I Just want to set the World On Fire with Records (A Law and Ethics Case Study)

Learning Objectives

  • Students will be able to describe the ethical considerations given a particular situation.
  • Students will be able to explain their course of actions and potential consequences of those actions.


You’re a reference archivist at an institution that collects political paper collections. A journalist from a gossip website has asked to see portions of a collection of a recently retired Senator. This part of the collection has been sealed for ten years according to the deed of gift. Keep in mind these are not the official records of the senate, but the personal papers/office records of the senator. This doesn’t mean that there are not materials that could be deemed federal records or state secrets. The collection was minimally processed due to it restrictions, and this former Senator is embroiled in a civil suit with a former staffer about sexual misconduct.


  • What issues are at play here?
  • How would you go about dealing with the issue of access?
  • What if the journalist threaten to make a FIOA or Open Records request?
  • Does the journalist employer factor into your decisions?
  • How would you handle a discovery request related to the civil suit?

Georgia Election Server: Records Management Case Study

Learning Objectives

  • You will describe issues related to security and preservation of records in this given case.
  • You will explain how records management best practices failed in this given situation, and you will describe the severity of those failures.
  • You will recommend appropriate future policies and systems to ensure that these failures will not occur.


For this case study, you will be examining the events surrounding the deletion of the Georgia Election Server data at the Kennesaw State University Center for Election Systems (KSU). Several groups seeking to have the current electronic election system retired due to security concerns filed a civil a case on July 3 and requested to have access to server images as part of the discovery process. This suit was in response to a security research publicizing in June of 2017 a vulnerability in the election servers that he claims was not patched after KSU was made aware of the issue. Shortly after the case was filed was made, the server imaging occurred on July 7. The case made national headlines in late October 2017 when the Associated Press reported about the reformatting of the servers. Emails obtained by the Coalition for Good Governments through a Georgia Open Records request detailed the erasure procedures performed on the servers as well as attempts to fix the security issues. After the story appeared in the news, different groups began reacting to the story including the Secretary of State of Georgia, who was initially appalled at the deletion, but walked back those comments after an internal investigation was begun.

To accomplish this examination, you will need to read the items listed in the bibliography and possibly conduct further research into the policies and procedures at both the Secretary of States office and Kennesaw State University. The readings below are provided to give you context and the different perspectives on the case. Included is the Secretary of State’s internal investigation of the incident. Use the questions as a guide to help you think through the issues surrounding this case.


  • Describe the records management issues at play in this situation? What were the normal operating procedures followed at KSU that allowed for to the deletion of the data?
  • Describe where records management practices failed and succeeded in regards to the deletion of the election data hosted by KSU.
  • Outline what policies and procedures should be in place to prevent an issue like this from occurring again. Also, consider.
    • What sorts of authorization and documentation practices would need to be in place for disposing of electronic election data?
    • What sorts of safeguards, auditing procedures and capturing systems would you create to stop this from occurring?


How do you Solve a Problem like Maria? (A Managing Archives Case Study)

Learning Objectives

  • Students will recognize and determine issues related to managing staff of an archives.
  • Students will plan and propose solutions to handle problematic staff members.

ACA Task and Knowledge Statements

  • Managing Archives Task 2: Assess staffing needs, recruit appropriate personnel, and train staff; support professional development; and ensure that the staff works together to fulfill the archives’ mission.
  • K-603: basic principles and procedures in human resource management appropriate for an archival program.


You’re the director of an archive with a staff of three, plus a rotating cadre of student workers. Maria is not an archivist, nor does she have a graduate degree of any kind. Maria has been the library director’s secretary. She’s worked in circulation for a few years, and now she’s a nonarchivist employee who you directly supervise. Maria’s position line was moved to your archive because you needed extra staff. This staff line is classified as a support staff, and will no be able to be reclassified as an archivist position. The staffing change occurred before you became the director.

Maria is deathly afraid of technology. Even typing an email is an issue for Maria. Maria also has a history of making students uncomfortable, due to her diligence to the “rules.” She once made a student cry during a reference interview. Your other staff member Tonya can’t stand Maria. Tonya is responsible for processing and outreach. Maria also terrorizes your student workers. You have a significant electronic records project about to begin during the next semester.

  • What do you do with Maria?
    • If you chose to fire Maria, how would you reclassify her position to aid with your electronics record program?
    • If you decided not to let Maria go, how would you integrate her better into your operations?
  • What repercussions could you face if you fire Maria?


  • Jennifer, Rowley. 2003. “Staff Management in Library and Information Work (4th edition).” Journal Of Documentation no. 3: 373. Emerald Insight.
  • Kurtz, Michael J, Thomas Wilsted, and Society of American Archivists. Managing Archival & Manuscript Repositories. Chicago: Society of American Archivists, 2004.