Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article Type: Editorial From: Records Management Journal, Volume 21, Issue 2
In my Editorial for the previous issue I commented that the range of contributions was wide both in terms of subject matter and the roles of the authors, their affiliations and geographic location. I am struck that this is the case again with this issue and may reflect a very positive future trend for the Records Management Journal. In this issue we have items on records management tools and standards, on the drivers for investing in records management and on the state of records management in local government and national archives contexts in different parts of the world.
Electronic Records Management Systems (ERMS) have been called into question, openly criticized by some, as a suitable solution for managing electronic records. Pekka Henttonen reports the results of an interesting study of how staff in a Finnish government agency, use such a system and its functional classification scheme. The results show that individual employees use only a small part of the classification and that the classes used, perhaps not surprisingly, are those that belong to their part of the organization (their “unit”). However, they also reveal that the more senior the employee, the more classes they use. This may or may not be surprising given that the most senior employees in an organization will also have their own particular focus (strategy, policy, planning etc.) and those focused on strategy are more likely to use a greater proportion of external information than internal information. Henttonen concludes that creating user/unit profiles that define the functional classes that an employee is most likely to need in their work, would facilitate access.
Manuela Moro Cabero and colleagues consider ISO 15489, the international records management standard, in the context of three other well known ISO standards which take the form of what ISO terms “management systems standards” (MSS). The article is timely because of current ISO standards work. A decade after its launch TC46/SC11, the ISO sub-committee responsible for archives/records management standards, is planning to publish a new MSS family of records management standards which will be known as ISO 30300 and will be compatible with other MSS, e.g. ISO 9000; ISO 14000 and ISO 27000. ISO 15489 and ISO 20381 (the records metadata standards) will be referenced within the new family of standards. The authors’ analysis identifies relationships and synergies between ISO 15489 and the other ISO MSS standards and offers views on the potential benefits of their harmonizing capacity including adoption of ISO 15489.
Legislation/regulatory compliance is widely cited as drivers for managing records. If this is the case then what impact has a particular piece of legislation had on records management in those organizations that are affected by it? Dr Elizabeth Shepherd, University College London, reports the results of research into the effect of the UK Freedom of Information (FoI) Act (2000) on records management in local government bodies in England. She shares the results of research, which explored its impact on records management services in 19 such organizations in London and South East England. One of the interesting if disappointing findings is that whilst many of those interviewed were of the opinion that “FoI had had a positive impact upon records management” the impact was primarily limited to its higher profile. Shepherd concludes, therefore, that “records management has a more positive presence than it did five years ago, but in practice this did not necessarily lead to observable systemic changes”. Is the lesson to be drawn that legislation is no guarantee for better records management? The study produced other conclusions about best practice in terms of FoI and records management in that context which the author articulates.
For many of us information and communications technologies are ubiquitous and taken for granted. If we experience a dropped link, poor reception during a Skype call or a slow system/search response (and by that I mean more than a few seconds) we become frustrated. But there are still parts of our supposedly digitally connected globe that do not yet have similar levels of ICT infrastructure and/or applications. Switching continents, David Luyombya presents the findings of an investigation into the use of ICTs for creating and managing digital records in the Ugandan Public Service. His findings reveal that ICT applications are in their infancy in most of the 23 Government ministries surveyed but their uses are varied. Whilst there are attempts to improve ICT capabilities and infrastructure in Uganda, the study identifies an important gap from a records management perspective, namely, that the management of public sector records is not being addressed as part of this. In particular, Luyombya says there is no evidence that the ICT infrastructure will provide the solution for current digital records management problems.
Staying in Africa, Mpho Ngoepe, Auditor-General of South Africa and Dr Segomotso Keakopa at the University of Botswana assess and compare the current state of national archival and records systems in their respective countries, which are both members of ESARBICA. Their survey of national and provincial archival institutions of both countries investigated archival policy and legislation, the structure of national archival systems, the role of national archives in the design of record-keeping systems in governmental bodies; and the availability of infrastructure to ingest electronic records into archival custody. Their brief history of archives and records management in Botswana and South Africa is interesting to those unfamiliar with it. Their findings lead them to make a number of recommendations, which include the independence of the archives, reporting directly to their respective parliaments.
These three articles, reporting very different studies but all in the public sector context, show some marked contrasts and yet some similarities.
This issue also includes a wide range of reviews that reflect the breadth of resources that are relevant to the information and records discipline, its principles, practice and research.
As I write this Emerald has just announced the winners of this year’s Literati Awards of Excellence. Many congratulations to Dr Victoria Lemieux, winner of the Outstanding Paper Award, for her article exploring the relationship between records and risk (Volume 20 No. 2). Also, congratulations to Kate Cumming and Cassandra Findlay; Elizabeth Lomas; and Lawrence Serewicz, all winners of the Highly Commended Papers Award and to Katharine Stevenson, winner of the Outstanding Reviewer Award, for her two reviews in Volume 20. Emerald will be presenting the awards in person if our winners are attending conferences at which Emerald are present.