Observation at the NY Federal Reserve’s Archives

By kraines

On Friday, December 9th, I joined associate archivist, Julie Sager, and observed her work at the New York Federal Reserve’s. I spent a few hours in the afternoon with Miss Sager, observing the work she does and discussing current issues in archiving. The day was as exciting, as it was interesting. Simply entering the building was awe-inspiring as you can’t help but imagine you’re walking into a castle. A tower adorns one corner of the stone structure and huge arched ceilings mark an era of grandeur in New York construction.

First we stopped up in the library, a bustling room of cubicles and chatty voices. Miss Sager described the work she does on most days, starting with email and research in the mornings. Some afternoons consist of status meetings or a recent committee to re-establish the access and retention policies for records stored on-site. However, most afternoons are spent researching in the archives for queries and FOIA requests.

Most information requested through FOIA is already available through public record but many people think a FOIA request is required. When information is sealed, a FOIA request does not guarantee access. Access is determined by the law department. Other times, the requester want to see the steps taken during research by the archivist, as required by FOIA requests. Miss Sager helped to develop the reporting system used to track the workflow of research using a program called sharepoint. The library and archivist team is able to track all research because the program allows for reproducible searches and reduces research time for similar or multiple inquiries on the same info.

Next, we walked through the archives and records rooms as she discussed a recent problem. We pulled a few boxes in archives to search through later. The archives and records are stored in old cash and coin vaults. They are sealed behind huge metal doors with complex locking mechanisms (picture gringotts in Harry Potter.) Recently, Miss Sager has been following the trail of some missing records. Lending to banks was typically recorded in the meeting minutes by members of the federal reserve; however, during WWI lending practices reported through a different method. Miss Sager was able to determine why the records are missing from archived meeting minutes but has not been able to find the missing information. Interestly, Miss Sager is now responding to the 3rd of 4th request from different parties in the last year for the same missing info.

Records are created by outside parties, such as banks and businesses, and are stored on-site for a predetermined amount of time. Miss Sager has recently been involved in the research and decision to change the time a record is kept in storage at the federal reserve. Based on information she has found at other institutions, she suggests they keep records for 20 years before removing or archiving them. When a record is removed, it is either returned to the creator or destroyed. I asked how Miss Sager feels her career may be affected by the move toward digitization in archives and libraries. She says that her career will be secure for at least the 10-20 years left in current records. She and her boss also plan to find classes based on archiving born-digital documents. She says, “There aren’t as many solutions to born-digital [records] yet… I have records now that are printed emails because they didn’t know how to save them at the time.”

The idea of printing emails to save them is laughable but during a time when servers couldn’t host, save, or archive important emails, printing was the best solution. Digital preservation comes with the challenge of fragility. Born-digital objects do not fade in sections or lose only portions of information as a book or printed object would. Rather, they become unusable with time due to file corruption and most often because hardware has upgraded. (1) Most often in preserving born-digital materials, we rely on printed emails, screenshots, and other second hand methods of retention. The original will never be captured fully, although snapshots may convey the intention. This method of preservation may be the only solutions we have currently but in the overwhelming amount of information created in today’s digital age, new options will need to be explored.

(1) Rosenzweig, R. (2003, June). Scarcity or Abundance? Preserving the Past in a Digital Era. The American Historical Review, 108(3), 735-762.

Bending the Future of Preservation Review

By kraines

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act, the New York Public Library hosted a discussion between 5 notable scholars working in the field of preservation. The event was called Bending the Future of Preservation and was held on October 19 at 5:30 PM at the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building. Panelists included Michael Sorkin, Robert Hammond, Thompson Mayes, Liz Sevcenko, and Richard Rabinowitz. The event was moderated by Max Page and Marla Miller.

Discussion lead with a look into the next 50 years of preservation, particularly in architecture. Questions posed to the group were intended to make the panelists/audience consider equity and representation in preservation. The first hour featured the voices of Hammon, Mayes, and Sorkin. Each panelist presented recent projects around NYC, their involvement, and the positives and negatives of city development. Hammond, as part of the High Line project, highlighted two main issues with the development of the park.The High Line is a linear park built on a disused New York railroad. The first issue addressed by Hammond is a distinct lack of city funding, 98% of the parks budget is supported by Friends of the High Line through private donations [1].

