline is 8 March 2015. For more information and detailed application instructions, consult the position posting.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Missouri Secretary of State seeks an Electronic Records Archivist

Missouri's Secretary of State, which oversees the Missouri State Archives, is hiring an Electronic Records Archivist. If you have substantial electronic records and records management experience, want to work with some good people, and would like to live in an attractive small city that's close to one of the Midwest's largest wine producing regions, here's what you need to know:
General Function and Scope of Responsibility

This is a specialized, professional position evaluating the administrative, legal, historical, and fiscal value of electronic records generated by state and local agencies in Missouri. The individual in this position provides professional guidance to state and local government agencies; maintains liaison with staff archivists and records analysts concerning appraisal/description work, automated inventory systems, and standards for both; advises on problems with electronic records retention and disposal; is a primary resource for questions regarding the records tracking system; and performs all other tasks as requested by supervising agency director.  

Examples of Work Performed
  • Participates in the development and implementation of records and information management policies and procedures to ensure adequate and accessible records are maintained by state and local agencies. 
  • Assists state agencies with the development of records disposition schedules and presents recommendations to the State Records Commission. 
  • Serves as information source for state and local agencies concerning retention of electronic records. 
  • Develops and delivers training modules and/or presentations to organizations related to the office’s records tracking system and other electronic records issues. 
  • Researches trends in electronic records management with emphasis on storage and media. 
  • Offers other specialized services to state and local agencies as assigned. 
  • Defines concerns to vendors based on feedback from agencies, works with vendor to develop solutions and is the primary tester to ensure solutions meet the needs of agencies. 
  • May plan, assign, and supervise the work of clerical staff, interns, and volunteers. 
  • Promotes the activities of Records Management, Local Records and State Archives through speaking engagements and participating in professional organizations. 
Required Knowledge, Abilities, and Skills
  • Knowledge of records management and records disaster planning standards, principles and practices. 
  • Knowledge of the principles and practices involved with the collection and disposition of public records. 
  • Knowledge of hardware and software used for electronic imaging systems, document management systems, and personal computers. 
  • Knowledge of the concepts, methods, and techniques of project management, database management, and system development. 
  • Knowledge of digital preservation standards and best practices including working knowledge of the OAIS Reference Model and metadata standards such as Dublin Core. 
  • Knowledge of web-page development and design preferred. 
  • Ability to express ideas clearly orally and in writing. 
  •  Ability to read, analyze, and interpret industry periodicals, professional journals, technical procedures, and government regulations. 
  • Ability to effectively present information and respond to questions from associates, state and local agencies, and the public. 
  • Ability of establish and maintain effective working relationships with associates, state and local agencies, and the public. 
Minimum Qualifications
  • A master’s degree in information systems, library science (with an information science emphasis), computer science, business, or other related field strongly preferred. 
  •  Certified Records Manager designation or the commitment to obtain such. 
  • A Missouri Drivers License and the ability to travel statewide.
The starting salary for this position is $3,244 per month ($38,928 per year), and a comprehensive suite of benefits is offered. The application deadline is 2 March 2015. For more information and detailed application instructions, consult the position posting.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

John Kitzhaber's e-mail

It's been quite a week in re: gubernatorial e-mail.

Yesterday, Oregon's governor, John Kitzhaber, announced that he would resign from office. Last October, an Oregon newspaper reported that the governor's fiancee, Cylvia Hayes, had served as an unpaid energy and economic policymaker at the same time as she was running a private green-energy consulting business. In November, the Government Ethics Commission opened an investigation into Kitzhaber and Hayes. Last week, the state's attorney general announced that a criminal investigation was underway.

Earlier this week, the Willamette Week, the Portland alternative paper that broke the news regarding  Hayes' potential conflicts of interest, reported that a Kitzhaber staffer had requested that the state Department of Administrative Services delete all e-mails from Kitzhaber's personal e-mail accounts that were stored on departmental servers. Kitzhaber's camp maintained that the request covered personal messages that had mistakenly been auto-forwarded to state servers and would not result in the destruction of public records. However, Oregon law specifies that personal e-mail messages that discuss government business are considered public records, and Department of Administrative Services staff were keenly aware that multiple media organizations had filed freedom of information requests that included Kitzhaber's and Hayes's e-mail. They sent the administration's request and their concerns about it up the department's chain of command and the department's director decided that the e-mail should not be deleted.

