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A Letter to My Congressional Representatives on Our Failure to Support Small Businesses

Headshot of Rachael Woody.

The following is a letter I wrote to my congressional representatives. As someone who encourages archives, museums, and cultural heritage organizations to write to their representatives, I felt it was only fair I share this letter with you.

April 21, 2020

Dear [Representative],

You may know me as the consultant who helped Astoria Public Library win a $17,000 award from Oregon Cultural trust and a $50,000 award from the Institute of Museum and Library Services; which led to a $250,000 challenge grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Or, as the consultant who brought in more than $750,000 from the National Park Service, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and local Portland foundations to Portland’s historically designated Vancouver Avenue First Baptist Church to help preserve and share their Civil Rights history.

I’m a small business owner of a certified women-owned business. I provide services to archives, museums, and cultural heritage organizations who can’t afford a specialist on a permanent basis. I teach them how to take care of their historical artifacts, how to manage digital collections online, and how to apply for grant funding successfully. My business will reach its three-year anniversary on May 2, 2020, and until recently, had been flourishing.

Building a business isn’t easy. Building a business that serves the nonprofit sector—a sector known for being cash-strapped—is even harder. But, I did it. I attended business classes offered by Mercy Corps., I taught myself business basics, and I created a successful consultancy that supports local heritage organizations. After my first year I was able to hire a local business coach, a tax accountant, and then a lawyer. After two years, I began to make a profit and invested that profit both into my business as well as my professional community. I acquired new systems to grow my services online and I was about to hire staff. Additionally, I supplied 50% of the funding for the new Archivist-in-Residence program at Northwest Archivists—a program that will pay a new professional $18/hour for 264-hours to work with a local heritage organization.

The pandemic and the ensuing shutdown of nonprofit organizations I work with has caused a rapid and spectacular shutdown of my business. Within four weeks I went from my busiest quarter to date, to hardly operating in Quarter 2.

I can’t even begin to tell you how demoralizing it is to have something you’ve built completely crumble through no fault of your own. The three years of hustle, sweat equity, and ingenuity that went into building my successful business feels as if it’s been nullified. It’s devastating to think I may have to relive that period of my life over again. It’s almost inconceivable.

The effects of this pandemic and economic crisis will be long-lived, especially in the nonprofit sector. Studies from the American Alliance of Museums show that it took museums 10-years to recover from the 2008 recession. TEN YEARS. How long will it take us to recover from this one?

The short-term support offered to small businesses is not enough.

The stimulus check meant to help Americans fill financial gaps was based on last year’s tax filings. As stated above, I owned a flourishing and successful business last year. But, I’m hardly working now. That $1200 meant to help Americans? I saw less than $200. That’s not even enough to cover a week of groceries for my family. Basing the stimulus check amount on anything other than our current financial reality is ridiculously unhelpful for Americans.

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), ran out of money in less than two-weeks. Oregon Live reports that while more than 18,000 Oregon small businesses received loans, it amounts to Oregon receiving approximately 1.1% of the $3.8-billion available. Analysis conducted by Bloomberg concludes Oregon is near the bottom of the list (along with our west coast counterparts) in terms of money received. PPP’s definition of “small business” currently includes 99% of American businesses. When evaluating American small businesses through the US Census Bureau and IRS Statistics, we learn that 88% of small businesses have 20 or less employees and 40% revenue $100,000 or less annually. At the same time, these small businesses account for 44% of the gross domestic product (GDP), according to the Small Business Administration. Congress must develop narrower parameters for how a small business is defined, or else there’s little chance for the PPP to successfully save the small businesses that help fuel our local economy.

I applied for unemployment two-weeks ago. My claim hasn’t been processed yet, which is understandable given that 15% of previously employed Oregonians are now unemployed. Even if my claim is approved the unemployment maximum benefit—regardless of past revenue generated—is $648/week. That’s $2.50 above Portland’s minimum wage. The amount will be barely enough to meet my basic business operating costs for services, contracts, and utilities that remain unchanged in our current crisis. Very little of this money will actually be available to me to help with my family and our household expenses. Unemployment benefits must be adjusted to account for actual wages—or for small businesses, their revenue—lost.

The three economic mechanisms meant to help protect my small business and by extension, my family, have failed completely. I received less than $200 for my stimulus check, I can’t currently secure a small business loan from the evaporated Paycheck Protection Program, and I will only receive the maximum amount of unemployment of $648/week (once my claim is processed). But this isn’t just about me. This is about the nonprofit community I support through service and philanthropy so that they, in turn, can serve their local communities.

The services I provide to nonprofit cultural institutions, the money my family donates regularly to philanthropy, and the fellow small businesses I support are now also jeopardized. I went from a successful community-minded business looking to hire local staff to a business on life support.

Tell me. What am I support to do? Wait another 10-years for the cultural heritage sector to recuperate to pre-COVID levels? Put in even more sweat equity, knowing this could happen again and there are no supports in place to protect my small business?

I urge you to support legislative policies that are for small business owners. Please more narrowly define “small business” and adequately fund the PPP. Please fix the broken way of calculating stimulus checks to account for the current financial reality. Please expand unemployment benefits to be based on actual wages or self-employed revenue. And finally, please fully fund the $4-billion-dollar request put forth by the American Alliance of Museums as the last stimulus package funded less than 5% of the request.

If these requests aren’t addressed in the near-future then we’re at risk to lose a significant portion of our small businesses and local heritage institutions.

