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Photos on Flickr

Photos of the conference are now on Flickr and we’ll add more as we gather them from the various delegates who brough their cameras. We won’t publish names of delegates in the photographs, except for the Society’s officers and the keynote speakers.


Martin Taylor: Fewer, Bigger, Better – Hull History Centre

Martin acknowledged that this recommendation attracted the most comment. Many colleagues saw this as a threat to smaller local authority archive services. The service delivery model would rest on active partnership working.

Hull History Centre will be the end result of such a partnership. Hull has a great deal of civic pride as well as being identified as the worse place to live in the UK. Hull has many significant archival and local studies collections including Andrew Marvel’s correspondence, the literary archives of Philip Larkin and the Liberty Archive. All stored in buildings not fit for purpose in storage and access terms. The partnership was actually formed in 2000 and the history centre will actually open in 2010 – it is not a short process. Success rested upon:

Political Support: although there has been a shift in the political ruling party, there is general cross-party support for the project and has been driven forward by all ruling members. Member attitudes are crucial as mergers and partnership working can be contentious and need to be sold to the local electorate.

Senior Officer Vision: this was also vital. Lack of funding as well as chief officer support meant that the past problems were not addressed although identified by the then city archivist. The project could only move forward when senior officers had the will to act.

Partnership: the city council and university formed the partnership to develop the history centre although it was not the first time the two organisations had worked together – it was possible to build upon an existing relationship. The agreement said that the new centre will provide a seamless service to the public run by a management board. Running costs will be split and records will still  be deposited with the most appropriate partner. Staff will continue to be employed by their current organisation. The agreement is for 25 years but can be broken with two years notice on either side. The History Centre will have a separate visual identity to the parent organisations.

Advantages to the public will bring everything under one roof. There will be joint outreach services and it is possible to take advantage of economies of scale.

Beverley is nine miles form Hull and is home to the Treasure House an East Riding cultural partnership. Could Hull and Beverley have worked together? The two authorities have had a fraught relationship since about 1440 so would have been politically impossible ten years ago. Records are iconic and representative and moving them away from the locality would lead to an outcry.

A local politician is supposed to have said: “I’d rather see my records burn than let them go to Beverley”

Resources: current economic climate means that local government will face challenging times and the new service may face cuts immediately. The new building will be more expensive to run. The support of the constituent organisations and high profile make the History Centre a more robust service than it was before. The Olympics in 2012 will take funding away from cultural and heritage projects so capital funding may not be there in the future.

Martin hoped to welcome colleagues to the Hull History Centre in 2010.

Nick Kingsley: Archives for the 21st Century Consultation

Consultation on this TNA strategy from May-August 2009. Received 625 responses. Over 1400 people viewed the document.

87.4% agreed that strategic direction was needed at this time. Some concerns about the timing of the strategy in the current financial climate.

70.5% agreed that the document identified the right challenges. Of those that had issues, it was mainly that certain elements had been left out rather than any objection to what was in it. These will be looked at in redrafting.

The ‘fewer, bigger, better’ was controversial – 50.7% agreed there was value in this but many wanted clarification as to what exactly was meant. Regional archive centres had not been intended. More people left comments on this than any other question. Concerns centred on community engagement and the user experience and the ability of local authorities to manage services in partnership and across boundaries.

84.7% agreed with developing active participation in partnership with other cultural and learning services. The caveats were that loss of identity shouldn’t occur and that there had to be clear benefits for all partners.

85.4% agreed that strengthened leadership and a responsive skilled workforce were essential to raise the profession’s profile. Some disagreed that there was a current leadership problem and saw the question as an attack on the existing workforce. Some felt the question implied that the current archival workforce was under-performing. The ability to release staff for training was more of an issue than budgets.

94% felt it was importnat to develop a coordinated response to managing digital information and access.

93.5% agreed that it was importnat to ensure comprehensive access to archive catalogues and content. Strongly felt that catalogues should take precedence.

73.8% agreed with the model of excellence set out in the policy. Some felt it was too bland and applicable to any public-facing organisation. Some unwilling to aspire to excellence as made funding vulnerable.

Other comments: 40% of respondents left comments. Desire for legislation was strong and also for the extension of the designation scheme. Some identified a patronising attitude to older people which sursprised the TNA.

Legislation: respondents felt that making archives mandatory and statutory was essential. The 2003 investigation showed a lack of cross-government support for such a course. There were also funding concerns in imposing a new duty on local authorities.

Fewer, Bigger, Better: possibly sent out the wrong message and this will be clarified in the final document. What was actually meant was together, bigger, better.  Really meant thatsome services could operate in partnership such as sharing an outreach officer.

 Traditional v Digital skills Latin and palaeograpghy still important as without them records cannot be interpreted. The challenge of digital records cannot overshadow the need to develop the traditional ones.

Cataloguing: this was seen as a major issue and not one to solve easily though cataloguing grant schemes could help.

Nick also noted that the responses were interesting and sometimes surprising.

Questions on Records Management

Is Freedom of Information the nearest we are going to get to archive legislation?

The panel could not look into the future but hoped this would not be the case. The FOI Act intended to give rights rather than govern practice.

What role did archivists play in information governance?

Often no role at all and those that did not have a defined structure to work within tended not to push themselves forward into a role. In many cases they did not see information management as having anything to do with archives which was  worrying.

The relationship between requestors and the local authority?

Requestors wanted a person to talk to and a dialogue with the information managers. They felt (rightly or wrongly) that they would receive a fuller answer or better service if this happened.