The second issue relates to access and use of the park. Hammond discussed two low-income housing units located beside the High Line. Residents in both buildings were surveyed before and after construction, and the discovery was made that most had never been to the High Line. Survey responders indicated that the space did not feel like it was built for them and felt uncomfortable walking the park. A visit reveals to the keen observer that the majority of park traversers primarily include tourists and residents from other, more affluent, living complexes. Hammond believes that creating public spaces and the preservation of NYC structures should benefit all residents of the city. New residents, parks, and business can greatly influence the residents of a neighborhood. As an area is redeveloped, the cost of rent often rises and forces people who cannot afford new costs from their homes. Mayes criticized decisions to preserve based on only historical and architectural values. He believes that the residents memory and identity adds to the value of a place. This is supported by all the panelist as they discuss the history of place in preservation.

The second hour echoed the thoughts of the first as Richard Rabinowitz and Liz Sevcenko addressed the preservation of historical sites. Rabinowitz, in particular, addressed the importance of telling all histories rather than those of the important or wealthy influencers. He called for marking historical sites that affected larger populations, such as bread lines from the Great Depression or putting the rules to old street games on plaques in neighborhoods. He referred to this action as social archaeology, an idea that the history of all parts of a population should be equally represented.

The discussion effectively shed light on many problems and solutions seen in preservation in city planning. New development often leads to the gentrification of an area. Residents are forced from their homes, either by rising costs or legally removed by landlords, and many local business owners are pushed out for new, more expensive stores and restaurants. The act of preservation should support social and public history, whether it’s a building or images from history. The information professional can support these actions in the retention, preservation, and archiving of historical items. Archiving and librarianship can begin including more representation in their catalogs, materials, and hiring processes [2, 3]. Academic discussions, such as Bending the Future of Preservation, can lead the conversation about diversity and equity in preservation. However, very little action has been seen in the world of informational professionals to commit to these ideas [4]. We must abandon the sense of neutrality in the public sphere that only perpetuates existing problems [5]. I believe each of the panelists echoed these concepts in their discussion and presented viable solutions to known problems in the preservation of history.

Citations

  1. The High Line | Friends of the High Line. (2016). Retrieved October 25, 2016, from

http://www.thehighline.org/

  1. Drabinski, E. (2013). Queering the Catalog: Queer Theory and the Politics of Correction.

The Library Quarterly, 83(2), 94-111. Retrieved October 25, 2016, from https://lms.pratt.edu/pluginfile.php/623243/mod_resource/content/1/drabinski-queering%20the%20catalog.pdf

  1. J. V. (2016, January 13). The Quest for Diversity in Library Staffing: From … Retrieved

October 25, 2016, from http://www.inthelibrarywiththeleadpipe.org/2016/quest-for-diversity/

  1. Rosenzweig, R. (1991). “Politics and anti-politics in librarianship” in ibid., 5–8. Retrieved

October 25, 2016, from http://www.progressivelibrariansguild.org/PL_Jnl/pdf/PL3_summer1991.pdf

  1. Jensen, R. (2006). “The myth of the neutral professional” in Questioning Library Neutrality,
  1. A. Lewis. Library Juice, 89–96. Retrieved October 24, 2016, from http://jonah.eastern.edu/emme/2006fall/jensen.pdf.

Trickle-down Information: The Enlightenment Model and Information Dissemination in the Modern Library

By kraines

Note: I believe this subject has the potential for expansion and further investigation. Any feedback, criticism, and questioning would be greatly appreciated as I am considering expanding this essay into a full research topic.

The Library is an establishment intended for the dissemination of information, the modern foundation of which is historically rooted in the age of Enlightenment. As literacy and readership increased, foundations of knowledge and governing bodies began to invest in the construction and design of libraries. [1] The intellectual and wealthy elite of the enlightenment age spurred these modes of knowledge delivery, placing themselves as creators and controllers of information. The library and university were established as a means to circulate created information based on a top-down structure. At one point, this was highly restricted in terms of access, often denying women, people of color, and those in poverty. [2] Today, these are not strictly enforced laws of conduct but the established system continues to place the same types of people at a disadvantage.

