Recap of NAGARA Winter Regional Forum 2018

The National Association of Government Archives and Records Administrators (NAGARA) started a new initiative in 2017: organizing regional forums that provide live professional development opportunities to federal, state and local government employees around the country. Austin, Texas was lucky enough to land the winter regional forum this year, and on January 26, 78 attendees from across the state took advantage of this great opportunity.

I, along with Laura Saegert, Assistant Director of Archives, were program co-chairs for this event. We had a great group of individuals on our committee that worked to help us focus in on topics and find speakers. As the program came together, it was great to see the diversity of topics that appealed to a broad audience, but the thing that struck me the most was who we found to prepare and deliver the content.

  • Williamson County Clerk Nancy Rister walked us through the progression of creating and preserving records throughout history and really brought home how rapidly records management has progressed into the digital world in the past 20 years.
  • Louis Scharringhausen, a forensic specialist, taught attendees about ransomware and cyber blackmail, emphasizing the importance of how to recognize vulnerabilities within your organization so that you can develop counter measures to mitigate the risk of an attack.
  • Andy Bennett from the Texas Division of Information Resource’s Office of the Chief Information Security Officer, enlightened the audience on how we have been in working in the cloud before we knew what to call it… and the differences in public and private clouds.
  • The chief of the Open Records Division of the Office of the Attorney General, Justin Gordon, focused his remarks on the Texas Open Records Act, which is an important piece of the puzzle when determining what is and what is not considered confidential information that may require additional protections for both the subject of the records and your institution.
  • And finally, a panel of three archivists from the Texas State Library and Archives Division of TSLAC demonstrated the features of the Texas Digital Archive and provided some insights into how the State Archives is balancing the demand for access with protecting confidentiality of electronic records by developing and implementing policies and procedures that focus on the management of digital content.

Except for the last panel, none of the presenters would identify themselves as Records Managers or Archivists. Yet what they had to say was relevant to how records managers and archivist do their jobs. That’s because records are pervasive throughout every organization and the methods of capturing, managing, and mitigating risk of records is ever changing due to forces outside the walls of the institutions within which our public records reside.

I think that is why it is so important to keep learning about new technology, remind ourselves of best practices for historic and other legacy records, and to connect with others who are trying to figure out how to manage the information assets that we work with every day.  Records management is a field that is often affected by trends and developments in seemingly unrelated fields, but by integrating that knowledge into our programs, we strengthen the field of RM.

If you are interested in getting involved with NAGARA, check out their website for future regional and national events: https://www.nagara.org/