Conference – Day 1

Hello from Brighton and a not at all scary conference.

Day 1 was very interesting. It started with David Wallace from the University of Michigan talking about wiki leaks and how such leaks could affect the record keeping community. I think the most interesting part of the talk was the idea of good leaks versus bad leaks – that leaking documents somehow is okay if it is in the public interest or for the public good. It reminded me of the issues around press freedom and the “public interest” debate surrounding certain stories. Is it okay to print a story or image because it is in the public interest? Is it okay to leak documents? Fear of leaking results in fewer records being kept regarding controversial decisions. But surely if government and the decision making was more transparent then there would be no need to fear leaks?

We heard about how Hull History Centre is tackling the cataloging backlog by approaching it in thematic chunks; how TNA is documenting the Olympics and the challenges in doing so; we learned what is important to make community archives’ websites a success.

The afternoon session showed how West Sussex Record Office has faced cost cuts and still managed to extend user numbers; how East Sussex RO have approached the challenge of building The Keep; and how the Museum of East Anglian Life have become an essential part of the community.

Now I’ve got to run as Day 2 is just about to start!

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Pre-conference thoughts

In April I was lucky enough to be win one of the ten Bursaries for the ARA conference in Brighton 29-31 August 2012.

This will be my first conference, and with about a week ago I thought I should get around to write a blog post about my thoughts on attending the conference.
I hope to write short blog posts during the conference as well as attempt to live tweet some of the talks. To that end this blog post is a bit of an experiment as I am figuring out how the WordPress app on my iPad works so I can use it at the conference. As I usually rely heavily on spell and grammar checks in Word before I post anything I beg your forgiveness for any mistakes you might come across.

So, thoughts on the conference…

Mostly I am looking forward to it. I enjoy meeting other archivists/records managers and it is alway interesting to hear what others do and how they do it. I am always looking for ideas on how we can improve what we do at work, and I think sharing experiences is a good way to find new inspiration.

However, I am also a little hesitant about attending the conference. While I already know some of the other bursary winners, a couple of us are travelling to Brighton together, I am never particularly relaxed in large groups or crowds. Most of the time will be occupied by listening to talks by interesting people, but I feel a little nervous about the “social” times. I do not wish to be clinging to the people I know, but I fear I might not feel confident enough to go meet new people. If you do see me stand quietly observing in a corner do come say hello!

Another thing I am a little unsure about is the morbid natural interest in where I work and what is going on there (and has been going on there the past yer or so). While I recognise that the position I find myself in at work is not very usual for an archivist, I do feel that what everyone else are doing in their archive is a lot more interesting than what I have to deal with. Combine that with the fact that I legally cannot say much about what is going on it make it rather tiring to meet new people as there is a set pattern to how first conversations usually go. I almost hope the name badges does not have place of work on them, though that is probably wishing for too much. So if you do happen to meet me, please do not be offended if I steer conversation away from what I do.

Lastly, there are all the questions I am sure all first time conference delegates have. Questions such as “what the heck does one wear to the gala dinner” (seriously, what does one wear to the gala dinner?), “is anyone else bringing their trainers for a run on the beach Thursday morning?”, “how many pens/pencils do I need to bring?” (I doubt I can type fast enough on the iPad to take notes on it). Any advice gratefully received. 🙂

I fear all the above makes me sound rather antisocial, which I am not. It is just that I find the thought of so many archivists/records managers/conservators in one place rather intimidating.

It will be fine I am sure!

See you in Brighton next week.

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Getting to know you…

I think The Archivist and I got off on the wrong foot… No scrap that – I think I got off on the wrong foot with The Archivist! It is a difficult thing to admit, but I think I let a small incident influence the way I thought of my colleague.

I do not want to go into too much detail, but it all started at the end of my third week in the job. The Archivist had discovered a small mistake I had made the previous week. Discovering that I had made a mistake, combined with the initial reaction of The Archivist, really upset me. I am sure you can all relate to the fact that, when starting a new job, one wants to make a good impression. Being “told off” for this small mistake was not going to help me make a good impression. I therefore decided that I did not like The Archivist.

Now, almost six months on, when I reflect on the working relationship between myself and The Archivist, I realise that – in truth – it was probably disappointment with me, for making a stupid mistake, rather than The Archivist “telling me off” that upset me so much. Because honestly, The Archivist did not tell me off, he was quite cool about it once he had realised that the mistake was not as large as he had first feared – but because I was so disappointed with me, I felt like I had been told off.

I freely admit I was wrong – The Archivist is quite a nice guy! Yes, he does annoy me sometimes, it cannot be avoided when there are only two of us working together in the archive and record office, but mostly he is alright and I have grown to respect him.

