Guest Post: What does the National Archives do to support good recordkeeping during the change of administrations?

Guest post by Meg Phillips, External Affairs Liaison at the National Archives and Records Administration

The National Archives has been hard at work preparing for and then supporting the change in Presidential administrations. This is one of the moments when NARA’s role is particularly critical in ensuring that the normal functioning of government continues, that outgoing and incoming officials understand their responsibilities under the law, and that the records of the outgoing President are archived for posterity.

This has also been a transition of heightened interest in the role that we play, partly because of expected changes in policy between one administration and the next, and partly because of the increasing importance of social media, web records, and electronic messaging applications that are relatively new to recordkeeping processes.

For all these reasons, NARA has fielded an unusual number of press inquiries about the Presidential Records Act and the Federal Records Act and NARA policies over the last few months. In response, we’ve made a great deal of information on these issues publicly available on our web site.

We also publish all the guidance we provided to Federal agencies online to help them educate incoming and outgoing officials about their recordkeeping responsibilities. This package of guidance and training material is the most comprehensive (and social media savvy) we’ve ever prepared for a transition. We want it to be widely available within the Federal government, but it may also be useful to other government archivists in other settings.

One of the things I do as External Affairs Liaison is stay in touch with the leadership of SAA, the Council of State Archivists, and NAGARA throughout the year. The current guest post started out as background reading for a briefing on “what’s new at NARA” for the leadership of these organizations on February 13, 2017. We thought NARA’s activities might be of more general interest, so Nance invited me to share this summary of our activities with you here.

You can get a good sense of what we’ve made available for different audiences just by glancing over the list of resources here, but if you’re interested in the details, I hope you’ll click through and read some of the underlying guidance as well.

NARA Transition Guidance for Federal Agencies

Our Records Express blog did a good job of summarizing most of the guidance and tools available for Federal agencies in a post on November 16, 2016, “Records Management Guidance for the Presidential Transition.” Some of the key things mentioned are our kits for briefing new political appointees on Federal records management (including a video and handout) and new model checklists for use with incoming and outgoing employees to make sure all the recordkeeping bases are covered. The blog posts includes links to these other resources:

We’ve also reminded agencies of current policy on issues of high public and media interest, such as the management of web records, social media records, and other electronic records.

In many cases, websites contain databases or datasets. We remind agencies that such data, or the systems in which they reside, must be scheduled as Federal records. On the other hand, many records presented on agency websites are already scheduled and captured in agency systems that are properly scheduled in accordance with the Federal Records Act. Agencies must be able to identify situations in which this is the case.

NARA Transition Activities at the White House

The Presidential Records Act works differently than the Federal Records Act, and NARA has a limited role in the management of Presidential records – but the central role in archiving them at the end of a presidency.

NARA’s Public and Media Communications office has gotten a lot of questions about Presidential records issues, though, so they created a special National Archives News page to pull together information for the press and public: National Archives News: Presidential Records and Federal Records Guidance.   This includes the 2016 version of Guidance on Presidential Records, which we have prepared for every incoming administration since 2000.  They also posted the Archivist’s March 30, 2017, letter in response to a letter from Senators Claire McCaskill and Tom Carper asking about White House compliance with the Presidential Records Act (PRA), which addressed their questions about preserving the President’s tweets—including deleted tweets—and about the use of smartphone apps. The letter included the briefing material that NARA staff provided to the White House Counsel’s Office.

For a very good, thorough article on the process NARA goes through with the White House during a change in administration, see Moving Out, Moving In: The National Archives’ Important Role when the Presidency Changes Hands, Prologue Magazine, Winter 2016, Vol. 48, No. 4.

And finally, the Obama White House did a long blog post that describes part of NARA’s role in The Digital Transition: How the Presidential Transition Works in the Social Media Age, 10/31/ 2016. (While you’re there, note the obamawhitehouse.archives.gov in the URL – this is the archived version of the Obama White House web site, now hosted by NARA and the Obama Presidential Library.)

Guest Post: Committee on Education

Committee on Education Spring Meeting Report

Lauren Goodley, Committee on Education Vice-Chair/Incoming Chair

This March 9 and 10, the Committee on Education (CoE) met for our yearly work meeting. We met from 8-5 on day one, and 8-1 on day two (so everyone can fly out that day), including working breakfasts and lunches. By the end of the meeting, we got to know each other and our work, had a few heated discussions and found places of agreement, and we forged a clear path ahead for the coming year.

The Committee on Education also holds a business meeting at the SAA annual meeting, we have conference calls monthly, and members and SAA Education Coordinators work on duties throughout the year. But the spring meeting is the time when we sit down at the table and hammer out our plans and direction, and work on current courses in a holistic way.

