By Anne Bast
This past December I was able to attend the DLM Forum in Toulouse, France. The Forum was interesting for a number of reasons, but especially for what it revealed about international collaborations, the development of standards, and the relationships between the archives and records management professions. Here is an abbreviated version of the article I wrote at the Forum’s conclusion (to see the longer version, visit A Tale of Two ERMS Specifications) :
To open the final day of the DLM Forum 2008, Dr. Ulrich Kampffmeyer delivered a provocative presentation entitled Breaking the barriers of traditional records management. In this talk Dr. Kampffmeyer spoke of the need to move beyond antiquated ways of thinking about records and records management and engage the technological and cultural revolutions introduced by web 2.0.
Records managers, whom Dr. Kampffmeyer qualified as largely “digital immigrants” have fundamentally different ways of thinking about information than their users. While records managers love complex metadata, faceted search, hierarchical tree and folder structures, and controlled vocabularies, their “digital native” users love plain text searching, uncomplicated metadata, folksonomies, and “sexy interfaces.” Records managers must therefore evolve in order to meet the needs of these users. Dr. Kampffmeyer insisted, however, that doing so did not mean abandoning the fundamental notion that “records” are more than just “information objects.” Records have specific attributes and values and records management systems must have structures that effectively maintain these attributes. Dr. Kampffmeyer proposed MoReq2, the new specification for electronic records management systems developed by the DLM Forum and Serco Consulting as the tool to bring Records Management into the future.
The questions raised in response to Dr. Kampffmeyer’s presentation were as provocative as the talk itself. Evelyn Wareham wondered how specifically Dr. Kampffmeyer proposed to encourage dialog between Records Managers (and archivists) whom he deemed “digital immigrants” and web 2.0 users who are, by and large “digital natives.” The question underlined doubts that the European standard MoReq2 (or any standard for that matter) could serve as the silver bullet, the tool able to bring the records management field forward.
The questions raised by Dr. Kampffmeyer’s presentation and especially those regarding the appropriate bodies for producing international standards spoke directly to the work of the International Council on Archives. Is not the ICA precisely the body where leaders in the field from all continents should come together to develop an information model that is applicable internationally, that treats creation, ingest, records management, archival arrangement, and preservation as stages in a whole?
The ICA recently published its own Principles and Functional Requirements for Records in Electronic Office Environments. This set of specifications was developed by institutions from Australia, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Malaysia, Scotland, South Africa, Sweden, France, the United States, and the Cayman Islands. The document is currently before the ISO TC 46 SC 11 on Archives and Records Management for review.
The existence of both MoReq2 and the ICA Principles and Functional Requirements speak to the need for what Hubert Szlaszewski of the European Commission called in his concluding remarks “mechanisms of solidarity.” The documents reflect the need for archivists and records managers to come together to form a stronger and more unified professional lobby. They must address the need for new models for information lifecycles and metadata that take into account changing information landscapes. So how to coordinate these two documents, and the efforts of the two bodies that produced them? Do they exist in contradiction, or in mutual awareness as DLM president Toivo Jullinen said they should? And how should archivists and records managers make use of multiple channels of communication (as Seamus Ross advocated in his summarizing remarks), namely multiple and sometimes competing professional associations, while maintaining a unified voice for the profession?