One thing I really like about working with The Archivist is that he includes me in a lot of things. It would be very easy for him to give me the standard, repetitive archive tasks (I am trying to avoid calling them boring) since doing the less “boring” tasks requires a good, in depth knowledge of the collections which I do not have yet. However, The Archivist happily throws tasks at me and let me attempt to do them myself. Most of the time I end up having to ask The Archivist for advice, and even when I am able to work it out myself I find that I am checking with The Archivist that I have done everything possible to answer an enquiry or complete a task given to me.

Lately I have come to respect The Archivist on another point – he is not afraid to call me out on things. I know I am not the easiest person to work with and, at times, I can become quite negative and grumpy. I had one of those days a few weeks ago and The Archivist called me out on it and, quite rightly, pointed out that I could not let my bad mood affect people around me.

So, the last few weeks I have attempted to be a more positive and cheery at work – and, not very surprisingly, I enjoy work a lot more when I decide to have a positive attitude about it.

The Archivist’s comments about not letting my attitude affect others reminded me of a lesson I learned some years ago while I was working in retail. My manager asked me to read a book called Fish!: A Remarkable Way to Boost Morale and Improve Results and I found it a very inspiring read. Basically there are 4 main principles in the book:

Be there
Make their day
Choose your attitude

I would argue that ‘Choose your attitude’ is the most important of the principles, but I also thing that they all need to be combined to achieve happiness in your job.

It may seem difficult to achieve the principles in an archive setting, but since being reprimanded by The Archivist for being grumpy at work I have had a good think about how I can apply these principles in my job. Here is how:

Play: This does not necessarily mean building cardboard castles out of archive boxes (however tempting that might be at times!). Rather, I think, this should be achieved, for example, by sharing a joke with your colleagues to ensure a light-hearted attitude. For me this also means getting excited about things – be it something interesting I discover while answering an enquiry or just the excitement of making good progress on a major task I have been given.

Be there: I think this is about giving people and tasks the attention they deserve. Personally I am working at improving at this. When I have an issue to discuss with The Archivist I always begin with his name and then pause until I have eye contact with him, that way I know I have his full attention. However, I feel uncomfortable when people seek eye contact with me, and I am extremely bad at giving The Archivist my full attention when in the old office – I find it a lot easier in the shiny new office we have recently moved into. So this point is a work in progress for me.

Make their day: While the Fish! book initially applies this to customer service, I think it works equally well in an archive environment. Obviously, working with researchers in a reading room can easily
be compared to working with customers in a shop. Do that extra bit of digging to find that one document that will solve the puzzle for a researcher, or provide them with a free photocopy once in a while. Even in jobs, like mine at the moment, where there is no face to face interaction with researchers there will almost certainly be some other stakeholder whose day you can make. For me
this means working with people contacting the Record Office for various reasons. For example, I let people know when they have filled out their record transfer list satisfactory (you cannot imagine how difficult this seems to be), respond to their request promptly, and let them know that I am happy to answer any questions they may have. Often it does not take much to make someone’s day.

Choose your attitude: I do not think this one needs a lot of explanation. After my grumpy Monday I now choose to be positive about work. It does of course help if you can find something to like
about work – I have recently learnt to appreciate working with The Archivist, and as part of the Fish! approach I have decided that he needs to be included in the group of people for whom I ‘Make their day’. This includes not letting a grumpy attitude rub off on others, especially The Archivist – after all it is not his fault I am grumpy because I woke up late, or had a rubbish journey to work, or got drenched by the rain on my way to work.

So for me it is a positive attitude to work which makes work enjoyable, and I think that a positive approach often brings along the other Fish! principles.

There, ramblings over!
I am undecided as to what next blog post will be about – suggestions and comments on a postcard please!

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In the beginning…

Welcome to my blog-world.

I have puzzled with the thought of starting a blog for a while now. Mainly because I have been feeling the urge to write down some thoughts about work, but not really with a specific purpose in mind. Maybe it will help me focus my mind towards taking on the ARA Registration Scheme – maybe not! Time will tell.

I will try to keep blog-posts as positive as possible – that is a promise. I will do my very best to keep grammatical mistakes and typos to a minimum (preferably none at all), but should any of you spot any mistakes, please let me know – being corrected is the only way to learn and – hopefully – get it right in the future.

Finally, should any non-archivists come across this blog and have any questions, please ask! Indeed, comments and questions from both archivists and non-archivists are always welcome. Should you have any ideas for a blog-post I should also be interested in hearing them.

That is enough for today. Next post will follow in a few days.

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