Book Review: A New Textbook for Records Management Practice

Article excerpt

Book Review: A New Textbook for Records Management Practice

Managing Records: A Handbook of Principles and Practice is a comprehensive and indispensable textbook that also provides an up-to-date theory and practice overview.

The eight-chapter book provides guidance on all aspects of current records management while giving the historical and theoretical background and context. Chapters one and two introduce records management concepts and principles and the relationship between context, process, and the records that support business. Chapters three through seven cover the main activities of the records management function: classification schemes, capturing records and metadata issues, retention scheduling, storage, and access. The final chapter deals with records management implementation, including marketing and logistics. The book also includes a bibliography, a select list of relevant standards and professional organizations, and an index.

The authors have managed to cover the necessary material in sufficient detail to inform and provide guidance for further reading. A lengthier text would have enabled the inclusion of case studies and practical examples of documentation and experiences to clarify and support the best practice expounded. Perhaps this reflects Shepherd and Yeo's archival educator backgrounds directing and lecturing on the archives and records management master's program at University College London's School of Library, Archives and Information Studies. However, they have been able to draw on a wealth of research and teaching experience to develop a textbook that perfectly supports a post-graduate degree in the subject.

The authors' introduction emphasizes the book's focus on the business aspects of managing records rather than any perceived cultural value. It would have been helpful to have an overview of various building blocks of the records management function, perhaps as a diagram at this early stage. Another useful signpost would have been an explanation of the duplication or division of coverage of some functions - for instance, tracking of records produced to users is partially covered in the chapter on storage and then again in the chapter on access - which is confusing.

A great strength of this work is its treatment of electronic and paper media as a seamless whole - and in this it is possibly the first textbook of the genre to do so. The authors aim "... to assist records managers in designing programmes and systems to manage records effectively in a hybrid environment." There is no separate chapter on managing electronic records; this is useful as it serves to reinforce the principle that records management principles hold true regardless of media.

The book is also unusual in detailing the technique and role of organizational analysis in understanding and managing the records of an organization successfully. While many older practitioners will be familiar with these skills and techniques, it is probable that the methodological background has never before been comprehensively set out. …