I knew when joining the RMA unit that there was the occasional workday at the State Records Center. (I read about it on this blog!) This was a feature not a bug for me. So, when Sarah put out a call for extra hands for a workday at the State Records Center, I jumped on the opportunity.
The Records Center is a different animal than our usual downtown location. Located in West Austin along Shoal Creek, there is a wildness to it: coyote sightings, natural beauty, and ant hills the size of doghouses. Missing are the tourists, historical markers and business casual dress. The Records Center is a place of physical work and I was dying for my first taste.
The three RMA volunteers were asked to prep incoming boxes for their new home. The accessions had come in large groups and on pallets. Accompanying boxes sent for storage is an inventory list. Records Center employees use this list to make individual labels for each box.
My task was to match the boxes with the labels. The labeling workflow can go in many different directions. The one everyone hopes for is the most straightforward: the description of the box on the inventory perfectly matches what’s written externally on the box. For example, the inventory sent to the SRC includes a box labeled “Box 1, A– B” and low and behold there is a box on the pallet that says “Box 1, A-B.” Double checking by popping the lid to ensure that the first record in the box is A and last record B, the label can now be applied and the box can be whisked away to its new home.
What’s not fun is when what’s on the inventory list does not match up or even contradicts what’s written on the box. When this happens, the labeler is put in the role of detective and must investigate the contents of each box to find a match. Numbering boxes appropriately before sending them to the SRC saves everyone a lot of time.
Good stuff. And while the RMA team was labeling boxes, the SRC staff were right behind us taking the prepared boxes to their new homes on the shelves. The SRC uses a random filing system, both for convenience and security reasons. Only folks working in the SRC have access to the database of box locations, as our man Michael Shea explained to KUT.
One thing that nobody warned me about was the spookiness of working on the second level of the stacks. About the only thing between you and a very twisted ankle is a metal grate. That being said, I liked working on the second level. I only had one scare when I accidentally snagged the lanyard holding my staff ID on a box and it nearly took a dive through the grate. I realized I didn’t need to be wearing my lanyard and that it was actively interfering with the work I was doing. That’s another sign that, although a part of TSLAC, SRC has exceptions to general agency rules to facilitate the type of work conducted there.
Storage is such an important component of records management, so I was very happy to be part of the State Records Center operation, if only for a day. I look forward to the next opportunity!