Take your daughter to work (experience) day

I’m moving ever closer to the pointy end of my LIS Masters and I have yet to do any of my work placement. Until this year it would have meant taking some of my precious month of annual leave and going somewhere in a block. This year it’s more difficult to take a block of time away due to commitments to my piano students and other bits and pieces. Also, finances are not as luxurious and getting from Bundaberg to anywhere to what could be described as an “exciting” work placement (SLQ etc etc etc) is not as simple as it sounds.

So I’ve decided to look around locally and see what’s available. Surely, I thought to myself, people here deal with information, records, archives and other related bits and pieces. It might not be as glamorous as other capital city placements, but perhaps that might be a good thing. I’ve made contact via an acquaintance about going into a school library (aka Resource Centre) and will be following that up next week.

A few weeks ago, I was talking with my Mum and realised that what she does every day at her job in a legal firm is actually pretty relevant. With my new found, and absolutely surprising, interest in legal records and research (thank you QUT PD program/elective and Gill Hallam) I started to listen more carefully to what she does in terms of record and information management.

Safe custody. It’s not glamorous. It is however a meticulous form of cataloguing and archiving of sorts. So for my Mum, today was “take your daughter to work day” as she introduced me to the current lie of the land in the world of safe custody in her workplace.

Here’s what I observed so far:

The strongroom has a very thick door (fireproof etc I’m guessing) and is absolutely chock a block full of safe custody packets, boxes and filing cabinets. Over 30000 of them apparently…some dating back to the beginning of time itself (according to my Mother). They are all numbered and labelled. It’s a library. Being a regional firm most of the items in safe custody are to do with wills, estates, POAs, conveyancing and property law. This isn’t too glamorous either. Births, deaths, marriages, divorces, settlements, leases and on it goes. The stuff of daily life that makes the world go round.

She introduced me to the system the firm uses to enter items into safe custody. They use Open Practice. It assigns record numbers and packet numbers and has codes for the subject of the packets. It’s metadata. I liked this a lot and am keen to learn more about it.

You need a working knowledge of rules of law around the items. Information about trusts is different to information about leases and information about death certificates and wills and so on so forth. I liked the idea of learning about that. I have zero interest in ever becoming a lawyer but I seem to have found a certain interest in the workings of it.

There was a packet missing that was being requested from a client who had moved their business to another firm. We searched high and low but it wasn’t where it should be. We then got to search through the rendered files which were in another building. She also showed me all the systems that the firm had used before computers. This started with giant written ledgers in copperplate handwriting, moved through typed cataloguing cards as well as some weird unrecognisable (to me at least) disc/tape things.

Then we had lunch and discussed things like file destruction authorities, all the ancient items in safe custody that will never be claimed because they are so old, how they are going to expand into new premises to make room for the ever-increasing packets and so on and so forth.

I think I’d like to go back and spend more time there.

Yes I am just as surprised as you are.


4 Responses to “Take your daughter to work (experience) day”

  1. Sonja says:

    Packets! I am sure this sounds more romantic than the reality. Did they move firms because of the missing packet?

  2. Wendy Davis says:

    I think they moved firms before they knew about the missing packet!
    There’s all sorts of things that people leave in packets in safe custody…keys to long sold houses, pocket watches, jewellery, old letters…memorabilia of all kinds…not just official documents 🙂

  3. Kyla says:

    I’m sure there are people in South East Queensland with spare rooms working in, and living near, some fabulous collections 🙂

  4. Wendy Davis says:

    I think there definitely would be Kyla!! 🙂

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