Competency A

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.

“But while physical barriers recede, intellectual ones remain. For the provision of access has been guided by expectations of user behaviour…The kinds of information made available and the manner in which information is presented are choices made by the suppliers of online information resources, steeped in their own intellectual traditions.”

– Jennifer Trant, 2009

Interpretation

The quote above captures a key challenge on the path of the archivist or records manager. Though it refers specifically to online resources, it applies broadly to the fact that the core principles of archives and records management are vitally important, regardless of the medium or the arena. The archivist and records manager are honored professions with a long tradition of providing value to society through their core ethics and principles, which include the selection, organization, protection and preservation of primary sources of information for the purpose of legal or administrative evidence, and to contribute to our cultural heritage (SAA, 2011).

However, in many areas of contemporary society, the distinctions that have historically defined the archival profession, that have made it unique from other areas of professional activity-the business and transactions of which are often the subject of archival focus-have become blurred. The boundaries of archivist and records manager are shared with many other disciplines present in the vast matrix of business, government, public and private life. Shared or overlapping boundaries may exist between archives and records management and information technology, with risk management, with regulatory functions, or even with persons or agents with very little information literacy.

For example, the core archival function of “provision of access and use” lie in the hands of every user of information, because that user is also now a creator of information. In the life and culture of an organization, locally-generated, born-digital information artifacts can be vitally important but may never enter the realm of an official records manager or archivist. The information production and supply chain is no longer strictly a planned and managed process.

Data automation has created tremendous information resources that can be analyzed and visualized. The process of understanding and exploiting the value of these resources is now a shared enterprise, one that may require expertise beyond archival science and records management. However, to undertake that enterprise without the benefit of a records management professional would likely be unsuccessful, because the archivist or records manager works to guarantee the integrity of the content, to preserve critical context and ideally, to build effective partnerships with professional colleagues.

In addition to guaranteeing the authenticity of information, archivists and records managers also provide the trust that is needed to ensure that information is not misused to serve special interests at the expense of individuals and to faithfully and impartially adhere to applicable laws and regulations, even when it is difficult to do so.

Supporting Evidence 1

The first piece of work that I am submitting as evidence of my mastery of this competency is drawn from my coursework in MARA 200 – The Record and the Recordkeeping Profession. This course instilled in me a deeper appreciation of the scope and mission of archives and records administration.

In this course I reviewed one records and information management professional organization and one refereed journal in a presentation called Reviews of the Association of Information and Image Management (AIIM) and the American Archivist Professional Journal.  This presentation provides a history of the organization and a summary of its contemporary activities. This work stands out for me as a reminder of this competency because it describes the close interaction and alignment between the media through which records exist and the people, processes and principles that embody the discipline. Learning about AIIM also helped me to appreciate the ties between the profession and the various technology leaders. Together the organizations and their membership represent the forefront of thinking in the profession. Journals such as the American Archivist help to bring forward the best ideas from the long tradition of records and information management.

In my professional role as a senior project manager and operations specialist, I knew instinctively that our management of business records and media files was not in compliance with the larger corporate retention policies. I also knew that we lacked a strategy for responsible management of our content and that this condition create a daily hardship for the entire team. MARA 200 encouraged me to begin addressing various aspects of our records program-a daunting proposition-with a greater awareness and sense of duty. Understanding the larger professional context and becoming familiar with professional organizations for archives and records management was a key step along my path.

Supporting Evidence 2

The next piece of evidence in support of this competency is an article that I wrote for MARA 249 – Electronic Recordkeeping Systems and Issues in Electronic Recordkeeping. Data Manipulation and Incriminating Evidence About the Safety of Vioxx describes the travesty that allowed an unsafe drug to harm the public as a result of broken FDA systems and conflicts of interest among drug companies and the research community. This research helped me to understand how the effective aggregation and analysis of data can reveal truths beyond the official story, a story that was entirely motivated by profit. This exploration also helped me to appreciate the value of Federal rules around disclosure of electronic evidence, which ultimately led to restitution for tens of thousands of victims.

Conclusion

Having mastered this competency, I now see the critical importance of my chosen profession. Regardless of industry or culture, an archives and records professional must assert their knowledge within complex and swiftly changing circumstances. Wherever I apply this knowledge, it is important for me to frequently revisit these fundamentals.

Society of American Archivists. (2011). SAA core values statement and code of ethics [Web page]. Retrieved from http://www2.archivists.org/statements/saa-core-values-statement-and-code-of-ethics

Trant, J. (2009). Emerging convergence? Thoughts on museums, archives, libraries, and professional training. Museum Management and Curatorship, 24(4), 377. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09647770903314738