Here at the Utah Division of Archives and Records Service we seek to support government agencies throughout the whole records lifecycle: from records creation, through use and access, from records storage, to destruction and preservation. So when we see a great records management project, we want to celebrate! Murray City recently shared news of their latest records clean-up project with us and we couldn’t help but shout it out! City Recorder Brooke Smith let us in to show off what she and her fantastic team have been up to this year.
When did you decide to undertake this records clean-up project?
Brooke: I was hired as Murray City Recorder on January 5, 2021, and on January 6th I was in the basement planning a strategy to identify and organize the records. My Deputy City Recorder, Laura Bown, and I would go down weekly and start moving records and equipment around into designated areas. By June we had several piles of broken equipment and miscellaneous items that could be disposed of or that were classified as surplus so we coordinated with our Police Cadets and Facilities Department to remove those piles. The Cadets would meet us in the basement once a week for about 30 minutes and help us with the project. Once they started helping, the project took about 5 months to complete.
What pushed you to finally do it?
We are currently building a new city hall and I knew that all the records down in the basement would need to be identified and relocated. I did not want to create unnecessary work for us during the move and I did not want to move over records that had been abandoned and past their designated retention schedule. It was important to me to identify what records were being stored in the basement, what department they belonged to, and determine what the retention schedule was for each of those records. By doing the hard work now, I knew it would save me a ton of time later on and it would be less stressful when we move to our new location. (The estimated move-in date is around March 2023).
In the basement, there were lots of old records left by various city departments. Some even included notes that said things like “don’t touch” or “don’t remove”. One such locked filing cabinet belonged to the City Treasurer, with a note that said “Treasurer’s office! Don’t touch or remove!” When I asked the current treasurer what was in the cabinets he had no idea. The cabinets were moved down there by the previous treasurer and no one had a key to get in. We asked our Facilities guy to break the lock so our current treasurer could determine what was inside. Sadly, we did not find anything historic or monetary. I think we were all secretly hoping this would be a time capsule of buried treasure and sadly, it was not.
How did you organize everyone to help?
I broke down the steps into individual duties and assignments:
- The Deputy City Recorder was in charge of all equipment and surplus.
- The Records Officer was in charge of the retention and destruction log.
- I had a Passport Agent that helped identify records and create updated labels.
- Facilities were in charge of all the heavy lifting, removing boxes from the top shelf, and vacuuming the floor when we were finished.
- The Police Cadets were in charge of all junk, trash, and debris removal (this took months).
- The Parks crew was in charge of moving all boxes that were on the destruction log and moving permanent records to our designated permanent storage area.
- And, I oversaw and helped coordinate the entire project.
It truly was a team effort and I am so thankful there were so many willing participants who stepped up and helped out.
How did you sustain support and keep the team motivated?
I am a firm believer that a system should work for the employee(s). I knew that identifying what records are in the basement now would help me perform my job better in the future. I also knew that it would help my agency prepare to move to a new city hall and I wanted to do what I could to make that process run smoother.
One way we stayed motivated was we started to track how many times we went down to the basement to clean or organize. By tracking our roundtrips we were able to show our executive team the amount of effort that went into cleaning up the space that had been abandoned. The Basement Round Trip Log was a great way to motivate our cadets too. They loved adding a checkmark to our spreadsheet every time they took a pile of trash to our dumpster. We estimate that the basement was visited over 400 times throughout the entire project.
When we finally finished the project, we celebrated with a pizza party and small craft for the Police Cadets and I bought donuts and drinks for our Parks and Facilities crew. I am very thankful for all their help and celebrating with pizza and donuts was a small way to show my appreciation for their help!
Fun facts about Murray’s clean up:
- Over the year the team took 400 trips to the basement. 400 round trips x 23 stairs (x2 for up and down)=18,400 stairs
- All the records that have passed retention have been destroyed (281 boxes at the end of 2021 and an additional 40 boxes in early 2022) and all the permanent records stored in the city hall basement were moved to the Fire Station 83 permanent record room (approximately 40 boxes). There are four departments that still have active records stored in the basement. Those records will move to the new city hall.