We also took some time to say goodbye to Solveig DeSutter and welcome new Director of Education Kara Adams. Solveig retired last year, so we enjoyed a last chance to visit and pick her brain for institutional knowledge. Kara has quickly stepped into her new position, and is interested and devoted to developing more online courses, which are more accessible to the membership. (Update: the Education Office has acquired a new Learning Management System to facilitate online learning and management of courses.)

REPORTS

Staff Report:

An archives course was developed by the Simmons College Archives Faculty, three Massachusetts Municipal Clerks, the Massachusetts State Archives, and Gregor Trinkaus-Randall for the Massachusetts Municipal Clerks through an NHPRC grant. SAA Education Department will be taking over this course starting this fall. The Cultural Diversity Competency course will be an in-person workshop at Midwest Archives Conference in April 5, and to be developed into an online course. Teaching with Primary Sources is being developed and considering a “train the trainer” approach.

Digital Archives Specialist (DAS) Subcommittee Report:

  • Course Names: courses now use the term “digital” rather than “electronic,” reflecting digital as a subset of electronic.
  • Courses in certificate curriculum: 6 courses are currently co-listed in the DAS and Arrangement and Description (A&D) curriculum. The subcommittee sees further integration of courses in the future, with DAS courses as format-specific but better integrated with other courses.
  • Core Reading List: under development, to assist with preparing for the comprehensive exam, and as an additional resource.
  • Mosaic Fellows are now matched with a DAS mentor, and receive registration to several DAS courses.
  • DAS is looking into ways to provide direction and feedback for archivists seeking a DAS certificate.

History of Archival Graduate Education:
This year CoE intern Shanee’ Murrain, with the direction of CoE Chair Alison Clemens, conducted research into the history of archival graduate education. Shanee’ did a lit review going back to 1939, identified themes (namely, archives as coursework rather than a single course; and archives courses housed under history vs. library science). She also reviewed archival education and job preparedness and discussed the need for theory in tension with the need for job skills/practicum. Finally, Shanee’ looked at gaps in the data, particularly harvestable data and data from the global South.

COMMITTEE WORK

Revisions to Guidelines for Archival Continuing Education (ACE) Guidelines:
The Archival Continuing Education Guidelines is one of CoE’s foundational documents. It was adopted by Council in 2006, and reviewed in 2010, so these year we reviewed and made some updates.

The biggest change was to remove digital as a separate area of archival knowledge. Instead, we included digital formats in a group of Specialized Courses. We also included a small step toward inclusiveness by stating that needs of people with disabilities should be considered when developing and offering courses.
The document has been sent to the Standards Committee, and from there it will go to Council for review.

Communications with Groups
We brainstormed ways to improve communication and collaboration with SAA sections, including the leadership activities google doc and liaising directly with section leaders. We’d like to tap into the knowledge base in the sections for new course ideas and development, course needs and education gaps, subject experts, and general feedback. And, sections can help share information about upcoming courses and opportunities to host courses.

Current and Future Courses
We reviewed the A&D courses and made decisions for what needed to be retired, reviewed, developed, and made appointments as to who would do this.

As for courses to be developed, we had some big ideas, which included an Essential Coding Suite and Digitization with an eye to Digital Preservation.
Finally, we looked at online courses under development.

Hopefully this gives you an idea of the work CoE does and our current business. If anything has caught your interest, or you have feedback or comment, please feel free to contact any of the membership, listed below. Contact information is available on the SAA website at http://www2.archivists.org/groups/education-committee under “Roster” (login required).
Also, there are eight pre-conference workshops available for the SAA Annual Meeting in Portland. Take a look here, and for our full course offerings here, or on the website under Education.

Committee on Education
Chair: Alison Clemens; Vice-chair: Lauren Goodley; Members: Sarah Buchanan, Stephanie Call, Erin Faulder, Marcy Flynn, Brad Houston, Martin Olliff, Seth Shaw, Matthew Strandmark; Intern: Shanee’ Murrain; DAS Chair: Mahnaz Ghaznavi; GAES Chair: Martin Olliff; Council Liaison: Kris Kiesling; Education Director: Kara Adams; Education Coordinators: Mia Capodilupo, Brianne Downing.

*Correction: An earlier version of this post erroneously stated that the Massachusetts Municipal Clerks is developing a suite of online courses. This information has been corrected in the Staff Report above.

