Libraries, Records Management Data Processing: An Information Handling Field

By Noot, Theodore J. Vander | ARMA Records Management Quarterly, October 1998 | Go to article overview

Libraries, Records Management Data Processing: An Information Handling Field


Noot, Theodore J. Vander, ARMA Records Management Quarterly


More than 20 years ago, this work effectively established records management as a member of a large, interdisciplinary, and socially important information management profession. Clearly and effectively, the roles and importance of information management are established. Many of the most talked-about issues in our field today are articulately discussed here. The paper itself is divided into four parts. The first part looks at the problems of information handling as they exist today. The overlap between the worlds of the data processor, the librarian, and the records manager is explored. The second segment looks at some of the economic and social reasons behind the failure of information handling to keep pace with the modern world. The third part deals with a conceptualization of what an ideal information handling system, at least in the records management area, must look like. The final section deals with a new approach to analyzing the problems that face us all and a solution which seems to satisfy all the conditions of an ideal system. The importance of understanding the disciplines cognate to records management is made here in a timeless manner.

The Paper Flood. Information Pollution. Paper Deluge. Information Overload. Lost Information. Information Explosion.

In today's society, these phrases, incessantly repeated, are icons to which every article and text on information pays "duty homage." The fact that they are becoming empty cliches does not alter the reality that the technological society of the 20th century is in trouble. A solution must be found before the culture stagnates in a sea of paper. The librarian, data processor, and the records manager are the ones who are professionally responsible for finding that solution.

Since the latter part of the 15th century science, technology, and medicine have made tremendous strides that have lifted at least a fair percentage of mankind above the subsistence level which prevailed before that time. As a result, five centuries of progress have raised progress itself to a cultural goal, and literacy and education to a way of life.

But this race to the future has provided the society with a new set of problems even while the problems of earlier centuries are being solved. If 20th century man could view the future with the dispassion and historical perspective of a historian like Toynbee, he could turn toward the possibility of a period of scientific and technological peace. There are those who would argue that science and progress have brought nothing but greater problems and therefore the society should declare a moratorium on new advances while the old problems are solved. A cultural breathing space might be beneficial since it would allow time for psychological and technological adjustment. But cultures have momentum, just as physical bodies do. Even if a moratorium were desirable, there are 500 years of cultural momentum, of faith in progress, to overcome before such a moratorium could ever be considered.

Assuming, then, that cultural progress is inescapable, at least for the time being, the frame of reference must shift to the question of how society can cope with the changes and pressures of modem life. One of the main problems that must be solved involves the flood of new information dealing with and using it, as well as developing and storing it.

It is easy to say that the world is becoming increasingly complex and that each person has to know more about more things in order to operate effectively But it is difficult to find the right reference which will save work, and even more difficult to cross discipline lines in locating references.

In business, the collecting of meaningful data that could affect a crucial management decision is becoming harder because of the masses of data available. In all areas of life, therefore, it is necessary to recognize that the known existence of information on a particular subject of immediate need does not guarantee that it will be found or be available at the right place or time. …

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