Thursday, January 5, 2017

California State Archives is hiring a Deputy State Archivist

If you're a seasoned archivist or records manager who relishes the thought of putting your supervisory and administrative experience to good use, has at least some electronic records experience, lives or would like to live in northern California, and want to work with some great people, you may be the Golden State's next Deputy State Archivist. Details:
Department Information
The Secretary of State is seeking a full-time, permanent Staff Services Manager II [Deputy State Archivist]. Under the general direction of the Chief, Archives Division, the incumbent supervises and evaluates program activities of a staff of professional archivists, records management analysts, as well as records management staff, administrative staff, technicians, and support staff; assist in the formulation, implementation, and administration of archival and records management programs and planning; assists the Division Chief in the formulation of policy and procedures; oversees public relations and community programs; attends conferences, meetings and hearings; and work with the Division Chief to implement the mission of the Division. The position is located in downtown Sacramento, near Light Rail, K Street Mall, and other amenities.

Job Description and Duties
Administering the Division’s budget; formulates and implements Division policy and procedures; oversees public information activities that impact on the knowledge and understanding of the public affected by the programs of the Division; oversees development, implementation and promotion of automated systems that access archival information services and database; serves as security officer for the division and maintains the security manual; gathers information from staff relating to facility issues and concerns and contacts SOS-Business Services; Supervising and directing the work of archivists, records management analysts, records management staff, administrative staff, technicians and support staff; evaluating the performance of staff; reviewing monthly workload reports; directing difficult and complex historical research; recommending legislative proposals and reviewing proposed legislation relating to the Division; in the absence of the Division Chief, representing the Secretary of State at conferences, meetings, and legislative hearings on matters relating to the Division.

Special Requirements
Supplemental Questionnaire. The response to the Supplemental Questionnaire questions listed below shall be not more than two pages in length. Must be typed in Times New Roman or Arial font, 12-point, single spaced, and with margins set at one inch (1”) on each side. The response must clearly state the professional experience relevant to the Archives program area. Applications submitted without a Supplemental Questionnaire will not be considered.
  1. Describe a situation in which you took a lead role to identify and resolve a conflict within your organization. 
  2. Explain the essential principles and purpose of the management archival records. 
  3. Describe your knowledge and experience with managing, preserving and maintaining electronic records and other items of historical significance. 
  4. Share your knowledge and experience with supervising, coaching, mentoring, and directing other employees or teams. 
  5. Describe the key competencies and characteristics you find most critical for a successful leader then explain how you have demonstrated these competencies in your current role.
The application deadline is 20 January 2017. The successful candidate will earn between $6,005.00 - $7,462.00 per month, and the State of California offers a comprehensive suite of employee benefits.  If you have not already taken California's Staff Services Manager II civil service examination, you must demonstrate that you have applied to do so (the exam is offered continuously) when you submit your application. The successful candidate must attain a satisfactory score on this examination. For more information and application instructions, consult the position description.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

NASA seeks Chief Archivist

If you're comfortable working with paper and digital records, relish doing historical research as well as supporting the multi-faceted research of others, excel at editing draft publications, know or want to know a lot about the history of space exploration, and live or want to live in the Washington, DC area, the History Division of the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) may have a really cool job waiting for you. Please note that the application deadline is 30 December 2016 (i.e., two days following the date of this posting), that the position is open only to U.S. citizens, and that the successful candidate must pass a background check.
The Archivist position serves as the lead for policy guidance on archival issues across the agency, reporting to the Chief Historian in the History Division within the Office of Communications. Provides historical archival and technical information to the aerospace field. The archivist is responsible for managing, maintaining, and enhancing the NASA Headquarters Historical Reference, the historical reference service available to NASA personnel, NASA-sponsored historical researchers, and researchers in other agencies, universities, the media and the general public.

This position may be filled at the GS-12 or GS-13 grade level.

The full performance level for this position is GS-13.