A few hours after Governor Kitzhaber resigned, U.S. Attorney Amanda Marshall revealed that a federal grand jury investigation was underway and issued a sweeping subpoena seeking e-mail, memoranda, and other records that documenting Kitzhaber's environmental and economic policy initiatives, and Hayes' state government work, consulting business and clients, personal and corporate tax returns, and use of state credit cards. The subpoena covers eleven state government agencies and includes records that the state's Justice Department and Government Ethics Commission created or collected during the course of their investigations. The Federal Bureau of Investigation, which never publicly comments upon investigations in progress, also seems to have taken an interest in Hayes's affairs.

What a mess. I imagine that Salem, Oregon is currently experiencing the sort of surreal standstill that Albany, New York experienced in March 2008, but things are going to start moving again, and very quickly. Eleven state agencies will have to devote a lot of time and effort to responding to the federal subpoena and a host of freedom of information requests. The State Archives must scramble to document the administration of a governor who was re-elected a few months ago, who left office with little advance notice, and whose records are of abiding interest to the feds. Moreover, it must do so as it loses the head of its parent agency: when Kitzhaber's resignation takes effect next Wednesday, Secretary of State Kate Brown will become the state's next governor. However, given the clear-eyed, resolute manner in which the Department of Administrative Services responded to the Kitzhaber administration's e-mail deletion request, the Oregon State Archives' recent history of innovation and effectiveness, and Oregon's tradition of (relatively) clean governance, I suspect that these challenges will be met head-on.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Jeb Bush's e-mail, continued

Earlier this week, Jeb Bush made available online hundreds of thousands of emails he sent and received during his tenure as Florida's governor. As I noted yesterday, the emails Bush's organization placed online contained Social Security numbers, home addresses and phone numbers, and a wealth of other personal information about private citizens. In the wake of the controversy, the Bush camp pledged to review and redact the e-mails, which are identical to the unredacted e-mails held and made accessible to researchers by the Florida State Archives.

Earlier today, Fortune reported that the e-mails approximately 13,000 Social Security numbers and that roughly 12,500 of these numbers were housed within a spreadsheet embedded within a PowerPoint presentation attached to a message that Governor Bush and approximately 50 other people received in October 2003. The other 500 are scattered throughout the correspondence. The Bush team has been able to use software to identify and redact approximately 400 of them, but as of earlier today approximately 100 were still available online because they don’t conform to the usual XXX-XX-XXXX pattern and thus can’t be easily found.
Fortune also reported that a spokesperson for the Florida Department of State, of which the Florida State Archives is part, stated that: “the Department of State is currently reviewing our process for redacting confidential information from documents given to the State Archives.” Ouch.

To add insult to injury, ComputerWorld notes that the Microsoft Personal Storage Table (PST) versions of the Bush e-mails that the Florida State Archives disclosed to researchers and that were, for a short time, made available for downloading on the Bush e-mail site contain a number of old viruses and Trojan Horse applications. Most of them pose little threat to anyone who has a newer computer and up-to-date anti-virus software, but they might cause problems for people who have older machines or don't have anti-virus software installed.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Jeb Bush's e-mail

On Monday, former Florida governor Jeb Bush placed online copies of hundreds of thousands of e-mails he sent and received while in office. Bush is actively exploring the possibility of running for President and has stated that he released the messages to show his commitment to transparency and his embrace of information technology; many political observers have concluded that the release is also meant to prove that he's a dedicated, responsive, and effective executive. Things did not go quite as planned, and the resulting uproar ought to be of interest to any government archivist who might accession electronic records that contain legally restricted information, respond to FOI requests for born-digital or digitized records, or confront the sweeping records requests that invariably occur whenever a former official seeks higher office.

As soon as the e-mails were released, tech journalists and bloggers began exploring the search interface that Bush's staff created and the contents of the messages their searches yielded. They found thousands of Social Security numbers, home addresses, and tons of other personal data that had not been redacted. The Verge, Ars Technica, Buzzfeed, and a host of other media outlets quickly redacted and published copies of numerous e-mails that contained such information, and Bush and his staff quickly promised that they would remove Social Security numbers and other personal data. However, the e-mails – in searchable database form as well as downloadable Microsoft Personal Storage Table (PST) files – were freely available online for almost a day before the Bush team decided to take action.

