Today, I was able to attend a short seminar on Records Management. The seminar was given by Jeff, who is a Senior Records Analyst at NARA. He gave a brief (one-hour) overview of records management to the Department of Forestry. We went to the Pacific Fire Research Lab in Fremont, where they have video-conferencing equipment. There we were able to meet with 7 other forestry offices and ranger stations throughout Region 6, which is comprised of Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. The purpose of this seminar was to encourage the rangers and forestry personnel to manage their documents. For those who are unfamiliar with records management, it is a means of caring for active records. These records are only kept for a specific amount of time–usually this is determined by their usefulness–and then they are disposed of properly. The records are disposed of according to a retention schedule, which gives a specific amount of time for the agencies to keep these records. Only about 5% of all Federal records are deemed important enough to remain permanent records and sent to the archives for posterity’s sake.
After the short seminar, the Investigator General of the United States came to NARA to inspect the archives. Everyone was very anxious about this inspection–no one had ever been present for an Investigator General’s visit in their entire career within NARA! He came to basically make sure that we are keeping track of our documents and maintaining their safety and security. There have been several incidents that have made their way into national news that have caused some concern as to the security of documents at the archival facilities, particularly Philadelphia where some documents were stolen.
While the interns were diligently working in the Red Room, he came back to say hello. While he was there he tried to give us a staple remover! (FYI: these are strictly forbidden from use on the documents, due to the fact that they will tear the pages. We use what is known as an archival spatula to remove staples when needed.) All three of the archivists that were with him immediately said NO! They were absolutely horrified at the thought of his suggestion! I found it quite amusing that the IG thought he was being helpful, when in reality he was going to aid in the destruction of permanent records, which is what he is so adamantly against!