Articulate the ethics, values, and foundational principles of archives and records management professionals and appreciate the important role record keepers play in social memory and organizational accountability.
The above statement is understood to mean that the responsibility in recordkeeping and archiving stretches beyond referential use by the record creator. Recordkeeping has organizational, legal, social, and historical implications. The archivists, records managers, and information managers (better consolidated as record keepers) that adhere to their set ethics, values, and principles are responsible for the so-called journey of information, whether that journey leads to preservation for retrieval purposes or disposition when that information is deemed to no longer be necessary.
The roles that these record keepers play are prevalent in their definable, actionable responsibilities and whether those responsibilities are consistently carried out. As ARMA International says in the introductory statements to the Generally Accepted Recordkeeping Principles, “Records and recordkeeping are inextricably linked with any organized activity. It is only through the information an organization records in the normal course of business that it can know what it has done and effectively plan what it will do in the future”. The appreciation of the roles that record keepers play in ‘social memory and organizational accountability’ is the acknowledgement of those responsibilities and how well they were carried out, which is perhaps the biggest measurement derived from the information we have left.
Evidence for Submission
From Shellac to Audio Layers: The challenges of converting 78 RPM records and the steps taken by the Library of Congress and archives.org – The Record and Recordkeeping Professions (MARA 200)
This essay details a unique, fragile, and culturally significant set of records (78 RPM audio shellac discs) and analyzes two organizational approaches to overcoming the challenges in their preservation. By breaking down the roles that the two organizations (the Library of Congress and Archives.org) claim in migrating these records for digital accessibility, we can see different interpretations of ‘the important role record keepers play in social memory and organizational accountability’, because even with the varying approaches to the preservation of such unique records, they both have utilized their roles as record keepers to make this information accessible, and in this case, digitally usable.
This presentation evaluates the Archives and Records Association, based in the UK and Ireland, and its journal Archives and Records, for its effectiveness in helping record keepers define their roles and responsibilities and its resourcefulness for improvements to the field. One of the benefits to being involved with this association was noted as that “With such admittance to resources, members are able to focus less on looking for a community to succeed in and more on contributing to their surroundings by staying informed and knowledgeable in the realm of archives and records.” By applying the same measurements of this evaluation to other associations and recordkeeping organizations that I have been fortunate enough to interact with, I am able to identify the effective ‘ethics, values, and foundational principles of archives and records management professionals’ at a competent level.
Acquisitions Scenario – Archives and Manuscripts (LIBR 256)
This response to a posed scenario is a short piece that places the student (myself) in a position of being an archives and records management professional (more specifically, a Head of Special Collections at a university) who has to make an ethical decision regarding the acquisition of an expensive photograph of a distinguished university faculty member as taken by a notable photographer. However, the photographer is dating the Photo Curator of the Special Collections, which places the Head of Special Collections in a challenging position. By consulting the SAA Code of Ethics, the responses attempt to make a compromise in the case of the photograph, which would be relevant to the collections, but an obvious ethical issue should the Photo Curator bring in personal agendas outside of the established university’s set of ethics. While this obviously relied on the notion that I have to ‘articulate the ethics, values, and foundational principles of archives and records management professionals’, it also enables the student to ‘appreciate the important role record keepers play in social memory and organizational accountability’ by placing myself in the role of a record keeper to understand a particular situation that may arise from the responsibilities of being a record keeper.
What Was Learned and How It Will Be Applied
The above evident pieces show that record keepers are expected to not only help records and information go on the aforementioned journey, but make informed decisions based upon established sets of ‘ethics, values, and foundational principles’ at local and organizational levels. This could include recordkeeping actions (preservation, conservation, restoration, disposition), prevention-based actions (usage policies, strategic plans, disaster plans, storage plans, standards), and referential-based actions (records organization, digitization, accessibility plans). The record keeper has a growing list of responsibilities, but it is to take the organizational, legal, social, and historical implications of recordkeeping to new, positive heights.
The expectation on the record keeper, then, is to become adaptable in order to become applicable. My intention of applying this competency is already coming to fruition, as my internship with the National Archives at Philadelphia has already forced me to take a look at what I was doing as a record keeper and what I will be doing as a record keeper. On one hand, as an archivist, I need to know conservation basics of fragile, significant records for them to be continued to be used physically, but on the other, as a records manager who was also a record creator for the organizational running of the National Archives at Philadelphia, I need to determine what records are significant records. I cannot do either without being mindful of the timeless ethics, values, and principles that are there to guide record keepers into choosing the correct path when faced with the universal task of making decisions. As Margaret Hedstrom predicted, the record keeper will have to “learn how to apply more advanced automated techniques” (1993, 425), and that automation enables the record keeper to better and faster apply their responsibilities, continuously highlighting the shared responsibilities of archival, records, and information professionals and providing the results that are well-kept records.
ARMA International. (2014). Generally Accepted Recordkeeping Principles. Retrieved from http://www.arma.org/r2/generally-accepted-br-recordkeeping-principles
Hedstrom, M. (1993). Teaching archivists about electronic records and automated techniques: A needs assessment. American Archivists, 56(2), 424-433.