B. Electronic Records: Archivists and Technologists
C. Coalition for Networked Information: Working Together
II. Design of the Curriculum
III. Workshop Implementation
IV. Evaluation and Workshop Revisions
V. Dissemination and Future Plans
Final Report: Grant Number 9825
Coalition for Networked Information
With the assistance of funds provided by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), the Coalition for Networked Information (CNI) revamped an existing workshop that emphasized developing collaborative cross-sector projects in institutions to have a special focus on teams of archivists, records managers, and information technologists. Previously, the Working Together workshop had targeted teams of librarians and information technologists, and no electronic records managers nor archivists had participated. Two facilitators and a CNI staff member reviewed and revised the existing workshop materials and made adjustments in the topics to be presented, background readings, and timing for various activities. The draft workshop agenda and materials were reviewed by an outside advisory group, and further changes were made. The workshop was offered on December 16-17, 1998 in Washington, DC. Two subsequent workshops have been offered, one benefiting from a small amount of funding left after the completion of the first workshop.
The Working Together workshop is process-oriented, including a majority of time spent in small group work in which the participants develop a framework for an institutional collaborative project. The workshop builds from a general foundation of understanding of environmental and institutional factors affecting collaboration and the fields of archives, electronic records, and information technology, to a focus on potential projects that could assist in making progress in the long-term access of electronic records and archives, to identification of and initial planning for an institutional project.
Increasingly, records of historical and cultural value are stored in computerized information systems. Preservation of and access to these electronic records is a major concern to archivists and records managers. The National Historical Publications and Records Commission has recognized the significance of this problem and outlined an agenda for action in its “Research Issues in Electronic Records.” This agenda and NHPRC funding have guided a significant body of research in electronic records, much of which is summarized in “Electronic Records Research and Development: Final Report of the 1996 Ann Arbor Conference.” The work of this project builds on the accomplishments of the archival community in addressing NHPRC’s research agenda, including NHPRC-funded projects at University of Pittsburgh, Indiana University, the City of Philadelphia, and the New York State Archives and Records Administration, among others.
The premise of this project was that advancements in the preservation of electronic records will be accomplished through a collaboration among archivists, records managers, and information technologists. Prior research at New York State Archives and at Indiana University points clearly to the importance of collaboration and partnership in the design of information systems. Work at Indiana and Philadelphia required a degree of such interaction between technologists and archivists. And Pittsburgh’s findings lead clearly to the conclusion that preservation of electronic records depends in large part upon innovations in technology solutions for record keeping systems.
CNI, a joint project of the Association of Research Libraries, CAUSE, and Educom (the latter two organizations now merged as EDUCAUSE), was founded in 1990 to promote the creation of and access to information resources in networked environments in order to enrich scholarship and to enhance intellectual productivity. Two hundred organizations and institutions belong to the CNI Task Force, a group that makes special contributions to the CNI’s projects and activities. Included in the Task Force membership are higher education institutions, publishers, network service providers, computer hardware and system companies, library networks and organization, and public and state libraries. The Society of American Archivists and the National Archives are active members of the CNI Task Force. In 1994 CNI launched its “Working Together” initiative, a series of workshop retreats for institutional teams of information technologists and librarians seeking ways to work together effectively. The objectives for participants of this program were: to gain an understanding of the broad range of opportunities available for joint action; to have the time and tools to negotiate and develop collaborative and cooperative efforts to undertake upon return to home institutions; and to have the opportunity to explore and practice skills and processes designed to support collaborative efforts and encourage collaboration at all levels of the organization.
This NHPRc-funded project sought to leverage the prior CNI investment and expertise in workshop development and delivery, and its expertise in promoting inter-disciplinary collaboration, applying these to the needs and interests of archivists, records managers, and information technologists who can have a positive effect on the preservation of historical records stored in digital form.
