UBC Co-op student Sam Elkind at work in the Archives and Records Management Department

Records Management

Reflections of a co-op student

December 14, 2021

By Sam Elkind

Hello blog readers. My name is Sam Elkind. I am a graduate student at the University of British Columbia, and for the past couple of  months, I have been working in the Archives and Records Management Department (ARMD) at SFU as a co-op student under the Records Management Archivist, Shamin Malmas.

While working for the ARMD, I have had the tremendous privilege to speak to and learn from the various team members, and to gain experience on various projects. My main records management goals have been creating guidelines around records inventory, research into email records management, and drafting records retention schedules. 

I was initially hired to work on the records inventory project, and it ended up being the second biggest thing I have worked on. I started with research into the methods used by other universities, including looking into possible third-party software. Working with Shamin, I created forms that can be accessed by University departments, and wrote guidelines for their use. While this project is still very much in its early stages, I am extremely proud of the products that have come out, and we have already had a department use the forms!

My largest project is one that came somewhat as a surprise—email management. After a couple weeks in my position, Shamin was asked to prioritize looking into email management options. This led me down the path of research into Capstone, a model of email records management pioneered by the National Archives in the United States. Capstone bases which emails go to the Archives on who sent and received them, rather than on what is actually in them. In order to write my report, I read government papers and reports, conducted jurisdictional reviews to find other institutions using Capstone, and interviewed stakeholders (including Jason R. Baron, one of the primary architects of the model). 

The final result of my research has been an expansive report that I have drafted and redrafted with the support of the ARMD team, which lays out pros and cons of adopting this Capstone model, proposes a version adapted to university needs (as opposed to governmental needs), and proposes next steps. 

While working on these projects, I have also been working on the occasional Records Retention Schedule and Disposition Authority, or RRSDA.  These schedules are how the University makes sure that they are keeping records for as long as they need to. Among other things, they include a description of the series of records to which the schedule is applied, a simple timeline for how long to hold onto the records, a decision about whether those records go to the Archives or are destroyed after that timeline is end, and the reasoning for that decision.

I have specifically worked on RRSDAs for Student Athlete Medical Records, Voicemail, Employee Files, Wellness and Recovery Case Files, and Travel Waiver Forms. For each of these RRSDAs, I conducted research and drafted multiple iterations of the schedule.

Digitizing audiocassette recordings of SFU lectures

Suffice to say, I have had an incredibly varied and enriching experience in the SFU Archives. Through it all, I have also assisted on digitization, scanning papers, tapes, and photos for use by researchers. I have spoken to experts in roles I would never have even thought to look into, and learned so much about the field.

I want to thank everybody at the Simon Fraser University Archives and Records Management Department for this amazing opportunity; this has been an amazing term, to which there can be no comparison. And to you, dear readers, thanks as well, for taking the time to read about my work here.

Please, if you get the chance, make time to visit the Archives. They are on the first floor of the Maggie Benston building, open for walk-ins between 9:00 am and 4:00 pm, Tuesday through Friday, and on Mondays by appointment.