Many critics note the power dynamics established in the creation and distribution of knowledge based on the Enlightenment model. The distribution of information from the creator to the consumer continues to enforce this model of dissemination and the related top-down power structure. [3] The researcher, the student, and the public library patron are only able to access the resources their institution can afford or will allow. Libraries emphasize obtaining and providing collections that will meet the needs and expectations of their community. However, the community, as consumers, is not in a position to greatly influence the collection and distribution of information.

The Digital Age is believed to provide greater opportunity for the process of disseminating information; however, most scholarly articles are only available through glass walls. The practice of open access is not a solution to inaccessibility since publishers and institutions often hold most republication rights to any scholarly production. “Library access to electronic resources is another widely acknowledged economic barrier.” [4] Classification and distribution reinforces information as a commodity available for commercialization. [5] Copyright holders limit distribution to specific journals, repositories, and databases. The biggest databases, often with the most diverse amount of publications, are only accessible through educational institutions, including libraries. The consumer is dependent on what institutions they may access and what that institution chooses to make available.

Furthermore, laws such as the Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA), Protect IP Act (PIPA), and the Research Works Act have often run the risk of further hindering an open access system of information. [6] Opponents to open access often view information as a risk in the wrong hands. Peter Schmidt of The Chronicle of Higher Education criticizes the potential for “the publication of inferior and unreliable journals” and “the risk that research in fields such as medicine will fall into the hands of people who might misuse it.” [7]  Although these bills have not reached the point of becoming law, their proponents echo the power structures and control of information exemplified by the Enlightenment Age.

The Library places great emphasis on obtaining and distributing materials of authority. We continue to see institutions of knowledge, universities and bodies of government, as the authority on particular forms of information. Information produced and distributed through these institutions is considered the voice of scholarly authority. Minority groups are often underrepresented in academic institutions, and sometimes banned from shelves and curriculum. [8]  The continued movements toward open access creates new opportunities for equitable information distribution. In a consumer-based society, it’s not surprising that information is treated as a commodity for trade. Publishers and institutions manage how users access information by selecting exclusive databases to allow distribution. The duty of the modern library is to move away from a neutral stance and defend accessibility, free speech, and the freedom of information. The Library as a disseminator is the door between the creator and consumer. The ethical librarian should provide open access that will benefit and improve the lives of library patrons. The Library, as an institution of authority, should be the voice of dissent toward political campaigns aimed to restrict information access. [9] The dissemination of information via a top-down power structure places those at the bottom under a significant disadvantage. The purchase and exchange of information is designed to benefit the publisher and the distributor, enforcing their authority as the all-knowing-elite. The modern Library holds an institutional responsibility to involve the consumer in the process of information dissemination, providing greater opportunity for information creation and understanding.

 

References

  1. Dahlkild, N. (2011). The Emergence and Challenge of the Modern Library Building: Ideal Types, Model Libraries, and Guidelines, from the Enlightenment to the Experience Economy. Library Trends, 60(1), 11-42.
  2. Pawley, C. (2003, October). Information Literacy: A Contradictory Coupling. The Library Quarterly, 73(4), 422-452.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Pribesh, S., Gavigan, K., & Dickinson, G. (2011). The Access Gap: Poverty and Characteristics of School Library Media Centers. The Library Quarterly, 81(2), 143-160.
  5. Pawley, C. (2003, October). Information Literacy: A Contradictory Coupling. The Library Quarterly, 73(4), 422-452.
  6. Chadwick, R. (2012, December). Protecting Open Access to Taxpayer-Funded Research: The Rise and Defeat of the Research Works Act. The Serials Librarian, 63(3-4), 296-304.
  7. Schmidt, P. (2010, February 14). New Journals, Free Online, Let Scholars Speak Out. from http://www.chronicle.com/article/open-access-journals-break/64143
  8. Reichman, H. (2012, March). Opposition grows to Tucson book removals and ethnic studies ban. Newsletter on Intellectual Freedom, 61, 1-84.
  9. Rosenzweig, R. (1991). Politics and anti-politics in librarianship. Progressive Librarian, 5–8. http://www.progressivelibrariansguild.org/PL_Jnl/pdf/PL3_summer1991.pdf
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License
.

WordPress theme based on Esquire by Matthew Buchanan.