This position is being announced in conjunction with Merit Promotion vacancy announcement number HQ17C0041 [consult this posting if you are already employed by the federal government]. Current and former Federal employees, disabled Veterans, candidates with 3 or more years of active duty military service, and candidates eligible for special hiring authorities wishing to be considered under merit promotion procedures may apply to vacancy announcement HQ17C0041. Only one position will be filled as a result of these two vacancy announcements.

Please list your General Schedule (GS) equivalency on your resume for every federal position you have held.

To receive consideration, you must submit a resume and answer NASA-specific questions. The NASA questions appear after you submit your resume and are transferred to the NASA web site. If you successfully apply, USAJOBS will show your application status as 'Received'. If your status is 'Application Status Not Available', you have not successfully applied. Do not rely on a USAJOBS email to confirm successful application. Only an email from NASA confirms a successful application.

This position serves as Senior Archivist and Technical Information Specialist responsibility for the acquisition, analysis, indexing, updating, management, accessing, and retrieval of all materials in the NASA Historical Reference Collection. Responsible for the identification, evaluation, and description of all NASA Documents, including digital records, that may have historical value.

Manages NASA's archival activities by collecting, appraising, arranging, accessioning, inventorying, recording, preserving, and archiving historical materials into the NASA Historical Reference Collection. Manages the physical and intellectual control over the holdings of the collection, ensures the coherency and optimal maintenance of the collection; ensuring ready access for researchers.

Provides expert policy guidance and recommendations on procedures relating research services, identification, analysis, evaluation, processing, description, indexing, preservation, storage, and retrieval of NASA historical documents for research and reference purposes. Collaborates with NASA Records Management officials in ensuring the historical collection, preservation, and the digital records process are in compliant with regulatory requirements, policies and procedures.

Conducts and manages comprehensive, retrospective, complex information, literature and data searches for NASA and other Federal officials, academic institutions, media, and private sector organizations, and the general public. Edits a variety of historical publications as required to include books, manuscripts, and professional journals and media articles. Represents NASA at aerospace information activities for ensuring the agency's collections and processes are in compliant and consistent with policies and procedures.
Job Requirements 
Key Requirements 
  • A one-year probationary period may be required
  • Applicants must possess at least a Bachelor's Degree or equivalent
  • Position subject to pre-employment background investigation
  • Position subject to a pre-employment drug test
  • Selectee must complete a financial disclosure statement
Applicant must have one year of specialized experience equivalent to the next lower grade, which has equipped the applicant with the particular competencies needed to successfully perform the duties of the position described above.

Specialized experience to qualify at the GS-12 grade level for this position includes:
  1. Manages the physical and intellectual control over the holdings of the agency's historical collection.
  2. Recommends edits for a variety of historical communications to include publications, books, manuscripts, and professional journal/media articles.
  3. Collaborates with management officials on ensuring the historical collection, preservation, and digital records are within regularity guidelines, policies and procedures.
Specialized experience to qualify at the GS-13 grade level for this position includes:
  1. Manages and provides policy guidance on digital and born-digital documents of historical value.
  2. Manages and provides expert policy guidance on the identification, evaluation, and description of all NASA's documents that has historical value, and serves as the Agency's authority in historical documentation matters.
  3. Edits a variety of historical communications to include publications, books, manuscripts, and professional journals/media articles.
Your resume must fully support how you meet the specialized experience in order to be found qualified for this position.
The salary range for this position is $77,490.00 to $119,794.00 per year, and the federal government offers employees a comprehensive suite of benefits. For more information about this position and application instructions, consult the position posting (or, if you are already employed by the federal government, the promotional posting). And remember: the application deadline is 30 December 2016.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