 

Updates from the Archives: Guest Post from our SAA Archivist

Thanks to SAA’s Archivist, Abbi Nye, at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee for her guest blog post and watch for periodic highlights from the collections:

SAA Archives

One of the delightful benefits in assuming the role of SAA Archivist is that I have a reason to meander through the years of SAA’s development.  It’s fascinating, of course, to gain a better understanding of our organizational history, but it’s the people and the stories that really seize my attention.  Prominent archivists cease to be merely authors of the seminal articles we read in graduate school; the documents bring their humor, their friendship, and their disagreements to life.

There’s plenty of humor in the SAA archives:  “Dear Herb,” F. Gerald Ham joked to C. Herbert Finch about Finch’s addition to the SAA archives, “The confidential “Finch File” arrived in fine shape; do you want a 10 or 15 lid on this hot stuff?”  Newspaper clippings and committee minutes document the internal debates around pronunciation: should archivist be pronounced “ARK-uh-vist” or AR-KY-vist”?  As with all organizations, there are warts on display as well; past lists of SAA leaders aren’t exactly overflowing with diversity.

At their core, the SAA records and the manuscript collections from longtime archivists such as Larry Hackman and Helen Samuels address issues of professional identity. The true value of SAA’s archives lies not in answering questions about when a certain committee disbanded, but in helping us to understand our story and who we are as a professional community.

Archivists understand better than anyone how important it is to know where we’ve come from and what our values are.  I suspect that in the next few years, it will be essential to ground ourselves and to re-appraise our professional identity, to borrow a phrase from Elizabeth Snowden Johnson.  Absorb strength from our Code of Ethics and Core Values, but don’t neglect to look at previous versions and the thoughtful discussions behind our current Code.

To study the SAA archives is to understand that our profession is constantly evolving; we have lost the Scientific and Technological Manuscripts committee and lamination—thankfully—is no longer an acceptable preservation strategy.  In that spirit, challenge yourself to expand your reach this year.  Perhaps you’re passionate about engaging with issues of social justice and community archives.  Perhaps you want to expand your technical skill set by participating in the Try5 initiative.  Perhaps you’re eager to be an articulate advocate for archivists and the value of our work.  However you choose to engage, remember that you aren’t alone.  We have 80 years of archival records to prove it.

Transparency in SAA Advocacy Governance and How to Build for the Future

By Michelle Light and Tanya Zanish-Belcher

Dear All:

We have received several questions about how SAA makes statements, how the most recent statements came into being, and how SAA members might become more involved in initiating statements. We are glad to see so much interest and hope this post will answer some of these questions. This will be the first of several blog posts on SAA’s advocacy efforts. Look for information about how you can be involved coming shortly!

The SAA Council (or its Executive Committee, which includes the President) may take a position on an issue of importance to the profession or the association. The Council is SAA’s elected governing body. Other groups and sections within SAA are not empowered to take action in the name of SAA without specific prior authorization from the Council. (See the Governance Manual for more information.)

The Council has determined that SAA will voice a position, make a statement, or take other action only on issues that are related directly to archives and archival functions. Priority advocacy issues are outlined in SAA’s Public Policy Agenda. The Council limits action to archival issues because SAA represents a diverse group of members with multiple perspectives and because SAA does not have the resources to gather a consensus of membership on a wide range of issues. (See SAA’s Criteria for Advocacy Statements for more information.)

Recently the SAA Council issued the SAA Statement on Executive Order Restricting Entry into the United States by Individuals from Seven Muslim-Majority Countries. In this case, an SAA member requested on the SAA Leader listserv that the Council make a statement opposing the executive order. The member cited a situation in which her work colleague was negatively affected by the order.  After this initial call for action, other SAA members forwarded to the Council and/or the SAA Leader discussion list more examples of the negative impact of the executive order on individual archivists (because of their country of origin or immigrant status), on archival research, and on the free exchange of information and ideas. In addition, more than 75 SAA leaders of sections and other component groups emailed the SAA Leader listserv in support of the Council taking action.

Simultaneously, SAA was reviewing statements issued by allied organizations, such as the American Library Association (ALA), the Association for College and Research Libraries (ACRL), the Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA), the Association for Research Libraries (ARL), the American Society for Information Science and Technology, and the American Historical Association (AHA).

After reviewing member comments and examples, consulting with the chair of the Committee on Public Policy, and reviewing the Council’s criteria for advocacy statements, a subgroup of Council members drafted a statement for the Council to discuss as an urgent matter. The Council vigorously debated making a statement. In the end, we decided it was in the best interests of our members to stand with our members who are facing discrimination or whose archival research is in jeopardy because of the executive order. The Council called attention to how the executive order is at odds with aspects of SAA’s Core Values of Archivists. After we discussed the proposed statement, it was revised and shared broadly. This statement is now available on the SAA website, along with our other position statements, statements, and issue briefs.

