Speaking at NAGARA e-Records Conference 2013

Just a little post to say I’ll be speaking at the NAGARA e-Records Conference this year in Austin, Texas. I’ll be describing the efforts of CoSA’s State Electronic Records Initiative (SERI) over the past few years – specifically our educative efforts, and the upcoming electronic records training workshops this year and next. These workshops will collectively be attended by every state and territorial archives and records program in the country.

It’s quite an epic project, and one that aims to address a worrying gap in archives’ management of born-digital records – the “gap between the authority to act and the ability to act effectively” (Report of the Blue Ribbon Panel, a supplement to The State of State Records, 2007, p. 5.).

e-Records 2013 Presentation Slides

The slide links to the presentation, which is also available at NAGARA’s site.

This will be my third time attending the conference – the forum is always timely and interesting, and Austin is just icing on the conference cake.

Thoughts On Electronic Records Training

The Age of Electronicus record cover
In window of Hollywood Boulevard vinyl store, flickr user Rich_Lem

In October I ventured to three locations in Mississippi with a coworker to deliver records management training to municipal clerks. My portion of the training addressed electronic records in the state. Here I discuss strategies I used and share some thoughts on teaching what is frequently dry material for an (often reluctant) audience.


A little context on government records in Mississippi: for local government, all electronic records are managed and maintained by the originating agency. If electronic records are scheduled as permanent, they’re kept with that agency forever — they don’t go to the state archives.

By contrast, there are two primary supporting resources for state agencies. The first is a tape backup service offered by us, as well as the ability to take their permanent electronic records into the state archives. The second is the counsel, services, and guidelines of the state IT department. Local government of course has our counsel with any of their records concerns, but we don’t offer any services to them.

Because few municipalities (if any) have the resources to employ a records manager, it’s not atypical for electronic records management to be distributed among all municipal employees in an ad-hoc and uncoordinated manner. Professional document or records management software is out of scope for most, since such packages are too expensive and the volume of electronic records produced is typically too low to consider the purchase. The same is true of email archiving services. Open source would appear to be ideal but those solutions really do require dedicated IT administration, which is limited for many municipal projects.

My portion of the workshop lasts an hour, and the goal was to give attendees the knowledge to manage their electronic records better than they do now. Outside of the constraint that all record management has to occur with the agency, there are a few other hurdles to teaching effectively in this hour:

  • Little foreknowledge of each municipality’s specific tech setup or electronic records management strategy.
  • Little foreknowledge of each attendees’ computer literacy.
  • No foreknowledge of attendees’ specifics jobs or the records they regularly handle.

Unfortunately these constraints were outside of my control. However as I hope to share this doesn’t mean the hour can’t be successful.

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