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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
As I write this editorial I am literally fresh from a new event focusing on records management in local government. Organised by AIIM Europe, in close association with the National Archives, Kew, there was a real buzz from the large gathering of delegates, many of whom were not records managers or archivists but data protection and freedom of information officers as well as technical and IT managers and even e-change managers.
Pre-conference tutorial tracks, on the principles of managing records and electronic records management systems, supported those without in-depth knowledge or experience in the area to gain the most from the conference presentations. Along with a series of panel discussions and question and answer sessions the conference highlighted once again the current spotlight on records management and the enormity of the challenges facing not only local government but all public authorities in the UK, as the clock ticks down to the 1 January 2005 when individuals anywhere in the world will have a right of access to public information not routinely published.
The questions and concerns were commonly heard themes - making the business case, coping within the (limited) resources available, change management and the search for practical solutions and strategies.
And it is against this backdrop of freedom of information legislation in the UK that I introduce the contents of this issue. The opinion piece comes from a consultant working at the "sharp end" in a country which already has freedom of information legislation in place - Australia. And the message that Len Asprey shares is a strong and important one - records management simply has to be aligned with enterprise planning priorities. This means that records managers and other information professionals must be able to analyse business processes and methods critically and use business tools. They need to be innovative, collaborative and creative - are you?
The four articles in this issue are all very different but, if I were to highlight any commonality, it would be that they all contain an angle on records management in practice, despite the fact that two are written by people in the academic sector.
Anne Chapman, a tutor at a girls’ school in England explores the concept of reliable records. She examines the philosophical meaning of truth by reference to a wide range of classical and other literature before considering the possibility and desirability of achieving reliability in a very practical context - that of pupil records. Her article is a very welcome, different and thought provoking contribution which I feel sure many of you will enjoy, as I did, reflecting upon.
Per Granath and colleagues share their experience of transforming paper-based administrative processes to electronic ones in a Swedish agency, whose primary function is to support international development. The legislative context is interesting because Sweden has one of the longest and most open approaches to access to public information of any country in the world. There are many pointers for those of you about to embark on such a project.
Xiaomi An and one of her students, Hongyan Jiao, from Renmin University, China offer an objective assessment of the approach to records management in China as compared with international best practice recommended in ISO 15489-1 (2001). An academic exercise on the one hand the assessment is based on actual practice. The authors conclude that there are gaps between "theoretical best practice" and "reality" but make practical suggestions for moving forward and minimising those gaps. Their approach is one which could readily be used at other national, sectoral and, most importantly, individual organisational levels.
The final contribution comes from a colleague and myself and shares the results and thoughts from a recent JISC funded project. In late 2002 the JISC (Joint Information Systems Committee) announced a unique and innovative research scheme entitled "Supporting institutional records management" in the UK. The scheme provided over £200,000 for organisations interested in bidding for projects which either used the results of the earlier JISC lifecycle study of records (www.jisc.ac.uk/pub01/records_lifecycle/), explore specific digital topics, assess the status of records management in further education institutions, and develop an e-training programme for the further and higher education sectors. Sheila Edward and I explore records management in further education colleges in the north of England and during the process supported participants with practical advice. We share the very interesting results with you.
In terms of contributions we come full circle and end with a review of a book co-authored by the writer of our opinion piece, Len Asprey, entitled Integrative Document and Content Management. A very practical book, full of tips and advice it is surely one of the best value-for-money texts to have been published in a long time.
As always we encourage you to share your reactions to the journal with us and offer your own contribution for a future issue.