Notes from the Trenches: Anecdotes and Best Practices from the Library World

Not a best practice, an okay practice: bend the rules

 Records management is a field all about the rules. Retention schedules dictate exactly how long a record should be retained, in what format, and its disposition after it has reached the end of the life cycle.

Policies and laws such as the Sunshine Laws here in Ohio guide the records, and the people creating these records, through the process. The problem is, while you can neatly make a category for every single record and where it should fit, the people in charge of them do not always conform and adhere to these guidelines.

I previously worked as a Records Manager and Archivist for a small local government. Although there are some differences working in government as opposed to an academic library, the purpose of my job was the same as my current position as an archivist: to make information available and accessible to those who seek it. As the Records Manager I created detailed rules about what was required from the departments when they transferred records to the archives, with an understanding that if the directions were not followed to the letter, the records would be sent back to the sender. Then, what I’m sure is no great surprise, the first box came that was done incorrectly.

I struggled with whether it was better to send the box back and potentially damage the relationship I had been building with the department or to follow the procedures that I had set in place. With my objective to make the information available, I realized that I had to accept the box and accept that rules are “best practice” but sometimes I needed to follow just “okay practice.” A year later the department was completing their annual audit and returned to access their records, preventing potential legal penalties for the entire county. Whether it is a policy within the library or a standard within the profession, in order to make information available sometimes you have to bend the rules.
Kayla Harris, University of Dayton

This entry was posted in Vol. 35 no. 4 (Dec. 2016). Bookmark the permalink.

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