The practical outcome of this project was a workshop designed specifically for archivists, records managers, and information technologists, providing them the opportunity to work together on electronic records issues in their own institutional environments. While existing materials served as the basis for the workshop, in recent years Working Together had been offered primarily as a one-day workshop, although initially it was a two-day event. Rethinking the content and timing for a two-day workshop was necessary for the successful implementation of this program geared to archivists, records managers, and information technologists.
The Project Director, Joan Lippincott, and the Project Facilitators/Consultants, Gerry Bernbom and Fynnette Eaton, met for two full days in Washington, DC to develop the curriculum for the workshop. Prior to that meeting, those three individuals reviewed the materials used in previous Working Together workshops and discussed via phone and e-mail some of the issues anticipated and changes needed to the existing materials. After the face-to-face meeting, each of the three individuals produced a portion of the materials for the curriculum and those materials were consolidated and sent to the Advisory Group for review. The group included:
- Philip Bantin, University Archivist, Indiana University
- Gerry Bernbom, Associate Director, University Computing Services, Indiana University
- Malcolm Brown, Director of Academic Computing, Dartmouth College
- Kathryn Deiss, Office of Management Services, Association of Research Libraries
- Fynnette Eaton, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- Alan Kowlowitz, New York State Archives & Records Administration
- Susan Perry, Director, Library, Information and Technology Services, Mt. Holyoke College
- Helen Samuels, Special Assistant to the Associate Provost, MIT
- Lee Stout, University Archivist, Penn State University
Comments were received from Advisory Group members by e-mail, phone, and fax. Lippincott, Bernbom, and Eaton reviewed the comments and then had a conference call to determine what changes were needed in the draft materials. A number of changes were made to the agenda, such as reorganizing the sequence of some sessions, lengthening some sessions, and shortening others. Lippincott, Bernbom, and Eaton then developed final versions of the workshop materials. Those materials are included in Appendix A.
Institutional teams were invited to register for the workshop in postings to listservs such as those hosted by CNI and archives and records groups. (Sample postings are included in Appendix B). A web-based registration form was available. Registrants were notified that a selection process would take place and they would be informed as to whether or not their team had been accepted. A total of 86 registration forms were received from individuals from 27 institutions. The facilitators and the project director selected the participants from this pool. They used as criteria 1) registration forms had to have been received from all members of the institutional team; 2) geographic diversity; and 3) institutional diversity. Applications were received from 16 universities, 4 colleges, 4 government agencies, and 3 “other.” A wide geographic range was represented among the applicants, including one foreign country. The institutional teams chosen to participate were:
- Arizona State University
- Cornell University
- Dartmouth College
- Delaware Public Archives (and other state agencies)
- Indiana University/Purdue University of Indianapolis
- Lafayette College
- National Archives and Records Administration
- Texas State Library and Archives Commission
- University of London (England)
- University of Washington
- Virginia Commonwealth University
All of the invited teams accepted the invitation to participate. While our plan called for 35 participants, we had 37 registrants.
The workshop was held at the Georgetown University Conference Center in Washington, DC on December 16-17, 1998. (The folder of materials distributed at registration is enclosed with this report.) The workshop schedule included two full days of activities, and all of the registrants participated fully for the entire duration of the workshop. One participant noted, “The people who attended obviously wanted to be here and were very willing to share ideas in a friendly atmosphere.” A keynote by Clifford Lynch, Executive Director of CNI, kicked off the workshop and provided a framework of some of the overarching issues involved in the long-term access of electronic records and archives. A variety of activities led up to each institutional team deciding upon a project and developing a brief presentation for critique by their fellow participants. When asked what was most valuable about the workshop as a whole, one participant responded, “The structure: the flow from general through specific, focusing in on a practical institution-specific task.”
