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Maarja Krusten 2 <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Records Management Program <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 11 Jun 2018 08:33:21 -0400
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 -----Original Message-----
From: Maarja Krusten 2 <[log in to unmask]>
To: archivists-recordsmgmt <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Mon, Jun 11, 2018 8:13 am
Subject: Keep calm, do your reseach Fwd: [RM] Crisis at the National

From another records listserv, sharing a forward of an excerpt from an
opinion piece a subscriber there posted recently. The seemingly well
intended although one-sided ("bad guys" all one political party) opinion
piece has the dramatic title,"Crisis at the National Archives."  The
opinion piece by publisher and reporter Thomas LIpscomb illustrates why
assessing Federal RM may be challenging for people who've researched
records but not worked as civil servants in affected professions
(archivist, records manager, government historian).
 Lipscomb's essay draws on Congressional hearings to try to assess Federal
Records Act issues during the last administration (January 2009-January
2017).  Lipscomb looks at FRA losses during the last administration and
asks how the records issues will "affect plans for the new Obama
presidential library. But will there be penalties for violating the 2014

This type of conflation of the Federal Records Act (in which the National
Archives has a role throughout the records life cycle) and the Presidential
Records Act, in which RM responsibility statutorily resides solely with the
president and his designees on White House staff, is not uncommon in
opinion writing. My advice to you as professionals is always start with
what the laws and regulations in place required when assessing advocacy
commentary.  A solid way to go whether partisan or non-partisan.  Some of
what Lipscomb describes occurred prior to the the signing into law on
November 26, 2014 of H.R. 1233.

A few months ago I waved readers off of circulating a more tendentious
piece than Libscomb's. That one was written by a self described watchdog
and partisan who was a retired real estate agent.  Neither he nor Lipscomb
seem aware that there will not be an Obama Presidential Library, that NARA
will administer his Presidential Records Act materials in its regular
facilities.  Or how RM works. Lipscomb's conclusion implies a presidential
library would be the repository for accessioned materials under Federal
Records Act. Not so and as such, a dramatic bridge too far.

I don't recommend Congressional hearings as a sole source for trying to
assess records management issues if you're not familiar with their Majority
and Minority dynamics, or able to separate the performative acts from the
good "aha" moments that can make up what I generally call "Washington
theater."  Parsing them may be challenging even for reporters, although
some do better than others.  There also is the barrier of what I call
"records management theater." I alluded to that in my 2015 "Truth Bomb"
blog post, which unlike outsider efforts, focused on the Records Manager.

Moving beyond conference presentation theater is one reason I have tried
from time to time to encourage greater depth in RM discussions about how
practitioners do their work. Compliance starts with the RM, who often is
best suited to  understand internal environmental and cultural issues in a
workplace and to craft sophisticated RM strategies for selling good records
practices up and down the ranks. Given challenges and acculturation, I do
understand why that rarely is the focus in online professional forums.

Still, these are good opportunities for me to advocate again for
information literacy and encouraging  sharing of your professional
experiences. One of my personal rules of thumb is, the greate the hyperbole
and the more drama in the framing, the less familiar the writer is with
Fedland RM, FRA or PRA.  (There can be other reasons for hyperbole, too, of
course.) In writing for info pros, better to stay calm and focus on what
happened, why it happened, what was required (don't cherry pick laws, regs,
guidance, read requirements and ask questions if something is unclear).
And if you're super results oriented, consider what was the macro and micro
RM culture that affected the outcome, and what are the most effective
possible solutions.

You'll rarely see that in even the best meaning opinion pieces.  This one
didn't go all the way up to Def Con Fainting Couch, it shows some effort at
getting it right but misses the mark elsewhere so I'd put it at Def Con
Eeek!? on my personal scale of advocacy writing.

Keep calm and carry on, fellow information pros, and for readers working in
the public or private sector on insight-based solutions to RM issues, my

[log in to unmask]
Washington, DC
Blog:  Archival Explorations

Subject: [RM] Crisis at the National Archives
To: [log in to unmask]

recent congressional testimony has made it clear that the Obama
administration itself engaged in the wholesale destruction and “loss” of
tens of thousands of government records covered under the act as well as
the intentional evasion of the government records recording system by
engaging in private email exchanges. So far, former President Obama, former
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former Attorney General Lynch and
several EPA officials have been named as offenders. The IRS suffered record
“losses” as well. Former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy called it “an
unauthorized private communications system for official business for the
patent purpose of defeating federal record-keeping and disclosure laws.”

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