New York State Archives seeks an Archives and Records Management Specialist 2

If you're an archivist or records manager who has substantial technical skills and knowledge of various metadata standards, wants to work for a large yet dynamic repository, isn't afraid of collaborating with me every now and then, and would like to live and work in the historic Hudson Valley, the New York State Archives may have a job for you:
The New York State Archives is seeking to fill an Archives & Records Management Specialist (ARMS) 2 position within the Information Technology Services Unit.  The Information Technology Services Unit has responsibility for the development, integration, and support of all New York State Archives information systems.  Under the direction of an Archives and Records Management Specialist 3, duties of this position include, but are not limited to, the following:
  • Participate in the evaluation, implementation and integration of standards based public access tools for archival records, including an encoded archival description based finding aid catalog, digital Collections, and name index;
  • Develop web content and features;
  • Support the development of the State Archives electronic records program;
  • Support the integration of records management systems with archival management systems;
  • Advise on the technical implementation of professional standards; and
  • Work with State Archives staff and vendors to identify and implement web based solutions.
Reassignment:  One year of permanent competitive or 55b/c service as an Archives and Records Management Specialist 2.
§52.6 Transfer: One year of permanent competitive or 55b/c service in a title SG-16 or above deemed eligible to transfer via §52.6 of the Civil Service Law.
Provisional Appointment: Candidates must have either 1) one year of permanent competitive or non-competitive 55b/c service as an Archives and Records Management Specialist 1 OR 2) a master's degree in history, government, business or public administration, political science, American studies, library/information science, or archival administration AND two years of professional experience in which the majority of duties involved one or more of the following:
  1. Analyzing or appraising records and information systems to develop recordkeeping and/or records retention plans for an institution, governmental body, or corporation;
  2. Providing education, training, grant-in-aid, or direct technical assistance services in records management and/or archives administration for an institution, governmental body, or corporation;
  3. Developing or implementing guidelines, standards, policies and procedures concerning records   management and/or archives administration for an institution, governmental body, or corporation;
  4. Evaluating available information technology to support recordkeeping needs and requirements of an institution, governmental body, or corporation;
  5. Acquiring, controlling, preserving, making available, or promoting use of archival records, whether in electronic, paper, or other form for an institution, governmental body, or corporation.
PERFERRED QUALIFICATIONS: Special consideration will be given to candidates who possess the following qualifications:
  • Participation in the implementation/maintenance of public access tools and/or records management systems.
  • Familiarity with systems designed to support access to archival records, such as ARCHON, Archivist’s Toolkit, CollectiveAccess, XTF, etc.
  • Participation in the implementation/maintenance of web content.
  • Knowledge and understanding of the standards used to provide access to and manage archival records including EAD, EAC and TEI.
  • Experience with core archival and records management practices including scheduling/appraisal; archival description and preservation; digital preservation and electronic records; references services.
  • Background on/or knowledge of emerging trends and best practices related to information technology and architecture in archival settings.
  • The ability to be adaptable, flexible and collaborative in a dynamic working environment.
The starting salary for this position is $53,339 and, at least according to the current salary schedule, the salary will gradually increase to $67,827 based on annual performance advances. These figures are established by a collective bargaining agreement and are non-negotiable; they may also change slightly following the next round of contract negotiations. In addition, the State of New York offers a comprehensive array of retirement, health, and other benefits.

The deadline for applying for this position is 20 October 2016. For more information and application instructions, consult the job posting.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

SAA day two: electronic records

Comb jellyfish at the Georgia Aquarium, Atlanta, Georgia, 2 August 2016.
Even though I always make it a point -- at least when I'm paying my own way -- to attend a few Society of American Archivists conference sessions that have nothing to do with my current job responsibilities, I also seek out electronic records sessions that intrigue me or push me a little past my comfort zone. I attended two such sessions this morning: session 309, "DWG, RVT, BIM: A New Kind of Alphabet Soup, with a Lot More Heartburn," and session 409, "Working Together to Manage Digital Records: A Congressional Archives Perspective."

