What I want to learn in the year ahead / What I learned in the past year (2017/2018)

The January theme for GLAM Blog Club is ‘what I want to learn in the year ahead / what I learned in the past year’. I started this blog to write on the same topic exactly one year ago, focusing on what I had learned the previous year.  I got a lot done in 2017, and it was hard to separate out ‘what I learned’ with ‘what I achieved’, since many of my achievements were learning experiences too.

What I learned in 2017

2016 was a real crash course for me in upskilling and learning about the profession of recordkeeping and archives. 2016 had very much been a ‘LEARN EVERTHING’ experience, whereas in 2017 I tried to be a bit more selective about what I engaged with. I continued and consolidated some learning activities begun in 2016: using Twitter to learn and network, learning more about Information Culture, and completing two more units for my University studies in information and knowledge management.

By early 2017 I felt that between my university studies, my work experience and my self-directed learning and experiences, I knew a lot about recordkeeping. While there is always more to learn, I decided that my focus for 2017 should be more on soft skills and transferable skills in leadership and communication, as well as building my network and gaining experience in writing and presenting.

To support my learning, I put myself forward for a lot of opportunities in 2017, possibly too many! I spoke at one international and three Australian industry events on topics including electronic signatures, information culture, and the perspectives and needs of students and new professionals. I co-ran the RIMPA Noobs group for students and new professionals, which involved delivering several events, a volunteer program, and some blog and newsletter articles. I volunteered to write for a range of industry publications on a range of topics including a book review, a conference review, and an industry magazine article about electronic signatures.  I also learned about agile project methodology, organisational culture and leadership styles when I undertook a work placement for my studies.

In preparation for attending a conference in Mexico, my partner and I attended Spanish classes for a few months leading up to the trip. It was great fun, we met some fantastic people, and it made it far easier to communicate with locals and to be understood.

Take-home message from 2017: collaboration is the best!

I always knew that teamwork and collaboration are important, and this was really demonstrated to me in 2017. My biggest achievements at work and outside of work were collaborations.

In addition to my day job, I voluntarily collaborated with some practitioners and academics outside of work time on some events, writing and workshops. These were rewarding and positive experiences, and I could not have completed some initiatives without the shared workload or the fresh perspectives, processes and ideas that collaborators brought.

What I want to learn in 2018

I always keep a running list of things I want to do for professional development. Often it’s just a short article or podcast to listen to, sometimes it’s attending an entire conference. My to-do list for 2018 learning already has 67 items on it, some carried over from 2017. This is in addition to completing one final unit for my university studies.

I recently became a supervisor in my day job, so in 2018 I plan to learn more about leadership, giving feedback, and management. I also want to learn more about agile project methodology, as I’m noticing that this is being used more and more in the workplace, so I need to be across it.

Finally, I’ve been developing my writing skills in the last year through this blog and other endevours. In 2018, I want to continue to do so, by focusing more on peer-reviewed and academic-focused pieces.

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Recordkeeping considerations for electronic signatures

Last year I wanted to move some hand-signed paper forms to online forms in a Victorian (Australian) public-sector workplace. I initially was not sure if I was allowed to replace hand-signing with electronic signing. I also wondered what to consider to ensure the process remained legal as well as recordkeeping compliant.

A hand-drawn mark on paper is not the only analogue method of signing. Other methods that have been used include fingerprints, seals, as well as stamps. I became interested in signature stamps when I travelled to Seoul, South Korea, for a conference in 2016, and learnt that stamps were historically used as signatures (also in China, Japan, and some other countries). Interestingly, they are still in some use in South Korea.

The stamp is called a ‘Dojang’ in Korean (도장), and can also be called a seal, a name stamp, or a name chop. My ‘research focus group’ (my partner, who grew up in South Korea, plus some friends that he ‘KakaoTalk’ messaged) informed me that while the stamp is accepted as a legitimate signature, people these days tend to hand-sign (or e-sign) most documents in Korea. One of the reasons is that it’s a pain to have to carry the stamp around. However, my focus group told me that it’s likely they would make the point to use their stamp for very official documentation such as buying a house. They also need it to get another banking passbook issued, as the bank would compare their current stamp to the stamp they have on file from setting up the account (similar to how Australian banks have ‘signature books’ with copies of hand-signed names).


A Dojang 도장 (Korean seal) Photo credit:

Back to electronic signatures. Frustratingly, I found it difficult to find neutral authoritative sources of information on electronic signatures. It seemed that every article had been written by a vendor wanting to sell a workflow software product (though don’t discount these articles, as some of the products are very useful!)

I kept researching and talking to people until I felt informed enough to speak about it at first a State-wide, and then a National conference. If you are interested in this topic, here are some resources to get you started.

