Meet the Staff Feature: Devon Henschel

For the Record’s “Meet the Staff” feature is an opportunity for our archivists to connect directly with the community which we serve.

Name: Devon Henschel

Title: Records Management Archivist

Specialties: Local government records management and training

How did you end up working at the Alabama Department of Archives and History?

I received my undergraduate degree in Anthropology, with a concentration in Museum Studies, from the University of Alabama. Despite my degree being in Anthropology, most of my work experience is with libraries, both public and academic. Many of the skills I developed in my library positions, especially my attention to detail and ability to walk patrons through obscure or complicated processes they don’t have to deal with every day, have been a great benefit in my current work at the ADAH. The ADAH was already on my radar as a great historical resource in the state, and this job proved to be great opportunity to combine my interests and experience to help create and preserve what will become the historical record, while putting to use the detail-oriented mindset I’ve fostered in the library world.

What is your role?

I work primarily with local governments and the records they create. In the future, I will be training public officials, especially local agencies, on managing their records – how to organize, store, and permanently preserve permanent records or eventually dispose of temporary records in accordance with the Record Disposition Authority (RDA) and with destruction notices. Though there are only fifteen local RDAs, they are organized by type so that each one covers a multitude of individual agencies. Think about how many schools there are in Alabama – the RDA for Boards of Education applies to all of them. The same concept applies to the RDAs for Municipalities, governing local governments, and to Law Enforcement Agencies, governing local police departments and county sheriff’s offices. Those fifteen local RDAs keep me busy!

What is something people don’t know about the Records Management Section?

Just how much we deal with! Many people don’t think about how many records government agencies produce in a given year. We’re here to help them wade through all of it, armed with an RDA. As support staff for the State Records Commission and Local Government Records Commission, we are responsible for creating and revising these RDAs in cooperation with agencies, ultimately outlining what records need to be kept and for how long. Right now, our section works with everyone from large state agencies like the Office of Information Technology, to small state agencies like the Multiple Needs Child Office, to local agencies such as the Lakeview Fire Protection District, all while keeping in the back of our minds that we’ll need to create new RDAs with new agencies like the Bicentennial Commission. There’s something new every day, and I love the variety.

For people who don’t think about their records every day, why is records management important?

Many employees – and especially state employees – produce and accumulate an enormous amount of records. These might range from historically significant documents, such as meeting minutes, to less important records, like potluck fliers and the internet printouts shoved in a drawer. Some records need to be kept permanently to show the work agencies do, but most records can be disposed of in a short period of time. Many records don’t need to be kept longer than a day, like the ubiquitous “donuts in the break room” email. Implementing a records management system and a plan to dispose of what you don’t need cuts down on the records clutter – both paper and electronic – so that day-to-day operations can run more smoothly. Luckily, we’re here to help!

What are your hobbies outside of work?

In the past few years, I’ve really gotten into cooking and baking, and I’m always on the lookout for new desserts and breads I can test out in my stand mixer. Beyond that, I love embroidering, discovering new walking and hiking trails, and piecing together jigsaw puzzles.

Meet the Staff Feature: David Spriegel

For the Record’s “Meet the Staff” feature is an opportunity for our archivists to connect directly with the community which we serve.

Name: David Spriegel

Title: Records Management Archivist

Specialties: I serve as a liaison to the Secretary of State’s Office.

How did you end up working at the Alabama Department of Archives and History?

Before beginning my current position, I worked for the University of Wisconsin-Madison as a digital archivist. There, I was tasked with assisting a federal agency (in Omaha, Nebraska) to organize their born-digital records during the implementation of a content management system. Prior to this, I assisted several local government clients in Lake County, Illinois, with records management efforts. 

What is something you enjoy about working in records management?

What I enjoy about records management is the opportunity to see how minute details can combine to create a larger picture of an organization. I view records management and archives as two sides of the same coin – both relate to information management within an organization, but records management reduces the amount of materials that are transferred to the archives. In terms of educating staff about records management, what is most powerful to me is that the smallest changes can make the biggest differences. 

What do you view as the biggest challenge facing the profession today?

I believe that the biggest challenge is advocating for the continued relevance of the profession. Archives and records management compete for space and funding among current concepts such as big data, software development, and mass digitization. Also vital is emphasizing the importance of preserving permanent records. Most important in terms of individual programs and projects is that archives and records management should be integrated from the outset rather than as a final requirement. 

What are your hobbies when you are not at work?

Outside of work, I enjoy watching documentaries and mysteries, reading, and walking. I also like attending museums and cultural events. 

Meet the Staff Feature: Rebecca Jackson

Name: Rebecca Jackson

For the Record’s “Meet the Staff” feature is an opportunity for our archivists to connect directly with the community which we serve.

Title: Records Management Archivist

Specialties: Working with state agencies to transfer permanent records to the Archives and helping local governments receive approval to destroy their obsolete records.

How did you end up working at the Alabama Department of Archives and History?

I previously worked for around a decade at non-profit organizations that focused on policy research and advocacy. My work at these organizations was all about connecting and empowering citizens with the information and resources they needed to be a part of the policy-making process. While in many ways my previous work experience is very different from the work I do at the Archives, I am still working towards connecting people to the government that serves them.

What is something you enjoy about working in records management?

I love being a small part in bringing new records into the Archives that will be here for researchers, historians, and the public long after I leave. When we get something that I find interesting, I want to shout from the rooftop to let everyone know. I start thinking about all the ways the records can be used and analyzed and the insight they can provide.

What do you view as the biggest challenge facing the profession today?

I think Archivists are getting a handle on electronic records and how to manage, collect, and preserve them. But as governments move more into the collection and analysis of big data, I worry that we will have a harder time conceptualizing, collecting, and preserving these records.

