Meet your Member At Large: Courtney Bailey

Courtney Bailey headshotWhat jobs have you had in the archival realm?
During the summer between my years at SILS, I served as a Graduate Assistant in Technical Services at Wilson Library, processing the records of the UNC Athletics Department. Since June 2014, I have worked as a Records Management Analyst at the State Archives of North Carolina (SANC).

What is your educational background?
I have an undergraduate history degree and a Master of Arts in Teaching degree from Duke University. After many years teaching in a public high school in Durham, I decided I needed a new intellectual challenge, so I got an MSLS degree (with a concentration in Archives and Records Management) from the School of Information and Library Science (SILS) at UNC Chapel Hill.

What is your favorite part of your job and what do you consider to be the most important part of your job?
I love teaching workshops. Because of my teaching background, I’m definitely comfortable determining learning outcomes and designing content and presenting material. But I especially like the before and after times of workshops. If the room arrangement allows for it, I usually try to walk around the room before the workshop so I can greet participants individually and distribute handouts. I also try to hang around after the workshop to answer any questions that people didn’t want to raise in front of the entire group. I find these more informal opportunities to talk with folks are very useful in helping identify the roadblocks they’re encountering in carrying out their records management tasks and have helped spark a number of the resources I’ve developed over the years.

There are a lot of people tasked with records management in various government agencies who have no training or support to carry out these duties. Some work in tiny offices and some work in huge agencies, and the amount of resources available (both financial and human) varies tremendously. So I think a vital part of my job is readily answering questions – be it about public records requirements or how best to organize files – without ridicule or reprisal. This can take the form of anything from answering a question posted to a listserv to visiting a file room to appraise historical records.

Tell us about something you're particularly proud of from your job or your institution.
While working at SANC, I’ve had the pleasure of completing two huge scheduling projects. In 2015, a colleague and I in the Records Analysis Unit were tasked with revamping the records retention schedules for state agencies using the model of functional analysis. The beginning of the project involved a lot of research – both into the theory of functional analysis, into the handful of states that employed some flavor of functional schedules, and into the practical powers and responsibilities of state agencies around North Carolina. Once we’d identified what functions are fulfilled by state agencies, we then began writing retention schedules to specify the disposition of the various records being created and received by them. When my colleague left for greener pastures, I picked up the flag and completed the project for a December 2017 launch. Along the way, I had the pleasure of meeting with hundreds of stakeholders from state agencies and learning from them about the work they do and the records they manage. Although it hasn’t been without bumps, more than three years into the use of this functional schedule, I definitely consider it a success. Around the same time, I also started working with representatives from the UNC System campuses to update their decade-old retention schedule. Although I wasn’t able to meet in person with these stakeholders, the records officers with whom I work were able to connect me with folks who could answer questions and help me produce a much more reliable and up-to-date retention schedule.

What advice would you give to someone interested in pursuing a similar career?
Get work experience by any means necessary. Coming from an academic background, I thought that grades and the prestige of the institution you attend matter on a job application, but what I’ve found in the archives realm is that work experience is what opens doors. So although you have to get the degree (because even most entry-level positions require a master’s degree), you need to make sure you spend time during grad school getting experience in the field in which you hope to work.

Who has been key to shaping your professional outlook?
In my training as a teacher, I learned that reflection is a vital part of improvement. I have found Scott Cline to be a voice in the archival literature that helps me think about why I’m doing the work that I do. Mark Greene played an even greater role in shaping my professional outlook. He consistently demonstrated in his articles and presentations a willingness to review and revamp archival practices rather than being cowed by the argument of “but this is how we’ve always done it.” When I was working on my master’s paper, Mark offered his time to assist me in my research about born-digital records. Of course, I had already read his seminal work on “More Product, Less Process,” so I was awed to have the opportunity to interview him. He spent nearly an hour on the phone with me discussing his work at the American Heritage Center and providing information on their policies and workflows for appraisal, processing, and access for born-digital records. I later had the opportunity to work with his wife, Kathy Marquis, and learned that helping new archival professionals was one of his greatest pleasures. Greene evidenced a passion, commitment, thoughtfulness, and creativity to his work, coupled with a desire to mentor others in the archival realm. I consider him a great model for how to do archival work well.

What do you hope to accomplish during your time in SNCA leadership?
I serve as the Member At Large responsible for being a liaison with the Regional Archival Associations Consortium that operates through SAA. As such, I’m responsible for passing along to SNCA members relevant information from our fellow regional organizations, such as conference announcements and releases of professional resources. But more importantly, I want to serve as a conduit for what works. All of us are too busy to reinvent the wheel, so I want to figure out what other organizations are already doing that could serve to heighten the relevance and impact of SNCA.

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