Managing University Records, A Question & Answer With Alexis Antracoli, Records Management Archivist
Article by: Jenny James Lee, Marketing & Events Associate
When you look around your desk do you find it cluttered with important documents that you’re just not sure what to do with? What about your computer desktop? Managing and organizing the many files, documents or images that we interact with can be a challenge. The Libraries’ Alexis Antracoli has spent her short tenure at Drexel helping individuals to tackle this challenge.
Alexis is working to help faculty and staff at Drexel better manage their important records to ensure that they are organized, preserved and appropriately secured. I recently sat down with Alexis to see how her records management program as going and what advice she had for those of us who weren’t quite sure where to start.
Q: What is your role at the Libraries?
I am the Records Management Archivist and I have three main roles. I assist University faculty and staff with managing their active records according to University policy. I also identify and acquire records of historical content for the University Archives. Finally, I work on building an infrastructure that will allow for preservation and access to digital records.
Q: When did you know that you wanted to work in Archives, managing records?
I knew pretty early in life, when I was in college, that I loved Archives, but it took a few twists and turns for me to find my way into an archival career. It wasn’t until I enrolled in an archives graduate program that I became interested in the records management and digital records areas. They are two of the fastest growing areas of the profession, and a lot of exciting research and practical work is being done in these areas, and that is what drew me to them.
Q: What do you like most about your job?
I like working with a variety of staff from across the University. One day I might be helping a department’s administrative assistant understand how the Records Management Policy applies to a small academic department, and the next day I am talking with an administrator who is responsible for managing records for a large non-academic unit such as the Bursar’s Office or Student Life. I love learning about the variety of work done across Drexel.
Q: What advice would you give to someone looking to better organize and manage his/her records?
Start by figuring out what you can get rid of! I know it seems counter-intuitive, but trying to manage more than you really need can bog you down. Once you have figured out what you really need to keep, come up with a system that complements the way you work, whether that is case files, subject files, or a chronological file. This will be different across people and offices. Another good suggestion is to reach out to the Records Management Archivist! I am here to help people sort through these type of quandaries and come up with systems that are easy to manage and support rather than complicate the day-to-day work that is the focus of University units.
Q: Are there any good tools or tips that you'd like to share about maintaining the integrity of your items?
If you have records that contain confidential or sensitive information, make sure you institute proper security measures. This can be using a locked filing cabinet for paper records or an encrypted, password protected folder for digital records. Only authorized personnel should have access to confidential or sensitive information. This helps protect the integrity of the record and the privacy of individuals. If you are maintaining mostly digital files, you want to make sure they are backed up on a regular basis. It’s a good idea to keep these records in an IRT system that is backed up and monitored on a regular basis. Thumb drives, external hard drives, and other easily misplaced or corrupted media are not good places to store important records.
Q: What is the importance of a good records management policy? What value do these records hold?
A good records management policy helps an organization identify its information assets and ensure they are managed according to business needs and legal requirements. It also ensures that records with historical value are maintained permanently in a safe environment. Records hold a wide array of value. Most faculty and staff will be interested in a record’s current informational value as it relates to their work, but records may also hold evidential value in a courtroom or historical value as evidence of the growth and development of the University. Having a policy helps to make sure that records are created, maintained, disposed of, and preserved in a way that ensures accounting for the full range of their value.
Q: What is your biggest obstacle/greatest success of your work at Drexel to date?
This is such a tough question. I think the greatest success has been in building resources to help staff with records management. When I got here two years ago Drexel had only recently adopted the Records Management Policy and new retention schedules, and the only resource was a brief video explaining the policy and an FAQ. Now we have an entire web portal devoted to records management on the archives website. The resources cover a variety of topics, including creating a local records guide, managing email, and transferring records to the University Archives. We also have a training program, and I am developing new trainings about every six months to help a variety of staff with their records management needs.
Q: What is the most interesting thing [that you're allowed to share] you've learned about Drexel through looking at records?
It’s difficult to pick one thing that is the most interesting so I will instead tell you about the most satisfying use of Drexel information I’ve encountered. Because we still have the earliest student record books of Drexel, we are often able to help genealogists with their research. One day I had the pleasure of assisting a woman find her grandmother in our early student record books. It is rare that we have much detail on individual students from this period, but because the records she was reviewing were carefully maintained and preserved, she was able to find her grandmother in our records. We were able to connect someone with details about her grandmother’s life that she didn’t know, such as her college major, her grades, and the classes she took at Drexel. It’s incredibly satisfying to be able to help people find information in our collection that is personally meaningful. While we don’t think of the records that we work with today as having any special meaning beyond why we need them today, in a hundred years they could help someone connect with a meaningful part of his or her personal history.
Q: What are the legal implications of records? What are we required to do?
I think the important thing to know is that any record created in the course of University business can become evidence in a legal proceeding. Of course, there are many records, such as personnel, tax, student, and health records that are governed by federal and state laws, and it is critical that the University comply fully with those laws. At the end of the day, though, remembering that all the records you create and receive could be used as evidence in a courtroom is a useful way to think about the importance of managing records properly according to standard business procedures.