Archive for the ‘federal records’ Category

Yesterday afternoon at work a colleague brought to my attention NARA’s involvement with the election. I already knew the role of the Federal Register from poli sci courses in undergrad, but I never got around to connecting the dots to NARA before for some reason.

NARA has a nice summary of the election procedures time line and deadlines available here. NARA summarizes its mandate to manage these records at the bottom of the page:

NARA is primarily responsible for coordinating the various stages of the electoral process by helping the States prepare and submit certificates that establish the appointment of electors and validate the electoral votes of each State.

I, for one, am glad that NARA is involved in the election process.  While there are many reasons for and against the electorial college, it gives me confidence that at least archivists are ensuring records are created and authenticated in a systematic manner.  Yay accountability!


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The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has a new report out this week regarding NARA plan, or lack thereof, for accepting Presidential electronic records in January 2009. NARA’s Electronic Records Archive (ERA) has been under development for a number of years and its launch seems far off.  In response, an Executive Office of the President (EOP) system has been developed to accept Presidential records. The EOP seems to be behind schedule as well.  The GAO is calling for NARA to develop an alternative plan in case the EOP cannot accept records on January 20, 2009. The National Coalition for History has more here.

This is certainly an important issue, but it seems a larger issue to the potential incompatibility between the EOP and ERA.  The systems are being built using different architectures by different entities. Will the requirements, backups, and protections used for Presidential records be the same for federal records?  Are the injest and outjest processes different?  Will the differences between the two systems affect the end users? It will be interesting to see how this develops.

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The Vice Presidential Debate wrapped up a few minutes ago. Gwen Ifill, the moderator, came close to addressing the archives related issues of records and accountability within the office of the Vice President. Ifill asked Governor Sarah Palin if she agreed with Dick Cheney’s statements that the Vice President is part of both the executive and legislative branch. (See my earlier entry here.) Palin’s response was murky at best and it seems a McCain/Palin administration would continue to try to expand the power of the Vice President.

Lauren commented here on an earlier post about an SAA newsletter encourging members to become “activist archivists” by being involved in the political process and submitting archives related debate questions. Maybe we should all get going in this next week and see what happens. I think many people are concerned about government accountability in light of the recent financial bailout legislation and framed our archival questions in terms of accountability might be a good way to start conversations with people on this topic.

Here is the call for activism from the SAA Online Newsletter on Tuesday, September 23, 2008:

One of the three 2008 Presidential debates between Senator John McCain and Senator Barack Obama will be held on Tuesday, October 7, at Belmont University in Nashville. Tom Brokaw, who will moderate the town hall debate, will call on members of the audience for their questions and also select questions submitted online. The Commission on Presidential Debates is partnering with MySpace on a new website [www.mydebates.org/] and you can submit questions beginning on September 25. Where do the candidates stand on issues that are important to archives and archivists? Here’s your chance to find out and to call attention to the importance of archives and archivists in our communities! Where does Senator McCain stand on the Presidential Records Act Amendments of 2007 (S 886), which would override President Bush’s Executive Order 13233 giving current and former presidents and vice presidents broad authority to withhold presidential records or delay their release indefinitely? (Senator Obama is a co-sponsor of the legislation in the Senate.) (See http://historycoalition.org/issues/live-pages/presidential-records-reform-act-of-2007/ and http://www.archivists.org/news/Presidential-Records-Act-Amendments2007.asp for more information).

Where do the candidates stand on funding for the National Historical Publications and Records Commission? The National Endowment for the Humanities Division of Preservation and Access? On the PAHR (Preserving the American Historical Record) Bill? (See http://www.archivists.org/ for more information.) Other issues of importance to you as an archivist?

The more questions that archivists submit, the more likely it is that Brokaw will select one. Act now and make your voice heard!

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A federal judge ruled on Saturday that Vice President Dick Cheney’s records fall under the Presidential Records Act and must be preserved. For more on the case check out the NYT, the National Coalition for History’s announcement, and read the court’s Memorandum Opinion.

In the past Cheney has asserted that his office does not fall under the Executive Branch and therefore is not required to preserve the records. This is extremely problematic for issues concerning records and accountability, not to mention governing the country.  For a lighter look at the issue check out Jon Stewart’s take from June 25, 2007 (my birthday!): Non-Executive Decision.

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The New York Times article, In Digital Age, Federal Files Blip Into Oblivion, published on Thursday has a great summary of some of the problems in preserving electronic records throughout the Federal government. Excluding the problems and issues archivists face developing electronic record keeping systems, the larger problem is the lack of knowledge by agency employees regarding what is a federal record, what records need to be saved, and how to go about preserving and creating access for records professionals and archivists.

This is a serious public outreach and education problem facing archivists. Librarians often talk about information literacy and its importance in society. What about archival literacy? How can archivists share our knowledge about records creation, context, use, and preservation with records creators? There is growing literature expressing the need for archival involvement earlier in the records life cycle. It seems that in a time where people are desperate for help in dealing with their electronic records archivists and records managers can take this opportunity to create more effective training programs and support for federal employees. Otherwise, as Richard Pearce-Moses was quoted in the article: “…[T]he risks are so great that we may lose significant portions of our history.”

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