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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2006, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
The first issue of the New Year, although I am writing the Editorial before the end of 2005, contains what I hope you find an interesting mix of articles from a wide range of contributors. It is a particular pleasure to have contributions from authors in different sectors and in geographically wide locations – including the USA, Australia and the UK. My thanks to all of them.
Dr Elizabeth Shepherd provides the opinion piece based on two papers she has presented at professional conferences. In it she explores why the records of pubic sector organisations are assets. She shares examples of drivers for effective records management and current practice from recent investigations conducted by students at University College London, and highlights the still often over-looked benefits of effective records management.
The first article, from Karen Forbes-Pitt at the London School of Economics, demands total concentration and is completely absorbing. It is one of those all too rare thought-provoking articles which I am thrilled to publish. Karen explores the nature of documents as social artefacts and considers the challenges this presents in the context of “automation”, in particular electronic document management systems. It is exciting to see references to Anthony Giddens’ work, very influential in the records continuum context, and John Seely Brown and Paul Duguid’s book, which I confess I still have not finished reading. But I am inspired to pick it up again from my study desk and hope you find Karen’s article equally challenging and inspiring.
Alan Schroeder shares a real-life digitisation case study that demonstrates how technology can support the realisation of the potential value of records as assets, the subject of the opinion piece. The real estate firm, whose identify is kept anonymous, is US based and had an enormous collection of paper property files which were not well organised causing a number of problems. By digitising the files a range of benefits accrued. In addition to sharing these, Alan also includes details of the elements of his return on investment case, the taxonomy developed and the resultant retention schedule. All will be of use to those working in the same sector but are likely to be transferable elsewhere.
Margaret Pember, based at Curtin University, Australia, provides an overview of standards in the discipline. She focuses on the value of standards and some of the issues in using them. For those new in the profession or needing an introduction to standards Margaret’s article will be invaluable. She is very clear about the importance of standards, which begs the question why has the international records management standard not yet become widely embedded in the profession? But that is a particular personal interest and the situation is changing.
When the Editorial Advisory Board was expanded in mid-2004 one of the changes we agreed upon was to rename the reviews section to “Professional Resources” to better reflect an extended coverage and significance. I am delighted that in this issue the professional resources section is almost as extensive as the articles. That is because three important new records management resources have been published in recent months. Two of our reviewers have written reviews that are much more than guides and critical opinions of the publications. They set them in a wider context and make them all the more valuable. I felt it would be a pity not to include all of their evaluation.
Susan Sullivan, who works for NARA (the National Archives and Records Administration) in the USA, reviews the new PDF/A standard. I am delighted that Susan could provide this review as she has first hand experience of working on the International Standards Organisation Joint Working Group that developed the standard and indeed is providing invaluable support from a records management and archives perspective on PDF developments. Her article will help anyone already using PDF as part of their long-term preservation strategy, or anyone new to the PDF/A standard, by providing invaluable insight into what else is required in addition to capturing documents in this format if long-term preservation of records is to be ensured.
Two of the journal’s editorial advisory board members provide the other reviews. David Ryan reviews one of the most significant academic texts to have been published in our discipline in recent times: Archives: Recordkeeping in Society by Sue McKemmish, Michael Piggott, Barbara Reed and Frank Upward. The authors are all leading names in Australia and internationally renowned and respected. Personally, I have found this book to be a challenging and richly rewarding read and examination of critical issues in the recordkeeping professions and have already made it a core text underpinning the MSc in Records Management at Northumbria University.
Finally, Rick Barry reviews a book edited by the journal’s former co-editor Catherine Hare and myself – Managing Electronic Records. It is always difficult to include items with which one is personally associated but I would like to say that I believe it is important to share the knowledge and expertise we have from around the world on the challenge of managing electronic records. This book was an attempt to do that and we were honoured to be able to work with such a range of experts in bringing together a unique collection of valuable contributions. The value of Rick’s review is that he sets it in the wider context of other recent publications in this field and, therefore, highlights other important resources that some readers may be unaware of and will want to investigate.
Together, these three reviews provide much more than an assessment of three resources. Instead, they provide expert overviews and insight into developments and thinking in our profession. I am extremely grateful to our three contributors and hope you agree that they have added value to this issue.
When we receive comments about the journal it is extremely useful in helping us to continue to maintain and improve the standard of the journal and its value to the profession. Please do continue to do that and offer your own contribution, be that an opinion piece, an article or the review of a professional resource.