Get Jerry to do it: A public records case study

Learning Objectives

  • Students will consider the following scenario and make decisions based on their understanding of legal access to records.
  • Student will be able to explain their decisions and how they would seek outside help in making those decisions.

Scenario

You’re a records manager at a Massachusetts government agency. You regularly receive requests for information related to you agencies business practices. You have two employees working for you. One employee makes 12 dollars an hour, another make 15 dollars an hour. On Monday you received the following requests. (Look at the Bibliography for guidance)

  • Files related to disciplinary actions against a specific officer. These file contain the home address of the officer and their email.
  • A repeat requestor is asking for bid files related to road construction projects.
  • A request for emails to and from agency officials regarding the construction of a new building and the bidding process. Some of the emails in the thread contain personal conversations and not government business.

Questions

  • When would you have to respond to the requests?
  • How would you determine what a reasonable fee would be for these requests? Would you waive the fee for any of them?
  • What information do you think should be redacted or not given to the requestor?

Bibliography

Steamrolled by requests: A Privacy Case Study

Learning Objectives

  • Students will examine a given case and determine the privacy issues in that give case.
  • Students will make appropriate decisions relating to privacy of donors, users, and third parties.

Scenario

This has been a rough week for your archives. Your director made the decision to acquire a controversial collection, namely the membership and other records of a now defunct group of the Klu Klux Klan, and the public reaction has been fierce. Now that the materials are in the archives, some decisions will have to be made on restricting some access to the collection before it become available to researchers.

Another issue has emerged this week. Due to policies at your institution, you allow access to new acquisitions immediately, and members of the public knowing this, have requested to see all the people who have accessed the klan records after you’ve made your decisions related to the privacy issues with this collection. This will not be a fun endeavor.

The last thing to go wrong this week is that a local author who’s collection you will be acquiring has passed away. While this is a very sad affair, his will makes your life more interesting. His notes, finished works, some drafts are scheduled to come to you shortly, but his will has dictated that his unfinished works should be destroyed by steam roller. Needless to say, you haven’t slept in a few days.

Questions

  • how do you determine any restrictions that should be placed on the klan records? What standards will you use to make these decisions?
  • How do you protect the privacy of your users? Does you process change if you were at a public institution that allows for an open government request of records?
  • Is there anything you can do about the author’s collection? If there is something you can do, should you?

Bibliography

The Cookies are a Lie: Law and Archives Case Study

Learning Objectives

  • Students will be able to identify specific types of law that are applicable to the situation.
  • Students will be able to make suggestions on the best legal course of action given the situation.

Scenario

The Horacio G. Applebottom collection is a significant and popular research collection at your archives. This collection documents local and national history. It contains many documents relating to the civil war, and late 19th and early 20th century national politics. The Applebottom Family is very protective of their name and legacy in your community. When the collection was donated to your archive 50 years ago, a note about “will provide adequate and appropriate protection, preservation for the collection” was included int the deed of gift.

On a lovely spring day, Mr. Jacob Whiplash, an area historian came to visit your archives with cookies. He often bring baked goods when he visits as a thank you for the hard work that you and your staff do. A new archivist is working the reference desk and refuses the cookies that you accepted because of a new diet. They sit at the reference desk while the rest of the staff partakes of the cookies and Mr. Whiplash researches. This archivist notices Mr. Whiplash adjusting his coat regularly. They find it odd but, pay no attention to it until the second time when they see something being slipped into his pocket. Then they act, not according to policy as there’s no policy about detaining thieves. They discover that Mr. Whiplash has pocketed two letter. They immediately call the staff, mouths half stuffed with cookies, and the police. The police promptly arrested Mr. Whiplash.

After the dust settles and Mr Whiplash is arraigned, it’s discovered that over 100 items are missing from the collection. Several of these are discovered at the home of Mr. Whiplash. The estate of Applebottom has learned of the thief from the papers, and has scheduled an appointment with your director in the very near future to discuss these matters.

Questions

  • What if any right do you have to stop this criminal once you discover their thief? What gives you that ability?
  • What types of actions might be taken against the archive?
  • How would you respond to the various legal issue surrounding the case? How would your prove that you complied with all relevant laws and agreements.

Bibliography