As part of this process, many individuals expressed an interest in participating in this kind of advocacy work. We encourage members, and especially sections, to engage in the advocacy process and to work on compiling and researching information to support well-informed, balanced issue briefs and statements. To suggest that SAA take action on an advocacy issue, individuals and groups will have the most success if they follow the Procedures for Suggesting SAA Advocacy Action. The procedures ask you to provide an overview of the issue, explain why the issue is important to archives and archivists, and consider the pros and cons of SAA taking a stand. Most issues should be referred to the chair of the Committee on Public Policy.  This Committee conducts research on public policy issues and provides strategic advice to the Council about SAA’s positions and statements. The Committee on Public Policy is responsible for drafting the issue briefs outlined in the Public Policy Agenda. Sometimes, however, an issue requires a more timely response, and a brief statement is more appropriate than a well-researched issue brief. In these urgent cases, members or groups should contact the Executive Director or the SAA President with their request. The SAA President, Executive Committee, or Council may choose to seek advice from the Committee on Public Policy or other groups before responding.

If SAA chooses not to take action or make a statement on an issue, SAA sections and other component groups may still make efforts to educate members and others about the issue, even if they are not authorized to take a stand on behalf of SAA. For example, the Oral History Section sought to educate archivists about the issues surrounding the controversial Belfast Project/Boston College Subpoena Case. The Issues & Advocacy Section maintains a blog with several informative posts about a variety of issues, and also provides a way to suggest an advocacy issue.

SAA will continue to work with a variety of individuals, groups, and allied organizations to ensure that we advocate on issues of importance to archives and archivists, especially those outlined in SAA’s public policy agenda. In the coming weeks and months, SAA’s Committee on Public Policy will examine in depth the impact of the current Administration’s recent decisions on numerous issues affecting our work as archivists. These include questions of continuing access to federal data, transparency and accountability of government, adherence to federal records management regulations, privacy, and more.

A brief note at the end of the year …

As this year ends and the next is about to begin, here’s a brief note to wish you the best for 2017.  As I wade through the long list of astonishing things in 2016, I’ve been appreciating the thoughtful words of others at year end, so I’m sharing some of those with you in hopes you also find them to be timely and encouraging.

First from Brenda Banks, past president of SAA and much-missed colleague who passed away this year, this wonderful quote from her 1996 presidential address you may have seen in the SAA Foundation Board’s annual letter:

“Armed with the lessons of the past, the willingness to accept or adapt to an ever-changing society, and commitment and conviction… we move confidently ahead to meet  the challenges of the future with knowledge, courage, and determination.”

And two more encouraging statements from nearby communities – in  each case, if we fill in “SAA” the words fit well.

From Mike Furlough, Executive Director of HathiTrust:

“At the end of a stressful, fractious, and divisive year in the US and beyond, I hope we can all agree that it’s good to see it drawing to a close.  That said, all of us at HathiTrust have been buoyed all year long by the work we do, and that’s in no small part because our membership so strongly believes in the necessity of our work and in developing community focused solutions to our common challenges.”

From President Reif of MIT:

“We live in a moment when, in our public conversation, familiar standards of decency and open, respectful discourse can no longer be taken for granted. These unwritten rules of a healthy society are especially significant in a community like ours; at MIT, our differences of opinion, perspective, training, identity and background, and our ability to navigate and learn from those differences, are essential to our creative excellence. These shared values have even greater importance in this charged time, when incidents of discrimination across the country have left many members of our community uneasy about their own safety.”

With your ongoing help and support, SAA will continue to accomplish great things for archives, archivists, and the broader community. On behalf of SAA, thank you for all of your hard work!

In the new year, I’ll continue to work hard with SAA Council, leaders, and individual members to advance our goals and to address issues and challenges as they arise; and on my own, to seek causes to contribute to and support – please do share your accomplishments and concerns as you do the same. Renewed by the holiday break, I’m looking forward to working with and hearing from you.  All the best!

Nance

p.s. watch for an update to SAA’s Strategic Plan in 2017 …

2017 SAA Annual Meeting Program

I’m pleased to share this guest blog post from Terry Baxter, Program Committee chair for the 2017 Annual Meeting. I’ve mentioned in previous updates how  exciting  the 2017 program theme is: Alike and Different and how important the Saturday event is -The Liberated Archive: A Forum for Envisioning and Implementing a Community-Based Approach to Archives. The 2017 program embraces SAA’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. The SAA Council Working Group on  Diversity and Inclusion will be organizing discussion sessions and providing additional resources to encourage the broadest and most active participation  in discussions during the forum and throughout the Annual Meeting. Looking  forward to seeing you in Portland OR this year and please be sure to include Saturday in your plans! Thanks for your update, Terry:


It’s hard to think about summer, and the upcoming Society of American Archivists annual meeting in Portland, Oregon, during such dreary early-winter days. But the Program Committee has been hard at work to ensure that the education programming offered in July will be informative, stimulating, and useful.

