Magazine article ARMA Records Management Quarterly

A "Non-Book" Review

Magazine article ARMA Records Management Quarterly

A "Non-Book" Review

Article excerpt

Book reviewers sometimes look to books too quickly when searching for something new to evaluate for their readers. While there is nothing wrong with books per se, they are not the end all and do all of instructional materials. That is one reason this journal contains a column reviewing material produced in a video format.

I have found that I am surrounded by computer technology wherever I go, and I make use of that technology when, as, and if it is of value to me to do so, usually without a second thought. It has become very natural and commonplace. I have purposely increased my knowledge of how to best use computerized information services as they meet my needs. Even had I not wanted to do so voluntarily, I would probably have found that I could not effectively operate in my environment had I not acquired this knowledge.

Of course, we can not write off text presentation as passe, a remnant of a bygone era. There are times when I just want to sit (or lie, or slouch) in my most comfortable easy chair, or put my feet up on my office desk, lean back and read and flip pages. For all the promotion of "instant information," online and resident in computers awaiting the touch of a button, books still perform valuable, useful and in many cases irreplaceable functions. I do not foresee a time when I will be comfortable reading text from a computer terminal.

Today the book must not only share its place with an ever growing volume of computerized information services, but with another growing area-the periodical trade. "Periodical, noun, a magazine, etc. published at regular intervals" (Oxford American Dictionary).

The rise of the periodical filled needs in two areas: the first need, for faster access to information in areas of rapid change; the second, the need to reduce the cost of producing information, some of which was too limited in size or scope to appear in book form (and thus the periodical was the only alternative method available to publish such information). Alternatively, the information was not valuable enough to justify the much higher costs involved in publishing a book. Consumer economics also plays a part: people are more likely to purchase a low cost periodical than to buy a much higher priced book, especially if the information in which they are interested is also time sensitive in nature.

Although magazines are mentioned in the definition of a periodical, they are not the only form of periodical publication. There is another, even more rapidly growing medium: the user-targeted report. As our society has evolved into an army of specializations, due in large part to the volume of technical knowledge that has exploded in the last twenty years, the need for each of these specialties to have its own information carrier or carriers has grown. The field of records management is no exception to this phenomenon.

I will focus, therefore, on one specialized service concerned with our profession: The Records & Retrieval Report. I have examined five issues of this report: April, September, November and December, 1987, and January, 1988. The major subjects covered in these issues were: optical disks, software for records management, a review of current office automation trends, retention guides (yes, another set), and the technical aspects of paper.

The reports are issued monthly. Four of the five reports reviewed were 16 pages in length; the remaining one was 12 pages. I don't think quantity is the issue here (sometimes a single page or paragraph can be as valuable as an entire book, if that page holds some key information you need-and isn't that one of the basics of records management: to locate that single, needed page?). From a strictly selfish point of view, if I find 16 pages useful, might I not find 24 pages more useful? That is, if the quality of those extra pages matches that of the first 16, of course! Let's take a look at just how valuable those 16 pages were. …

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