Public Sector Records Management: A Practical Guide

Records Management Journal

ISSN: 0956-5698

Article publication date: 13 June 2008




Gabriel, S. (2008), "Public Sector Records Management: A Practical Guide", Records Management Journal, Vol. 18 No. 2.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Public Sector Records Management: A Practical Guide

Article Type: Publications From: Records Management Journal, Volume 18, Issue 2.

Kelvin SmithAshgateAldershot2007ISBN 9780754649878£45.00

Keywords: Records management, Information management, Archiving

The key aim of this book, as stated by Kelvin Smith on page ix and indeed also forming part of the title, is to act as a practical guide, with its intended audience being those “people who know little or nothing about the subject.” It seems worrying that in recent years there has been a proliferation of practical guides that have been targeted at people who work in the profession yet know little about it. However, Smith does go on to state that this is a book that can also be used by people “who have read the theory and now want to know how to put it into practice”. Although this initially seems like a dichotomy, Smith is able to cater for both audiences as the book includes simple explanations of academic concepts for the uninitiated but also actual practical implementation guidance for those who have more formal knowledge. This is achieved through the use of detailed case studies and example documents, which can be found throughout the book. In particular the chapter on record creation and classification includes some useful appendices in the shape of model information survey questionnaires. Although the content was of a high-quality, I found the layout and the location of the case studies and examples slightly confusing and it was not always clear where they started and ended.

The book is written in a conversational tone that makes it engaging and easy to understand. The use of examples and case studies gives variation to the text, which helps to keep the reader engrossed. The book is structured so that key concepts are gradually built on with each chapter (though still retaining a certain self containment) with key topics being initially introduced in one chapter and then being further developed and expanded in subsequent chapters. By the end of book the reader has achieved an in depth understanding of records management without having to piece together complex theories. Here then it achieves its aim of being a “practical guide”.

The book is split into ten chapters, each discussing a different aspect of records management.

  1. 1.

    The records management function. The author describes some of the academic theory behind records management and offers his thoughts on how records management is and should be placed within organisations.

  2. 2.

    Compliance and regulation. A brief synopsis of the majority of the main standards and legislation affecting access to and the management of records in the UK public sector. Certain acts such as The Freedom of Information Act 2000 and The Data Protection Act 1998 are further discussed in a later chapter on access.

  3. 3.

    Record creation and classification. The author particularly focuses on the design and implementation of file plans achieved through conducting information surveys.

  4. 4.

    Records maintenance. Best practice guidelines for the management of a records centre, including business recovery planning.

  5. 5.

    Records appraisal. Discussion of different methods of appraisal and a detailed section on different sampling methods and their respective advantages and limitations.

  6. 6.

    Archiving. Its relationship with records management and in particular the challenge of digital preservation.

  7. 7.

    Access to records. Discussion of the recent legislation which has introduced a requirement for the public sector to be more open and improve access to information. There is a detailed analysis of the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and an in depth description of the exemptions provided with it.

  8. 8.

    Roles and responsibilities. Provides a competency framework of roles and responsibilities of staff who might be required to manage an organisation’s records.

  9. 9.

    Training and development. Suggestions for a training and development framework, not just for staff working directly with records but also senior managers to improve their awareness of key issues.

  10. 10.

    The future: developing an integrated programme. A discussion of change management.

Although the title of this book suggests it is for public sector records management, I believe that it will prove to be equally useful for any one in the records management profession as it covers all the key topics and considerations that an individual would need to know. The level of the discussions was of an adequate depth from which an informed discussion could be made, but with the option for further exploration if required. I was, however, disappointed by the limited reference to information security, which should be considered as an integral part of any comprehensive records management programme. This book would be useful to anyone just starting out in a career in records management or indeed anyone who has an operational requirement to manage records. The versatility of this book is that it is accessible enough to read from cover to cover to obtain a holistic view of the profession and yet it is equally useful as a guide to be “dipped into” as and when required.

Sonja GabrielSouth Croyden, UK

Related articles