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Chapter 4: Archives & Records Management

This chapter will discuss the role of libraries in archives and records management. Not all libraries fulfill this role for the Parliament. Where they do, this chapter outlines the role of ICT in facilitating the archiving and records management process, including Records Management systems. Records are an essential tool for organisations in preserving their history and culture, and form a base of information for planning and decision making. They can also be evidence of accountability for government organisations. For Parliaments, the records of parliamentary debates, media releases and publications by Parliament and Members may be an important role of the library. Where no such record keeping is currently maintained by the Parliament, it may be an area of initiative by the library.

Archives and disaster recovery

Several well-known disasters have impacted Parliaments and their archives. Most notably:

  • The 1834 fire in the UK Houses of Parliament which destroyed most of the records of the House of Commons prior to that date. The records of the House of Lords located in a tower that survived the file, and many document of the House of Lords were saved due to the brave actions of the clerk of the house in throwing papers out the window to preserve them.
  • The burning of the Parliament buildings in Montreal in 1849 during rioting.
  • The 1916 fire in the Parliament of Canada (the library survived).

Fire, earthquake, and simple deterioration can all pose threats to library collections. A plan to ensure that the most important historical are adequately managed. From a systems point of view this can include the proper technical housing of the materials in conditions that ensure their long term preservation, and periodic inspection and review. A policy of digitization can enhance the preservation prospects by ensuring that all valuable physical assets have an equivalent digital copy which can be kept locally and in networked copies. Typical issues for archival maintenance include environmental control, building maintenance (fire and flooding controls), storage, handling and access controls, security and acquisition policies (and in particular retention rules to ensure that required items are marked and retained for archival purposes).

Review of current record keeping capabilities

The first step in assessing the library capabilities to support archives and records management is an assessment of current practice and capabilities to highlight areas of high risk were records and information management procedures are required. It is important to prepare a business case for establishing a robust records management framework. This business case should include an assessment of current capabilities and the steps needed to achieve a robust records management and archival preservation system. This can form the basis for a business case to present to management and to assist in developing the institutional capabilities in this area. This audit should also be focused on highlighting the preservation of the unique physical assets held by the library.

The assets that may be unique to a parliamentary library include:

  • Transcriptions, audio and video records of the houses/chambers of parliament, including acts.
  • Media releases by members.
  • Transcripts and minutes of parliamentary committee meetings.
  • Private papers deposited by parliamentary members.
  • Collections of private political papers and records of political bodies and pressure groups.

However the scope of the record-keeping by the parliamentary library may be broader than this. The International Standards Organisation definition of a “record” includes “recorded information in any form, including data in computer systems, created or received and maintained by an organization or person in the transaction of business and kept as evidence of such activity” (ISO 15489).

Records management systems principles

The role of the library in managing assets may encompass both physical and digital assets. Records management of IT assets can include documents produced and distributed through desktop productivity systems, emails, financial reports, and of course the correspondence and output of parliamentary committees and of course of the Parliament itself.

The proper archival management of these resources needs to achieve several goals. From a documentary point of view they need to be able to demonstrate:

  • that the documents are genuine and original.
  • are accurate and can be trusted (that is they are authoritative copies).
  • that they are complete and unaltered (or at least alterations are annotated and understood).
  • are secure for relevant level of authorised access, alteration or removal.
  • can be discovered effectively through search tools. and
  • are organised coherently with other relevant records.

The management of archival copies of physical assets requires asset management policies that are different from normal library lending policies. For instance, the library should identify the “authoritative” copy of the item, which normally will not be lent. To this end, any system developed to support records management needs to follow consistent processes for asset management. These processes include record capture, registration, classification, security management, appraisal and review, storage, tracking and disposal steps, all as a part of a life cycle of records management, as follows:

  • Record Capture processes– a set of rules governing what records should be kept.
  • Registration - the processes whereby records identified for preservation are assigned a unique identifier and basic description information (such as the date of capture, time, title of the item and source). Classification and indexing – the secondary processes whereby more extensive metadata capture occurs, including information on retention.
  • Access and security – the definition of levels of access, usage restrictions for items. This may include information capture on cultural usage rights and policies.
  • Appraisal – integration of the record into review processes for preservation and, where relevant, disposal.
  • Storage – maintain, handle and store records in accordance with their physical and digital preservation requirements for as long as legally and culturally required.
  • Use and tracking – processes to ensure that only those who are allowed have relevant access and that such access is tracked where relevant.
  • Disposal – processes for review and identification of items that can be disposed of, and the migration of data across formats for longer term retention (for example physical to digital).

Across the breadth of these steps metadata is vital to ensure the management and accessibility of records. Both document management systems and digital library systems will typically have elements of these processes integrated in their workflows. See the previous chapter for more details on the characteristics of these systems and their associated workflows.

Developing an Archives management plan

The business plan for archives management should plan can be formulated which includes the workflow processes, training requirements for staff and environmental changes necessary for good archives management. Associated with this plan should be a disaster recovery assessment which evaluates the risks and associated actions for ongoing records management and preservation. The disaster plan should include the physical and technological elements for recovery from disaster, and should be stored in locations accessible other than on the parliamentary network and include the following information:

  • actions for relevant staff during and after a disaster (for example safe communication capabilities in case of flooding).
  • insurance where applicable.
  • contacts for organisations to act on technological recovery (for instance contractors to freeze-dry books and media to prevent damage from mold).
  • contacts for recovery of information technology assets (the website, the library management system, the digital library) including system recovery documentation.

Where the parliamentary library has a specific responsibility in this area, the designation of an archives office may be necessary whose responsibility will be to ensure that processes for record keeping and preservation are sustained in the Parliament and to sustain ongoing staff development in record keeping policies.

Record keeping metadata

There may be specific national metadata standards for record keeping that meed to be maintain. For instance the AGLS Metadata standard is used by Australian Government agencies as a standard for description of records and archives ( Dublin Core is an important metadata framework that can be expressed as Open Archives Metadata ( Many of the digital library systems discussed in the previous chapter include capabilities for metadata enhancement of records and objects stored in the system. METS is as well-known schema used for many records and archives and designed for digital libraries (

Policy decisions around record management

It is important to document the policy decisions around record keeping, including retention rules, transportation, storage and destruction.

Record keeping systems

Refer to the previous chapter for discussion of records and digital library systems that can support archives management. Core technologies that support good records management are barcoding and RFID. Barcoding of physical assets is cheap and durable and simplifies the process of undertaking periodic stocktakes/reviews of assets. RFID can be useful both for tracking and asset review where tracking of items is more critical.


Digital Library for Digital asset management
  • DSpace DSpace provides an integrated solution to the Digital Library. It has a built-in workflow for document ingestions. Its presentation layer is highly structured, allowing content to be divided into collections, sub-collections and communities. It is very widely used, internationally and as a result support exists. It has a strong support for language internationalisation. DSpace has 96 language packs.
  • Greenstone Greenstone was developed by the New Zealand Digital Library Project at the University of Waikato and has been supported by UNESCO. It has a strong base of implementation in Non-Governmental organisations and has four core language packs: English, French, Spanish and Russian.
  • DLXS - a hybrid open source/commercial Digital Library system also used for document management.

Records Management software

arm.txt · Last modified: 2011/10/19 18:41 by admin

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