There are roughly 38,967 counties, municipalities and towns in the United States. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, 1.5% (or 570) of these jurisdictions have an Archivist on their staff. Monroe County, PA is one of these lucky jurisdictions and we were able to interview their Archivist, Kelly Smith, to learn more about the role she plays and the benefits of having this position on staff.
What role does an Archivist serve?
An archivist is an information professional who assesses, collects, organizes, preserves, maintains control over, and provides access to records and archives determined to have long-term value. There are various types of records including paper documents, photographs, maps, films, and computer records. Typically, an Archivist is specially trained in preserving the original material and helping people obtain it. Archivists work with paper documents, photographs, maps, films, and computer records.
How do you decide which records to preserve?
First, I review and follow the state guidelines to make sure that the County is following all required legislation. Like all local governments, Monroe County is required to keep detailed records of everything from land grants and property deeds to court filings and tax data. These documents provide vital information and are an indispensable resource for both government employees and constituents. Then I work with the County Commissioner to get his guidance on any records (in addition to state guidelines) that he would like kept.
What type of records do you keep?
We keep court records, meeting minutes, marriage licenses, will & testaments, land records, maps, plats, tax claims…and many other different types.
Monroe County was founded in 1836. Did storing records become a problem?
Yes! In fact, our records were overflowing in boxes in the hallway and across several buildings. We contracted with Avenu to digitize and index our records, so they were quickly found, accessible online, and are preserved for generations to come. As of now, Avenu has digitized millions of our records and given us back much needed space.
Do you have any advice for a jurisdiction looking for the right vendor to digitize records?
Quality matters. We have images from a previous vendor where it is blurry and hard to read. The quality of images that Avenu has produced has been top-notch. The other thing to consider is if you want a vendor to scan the documents in-house or take them to their own facility. Avenu does both but it was important to the County to keep all of them on-premise.
What do you like about being the County Archivist?
I really enjoy being able to use my expertise to help drive policy. I also like helping to ensure that we are maintaining the records that we’re required to by law. And I truly enjoy preserving a piece of history.