A National Response to ISO 15489: A Case Study of the Jamaican Experience: A Group of Records Management Professionals in Jamaica Joined Forces to Determine How They Could Best Use ISO 15489, the International Records Management Standard, to Advance RIM

Article excerpt

Because of its colonial history, Jamaica has had a strong culture of recordkeeping-and here "recordkeeping" was taken literally, as there were few or no efforts at retention scheduling. This culture allowed the volume of records to grow to such overwhelming proportions that it contributed to the breakdown of the British civil registry system. Another indication that the recordkeeping culture needed to change came from a 1997 Jamaica Archives and Records Department (JARD) report on the state of records and information management (RIM) in the public sector. It warned that, due to the rapid growth in information and telecommunications, and the tendency of agencies to prescribe automated solutions in their technical assistance projects, functions and decision-making processes in organizations were changing and that RIM also needed to evolve and progress if it was to survive in the new paradigm of a "reform- and results-oriented public sector."

Since then, several records management and archival bodies have made significant contributions in reviewing and strengthening records management in Jamaica and in the wider 23-island Caribbean region. These include JARD, which has been instrumental in the establishment of a career path for records management professionals in the public sector; the Caribbean Regional Branch of the International Council on Archives (CARBICA), which has taken initiatives to devise a framework for developing records management programs in the region; and the Jamaica Chapter of ARMA International (JARMA), which has created a network of professionals actively pursuing solutions to records management issues and challenges, particularly in developing avenues for professional training.

However, despite significant strides, records professionals in the region remained largely dissatisfied with what seemed a slow rate of change. They were mostly frustrated by the lack of recognition of their role as an integral part of strategic decision-making in organizations and the failure of their organizations to integrate recordkeeping requirements in the adoption of new technologies. To remedy this, a small group of RIM professionals in Jamaica joined forces to see how they could best capitalize on the status of the international records management standard, ISO 15489-1:2001 Information and Documentation-Records Management--Part 1: General (ISO I5489), and use it to gain momentum in advancing RIM best practices and developing effective infrastructures for the delivery of records and information services.

The group felt that ISO 15489 provides a strategic platform from which to launch this effort, as it not only presents a model for effective records management practices, but also represents a sterling example of the effectiveness of collaboration between the archives and records management communities--which is especially important in a country with a strong archival tradition. (Editor's note: See sidebar for a historical perspective of records management in the Caribbean.) The group's goal is for ISO 15489 to be adopted as Jamaica's national standard. Its approach is to emphasize the responsibility of every RIM professional to "own the standard" by ensuring that its principles and practices are actively supported.

Initial Steps Toward Adoption

As a first step, the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus, in collaboration with JARD and the Bureau of Standards, Jamaica, held a sensitization workshop. More than 70 people attended and, after being introduced to the components of ISO 15489, they unanimously agreed that steps should be taken to adopt it as a Jamaican national standard.

To begin this process, a technical committee (TC) was convened and the roles of the records management sector and the Bureau of Standards in the preparation and adoption of the standards were outlined. (See Figure 1) The TC was comprised of representatives from a wide cross-section of both public- and private-sector organizations that could in addition to making a significant contribution to the deliberations--also provide considerable leverage in promoting the standard nationally. …