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Organizational Impact

Historical records theft is not a victimless crime. Over the course of the theft discovery, and response process, personnel commonly experience a wide range of emotions including denial, guilt, anger, and anxiety. And because so many historical records thefts are committed by insiders (staff, interns, or volunteers) or by researchers, repository staff may also suffer from betrayal and damaged morale. Staff will remember this experience for the rest of their lives, and the treatment they receive will influence their perception of their work and workplace.

Clear and open communication is the best method of addressing these issues. An organization’s leaders should convene a staff meeting to explain the incident and respond to questions. There is one issue that leaders should bear in mind: the possibility that the suspected thief may have had an accomplice who may still be at large or in your midst. Any meeting with staff should outline your media communication policy. See Communications for more information.

All staff should receive ongoing updates regarding the theft including status reports on any investigation or prosecution, announcements related to the recovery of stolen items, and any changes to your security program. Adopting an open-door policy enables leadership to maintain informal communication with individual staff who may be anxious or hurt. An organization’s leaders should consider seeking or facilitating access to a licensed counselor or social worker, for the emotional well-being of their staff.