Parsing the State of State Records Report: The Wrap-Up

Mar 23, 2020

Parsing the State of State Records Report: The Wrap-Up

by Veronica Martzahl

Over the past posts I’ve posited some thoughts on how the survey went, areas for further explorations and ways to improve the next survey. This post will summarize those thoughts and serve as the springboard for our next series of posts: Planning the FY 2020 State of State Records Report.

The most impactful change we can make would be to ensure that each state or territory submits a single unified survey. At the most basic level, when we have multiple responses from a single state or territory, it limits our ability to use the analysis tools available in SurveyMonkey. More significantly, however, the multiple responses are often in conflict with each other and it is difficult to determine the authoritative answer. Ideally, each state or territory will select a single point person to compile all gathered data and complete the online data entry portion of the survey. One question I would like to explore is whether breaking the survey up into its component parts might make things easier for respondents. Would receiving the survey for staffing one week and a separate survey for collections two weeks later make things easier? Or would that just annoy people?

In a similar vein, I would like to conduct more follow up phone calls with respondents. A quick conversation could clarify why answers might seem incongruent with previous responses. It would also allow us to better understand the definitions people are using for terms like “processed” and “digital repository.”

There is also the reality that our answers to many sections are going to be impacted by the current global pandemic. We are undoubtedly going to see huge drops in accessions, on-site reference, and in-person outreach programming and workshops. In contrast, online activities are likely to spike. It will also be interesting to see how this situation impacts the percentage of staff members doing digital cataloging and preservation work. As with everything in archival work, context is everything. Do we need to completely rewrite the Emergency Preparedness section to reflect the (hopefully) unique situation we find ourselves in or should that information be gathered separately?

My final thought on the FY18 survey (and all the previous surveys) is that I would like us to find a way to more easily share the data for additional research. I am aware of at least three cases where researchers have taken the data and homed in on it for specific research questions. It would be fantastic to be able to more easily identify trends, best-practices, and lessons-learned for the benefit of us all.

 



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