The institutional project topics included:
- Developing a plan for long-term preservation of portions of an institution’s website (3 institutions)
- Designing policies and systems to preserve portions of administrative e-mail
- Ensuring that record-keeping functionalities are incorporated into newly implemented electronic records systems, specifically for student records (2 institutions)
- Developing a policy and process for preserving a key institutional document, now available in electronic form only
- Designing and implementing a legally acceptable and accessible electronic records system for a state agency
- Developing a campaign and orientation program to inform staff (in one case a university, in another a state agency) of their responsibilities to deal with electronic records and how to do it (2 institutions)
- Develop a policy for retention of university electronic publications after completing a survey of what is available
The facilitators for the workshop, Gerry Bernbom, Indiana University, and Fynnette Eaton, Smithsonian Institution, represented the fields of information technology and archives/records respectively. They held the attention of the participants and had credibility as a team that understood the issues presented and discussed. One participant commented, “The workshop was done extremely well. The facilitators were excellent in conducting the workshop in such a way that kept it very interesting.” Many participants particularly liked a new component of Working Together, created for this workshop, in which each facilitator gave a brief talk on what archivists wished information technologists knew about their work and conversely what information technologists wished archivists knew about their work. As one attendee commented, “Because each described how one field perceives the other, and what each profession wished the other knew, I learned more than I ever dreamed possible in one session, from both professions.”
A tabulation of the evaluation and all of the participant comments are provided in Appendix C. The three elements that were identified as being most useful were 1) having time away from the office to focus with colleagues on an institutional project, 2) the structured process of the workshop, and 3) the interaction with other professions and other institutions afforded by the workshop.
A primary objective of this project, to bring together the professional groups of information technologists, archivists, and records managers, was realized. One participant responded to the question of what was most valuable about the workshop by saying, “The formal opportunity to bring archivists, records managers and technologists together. Archivists have complained for a long time about not getting a seat at the table with technologists.” Another stated that the workshop provided an opportunity for “the beginning of a dialog and platform to start a partnership.”
The project director and facilitators carefully reviewed the workshop evaluations and made a number of revisions when it was offered a second time in June, 1999. The revised materials are included in Appendix D. Changes included moving the “what archivists want information technologists to know and vice versa” earlier in the workshop, providing a synthesis of the institutional projects at the end of the workshop, and shortening the opening “ice breaker.”
The evaluation comments were largely very favorable in nature. For example, when asked what was most valuable about the workshop, one participant commented, “That the workshop achieved the desired result, i.e. that the archives and computing service areas have found common ground and now have a concrete plan for working on these vital mutual interests.”
A follow-up evaluation to find out which projects are being implemented and what they are finding has not yet been implemented, but CNI still plans to undertake that activity.
CNI offered a second workshop in June, 1999. Notification was sent to all of the individuals who had registered for but were not selected for the first workshop and they were given first priority for registration. The workshop was partially subsidized by NHPRC with a small amount of funds remaining from the December workshop.
CNI was approached by a member and asked to offer the workshop for teams from the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC) institutions, a consortium of large, midwestern universities. CNI and the CIC partially subsidized that workshop, which was held in November, 1999.
While no additional workshop are currently scheduled, we do plan to offer the workshop again in 2000.
At the Spring, 1999 CNI Task Force Meeting, a breakout session was held reporting on the results of the first workshop. Fynnette Eaton (facilitator), Joan Lippincott (project director), and Peter Hirtle from Cornell participated. Another breakout session is being planned for the Spring 2000 meeting, highlighting projects in which key institutional electronic documents are projects for long-term preservation.
Two articles have been published reporting on what was learned from the workshops; they are :
Lippincott, Joan. “Working Together: A Collaboration among Archivists, Records Managers, and Information Technologists.” ARL: A Bimonthly Newsletter of Research Library Issues and Actions. number 202, February, 1999, p. 7.
Bernbom, Gerry, Eaton, Fynnette, and Lippincott, Joan. “Working Together: New Collaborations among Information Professionals.” CAUSE/EFFECT, volume 22, number 2 pp. 6-9.
Joan K. Lippincott, Project Director
Coalition for Networked Information
January 14, 2000