Competency D

Have expertise in the basic concepts and principles used to identify, evaluate, select, organize, maintain, and provide access to records of current and enduring value.

There needs to be a concept of value assigned to certain records, in policies, in standards, in schedules before proceeding with the actions of identifying, evaluating, and selecting. It is when records are selected to be in a collection (or are selected as a collection) that records and information managers are able to make decisions on how to organize them, maintain them (which includes taking actions such as their preservation, conservation, and more), and how to go about providing access to them (which is dependent on restrictions regarding privacy, record condition, information sensitivity, and more).

In the preamble to the Generally Accepted Recordkeeping Principles as published by ARMA International, the reason behind setting up and following verified, accepted policies, standards, and schedules is given:

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. As a key resource in the operation of any organization, records must be created, organized, secured, maintained, and used in a way that effectively supports the activity of that organization, including:

  • Facilitating and sustaining day-to-day operations

  • Supporting predictive activities such as budgeting and planning

  • Assisting in answering questions about past decisions and activities

  • Demonstrating and documenting compliance with applicable laws, regulations, and standards. (2011).

This is the essential fiber of records management. Without the establishment of need for a record to be kept, there are no actions to be taken.

No records manager would go into a task without being mindful of the records lifecycle, which is the tenet of recordkeeping. The records lifecycle, as outlined below by Gordon Hoke, addresses the statute of how a record could be of value at a given point, as well as what a records and information manager should be doing to, well, manage records at each stage of the lifecycle:

“At information’s point of entry, lifecycle rules apply. One of the first questions addresses how long the discrete parcel of information should be retained; that is, where does it fall within the retention schedule? Disposition is the other end of the life cycle, the point where information finally loses its relevance and is irretrievably removed…Separating the valuable records from the outdated or dangerous files requires risk-management…when high value records are mixed with many low-value records, wholesale disposition raises risk…In any case, when a records life cycle closes, it is like death: forever. The record’s previous existence should be noted in a disposition log, but this is analogous to a tombstone, nothing more” (2011, 29-30).

To boil it down even further, there are “creation and/or receipt”, “distribution and use”, “storage and retrieval”, and disposition (either scheduled “destruction” or sent to an “archives” for permanent retention) phases to all lives of records, as outlined by the Ohio State University Library (2014), among many others. These are the overarching stages to value determination, and identifying, evaluating, selecting, organizing, maintaining, and providing access to records of current and enduring value are the actions that fill in the gaps of the records lifecycle.
Evidence for Submission

Analysis of the AC+erm Project of Northumbria University – Records Creation, Appraisal, and Retention (MARA 210)

This analytical essay surrounds the conduction of a study drawn up by Northumbria University in Newcastle, UK, from the reviews of multiple colloquia. This study, entitled the Accelerating +positive Change in Electronic Records Management Project, was conducted regarding the defining process within an organization of the creation, appraisal and retention of electronic records in various given types of organizations. For one to be able to take a stand on whether the AC+erm Project was a success, let alone analyze how they utilized the information they received to conduct it in the first place, one had to have clearly understood the basic concepts and principles of creation, appraisal, and retention to determine whether this Project could be applicable for reference in the development of ERM programs in organizations.
Consolidating Related Record Groups in a Finding Aid: A First Person Introspective – Records Access, Storage, and Retrieval (MARA 211)

This introspective essay is actually derived from a project completed (however incomplete at the time the essay) for the National Archives at Philadelphia. The combination of this real-world experience and the use of the basic concepts of organization and accessibility learned within the MARA program are prevalent in this essay. The content itself documents the construction of an organization system based upon two related (and eventually one merged) collections. This organization system would be manifested in a finding aid for hundreds of series, which would follow the numerical construction and be made accessible to the public under this new localized system.
Digital Preservation Position Paper – Preservation Management (LIBR 259)

This short paper asks the student (myself) to prove or disprove the statement that “Migration is a better preservation approach than emulation in digital preservation” for any given environment. The restrictions and risks of loss (i.e., the negatives) of each approach were analyzed, in accordance with the basic principles of maintaining records. Ultimately, the conclusion was that while migration was easier to apply to maintaining records, emulation would be likely to have more benefits for maintaining records in the long run, therefore, the statement was disproven. However, this is a demonstration that the student understands the basic concepts behind maintaining records to be able to complete a comparison such as was needed for this position paper.
What was learned and how it will be applied

Beyond the fact that one of the above submissions is drawn from a project where I had to apply my understanding of basic concepts of organization (the structure of organizing records so they can be located in a timely manner) and accessibility (making the records easy to find by as many people as allowed) in an archival repository environment, it’s clear that I have a sense as to what constitutes moving a record through the records lifecycle and having the expertise in principles that derive from that. I had learned the basic concepts of creation, which is the creation of a record to hold a piece of information that is going to be used, appraisal, which is the determination of value to the environment which then dictates the boundaries of the record’s retention, i.e., where it is being kept, how it is being housed, how it is being protected, and how it is being used all in one. Without knowing that it takes a stern definition of appraisal and retention policies for an organization to be able to make a decision on whether a piece of information is worthy of being kept and stored, I would not have been able to analyze a potential way to streamline those processes for a variety of environments. Without understanding that maintaining records is to keep them usable, I would not be able to determine what method an organization might be better off using. These scenarios that are being analyzed and compared draw from what is happening in the records and information management fields, so I feel I am prepared to make those judgment calls on value to an organization at every step of the way.
References

ARMA International. (2011). Preamble | Generally Accepted Recordkeeping Principles. Retrieved from http://www.arma.org/r2/generally-accepted-br-recordkeeping-principles/preamble

Hoke, G. E. (2011). Records Life Cycle: A Cradle-to-Grave Metaphor. Information Management Journal, 45(5), 28-32.

Noonan, D. (2014). Records Lifecycle. Ohio State University Libraries. Retrieved from http://library.osu.edu/projects-initiatives/osu-records-management/records-management-overview/records-lifecyle/

 

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