By April Miller, Archivist – World Bank Group Archives, Washington, DC
According to our records management and archives policy at the World Bank Group, one of the responsibilities that we have in the Archives is to provide records management advice and guidance to Bank staff. Many of these staff are located outside of Washington DC, in the Bank’s Country Offices. In the late fall of 2008, myself and 2 other colleagues travelled to several east Asia Country Offices to complete – what we call – training and disposition missions. The training part of the mission includes courses and workshops on topics such as: the Bank’s retention and disposition schedules; recordkeeping best practices; using the Bank’s electronic records management system; plus many others. The disposition part of the mission involves assessing records against the retention schedules to either transfer them to the Bank’s Archives in Washington DC, or destroy them if the schedules permit.
For staff in the Bank, the disposition exercise is a welcomed event. Many staff are thrilled to know that some of their inactive records will become part of the Archives’ extensive holdings – essentially contributing to the knowledge about economic development and poverty reduction that we pass on to future generations. But for other staff, the disposition exercise is simply a wonderful and responsible way to make room in the ever-shrinking Country Office. As more and more staff are decentralized into the Country Offices (a big priority for the Bank), the space available in the Country Offices becomes more and more rare. The space-saving benefit of records disposition missions is one of the primary selling features that the Archives uses to achieve our other policy responsibility, which is to facilitate the transfer of permanent archival records into our custody. In fact, the Archives has found that the space-saving benefit is enough to convince the Country Offices (and their management counterparts in Washington) who create the records, to provide the funding for the training and disposition missions in part or in whole! Sometimes staff are reluctant to “give up” their paper records – even if they don’t need them anymore – but the space incentive is usually enough to encourage disposition of the records into the Archives. Are there other decentralized organizations that experience this?
In our mission to east Asia Country Offices, we identified and transferred 165 linear feet of records (or 50 linear meters), deemed to have permanent archival value, into the custody of the Archives. Many of these records relate to completed economic development projects, such as the Agriculture Productivity Improvement Project in Cambodia. And now these records are on their way to becoming part of the Archives’ valuable holdings. So although disposition equals more space in the Country Office for our records creators; for the Archives, more space in the Country Office equals more valuable permanent records in our custody.