Download the 2021 Calls to the States Infographic.
The Council of State Archivists’ annual Calls to the States is a long-standing tradition within the organization’s governing board. Board members make one-on-one calls to the members, asking how each archives is doing and eliciting input about programming and services. This year was no different. Calls were made by CoSA board members between June and July when 73% of states, territories, and the District of Columbia were successfully contacted.
The conversations revealed a decidedly different tone from those held in early 2020, when the pandemic was taking hold and the public sector was beginning to grapple with the potential scope and effects COVID would have on government operations and budgets. This year’s calls stand in stark contrast to the uncertainties of a year ago. 100% of members contacted reported that their agencies managed pandemic-restricted operations fairly well or quite well. Fears of budget cuts and layoffs dominated 2020 conversations, much of those fears were unrealized as it turned out. 83% of members reported this year that state budgets and funding for archives were stable or flat; and 10% reported that the financial picture was trending upwards.
61% of members reported that their capacity for electronic records management and digital preservation is good or very good. Specific challenges in this area include the need for more funding, staff training, training for state agencies, and tools and space; working with central IT departments; challenges with email preservation; and building capacity in this area generally.
As CoSA members rebound from the pandemic, most took stock of what their agencies were able to accomplish during the last 16 months. Projects included moving existing programs to online platforms, processing backlogs, creating or updating databases, research guides and inventories, undertaking strategic planning, and developing or updating Continuity of Operations Plans. Additionally, many archives were able to carry on with varying levels of public services.
Notable among the shifts in operations that will stay in place temporarily or permanently for some members are remote work, research room access by appointment, and process and tools developed in response to COVID that have proven effective.
As member agencies reopen, it remains to be seen what the right balance will be between pre-pandemic business models and new ways of working, with in-person versus online services and programs being the most notable.
Since 2018, members have requested that CoSA’s research and education activities remain focused on advocacy for the importance of state archives; archives and records management training and programming; and workforce development.