An electronic signature is any electronic method which carries the intention of being a signature. We already use these in our personal and work life. It can be a PIN when paying by credit card, drawing on an electronic pad when collecting a registered letter or parcel, or saying ‘yes’ on the phone when being recorded, to buy car insurance. It includes some emails and online forms, or using workflow within an electronic system. Technically, it includes hand-signing a form then scanning it, and submitting the scan electronically (which I had to do last week in order to submit an online form for an Australian Federal Police check – couldn’t I have submitted through the myGov portal?)

Strictly speaking, an electronic signature can use any appropriate method, whereas a digital signature is a specific type of electronic signature, which has more controls and security around it.  A digital signature is likely to be more difficult and expensive to implement, and is not necessary for lower-stakes or most internal-to-the-organisation approvals.

There are three criteria for a compliant electronic signature in Australia, and it’s similar in many other jurisdictions:

  1. Identity: you need to accept the approval in a way that identifies the person and indicates their intention to approve the matter
  2. Reliability: the method used to obtain the digital approval must be as reliable as appropriate for the purpose (use your judgement or seek legal advice as there’s no clear-cut definition of what is reliable)
  3. Consent: the entity requiring the signature must agree to receiving it this way.

At times there may be other criteria or conditions in other related laws. If in doubt, seek legal advice before making the changeover.

In addition, I recommend ensuring that the record of the signature is managed appropriately as a record, i.e. to ensure that it is authentic, reliable, usable, and has integrity (the four characteristics of a record from AS/ISO 15489).  Even if the record has a short-term retention period, you still need to ensure that the record is available for that entire period, as with any other record.

Are you interested in using electronic signatures in your organisation? Want to ensure they are recordkeeping compliant? Here are some resources to get you started:

Action plan for implementing electronic signatures PLUS considerations for purchasing electronic signature (approval) software

I wrote an article about this which is available in the Image and Data Manger (IDM) October-November 2017 print issue, or conveniently online. It has a four step action plan, plus four considerations for purchasing relevant software.

Community of practice

I have created a LinkedIn group called ‘Electronic signatures/digital approvals’. I invite you to join the group and share your resources, questions, challenges and success stories in implementing electronic signatures. Please join this community of practice so we can learn from each other, and have an audience to share our successes.

Journal on digital evidence and electronic signatures

Yes, there is an entire online journal available on electronic signatures worldwide.

Key legislation in Australia and my home state of Victoria

  • Section 10 of the Electronic Transactions Act 1999 (Commonwealth)
  • Section 9 of the Electronic Transactions Act 2000 (Victoria)

NAA Digital Authorisations Framework

This article in IDM introduces the new NAA Digital Authorisations Framework and provides links to the NAA’s website on it. You can use these resources to help understand what digital approval method is most appropriate for the situation.

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How I Ended Up Here… on this blog!

This month’s Glam Blog Club topic is How I Ended Up Here. I’m taking the question quite literally, and explaining how I ended up HERE here, on this blog.

I wouldn’t be writing this blog, or possibly even be in this profession, if it weren’t for the networking opportunities, support and mentoring I’ve been privileged to access in the last few years.

It all started around the time I took a secondment in May 2015, in my first dedicated job in recordkeeping and archives. I’d already worked for five years in a University governance role that included recordkeeping responsibilities mixed in with other compliance-related aspects such as privacy, legal compliance, policy and committee governance. I’d become quite interested in recordkeeping, having voluntarily read some textbooks about it in early 2014 as part of my professional development (I’d been advised years ago to always propose a mix of paid and ‘free’ professional development on my annual plan). In fact, I enjoyed my reading so much, that mid-2014 I enrolled in a University course to become qualified as a recordkeeper and archivist. So when the opportunity arose in 2015 to do a job specialising in recordkeeping and archives, I took it!

I’ve always been a fan of continuing professional development and lifelong learning. I think in my whole adult life, I’ve had no more than 1 year’s break between each University course enrolment. My annual plan at work always involves requests to attend workshops and events, or to use some work time to read. But when I started the dedicated recordkeeping and archives role, I decided it was time to take it up a level. I decided it was time to network and really understand the profession I was working in.

In my University studies, I had to write an assignment about microblogging for knowledge sharing. I had never blogged or microblogged before, so I set up a Twitter account in order to understand it better. I followed some professional organisations like ALIA, RIMPA and ASA, and occasionally logged in to read my newsfeed. Through my Twitter feed, I found out about Cardi Parties. I attended my first one early in 2015, but for various reasons didn’t make it back for a while. Then in May 2016 I attended my second Cardi Party, and the rest is history!

