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Held incommunicado

It seems so odd for an archivist to feel as if s/he is unable to communicate.  After all, we’re all about records and documents and records and documents are all about information and the transference of information.  But since Sunday afternoon, the UAA webservers have more or less been down.  No email, mostly no voice mail, no wireless connects, no Blackboard course software access, and so forth.  Want to know how much you’ve adapted to using email?  Have it disappear completely for a few days.  Oh, sure, we all have our personal home email accounts, but these aren’t email addresses we typically use for work business.

The Consortium Library happens to run our own webserver, so at least our website is still functional and people can see what we have: but the “contact us” button?  That goes through our departmental webmail account which is hosted on the university servers.  Which has been sort of working for the past day (and by that I mean: Mariecris has been able to access the webmail account for the past day but I, Arlene, have only been able to access it for about the last hour) but it’s certainly not been working well enough to assume it’s reliable. And by that I mean that we don’t know if we’re receiving all the emails that have been sent to us.  That’s not a huge change in status since we’re aware that sporadically over the last several months both incoming and outgoing emails have gone astray with no notice to sender or receiver that they were never delivered.  Unfortunately how we usually discover that is by receiving an unhappy phone call from somebody who hasn’t received what we’ve promised them or wondering why we’re ignoring their very important request.  And that’s not good.

All in all, it’s proving to be a learning experience.  As I was looking at the library’s emergency call list today, I realized that maybe in the email box we should be putting our personal contact information, not our university contact information.  After all, if a localized emergency took out the Library, we’re within 100 yards of the University’s IT department and chances are both of us would be down.  How would we do an email notification?  Which, you have to admit, is probably more efficient than the phone tree, as useful as a phone tree is.  And perhaps we should have some sort of an emergency backup email distro list for the Library for those times when regular email is down for more than a day and it’s not exactly an emergency, but yet there’s still information that needs to be disseminated.  (Like meeting agendas, or committee election notices, or the ever-important notices of somebody having brought in double chocolate brownies to share.)

Mariecris was jokingly complaining earlier today about how much of a pain it was to actually have to go TALK to people.  I feel her pain.  Because it’s not always easy for us to leave the department–at least not at the same time!–and though we could use the phone, if the other person doesn’t pick up, we know there’s a good chance they won’t receive the voice mail we leave.  As archivists we know that not all records survive.  Not all records should survive.  But they’re supposed to act as a conduit/vehicle for information.  And it is a little distressing to know that even as you create a record–even a very temporary one like a voice mail–it may not get to where it’s supposed to go.  And isn’t that the whole point of documentation?  That transference of information?

Well, that’s all very esoteric and probably a little too philosophical for most of our colleagues.  That’s what being an archivist will do for you: email downtime gets you thinking about the theoretical underpinnings of the definition of a document.  But why not spend a little time to ponder it?  It’s not like we’ve got our usual bunch of email requests to answer.   I wonder if we will ever receive any of the emails from the missed days.  If so, I guess we’ll be playing catch-up later.  Sometime after that 24-48 hours return to limited functionality we’ve been promised.  In the meantime, if you’ve got an archival emergency for us, call us.  907-786-1849.  10-4 AST, M-F.  If we don’t answer? We’re probably on the line to somebody else with an archival emergency.  And leave a voicemail if you feel like gambling a little.  Maybe we’ll actually receive yours.

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