Thursday, August 4, 2016

SAA day one: diversity and inclusion

Atanta skyline, as seen from the steps of the Georgia Aquarium, Atlanta, Georgia, 2 August 2016.
 As has often been the case in recent years, I'm attending the annual meeting of the Society of American Archivists on my own dime. Doing so has some obvious drawbacks, but it does have one very real advantage: I don't feel obliged to limit myself to attending only those sessions that relate directly to my current job responsibilities. Instead, I seek out those sessions that align with my other archival interests or promise to illuminate how the profession is changing.

Today, I attended a plenary session and two program sessions that, in various ways, focused on the necessity of and challenges associated with creating institutions that are truly serve all of the communities that make up our pluralistic, stratified society and collections that reflect our varied, complex, and unequal history.

Monday, August 1, 2016

A spy in the archives

I began working on this post in May, put it aside, and figured I would get back to it once life stopped getting in my way. And now it has: I'm en route to the annual meeting of the Society of American Archivists and am three hours into a five hour flight delay. What follows is by no means earth-shattering, but at least my to-do list is one item shorter.

One of the things I love about being an archivist is talking with researchers about their interests and what they find in our records. My reference duties have brought me into contact with people who are incredibly gracious and enthusiastic, and I find their warmth and zeal contagious. At the same time, I'm always mindful that, as archival security experts frequently caution, researchers who seem eager to establish rapport and trust may have ulterior motives. Cases in point:
  • Barry Landau, who stole presidential and other documents from historical societies, university libraries, and government archives on the East Coast, brought cookies to one state historical society he and his accomplice repeatedly visited and gave cupcakes to the staff of the Maryland Historical Society shortly before he and his accomplice were caught stealing documents from the facility.
  • John Mark Tillman, who made a career of preying on antique dealers, museums, and archives throughout the Canadian Maritimes, was able to spirit documents out of the Dalhousie University Archives in part because he spent years winning the trust of the former chief archivist and becoming familiar with the repository's holdings and routines. Tillman was able to steal the keys to the facility's vault, duplicate them, and return them without being detected. He and his then-girlfriend entered the university library just before it closed, hid out in a women's restroom until the wee hours of the morning, and then entered the vault and stole letters written by George Washington, General James Wolfe, and other prominent people.
Landau and Tillman seem to have been driven by a mixture of greed, arrogance, and collecting impulses run amok. However, other thieves have been propelled by other drives.

In April of this year, the British Broadcasting Corporation announced that it had found in the archives of the Stasi, the intelligence and secret police agency of the former German Democratic Republic, a video recording of a speech that Harold Adrian Russell "Kim" Philby gave to Stasi officials in 1981. In it, Philby, a British double agent whose spying for the Soviets resulted in the deaths of Western agents and Central and Eastern European anticommunists, discusses his life and his work. Despite his upper-class background, Philby became a communist while at Cambridge University and was recruited by Soviet intelligence shortly afterward. After covering the Spanish Civil War for a London paper, he was hired by the Secret Intelligence Service, commonly known as MI6, and was initially charged with monitoring German espionage in Spain and Portugal.

Philby very quickly began funneling information to his Soviet handlers, and much of the information he provided came right out of the MI6 archives. How was he able to gain access to vast quantities of intelligence records without arousing suspicion? He befriended the man who was in charge of the organization's documents room:
I came to the point where, every two or three times a week, I'd meet him after office hours for drinks. He became a close friend, had full confidence [?] in me, and so I could ask for papers which had nothing to do with German espionage in Spain or Portugal, but which he would nevertheless send me as a friend whom he trusted . . . . Every evening, I left the office with a big briefcase full of reports which I had written myself, full of files taken out of the actual archives. I was to hand them to my Soviet contact in the evening. The next morning, I would get the files back, the contents having been photographed, and take them back early in the morning, and put the files back in their place. That I did regularly, year in, year out.
 (The above transcription is mine, and Philby's discussion of his relationship with this MI6 employee begins at 11:40 in this BBC Radio 4 broadcast.)