While I’d been a lurker on Twitter for about a year, I realised at that Cardi Party that GLAMR professionals, especially new professionals, use Twitter a lot and so should I. Some very kind people stepped me through my first few tweets and gave suggestions on how to use Twitter. So I Tweeted about the event and have never stopped Tweeting since:

I’d thought here and there about starting a blog, but really wasn’t sure where to start. So when New Cardigan announced GLAM Blog Club late in 2016, I decided to bite the bullet and make my first post, on what I learned in 2016. I’d already built up my confidence with public self-publications, by Tweeting a lot at events and about the profession. But I was still a bit worried about potentially embarrassing myself or my employer. So I asked my Manager to look over the draft of my first post to check if it was acceptable. They gave some good advice to tweak it, and some encouraging compliments, and soon after I made that first post public. I still get my Manager to check over any drafts if they mention work, or to get general feedback on the direction I’m taking if I’m a bit stuck.

Since that first post I’ve had trouble keeping up with monthly posts, but I’ve made a few contributions to Glam Blog Club and have also posted about some other random GLAMR topics.

I enjoy reading the Glam Blog Club posts each month, and I try to contribute where I can. There are many similarities between the GLAMR professions, and I think we all have a lot to learn from each other. But primarily I’m a recordkeeper, so my only wish is that more recordkeepers blogged and participated in GLAM Blog Club, as I’d love to network more and learn more from others doing similar jobs to me.

If you’re a recordkeeper (or in any GLAMR profession) and thinking about starting a blog, here are my tips to get you started:

  • If you’re not sure what to write about, start with a structure such as GLAM Blog Club
  • Do a bit of research on what technology you’d like to use, but I ended up using wordpress.com because it was easy and free to get started (though I do now pay an annual subscription to make mine ad-free and for other features)
  • Check with your employer if it’s OK to have a blog, especially if you will be writing about work. If you are writing about work, I suggest getting your Manager to check your draft post to ensure it’s OK to share, in case there may be confidential or sensitive topics they want to check over
  • Make sure you register your blog with Aus GLAM Blog Bot, so your posts get more visibility.

So that’s my story of how I ended up here! Be sure to read the other GLAM Blog Club posts this month!

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Summary of first #archivehour

Archive hour launched today in the UK and I participated. Well, archive hour launched yesterday (last Thursday of the month), but due to the time difference, it was today in Australia (last Friday of the month).

It was first announced only 1 month ago, but in that short time, the #archivehour Twitter page accrued over 700 followers and made over 400 tweets. The aggressive advertising campaign was un-ignorable, and somehow non-irritating, due to the excellent diversity of gifs used (my favourite being this one closely followed by this one for the hypnotising factor). There’s probably a whole case study there in how to get that many followers that quickly without being marked as spam.

This month’s topic was digital preservation.

As a records analyst that works in a recordkeeping governance unit in the public sector (a University), I’m very interested in digital preservation. I work to govern and help manage both temporary and permanent electronic records. So for me, digital preservation isn’t just about permanent records, it can also mean ensuring records are accessible for a ‘short’ period of time. That short period could be 6 months, 2 years, 15 years or even 50+ For digital records, even five years can be a long time, and a huge challenge, to ensure that the records remain authentic, reliable, have integrity, and are usable for the entire retention period (the four characteristics of a record from ISO 15489).

#archivehour went very quickly. One minute it was 6.02am and I was just settling in with my English Breakfast tea (it was based in the UK afterall), and the next minute it was past 7am and I hadn’t finished! I felt like I was trying to secretly write in an exam after “pens down” was announced, when I frantically tried to wrap up all my fresh tweets and replies and read all the notifications just after 7am. In the end I was nearly late to work even after getting up so early!

It was great to see the records continuum theory get a mention very early on:


I was also excited to see a nod to Information Asset Registers:

(I liked a lot of Jaana’s tweets and am now following them!)

Minds were blown when I mentioned that much research data has a retention period of only five years. Some data has a longer temporary sentence (retention period), and some is permanent, but a lot of it is temporary. As a records continuum theory influenced records and archives professional, I feel that (organised, authorised) destruction of records is sometimes just as important a consideration as retention (and preservation) of records.

As shocking as this may be to some recordkeepers, it’s worth pointing out that records with a short retention period such as two years, might be ‘preserved’ just by managing them ‘in place’. Even if that means keeping them within an email account (but at least try to make it a role account so it’s easier to keep custody of the records if a staff member leaves).

As a recordkeeper who’s more interested in the story of the recordkeeping, in why and how particular records are captured and kept or deleted, I couldn’t resist my slightly-angsty reply to the 2nd last question this morning:

Overall, #archivehour was an interesting discussion. I feel that I represented temporary recordkeeping in a discussion that at times seems more geared towards digital preservation equalling permanent preservation. I hope I represented the fact that temporary records also need to be considered.

Keep an eye out for the next #archivehour – last Thursday of the month UK time, or very early on a Friday morning Aussie time!



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