Bush and his staff were also quick to point fingers. Yesterday, Bush told reporters in Tallahassee that the messages were public records held by the Florida State Archives (which is part of the state's Department of State) and that he and his staff had merely "released what the government gave us." The Bush team also revealed that in May 2014, an attorney representing Bush sent a letter to an unidentified state official asserting that the state was responsible for redacting any legally restricted information found within the e-mails:
We hope these emails will be available permanently to the public, provided the records are first reviewed by state officials in accordance with Florida Statute to ensure information exempt from public disclosure is redacted before release, including social security numbers of Florida citizens who contacted Governor Bush for assistance; personal identifying information related to victims of crime or abuse; confidential law enforcement intelligence; and other information made confidential or exempt by applicable law.
The Florida State Archives holds 26.2 gigabytes of Bush's gubernatorial e-mail, and the catalog record describing the correspondence indicates that the records consist of "PST files" that "must be loaded onto user's hard drive and opened using MS Outlook software." The catalog record makes no mention of access restrictions, and unredacted copies of the files have evidently been disclosed to other researchers. Yesterday, National Public Radio (NPR) reported that many of the e-mails Bush released on Monday had first been disclosed to reporters shortly after they were created or received and that several media organizations, NPR among them, had previously obtained copies of the full set from the Florida State Archives.

At this point in time, I am not going to second-guess or condemn the Florida State Archives. I simply don't know enough about Florida's Sunshine Law, which is more expansive than many other state freedom of information laws, or the Florida State Archives' disclosure protocols to come to any sort of informed conclusion. I do know that the Sunshine Law for the most part bars the disclosure of Social Security numbers, but many freedom of information laws mandate that previously disclosed information cannot be withheld for any reason; given that many of these e-mails had been disclosed to reporters while Bush was in office, the Florida State Archives might have no choice but to release them without redacting them. To date, no one from the Florida State Archives or Florida Department of State has commented upon this matter, but I hope that some sort of explanation will eventually be made.

I am more willing to second-guess Jeb Bush and his associates. As the Miami Herald has pointed out, the May 2014 letter written by Bush's attorney strongly suggests that Bush has been seriously thinking about running for president for quite some time. To my way of thinking, it also suggests that Bush or, at the very least, his lawyers knew that the e-mail contained legally restricted information, decided that the State of Florida was solely responsible for redacting it prior to disclosure, and figured that it was ethically okay to make information that Florida couldn’t or wouldn’t redact a lot easier to find. Requesting a PST file from the Florida State Archives and importing it into Microsoft Outlook doesn’t require a ton of effort or technical know-how, but at least some of the people who are now idly rummaging through the searchable Web database of e-mails created by the Bush campaign probably wouldn’t feel the need to make the effort. Manual redaction and review of e-mail is a pain – trust me on this – but there are numerous tools that will flag and facilitate redaction of Social Security numbers, telephone numbers, and other consistently formatted data. Why didn't the Bush camp make even a modest attempt to weed out the Social Security numbers?

Finally, I must be a bit skeptical about the Bush camp's claims of transparency: the Tampa Bay Times recently reported that Bush used a private e-mail account to conduct all state business and transferred only some of the messages associated with this account to the archives when he left office. Specifically, all messages relating to “politics, fundraising, and personal matters” were removed prior to transfer. I have no problem with purging messages relating to purely personal matters, but the removal of messages relating to political affairs and fundraising efforts raises a few questions in my mind. How were these messages identified? Were they identified as they were sent or received, or was there a massive end-of-term review effort? If the latter, who was involved in the review and what criteria were employed? And, of course, why didn't Bush use a state government e-mail account to conduct state business?

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Fire at CitiStorage warehouse, Brooklyn

Last Friday, a CitiStorage records storage warehouse in Brooklyn caught fire. The facility housed tens of thousands of cubic feet of records created by several New York City agencies, including the Administration for Children's Services, the Health and Hospitals Corporation, the Department of Environmental Protection, , and the Department of Correction; earlier reports that the Department of Parks and Recreation, and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development also had records at the facility have turned out to be incorrect. In addition, it may have housed records created by courts that are part of New York State's Unified Court System; however, some or all of these records may have been stored at an adjacent CitiStorage facility unaffected by the fire. In addition, approximately 300 cubic feet of archival UJA Federation records were destroyed by the blaze; fortunately, the bulk of the federation's archival records had been taken out of the warehouse and transferred to the American Jewish Historical Society well before the fire began.

