Donuts, Dinos, and Records: COSA/NAGARA/SAA 2018

A few weeks ago Megan Carey and I were lucky enough to travel to attend the Joint Annual Meeting of Council of State Archivists (COSA), National Association of Government Archives and Records Administrators (NAGARA), and Society of American Archivists (SAA). Every four years, these organizations come together and host a large joint conference in Washington, D.C., and deliver jam packed days of educational sessions, networking, and donuts.

Donuts served at A Night at the Museum – dessert reception held at the National Museum of Natural History.

The joint conference always boasts excellent educational opportunities and this year it did not disappoint. With at least 10 session options every hour or so, the conference can be overwhelming; Megan and I did our best to divide and conquer. We don’t have full synopses of every session we attended but here are some of our key impressions.

    •  David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, and keynote speaker at the opening plenary session provided updates on recent work at the National Archives. They recently reviewed and approved the retention schedules for a federal agency. The National Archives has a similar administrative rule process for schedules as we do here in Texas. During that schedule review process, the National Archives received over 26,000 comments about the schedule (!!!). I commend the staff at the National Archives for their hard work in reviewing and responding to such a large number of comments. As much as I would appreciate such enthusiasm for our own administrative rules, Texas state agencies and local governments, please don’t get any ideas! 😊
    • Zeynep Tufekci, PhD, University of North Carolina associate professor, discussed problems and issues with what she penned “information glut.” The challenge for information professionals is no longer too little documentation but too much information. So, now our work should be focused on how to preserve access and be able to provide context with the overabundance of information.
    • During the Email Archiving Comes of Age session, Roger Christman, Library of Virginia, provided a short snapshot into Library of Virginia’s efforts to archive Tim Kaine’s emails.

      With the conference’s theme of “Promoting Transparency”, Roger provided some technical information but reminded us all of something very important “Don’t lose sight of the storytelling.” We can get lost in the technical issues of digital preservation and it is easy to lose sight of the “Why”.

      We preserve emails and records to tell a story and to provide transparency into government decisions and actions. Don’t lose sight of why we preserve and what we should preserve to be able to tell that story.

    • In the session, “Scheduling the Ephemeral: Creating and Implementing Records Management Policy for Social Media”, Kristen Albrittain (NARA), Bethany Cron (NARA), and Laura Larrimore (U.S. Patent and Trade Office) discussed the challenges associated in grappling with not only social media records, but also creating flexible policies, procedures, and processes in order to accommodate these evolving records and enable dynamic adoption. For those entering the arena of social media records management for the first time, doing something is always better than doing nothing. 

      Recommendations from the group revolved around:

      • Creating a social media workgroup for drafting policy, identifying records and issues facing those records and at the very least, including social media content creators in the team;
      • Approaching capture of records from a risk management perspective to realize what actually needs capturing versus what would be ideal;
      • Additionally, be realistic and knowledgeable about the different capture methods pertinent to various types of social media.

All in all, we always appreciate the opportunity to expand our knowledge and learn from those doing new, exciting, or challenging projects and tasks.

It would be a shame to become a stagnant fossil fated to become extinct and therefore ineffective at our job!

On that topic, does anyone know the retention period of Tyrannosaurus Rex bones?

Let us know in the comments below!

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