How Do You Archive an Email?: A Look Inside #HLS10

     So, the holiday season is always time to reflect upon the year that is coming to a close and the year that lies ahead; which I feel is especially true this year. As I finish the second to last semester in my MLIS program and prepare for the Spring, when I will complete my culminating project and later graduate; I have spent time reflecting on my time at Hack Library School and how it has not only helped shape my library school experience, but the experiences of other fellow students, past and present. This Fall, this blog itself turned ten years old; and, as you can see, it has come a long way since it first started as a collaborative project in Google Docs and began to grow into the blog you are reading this particular post on today.

But, even though the blog itself is now celebrating its diamond anniversary as an established resource for library school students to reference, it still is in its infancy is some ways; which I learned over the summer when I took on the task of archiving the emails in the Hack Library School Gmail account in anticipation of the blog’s anniversary this Fall. You may be asking yourself, “Why did you do that?” Quite honestly, there were times where I had the same thought as I sat at my desk and figured out how to archive a particular email, and pondered whether or not it should be archived; especially when it came to emails that were particularly spammy (and there were quite a few of those). But, I kept working on the project off and on over the course of a month or so for one main reason:

Just like photographs and videos, I have learned over time that correspondence is an important part of the historical record of virtually anything anymore as it provides context that may not exist elsewhere in the record. Through the emails I archived, I learned how previous editorial team members and contributing writers managed and shaped the blog since its inception; which was fun. From recruiting new writers to managing collaborations like a previous internship the blog sponsored and communicating with each other to keep the blog operating smoothly and beyond, every past Hacker has left their mark on the blog in some way; which has made the blog what it is today.

     In turn, since our blog is the result of a large, ongoing collaboration of past and present library school students, I felt it was important to archive the emails to demonstrate just how far we have come as a blog. Thus, after assessing all of the emails that were in the Gmail account (and there were A LOT), I then figured out how best to classify them with labels to keep the email account well-organized. While some emails were already assigned a label by past Hackers (which was greatly appreciated), others were not; which sometimes made my job a little difficult as some emails were not as easy to label as others. Subsequently, I often wondered if these emails should be archived in the account at all; but then opted to apply multiple labels to them after reviewing their content and determining which ones fit them best so, if future Hackers wanted to, they access them via multiple labels in the future.

Therefore, all of the emails in the Gmail account are now organized by their relevancy to the current editorial team who utilizes the account, their foci, and date. For example, guest posts and inquiries have their own folder so the associate editor (who is currently me) can easily access them amidst all of the other emails archived in the account since the associate editor manages guest post submissions; while the managing editor has their own folder to keep their emails easily accessible, too. Subsequently, when the current editorial team graduates, many of the emails deemed relevant to the current editorial team will be moved to a new label so the label focused on current blog correspondence can be left open for the new editorial team to use as they need to. In turn, it is an ongoing project as the blog continues to grow. Luckily, many of the existing labels will likely grow with the blog and its use of Gmail as I took this into account while completing, in hindsight, the beginnings of this project; and I am sure future Hackers will likely add more labels as they need to in order to keep the account organized.

     When I first took on this project, I honestly did not realize how important emails were to the blog’s history. While I have my share of important emails that I have archived in my own email accounts, it was different to handle emails that were a part of something larger than myself and my own inboxes as I quickly learned just how much significance they had to telling the story of the blog. Since I, and likely many others, receive many emails daily, I think sometimes it is easy to be conditioned to feel like emails are not something that really need to be kept as part of a historical record of sorts. But, after completing this project this past summer, I have come to realize that they are just as important to context as anything else; especially in our increasingly more digitized age. Happy #HLS10 to all of our past and present Hackers!

Photo by Onlineprinters on Unsplash

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