I started at SLRM at 23 years old with a bad haircut, an eyebrow ring, and a dream: a full-time job that paid me enough to afford rent. I knew nothing about records management, didn’t even know it was a discipline, and had no idea where my birth certificate was. I was kind of a mess.
Cut to 17 years later, I have a much better haircut, I lost the eyebrow ring when my brother told me to take it out for his wedding, and I LOVE records management. I love it so much that I have taken a position at another state agency so that I can work with it more in practice, instead of just theory. As excited and hopeful as I am for this new venture, I’m also sad to have to say goodbye to my SLRM family and all of my wonderful clients I have gotten to know over the years. Now, abusing quotes from A Farewell to Arms, I get emotional and reflect on my time here:
“It evidently made no difference whether I was there to look after things or not.”
This is how it sometimes feels when working in records management. Our efforts can be overlooked or minimized. We can be told it’s not a priority. But everything you do to improve your records program makes a difference – when someone comes looking for a record that’s important to them, when you get involved in litigation, when the local news puts in a PIR – that’s when it makes a difference. Victories are small and fought for hard, but it doesn’t mean they aren’t important. Incremental change is still change, and they add up.
“I was always embarrassed by the words sacred, glorious, and sacrifice and the expression in vain.”
Sometimes the hard work you put into records management can feel like it’s in vain. People will complain about having to come to training, they’ll complain when the shared drive gets cleaned up, they’ll complain when you ask them questions about their files – why do you even care about this stuff? But these endeavors are never in vain. People will get over the minor inconvenience of having to learn a new filing system and they’ll learn a few tips and tricks in training. They’ll – dare I say – appreciate the new filing system when they realize how much faster they can find their files. We are always looking for progress, not perfection.
“There isn’t always an explanation for everything.”
Oh, if I only had an explanation for everything I get asked in my job. But sometimes I don’t know why your government was never told about the Local Government Records Act in 1989. I don’t know why a retention period is written the way it’s written. I don’t know why a stubborn-as-all-get-out employee won’t fill out an inventory that will take ten minutes to do (try breakfast tacos or cookies). And believe me, I get frustrated when I can’t answer a question, probably as frustrated as you get when there isn’t an answer. All I can say is we work in an evolving field, and hopefully the answers are coming. We’re constantly working on it.
“When you love you wish to do things for. You wish to sacrifice for. You wish to serve.”
Records management is a service. People hate doing inventories, people hate filling out disposition logs, but people love being able to find their stuff. Next time someone is hedging at your efforts to clean up the shared drive or organize a shred day, make sure they know that you are offering these labors as a service – it’s to assist them in doing their jobs better, it’s to save money and time, it’s to keep them out of the newspaper.
And now I know where my birth certificate is: in a fireproof, waterproof lock box with all my other important documents that would be a pain to replace. So, in short: do something. Do it now. Do it before you have to do it. Do it because it’s important that someone cares about this.
With that, I bid you farewell and tell all of you what an honor and privilege it’s been. Thank you for everything and for it all.