In retrospect, it seems easy to regard this records officer -- a former police officer with a serious drinking problem -- as a fool. However, Philby fooled everyone. His superiors thought him impressive, and many of his colleagues thought that he might one day become the agency's head. Moreover, as Philby's biographer has argued, MI6 traditionally regarded its operatives -- almost all of whom were recruited from the upper echelons of British society -- as being inherently trustworthy because they and their families all moved within the same social and professional circles. It wasn't until 1951, when two other MI6 agents who had been recruited by Soviet intelligence while studying at Cambridge defected to the Soviet Union, that the agency began coming to grips with the fact that having "the right sort" of background was no guarantee of loyalty. Philby, who was a close friend of both of these double agents, was rather gently investigated and forced to resign in 1955, but he was allowed to rejoin MI6 several years later. British authorities began closing in on him in earnest late 1962, but MI6 put a longtime friend in charge of the internal investigation and kept him under cursory surveillance. Philby slipped away and defected to the Soviet Union, where he lived until his death in 1988.

I am no expert on MI6's internal security procedures -- and if I were, I almost certainly wouldn't be blogging about it -- but I think it's safe to say that access to MI6's documents rooms -- and servers -- is now sharply limited and carefully scrutinized. However, even those of us who don't work in national security settings should never forget that a few of the kindly, supportive researchers we encounter are in fact seeking to exploit us and the records in our care. Records that either have intrinsic value or contain information that could be used to facilitate identity theft or other crimes abound in archives, and those of us who care for records have to ensure that our desire to be friendly and helpful never compromises our efforts to protect our collections and the restricted information found within them.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

NYAC 2016: Careers in Archives

The bronze statue of Samuel de Champlain atop Plattsburgh, New York's Champlain Monument overlooks the lake that bears the explorer's name, 7 June 2016. Champlain never visited what is now Plattsburgh, but many of the area's inhabitants are descendants of the French settlers who arrived in his wake.
Whenever I attend a conference, I make it a point to attend at least one session that isn't directly relevant to my job responsibilities or my career path. It gives me the chance to put aside my preoccupations for a bit and to look at my profession from a slightly different perspective, at least for a little while, and I always find it refreshing.

When I was at the 2016 meeting of the New York Archives Conference in Plattsburgh, last Friday, I attended "Careers in Archives: The Ins and Outs," which focused on the varied career paths within archives and brought together five experienced archivists and allied professionals who have taken on archival responsibilities:
  • Jane Subramanian, SUNY Potsdam (emerita) 
  • John Thomas, Jefferson Community College 
  • Susannah Fout, Lake Placid Olympic Museum 
  • Anastasia Pratt, SUNY Empire State College and Clinton County Historian 
  • Susan Hughes, American Pomeroy Historic Genealogical Association 
The session was aimed at graduate students and new professionals, but I found it quite useful from the perspective of a mid-career archivist who regularly works with interns, dispenses the odd bit of career advice to graduate students, and who occasionally sits on a hiring committee. If you're new to the field or come into contact with people who are just finding their professional footing, I'll think you'll find the points that the panelists made extremely interesting. In the interest of brevity, I've organized them thematically.

