Dr. Melanie Sturgeon, Karen Gray, and Jerry Lucente- Kirkpatrick 2014-09-29 11:50:20
In Arizona, we face the same challenges that all government archivists and records managers face: too much work needs to be done, too few employees to do that work, and more customers than we can properly serve. In light of this, we believe managing and preserving our essential records is one of the most important challenges we face, but that challenge is often buried under the squeaky wheel of the immediate. Sometimes, circumstances conspire, stars align, and when all is finally right with the universe, we are presented an opportunity to move essential records to the forefront. In 2013—which we dubbed the “Year of Living Essentially”—we embarked on a yearlong campaign to educate and train all Arizona public bodies on essential records. Records Management Statutes A 2011 revision to the agency statutes led to our designating 2013 as the Year of Living Essentially. Since the early 1970s, Arizona had two records management statutes specific to essential records, which apply to more than 1,500 public bodies. The current text of these Statutes reads: §41-151.12. Records; records management; powers and duties of director; fees; records services fund 4. Establish criteria for designation of essential records within the following general categories: (a) Records containing information necessary to the operations of government in the emergency created by a disaster. (b) Records containing information necessary to protect the rights and interests of persons or to establish and affirm the powers and duties of governments in the resumption of operations after a disaster. 5. Reproduce or cause to be reproduced essential records and prescribe the place and manner of their safekeeping. §41-151.14. State and local public records management; violation; classification; definition 5. Once every five years submit to the director lists of all essential public records in the custody of the agency During the 2011 legislative session, our agency statutes were revised to add the language “once every five years” (which was previously emphasized) to ARS §41-151.14. Municipal clerks were the first to notice the change and began asking questions. Every day, we received more questions than the day before, but we had few answers. Our new director, Joan Clark, tasked us with learning more about essential records, and locating and providing resources to answer the questions we were receiving. Our Game Plan First, we focused on our agency. There was unadopted draft guidance on essential records from 2001, and the state archives had guidance and information thanks to the Intergovernmental Preparedness for Essential Records (IPER) training from the Council of State Archivists (CoSA). We also learned that the State Department of Emergency and Military Affairs offered Continuity of Operations Planning (COOP) to state agencies, but with limited focus on essential records (the department has since incorporated the guidance we developed as part of the statewide COOP process). After this initial work, we found ourselves essentially where we started—in serious need of resources. This led to our decision to build our own. After several meetings, we decided on a game plan: develop a series of trainings and aggressively promote them and develop tools and the guidance necessary to enable public bodies to comply with the statues by completing and submitting a List of All Essential Records. We opted to use the AT&T Connect system our agency already had to provide a wide audience with focused online training sessions. We settled on four phases to our training: Essential Records Basics (Phase I) , Essential Records Town Hall (Phase II), Essential Records Wrap-up (Phase III), and Essential Records Follow-up (Phase IV). Spreading the Word We aggressively marketed this training to Arizona’s state and local agencies. We had a robust email distribution list of about eight hundred records management contacts. We developed further contacts by approaching associations representing different public body professionals, leagues, local chapters of archives and records management professionals . . . And begging. With this expanded contacts list, we regularly expressed our intentions, marketed the training phases, encouraged forwarding of our emails, and repeatedly thanked the state and local agencies for their partnership with us in this important endeavor. After each phase of trainings, we released the PowerPoint slides and an audio/video recording of the session. Sharing resources helped keep everyone informed, interested, and on the same page during our Year of Living Essentially. Most importantly, we learned to clearly state the objectives and format of each phase in our marketing materials and to repeatedly restate these points. The Four Phases Phase I, Essential Records Basics, involved a simplified “lite” version of CoSA’s IPER training. We purposely developed a session that involved minimal audience participation and that was repeated six times in January 2013. We had a total attendance of 730 persons during this phase, representing all seven types of public bodies: counties, community colleges, fire districts, municipalities, school districts and charter schools, special districts, and state agencies. Response was overwhelmingly appreciative, enthusiastic, and encouraging. Phase II, Essential Records Next Round (Town Hall), was designed to be 15 percent training and 85 percent audience participation. The purpose was to review our general retention schedules (GRS) in logical groupings, going records series by records series, and vote on which records series the participants considered essential. We held ten sessions, targeting a specific audience for each session and relying on experts in the records covered by each GRS to participate in the voting for the corresponding schedules. The marketing for Phase II was tweaked after disastrous evaluations for the first two sessions. We added town hall to the name and refrained from using the word training since these sessions relied heavily on audience preparation and participation. With this change in marketing, the rest of the evaluations were very favorable. The ten sessions were offered throughout April to June 2013 and had a total participation of 980 persons, again representing all levels of public bodies. Phase II resulted in our first tool—the Essential Records Voting Tally. We tabulated the votes from each of the ten sessions in an Excel spreadsheet, detailing each records series and the votes for or against essential records status. Public bodies can now use this voting tally as they prepare their List of All Essential Records. By doing so, public bodies can save much of the work required to complete the list. Phase III, Essential Records Wrap-up, was designed to be 50 percent training and 50 percent participatory. We started with a brief summary of the basic essential records training, a review of what happened in Phase II, and a rollout of the List of All Essential Records. Phase III provided public bodies with the tools needed to complete their lists. We completed a form for participants to fill out, which includes information about meeting the statutory obligations and optional information regarding records formats and locations (the optional information will be required in the next five-year reporting cycle). Phase III was repeated five times in January 2014, and a total of 380 individuals participated. Phase IV, Essential Records Follow-up, is being held in late September. It also is 50 percent training and 50 percent participatory and tackles questions such as: Where are you in your essential records list process? What successes, problems, and insights are you encountering in the process? How can we at the LAPR help you meet your goal of completing and submitting a list? Our “Year of Living Essentially” has grown into a full-fledged program and has reached more than two thousand state and local agency employees. We have put in hundreds of hours creating the trainings, tools, and guidance. The end product—Essential Records Program Toolkit—contains the PowerPoints for Phases I to IV training, the Essential Records Voting Tally, guidance, the List of All Essential Records form, Arizona’s essential records statutes, and our CoSA/NAGARA/SAA Joint Annual Meeting presentation. The Essential Records Program Toolkit is available at http://apps.azlibrary.gov/fileshare/ListFiles. aspx?id=57c43477-18ef-4b4d-aa4be6c40f793b3.3 The password you will be asked for is 98809. We hope all our hard work can provide you with the tools you need to launch you own “Year of Living Essentially.” This information was shared during Session 105, “The Year of Living Essentially: Got Essential Records?” at the 2014 CoSA/ NAGARA/SAA Joint Annual Meeting.
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