The committee has already begun evaluating proposals. We received 196 proposal submissions (160 education sessions and 36 poster presentations) and will be working to evaluate and rank them prior to our in-person meeting in Chicago, January 9-11. At that time, the committee will select education sessions and poster presentations to reinforce the conference theme of alike/different, which acknowledges that we archivists sit under a very large tent and, although we have many similarities, there are ways in which we differ—sometimes fundamentally.

Work also continues on The Liberated Archive: A Forum for Envisioning and Implementing a Community-Based Approach to Archives, which will take place on Saturday, July 29, as part of the conference. A subcommittee consisting of Natalie Baur, Jarrett Drake, and Jennifer O’Neal has been working to develop both structure and content for the forum. (A full report of their activities to date was presented to the SAA Council at its November 14-16 meeting.) Both the subcommittee and the full Program Committee will continue to build on this work. As noted in the original conference call for proposals, a call for Forum content will be issued in January 2017.

The Liberated Archive asks: “If the archive is a site of social control, how might archivists partner with the public – especially at this critical junction for the profession – to repurpose the archive as a site of social transformation and radical inclusion?” At its core, the Forum is intended to bring together archivists and members of various Portland communities to identify ways in which archivists can support these communities in their pursuit of justice, self-awareness, and freedom. If we believe that archives have power—and more precisely the power to effect positive change—then it is our responsibility as archivists to assist others in using them as widely as possible.

How will archivists benefit from this exchange? The future of diversity and inclusion in archives is not an exercise in collection, description, and access. It is rooted in communities that want to hold power accountable, connect their members with each other, perpetuate language and religion, preserve locations and bioresources, and tell their stories through time. Archivists can participate in this future or they can sit on the sideline and watch their relevance diminish. The Liberated Archive will expose archivists not only to the mechanics of working with communities, but also the sense of commitment and joy that comes with deeply connected work.

The Program Committee welcomes your thoughts and ideas about the 2017 program and the Liberated Archive Forum. Feel free to contact Program Committee Chair Terry Baxter at terry.d.baxter@multco.us or conference@archivists.org.

“All Archivists Stick Together”

I had intended to post sooner this week – it won’t surprise you that I struggled to find words to share. As I pondered, I read through the stream of messages on various SAA listservs and on social media. It’s reassuring to be reminded that archivists are so many things and we accomplish a lot together – we document, inform, assist, encourage in a variety of ways. Just one example, messages about capturing post-election twitter are being shared from the Women Archivists Roundtable (WAR) to other lists – that’s great.

There are also expressions of concern an uncertain time. SAA has a strong, demonstrated, and increasing commitment to diversity and inclusion. We have accumulated resources and groups we can build upon. I revisited the suggestions about things we can do in the Message from Council and I hope it’s okay and helpful to re-post them with modest adjustments.

Individuals:

  • We can each continue to work at being a diverse and inclusive community, even when we experience fear and even when it’s difficult.
  • We can be active bystanders.
  • If you see something, say something. Let someone know.
  • Reach out to people who may feel threatened, who may need encouragement, or who may just want to talk, share, and understand.

Groups:

Association:

Community:

  • We can share what we’re doing on diversity and inclusion, including lessons learned.
  • Engage other communities, learn from what they are doing, and share what we learn.

And we can do more. The SAA Council will open with a diversity and inclusion session with DeEtta Jones to identify opportunities and strategies for challenges that will lead into a review of our strategic plan that will result in a revised action plan. Updates will be forthcoming and your ideas, suggestions, and other feedback are always welcome.

I had the great pleasure on Wednesday to visit the SAA Archives at the University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee – you may have seen a brief note from about my visit on Twitter or Facebook. Abigail Nye, SAA’s Archivist, talked  about what the SAA Archives team is working on (impressive!) and gave me tour – there will be more updates about the SAA Archives watch this space… Like every archives, ours is full of treasures to be re-remembered. After my visit, Abbi sent me a link to a wonderful reminder of one other thing we do – “All Archivists Stick Together”  – it’s awesome, and possibly time for an update?

Please know that you can always reach the current SAA President at: president@archivists.org – look forward to hearing from you.