What are your hobbies when you are not at work?

I enjoy spending time outdoors with my husband and dog, hiking, swimming, gardening, and lounging in my hammock. I also enjoy cooking, eating, and exploring new places.

Meet the Staff Feature: Michael Grissett

For the Record’s “Meet the Staff” feature is an opportunity for our archivists to connect directly with the community which we serve.

Name: Michael Grissett

Title: Records Center Archivist

Specialties: Operational Organization, Procedure and Work Flow Design, Risk Management

How did you end up working at the Alabama Department of Archives and History?

I have had a lifelong fascination with History, Geography, and other social sciences. I initially studied Engineering at Auburn University but ultimately pursued my passion and graduated with a degree in history. I have been working at the State Records Center since mid-October of 2018, and I think the position is a perfect fit for me.

What is something you enjoy about working in records management?

It’s exciting to work at a critical junction in the operation of state government. While the staff at the Records Center is small relative to the other divisions within the Archives, the work here keeps us on our feet and gives me a firsthand look at the immediate and long-term challenges of preserving paper records.

What exactly does the Records Center do that is different from the bulk of the Records Management Section?

The State Records Center coordinates with state agencies to store, file, re-file, deliver, and destroy temporary records on the agencies’ behalf. The division was established in the late 1980s in response to the lack of temporary records storage options at the state level. In essence, we interact with the bulk of records which state agencies may not use on a daily basis, but which they are nonetheless legally required to maintain. Unlike the bulk of the Records Management Section, the Records Center directly handles agencies’ temporary records being moved and stored, from Delivery to Disposition.

Doesn’t electronic record creation and storage render your service unnecessary?

One may think that, but many agencies continue to create and retain a large volume of paper records. Electronic records are easier to access and require less physical storage space, but they are more susceptible to security breaches. Paper records maintained at a secure location permit sensitive information to be preserved and accessed when necessary, without the risk of electronic data breaches that can be expensive to prepare for and recover from.  

What are your hobbies when you are not at work?

I like to read on current and past events, cook, play the drums, hang out with friends, and play video games when not at work.

Meet the Staff Feature: Katie Ray

For the Record’s “Meet the Staff” feature is an opportunity for our archivists to connect directly with the community which we serve.

Name: Katie Ray

Title: Records Management Archivist 

Specialties: Electronic Records, Records Disposition Authority (RDA) revision

How did you end up working at the Alabama Department of Archives and History?

I got hooked on archives as an undergraduate when I had the opportunity to study abroad in Paris and intern at a small literary archive. I subsequently interned at the Library of Congress and the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin, my alma mater. I returned to Alabama to pursue my master’s in Library and Information Studies with a certification in Archival Studies and accepted this position soon after completing the program.

What is your role?

As a Records Management Archivist, I help to develop and revise state agency RDAs which regulate record preservation and destruction. I am also the Project Archivist for the Department’s ongoing grant from the National Historic Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) to preserve born-digital materials on our new electronic records portal, Preservica (https://adah.access.preservica.com/). I collect and process State Publications from the past twenty years so that our Collections Archivists can make them publicly accessible.

What is the National Historic Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) Grant?

In 2017, the Alabama Department of Archives and History received grant funding from the NHPRC to increase its institutional capacity to receive, preserve, and provide access to electronic records. The grant began with a partnership with the Office of the Governor, encompassing documents such as emails, photographs, and calendars, and has since extended to the collection of electronic records such as newsletters, bulletins, and annual reports from all state agencies.

What’s your superpower?

As a previous English major, research and writing is my forte. “Easy reading requires hard writing.” I make heavy revisions so that my message is clear and concise.

What are your hobbies when you are not at work? 

I enjoy cooking, knitting, yoga, hiking, playing League of Legends, and seeking out the best cup of coffee in every city I visit. I play the clarinet and am trying to pick it back up after a long hiatus. 

Meet the Staff Feature: Sophie Howard

For the Record’s “Meet the Staff” feature is an opportunity for our archivists to connect directly with the community which we serve.

2019SophieHowardADAH

Name: Sophie Howard
Title: Records Management & Appraisal Archivist
Specialties: Records Disposition Authority (RDA) revision, local government records retention / destruction

How did you end up working at the Alabama Department of Archives and History?

I originally pursued an undergraduate degree in foreign language with the intention of becoming a teacher abroad. A close family member became seriously ill midway through my program, so by the time I graduated I was in the process of reframing my goals in life. I enrolled in a master’s program in Information Science (which is kind of like an updated version of “library school”) around the time that I had the opportunity to interview for this position. I feel very fortunate to be where I am now.

What is something you enjoy about working in records management?

The Department engages in many different types of activities; we have schoolchildren visiting the Museum of Alabama on our premises regularly, and we likewise have a reference room where members of the public can conduct genealogical research. Records management is more “under the radar” than the work of either of those sections, but the work lays the foundation for records stewardship throughout state and local government, which ensures that the Department’s efforts to provide access to Alabama history can continue. The work feels very purposeful, both immediately and for the benefit of future Alabamians as well.

What do you view as the biggest challenge facing the profession today?

Well, certainly the biggest challenge is the increasing volume of electronic records being produced by state and local governments and the accompanying influx of such records to archives like ours. The profession as a whole is working to build capacity and to develop standards for dealing with this new digital age, but the issue is multifaceted and extremely complex. Even seemingly fundamental concepts like “what is a record” have to be reconsidered in light of emails, databases, and blockchain.

What are your hobbies when you are not at work?

I enjoy reading fiction and nonfiction, scrapbooking, embroidering, and spending time with my fiancé and my dog.