With the exception of the UJA Federation records, it seems that most of the records destroyed in or dispersed by the fire were ultimately slated for destruction. However, some of them contain information that is restricted under state or federal law -- and the ferocity of the fire, firefighters' efforts to combat the blaze, and weather conditions scattered large quantities of them all over the Brooklyn neighborhood of Williamsburg. Records found on the streets and waterfront of Williamsburg included "charred medical records, court transcripts, lawyers’ letters, sonograms, bank checks" and a host of other documents containing personal medical, financial, and legal data. Some were marked "confidential," and some contained Social Security Numbers. The City of New York has dispatched contractors to retrieve and securely destroy as many of these records as possible, but "scavengers and artists" and other area residents are also picking up the documents they encounter.

Earlier this week, the New York Times published an article that, in an roundabout way, questioned why city agencies "would store thousands of paper records in cardboard boxes stacked floor to ceiling" and why medical records were housed in a commercial storage facility.

As a records professional, I couldn't help but roll my eyes. We place boxes of records on shelves not only to maximize space but also to minimize the impact of fire; stacked boxes of records catch fire more slowly than stacks of loose papers. We generally use cardboard boxes not only because they are cheap and practical but also because they provide records with a modest degree of protection from water used to combat fire and because, unlike plastic, it won't melt.

As far as use of commercial storage facilities is concerned, I would much rather have records stored in a clean, secure, climate-controlled, and adequately fire-protected facility than in some government buildings I have visited. (Of course, one might question whether the CitiStorage warehouse was an appropriate choice: it's literally a stone's throw away from the East River -- in an area that may have experienced some flooding as a result of Hurricane Sandy -- and close to an oil refinery. However, no storage facility is ideal, and cost and convenience may have made CitiStorage seem like a reasonable choice.)

Investigators are still trying to figure out what caused the fire, which was actually the second of two fires reported at the facility last Saturday morning, and why the building's sprinkler system didn't douse it before it got out of control. At the time of this writing, it seems unlikely that the fire was deliberately set.

I'm not helping to respond to this disaster, and at the risk of passing on misinformation I'm not going to say much about the response effort. However, I do know that records professionals from multiple government agencies are actively working to assess losses and determine how best to deal with damaged records and that more information will emerge as this effort progresses.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Fire at the Institute of Scientific Information on Social Sciences, Moscow

Last weekend, two facilities housing large quantities of records were affected by fire. Last Friday, the library of the Institute of Scientific Information on Social Sciences in Moscow, Russia caught fire. The blaze affected approximately 21,500 square feet of the library building and caused approximately 1,000 square feet of the building's roof to collapse. The damage to the institute's collections, which include published and manuscript materials, is staggering:
According to preliminary estimates, the library lost about 15 percent of its collection, which was estimated at 14.2 million documents.

Among the destroyed works were rare publications from the 16th-20th centuries, as well as unique United Nations documents. Works that were not destroyed completely suffered severe damage from smoke and water. The computer servers holding 3.5 million digital copies of the collection may also have been damaged. Additionally, the collapsed roof of the building has left many remaining documents exposed to the elements.

It will be difficult to determine exactly what has been lost since most of the library’s content had not been digitized and both card catalogues were entirely destroyed in the disaster.
At the time of this writing, the cause of the fire is unknown and recovery efforts have just begun. My heart goes out to the staff of the Institute of Scientific Information on Social Sciences is Moscow, who are about to embark upon a long, arduous journey -- and who will not live to see the journey's end. My own repository suffered a devastating fire almost 104 years ago, and some of my colleagues are still rehousing and stabilizing damaged materials and investigating new techniques for recovering information obscured by charring and other fire-related damage. I expect that this work will continue long after we are all gone.

I hope that the international library and archives communities rally to support the Institute of Scientific Information on Social Sciences. I'll keep an eye out for developments on this front and will post updates when appropriate.