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

Interpretation

At the heart of this competency lies the basic conviction that not all the data and information that is created in the course of life and business needs to be saved “forever” — as if forever were a realistic goal. The very idea of forever is suspect especially in relation to electronic information. Those who believe that every piece of information that is generated should be kept “because storage is cheap and getting cheaper” are in denial of an even stronger argument to the contrary. Most data and information should only be preserved for the duration of its useful life and then destroyed according to a documented schedule and set of procedures.

This competency focuses on the active portion of the records and information life cycle, which begins with the creation of the document or data. In the traditional life cycle model, records are created and go through an active period in which they are in regular use and are accessed frequently. This active stage lasts for a period of time and then the information resource enters into stage of less active use and it is accessed less frequently. The length of time for the active and semi-active stages is dependent on the particular information resource and the business that it supports (in archival terms, its provenance).

In the records and information life cycle, the distinction between an active state, and a semi-active state is somewhat arbitrary, and there are competing schools of thought about the life cycle construct itself. The records continuum model suggests that the stages of the life cycle can vary greatly in length and that the sequence of the stages is not fixed: an information resource can go from an inactive or semi-active state to an active state multiple times and certain information resources may never become inactive.

Regardless of the theoretical model used, all records managers recognize the importance of optimizing information resources and prioritizing access during the active stage. To accomplish this we must be able to apply specific criteria to identify, evaluate, select, organize and maintain those resources from among the enormous volume of information that is created. The criteria for identification and evaluation may be based upon industry or government standards, or they may be locally defined by the business or organization. However defined, the resulting set of information resources must be treated with special care under a records management program that applies to all records, irrespective of format, media type, or system.

The records and information management program provides a classification scheme for records series, and records are subject to a retention and disposition schedule. For as long as that information resource is active, and for the duration of its retention period, the primary focus of records management is on providing controlled access to users to support business processes and decision-making or for archival purposes.

Supporting Evidence 1

The first artifact that is evidence of my mastery of this competency is taken from MARA 211 coursework, my final paper Security Strategy for Digital Asset Management and Records Management. The motivation behind the topic stems from my primary concern in my job, that is to support production workflow through the deployment of project management and digital design tools and to enable access to works in progress and finished files for graphic design works. The assignment was a perfect springboard for me to explore processes for the identification, evaluation, selection, organization, maintenance and preservation of digital assets that must be available 24/7 for our geographically distributed team.

The paper provides a general current state analysis of security measures and articulates key concerns around rights management. It also posits a “to be” future state in which all working and archival assets will be in compliance with a records management program.

Supporting Evidence 2

The second piece of evidence is taken from MARA 249 coursework, a review of a journal article about the SCOPE system for publishing scientific data. The SCOPE system (Scientific Compound Object Publishing and Editing) is an OAI-ORE compliant format (Open Archives Initiative Object Reuse and Exchange standard) that increases discoverability of information on the Web. In this scenario, identification, evaluation, selection, organization, maintenance and access are seen in the context of the broader research and scientific community, rather than from within a single entity. In my post I compare the goals of SCOPE with the aims of electronic records management and with the concept of online digital curation. The work demonstrates my understanding of the problem of findability at the scale of global communities.

Conclusion

The importance of this competency is reflected at every level of activity, from the personal (where’s my stuff?) to the collective (business, government, science). MARA has instilled in me a sense of urgency around the core processes of a managed information life cycle. Without a thoughtful and comprehensive approach to managing information, there is a very real risk that we will lose valuable information resources in ‘dark data’ that we create in our personal lives, in our institutions and in our online information ecosystem. MARA has provided me with conceptual models, evaluation criteria and other critical tools for optimizing information use and reuse in many different contexts and scales.

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