Elizabeth Shepherd: FOI and records management, the local government experience

What has been the experience of local authorities and what is the relationship between records management and Freedom of Information. Looked at small and large public authorities and adopted a qualitative approach using mainly interviews. Many individuals had dual or more responsibilities. Held 22 interviews in 19 different organisations. In user terms targetted people or organisations who had made multiple requests as thought these would have wider experience to comment on. Eleven of these were held.

Conclusions: local authorities struggled to make comprehensive and embedded changes to information maangement policies and practice. This was especially problematic for digital records. Many established data protection systems but few looked at impact on records management. This was in contrast to FOI. Very few studies on the user experience.  Journalists have made most use of the act, but pressure groups and individuals are now making more use of the act.

Only five authorities out of the 19 studied had a records manager before the act and only another seven had one after the passing of the act. Sometimes records management given to temporary staff and had a low priority. In many there was no actual records manager, some had records management as part of their job and some had simply adopted it as a role. Sometimes records management and compliance in different directorates and different teams. FOI was most often located in legal department but records management often seen as an ICT function. Led to FOI being seen purely as a compliance issue and not linked to records management.

Not seen as a systems issue or solved by buying IT alone. In many cases business efficiencies and down-sizing led to focus on records management that has previously not been there. The e-government agenda was also a driver and led to authorities buying into EDRMS and looking more closely at FOI.

Do records management and FOI work better if addressed together? There were advantages cited, but also where there was one team and/or one person there were capacity issues. Ideal solution seemed to be to sit records management in the same team but with different individuals responsible for each.

All noted problems with digital records management. Retention and disposal schedules were not fit for purpose and the multiplicity of copies and shared drives was a problem in complying with the schedule. Many could not get a grip on electronic records at all and this was seen as a technical issue rather than a records management one.

Most felt they had been able to cope with the volume of FOI requests and felt that better systems would not necessarily help find the answers. Several mentioned knowledge management as an issue – harder to find individuals to respond than actually find the information itself. Common issues were that the relevant person was on leave, had left or had simply not responded.

Several respondents felt they had not responded fully or may even have supplied inaccurate information. Some also noted inconsistencies in responses to the same question. Quality of information likely to become a bigger issue in the future. The number and complexity of requests has been increasing – requestors have been getting “more savvy” in framing their requests, challenging information provided and asking questions in different ways.

Interviewees hard pressed to give specifics on how things had actually changed. Records management has a higher priority but defining benefits has not been easy. Important to engage in a dialogue with the requestor. Users often happy with simple information although they themselves are becoming more sophisticated. Records management and FOI is best served by being in the same directorate so the links can be made and users better served.

Richard Blake: New Records Management Code of Practice

Following the code, clear that people did not know how to assess themselves re compliance. The current self-assessment tool supplemented compliance workbook. More intuitive and supplements the previous questionnaire. It also auto-generates a risk assessment that can be displayed in a number of forms. This has been field-tested by a number of local authorities.

Richard explained how the current tool works and displays the information. Idea was to work through each module in turn and has around 180 questions. Currently eight modules but will be nine on the new one. Covers information government and risk management under module 1 – organisational arrangements. Module 5 stresses the importance of maintenance in the digital domain especially for long retention periods. Module 7 on disposal covers what many call retention. TNA tried to avoid confusion over use of the word retention. Module 8 very important as covers collaborative working. Intended to apply to contractors and did not originally take account of partnership working.

Concern that guide must be useable and it will reference existing resources. Diagram of Knowledge and Information Professional Skills Framework. Also important to ensure that there are appropriate training courses and qualifications to support the development of these skills.

Implementation guides currently available on TNA website. Richard also offered support and advice to people with queries about the code or compliance and implementation.

Susan Healy: New Records Management Code of Practice

The code was issued on 16 July 2009. Go to: > services to professionals > records management

Scene setting: Code is a practical statement of good practive that should not be new to practitioners. It is NOT a code of practice on information management. Nor is it new or ground-breaking. The code is a recommendation and is not mandatory. Information Commissioner does not have enforcement powers.

Good practice includes governance and culture – senior management buy-in. Policy and procedures – how you translate the intentions into practice. Personal responsibility for all relating to record-keeping – this is a vital element. Useable systems – these will facilitate good record-keeping and can be used and understood. Good processes underpin the systems. All these element together make up good records management practice.

Nine sections of the code:

Organisational arrangements to support records management: recognising different world in which we work and includes risk management. Governance framework defining roles and responsibilities. Procedures to help people. identify business systems and recognising how these impact on record-keeping. Tools to do the job.

Records management policy: importnat to have, to be endorsed by senior maangement and known about. A mandate to act in a certain way and to connect to related policies such as Data Protection and Information Security. Should also be available to the public.

Keep records needed for business, regulatory, legal and accountability: not just managing records we have but about ensuring records needed are created and kept.

Systems enabling storage and retrieval: important to ensure that the records can be kept either physically or technologically.

Know what is held and where and keep it useable: Especially keeping is useable in terms of ability to read a digital record.

Secure storage and controlled access: with due regard to sensitivity and security when soring and moving records.

Disposal Arrangements: deals mainly with business purposes rather than archival ones. Don’t keep what you don’t need. Implementing disposal and documenting it. Does not say how detailed it should be but there is a discussion of risk.

Cover records from collaborative working and out-sourcing: identifying need to consider how you work with other bodies and records implications.

Monitoring and reporting compliance and effectiveness: not prescriptive but need to know how successful your record-keeping is. How successful are you being?