Thank you,
Rachael Cristine Woody
Owner of Rachael Cristine Consulting LLC
Portland, Oregon

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RTI Digitization in the Museum

“Digitization within museums takes many forms. With the increasing accessibility of 3D digitization methods, it can be difficult to determine the point at which 2-Dimensional (2D) digitization isn’t enough and 3-Dimensional (3D) digitization is needed. However, there is an alternative option for objects that are mostly 2D, but require a more powerful form of digitization.”

Read the full post at Lucidea’s Think Clearly Blog.

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5 Times LAMs Should Bring in a Consultant

“Working with collections in a library, archives, or museum (LAM) setting requires knowledgeable professionals. Through a combination of specialized education and experience gained in the field, professionals amass knowledge and skills developed for a very niche area. Most positions found within a LAM will require a high level of education and experience, but not every professional position needed can be funded.” Read the full post at Lucidea’s Think Clearly Blog.

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Digital Backup: Setting Up the Backup

This is the third and last post of the introductory Digital Backup series. If you’re reading this post, make sure you’ve read Digital Backup: No More Excuses, and Digital Backup: Space and Infrastructure.

Now that you’ve determined the size of the digital space you need, selected a digital backup tool, and your files are organized, you’re ready to setup your backup mechanism!

The backup mechanism for many digital platforms are roughly the same. You can elect to have all of your files synched to your digital backup platform, and anytime you access the file the synched version will update within seconds of any changes you make. Automated synching anytime there’s a file change is ideal as it will guarantee every file change is documented. Other backup platforms can offer incremental backups and it depends on your individual needs as far as how often that should happen. I recommend you backup actively used files regularly, and backup archived files monthly to quarterly.

In any backup platform you consider, please make sure they offer a way to view version history. Having access to previous file versions can be helpful from a business perspective, and life-saving when future digital files become corrupted or destroyed.

Last, if you’re serious about the integrity of your digital files I recommend you employ a fixity check. Fixity is the state of being unchanged or permanent, and this is how pristine you want your finished digital files to remain. Whenever a digital file is touched – whether intentional or not – it has the potential to change. For those on a serious-level for digital preservation, such as repositories with digital collections, please choose a tool that will help you regularly assess, check, and manage the fixity of your digital files. For an example of this, check out AVP’s free and open-source Fixity tool. For more on fixity, please see this PDF: How, What and When to check Fixity  from the NDSA Infrastructure Group report.

For more information, you can dive down the digital preservation rabbit hole with POWRR: Preserving (Digital) Objects With Restricted Resources. For those seeking extensive digital preservation suggestions view POWRR’s Tool Grid, or visit the abbreviated POWRR resource guide for personal use.

If you have any questions on how to get started, please don’t hesitate to reach out and ask me questions. I provide a free 30 minute consult call, or you’re welcome to email me: [email protected].

Rachael Cristine


Image courtesy of Martin Frey, via Flickr’s Creative Commons (https://www.flickr.com/photos/tinfrey/31622323914/), and follows the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/. Image downloaded for use February 2018, and was not purposefully altered.
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Digital Backup: Space and Infrastructure

Earlier this month, we explored digital backups and how to choose a tool that’s right for you in the post: Digital Backup: No More Excuses. The next two steps go hand in hand: 1. establish or fine-tuning your digital file structure; and 2. calculate how much space you need in a digital backup tool.

1. Establish a Digital File Structure: Determining how much space you need (and setting up the file synching function) will be so much easier when your digital files are organized. Are your digital files splashed across your desktop for easy access,? Or, are they meticulously filed in multiple layers of sub-file folders? Depending on your work, what files you create, what they’re for, and how often – will lend itself to different organizational schemes and is something to seriously consider. However, the best approach for the majority of digital file owners is to have a file folder system with limited use of sub-folders. Consistent naming of folder and files are important, as is the use of Month and Year. The image below is a general example of what I’m describing for file organization and folder naming.

Screen Shot 2017-10-29 at 3.10.17 PM

2. Calculate How Much Digital Space You Need: Now that you have your digital files in and easy-to-use organizational scheme, you can check how much space those files are taking. In this example, my main folder container of digital files is “Consulting”, and by right-clicking on that folder and selecting “Get Info” (PC instructions will vary), I see that the digital files take up 373.8MB of space. Next, consider how long you’ve been contributing digital files to that folder so that you can calculate your monthly rate of digital file space increase. For example, say I’ve spent 15 months creating 374MB of digital files: 374/15 = 24.93333. So, 25MB is my estimated monthly digital file creation size. Now, build in at least two years of digital file space on top of your existing digital files to give you time for digital file growth (and backup). For example, currently I have 374MB of digital files, and I want two years of extra space to create and backup more digital files. Take your estimated monthly file creation number, in this case 25MB, and multiple it by 24 months (2 years): 25MB x 24mo = 600MB. By using this equation, I know I need 374MB (current files) + 600MB (projected future digital file growth) = 974MB. I now know that I need a digital file backup system for at least 974MB of files to take me through the next two years of digital file creation and backup.

filespace

If your digital file space needs are fairly low, then you’re likely able to go with a free version of the digital backup tool you choose. If you’re a frequent digital file creator and/or create very large digital files (such as photographs and videos), then you will likely need to invest in a larger version of the digital backup tool.

If you have any questions on how to get started, please don’t hesitate to reach out and ask me questions. I provide a free 30 minute consult call, or you’re welcome to email me: [email protected].

Rachael Cristine


Image courtesy of Christiaan Colen, via Flickr’s Creative Commons (https://www.flickr.com/photos/christiaancolen/22482928181/), and follows the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/. Image downloaded for use October 2017, and was not purposefully altered.