Archive for August, 2011

Reflections on Collection Security

Written on: August 30, 2011 | 4 Comments

Last week I had an opportunity to address the Preservation Section meeting of the Society of American Archivists.  The theme of the meeting was holdings protection—balancing access to holdings with safeguarding them.  And two of our Holdings Protection staff, Larry Evangelista and Richard Dine participated in a panel discussion reporting on what we have accomplished to date in this area.  My remarks at the meeting were an opportunity for me to reflect on my many years of worry on this topic:

We’ve come a long way from the time when books were chained to shelves but I often wonder if maybe that wasn’t such a terrible way to provide collection security!  Daily we all deal with the tension between protection and access.  

Chained books in the Hereford Cathedral Chained Library

I have spent my entire career worrying about and dealing with collection security issues.  As a shelver in the Humanities Library at MIT, my morning duties included clearing the reading room tables and reshelving.  There I discovered the journals with articles ripped out, books in the Women’s Studies section which had been mutilated, the era of Winslow Homer woodcut engravings sliced from Harper’s Weekly.  The Sex Collection was kept in a locked cage in the basement because of theft!  During my 31 years there I dealt with the disappearance of many years of the

[ Read all ]

Cue the Locusts!

Written on: August 29, 2011 | 2 Comments

It has been quite a week.  Tuesday afternoon an earthquake rattled many of our facilities around the Northeast.  Little known fault lines named Lakeside and Spotsylvania near Mineral, VA, the epicenter, made themselves known over several days with at least seven aftershocks.

The Washington National Regions Records Center in Suitland, MD was the hardest hit with damage to the masonry at the tops of the fire walls and in the fire egress stairs.  The building is closed until all safety issues are addressed.

Other damage to NARA facilities included some loosened mortar in the Rotunda and a cracked wall at 700 Pennsylvania Avenue; a cracked window, cold storage vault disruptions, and minor parking garage damage at College Park; and a damaged panel in the pavilion at the JFK Library.

Certainly nothing like our friends on the West Coast have come to take for granted, but powerful enough to leave lasting memories.

And just when we thought it was safe to go back to work, Hurricane Irene heads our way with heavy winds and downpours.  The FDR Library server room in Hyde Park, NY had a significant leak and lost power.  The staff at our Market Street facility in Philadelphia report some flooding and puddles of water in the basement.  And one minor roof leak in Suitland.

Lots of staff contributed to our … [ Read all ]

Innies and Outies

Written on: August 16, 2011 | 18 Comments

My name is David and I am an introvert.

Survey research varies but at least 25% of the population identifies itself along with me.

Caspar David Friedrich’s Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog

I still remember the session at MIT where we were getting ready to take the Myers-Briggs when the instructor was explaining the Introvert/Extrovert characteristics: Are you the kind of person at a cocktail party who hangs around at the edges and observes? Or do you immediately move right to the center of the room and engage in conversation with those around you? And I sat there thinking to myself; I’m not even at that cocktail party. I’m home reading a book!

Marti Olsen Laney, a librarian turned psychologist, in her book, The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World, lists what extroverted employees should know about their introvert colleagues. We:

  •  Like quiet for concentration
  •  Care about our work and workplace
  •  May have trouble communicating
  •  May know more than we reveal
  •  May seem quiet and aloof
  • Need to be asked for our opinions and ideas
  • Like to work on long complex problems and have good attention to detail
  • Need to understand exactly why we are doing something
  • Dislike intrusions and interruptions
  • Need to think and reflect before speaking and acting
  • Work alone contentedly
  • May be reluctant to delegate
  • Prefer to stay
[ Read all ]

Creating Some Magic

Written on: August 12, 2011 | 2 Comments

Reading Shawn Achor’s The Happiness Advantage (“The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work”), “Find a Better Job” in the latest issue of TimeOut New York (yes, I have maintained my subscription just to keep up with life in the Big Apple!), and Glen David Gold’s novel, Carter Beats the Devil—the fictionalized account of the life of Charles Joseph Carter, at the same time spurs some thoughts on work culture.

Achor defines happiness as “…the joy we feel striving after our potential” and stresses the pursuit of positivity (positive emotions) as the key to success.  He suggests a series of activities to help raise one’s happiness baseline from meditation to finding something to which to look forward to exercise.  Two of his suggestions (Commit conscious acts of kindness and Infuse positivity into your surroundings) especially overlap with the TimeOut analysis of five New York City work environments.  Common factors among the five:

  • Openly encouraging creativity and innovation—listening to ideas from staff and making them a reality
  • Providing a truly collaborative atmosphere
  • Showing appreciation for staff in some way on a regular basis—making fun at work a priority
  • Seeing the head of the company “in the trenches”—visibility and accessibility of the senior staff
  • Creating an environment of continuous learning—everyone plays a role in sharing knowledge

So, where does Charles Joseph … [ Read all ]

The Wisdom of the Crowd

Written on: August 3, 2011 | 2 Comments

On June 15th we launched our tagging feature on the Online Public Access (OPA) prototype in another “citizen archivist” venture. Convinced that our users know a lot about the records we are stewarding, this is an opportunity to contribute that knowledge. As you search the catalog, you are invited to tag any archival description, person, or organization name records with the keywords or labels that are meaningful to you. We expect that crowdsourcing tagging will enhance the quality of the content and make it easier for people to find what they are looking for.  A description of this new feature can be found on the NARAtions blog, along with a link to the registration page.

In the first month we have had more than 1,000 tags contributed!

Our online contributor “islandlibrarian” recognized Nantucket Island in the description of the series that includes the following document:


User “zarr” added Four Freedoms to this image:


User “sschlang” knows Wisconsin and added Manitowoc, Wisconsin to this image:

Join the crowd and add your tags!… [ Read all ]

Balancing Access and Protection

Written on: August 1, 2011 | 5 Comments

Last Thursday, a Federal grand jury indicted Barry Landau and Jason Savedoff “…for conspiring to steal historical documents from museums in Maryland and New York, and selling them for profit.”  On Friday they were arraigned in Baltimore’s U.S. District Court and immediately arrested by FBI and NARA Office of the Inspector General (OIG) Special Agents.

The indictment spells out the manner, means, and purpose of Landau and Savedoff’s conspiracy to “…steal and obtain by fraud from the care, custody, and control of various museums certain objects of cultural heritage…”  Among those “objects” are seven reading copies of speeches given by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt stolen from our FDR Library in Hyde Park, New York.  Four of these speeches were later sold.

Other institutions identified in the indictment include the New York Historical Society and the Maryland Historical Society.

Our OIG is working closely with the law enforcement agencies involved in the ongoing investigation and NARA staff from various units have stepped up to assist this work.

I am extremely proud of the staff—their professionalism, cooperative spirit, and seriousness with which they are taking this assignment.

Any time the collections entrusted to my care are stolen I feel personally violated.  Throughout my career I have fought hard to create and support the appropriate protective measures that ensure that those great special collections and archives would … [ Read all ]