CD-ROM (Compact Disk-Read Only Memory) is an optical disk based information storage medium that is gaining increased use for publishing computer databases, vendor specifications, reference works, and other voluminous types of information each year. The ability of this medium to store graphics, sounds, images, and extremely large text files, is resulting in its rapid implementation by publishing organizations and by users of personal computers (PCs) for education and entertainment. The similarity of CD-ROM information products to compact disk (CD) audio products has probably served to convince many CD users that similar convenience and quality of performance can result from using this data storage medium in an office setting.
Why should records managers be interested in CD-ROM technology? Few records centers are presently receiving information for retention scheduling or records center storage that has been created in this media format. Even less common are records centers presently using the technology to deliver records management services. However, CD-ROM disks and CD-ROM disk drives are invading the offices of their professional clientele as additions to present computers or integral parts of new computers. It is highly unlikely that records managers will be able to spend 1993 without having to plan for the eventual use of CD-ROM-based information by their offices, training programs, reference sources or records centers. This information storage and retrieval technology is being heavily marketed and used by information services providers and publishers. It is now being considered for "in-house publishing" of low volume records series in electronic format! There is commercial CD-ROM recording technology available today to produce internal company reports or databases on departmental CD-ROM disk creation systems at a relatively low cost.
Organizations must conduct information strategy planning sessions well in advance of implementation to have acceptable answers to the issues raised by new technologies such as the electronic storage of records. These answers are best found before having difficult questions surface in the course of normal daily business. Settling these issues often cannot be accomplished by simply revising existing retention schedules, policies or procedures. Several internal or external organizations may need to be consulted to arrive at a consensus of acceptable business practices before implementing the results of such deliberations. By staying abreast of the contemporary CD-ROM technology available and the new electronic information storage standards that are emerging, one may succeed in being prepared for this new method of publishing information.
CD-ROM technology enables us to store large quantities of information on small read-only optical disks that can be easily distributed at low cost. The plastic coated disks are relatively immune to many of the environmental dangers that normally plague magnetic media such as environmental heat, magnetic fields, and physical injury. CD-ROM technology has a considerable level of built in data security and integrity due to the permanent and generally unalterable nature of information on each disk. Disks can be produced and distributed inexpensively as compared to maintaining the same information in online mainframe databases which must be accessed from computer terminals. For these reasons, many government agencies and corporate database users are considering using this medium to reduce the cost of maintaining information systems. Commercial database vendors and publishers are using CD-ROM as an additional method of delivering services to individuals or organizations that would not otherwise be able to access their information products. CD-ROM disk readers are relatively inexpensive and do not require system passwords, computer accounts, or telecommunications software. Anyone with a capable microcomputer and an appropriate CD-ROM drive can use the information on a compatible CD-ROM disk. …