11 attendees representing 7 West Midlands archive services took part in this workshop, organised by Elizabeth Oxborrow-Cowan, on the 5th July 2022. The event was billed as a post-Covid archive service health-check and aimed to help services identify the strengths and weaknesses facing them now and in the next 5 years.
The workshop also supported unaccredited services to start the process of applying for archive accreditation, and accredited services prepare for their reviews. The event utilised the Archives and Records Association resilience indicator which can be found here. This tool enabled services to identify their strengths and weaknesses ahead of the workshop.
Jane Shillaker, Programme Officer (Accreditation) at The National Archives provided an update on accreditation including the recent changes with regard to born digital material and supporting equality and diversity both in the workforce and across collections.
Following a discussion on the results of the resilience indicator, attendees were split into 2 groups for a workshop session to identify priorities and to start work on these including a commitment to action.
Issues of concern
Issues of concern that were raised by services included:
- The impact of changes in political officeholders and the lack of understanding of archives by senior officers
- Staff burnout and lack of opportunities to use professional skills
- Project funding opportunities driving activity
- Limited cataloguing support except where externally funded
- Restructures leading to splits between archives and records management
- Running out of storage space
- Impact of decline in on site visits leading to demand for other additional services
- Advocacy a real need, helping new leadership and educating new management
- Sustainability of digital preservation given it is often reliant on the skills of an individual and its expense
However, services also identified a number of strengths including:
- The move towards digital council records provides an opportunity to discuss and implement digital preservation
- More prepared to exploit funding opportunities
- Sharing roles and giving training to provide variety thereby encouraging staff to stay
- Covid enabled more remote working which has resulted in more overall staff flexibility
- Restructuring provides opportunities for changes within the service – the state of flux forces you to review how the service operates and what it does.
- Managers starting to appreciate that services online audiences are as important as onsite visitors
Feedback from the event was very positive with attendees welcoming the opportunity to share experiences in a safe and supportive space. It is hoped to repeat the workshop, including targeting non accredited services. This will reinforce a key aim of AWM.
If you are interested in attending a future session, please contact Elizabeth Oxborrow Cowan.