Securing one's first professional job
  • An MLS/MIS degree from an American Library Association-accredited school remains the gold standard. If you want a job in a specialized library, specialized coursework is a good idea. However, if you insinuate yourself into an institution or find yourself taking on archival work without having had formal training, you can now pursue an MLS/MIS online. 
  • If you're committed to working in a given institution or a given region, you might have to take a related job and bide your time. One panelist who wanted to work with an archives/local history collection took a librarian position within the same institution, waited until the archives/local history librarian retired, and then approached the library director about transferring into the position. 
  • There are a lot of small museums, historical societies, and libraries out there, and there's a very good chance that you will be employed by such an institution at some point in your career. 
  • Do not limit yourself to archives-specific or library-specific jobs; archival skills translate very well to registrar and collections manager positions. 
  • You need to know how historians do research. If you can fit a historical research methods course into your schedule, by all means do so. 
  • If you're interested in working in a corporate archives, look for job postings on their websites, the American Association of State and Local History website (especially for internship positions), and as well as archives-specific listservs and websites. News of openings is sometimes spread by word of mouth, so network with board members if you can. Private businesses hire staff more quickly than non-profits, so proactively submitting a resume never hurts. 
  • A number of organizations provide grants to local governments and historical records repositories, and working as a short-term consultant or project archivist is one way to get your foot in the door; however, you should be aware that consulting work, in particular, has serious income tax implications. Contact grant funders and ask if they maintain a list of consultants. Watch their websites for news of awards and contact recipients as soon as announcements are made; recipients often don't hire a consultant until after they have received a grant and may need to get their project started quickly. 
  • Familiarize yourself with the organization to which you're applying; look at its website and its finding aids. Hiring committees can tell if you haven't done your homework. 
  • Have someone else proofread your resume or curriculum vitae; most of the panelists indicated that they have seen resumes that contained multiple errors – and promptly discarded them. 
  • If asked to submit a resume, do not send a curriculum vitae – and vice versa. 
  • Your cover letter is your chance to distinguish yourself from all the other candidates. Be sure that it addresses all of the main points in the job posting. Again, have someone else proofread it. 
  • Search committees are not looking for people who know everything. They are looking for people who know what they do know, what they don't know, and have some ideas about how they're going to learn what they don't know. (This is such an important point. The archival learning curve is infinite, and I would be deeply wary about hiring anyone who seemed convinced that s/he already knew all s/he needed to know.) 
  • A job interview is a two-way process. At the same time it gives your prospective employer a chance to evaluate you, it gives you the chance to evaluate your prospective employer. (Having heard my fair share of horror stories, I offer the following advice: if you walk out of an interview with the sense that your prospective employer is dysfunctional, think very, very carefully before accepting a job offer!) 
  • Walking out of an interview wishing you had said X is a very common experience. A post-interview thank you letter allows you to say it. 
Succeeding in one's first (or second, or third . . . ) professional job
  • If you are working in a smaller organization, be prepared to wear many hats. In smaller institutions, the roles of curator, registrar, and archivist are often rolled into one. You may also have fundraising, research, publicity, social media, tourism promotion, and ticket sales responsibilities. You will almost certainly have at least some IT responsibilities. In academic settings, you may have both library and archival responsibilities. 
  • Being pulled in multiple directions can be frustrating, but it can also enable you to learn new skills and make valuable contacts. One panelist who held a joint library/archives appointment found that the extensive faculty contacts she developed in her capacity as a librarian proved very handy when she decided she wanted to start an archives instruction program for undergraduates. 
  • Seek ways to make your collections more visible and accessible. Space is always limited and administrators are always looking to ensure that it is used as effectively as possible, so you want to be sure that your collections are being used. 
  • Making connections and pointing people to resources held by other repositories will be an essential component of your job. Depending upon your repository's collecting scope and researcher community, you may need to acquaint yourself with the staff and the holdings of repositories not only in your region but also in other states or nations. 
  • Continuing education is a must. Certificate of advanced study programs, online and in-person professional development workshops, and professional conferences will help you maintain and expand your knowledge and skills and make essential professional connections. 
  • If you are your employer's first professional archivist, tackling an extensive processing backlog may be your first assignment. You'll need to be able to figure out how to establish appropriate legal and intellectual control over your holdings – and to do so without a lot of staff or money. Solid organizational skills are a must. 
  • Prepare to steel yourself against poor-quality or out-of-scope donations – and to train colleagues and volunteers to do the same. 
  • Don't be satisfied with your collections as they are. Know what you don't have, and be prepared to do the work needed to expand your holdings. 
  • It's 2016. Even lone arrangers working in small organizations have electronic records in their holdings now. Be prepared to care for them.