Managing Electronic Records

By Weiss, Patricia M. | Journal of the Medical Library Association, July 2007 | Go to article overview

Managing Electronic Records


Weiss, Patricia M., Journal of the Medical Library Association


Managing Electronic Records. Edited by Julie McLeod and Catherine Hare. London, UK: Facet Publishing, 2005. 202 p. $89.95. ISBN: 1-85604-550-1.

Does Google offer a legitimate alternative to MEDLINE's structured, indexed records? What is the optimal metadata set for digital library records? Where secure patient access to the medical record is available, how can the display of content best facilitate consumer health objectives? In these and many other ways, the concept of the electronic record permeates the world of the twenty-first century medical librarian.

This book, written and edited primarily from the archivist's point of view, provides succinct but comprehensive coverage of many record-related issues, including standards, technologies, preservation systems, research, and professional training, as well as both private and public sector case studies. With authors and examples from Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, France, the Netherlands, the United States, and China, it provides a wide and potentially instructive international perspective. The salient question for this reviewer is, "What can those of us who sit squarely on the library side of the information world learn from our colleagues on the archives side?"

The book begins promisingly enough with John McDonald's chapter on the "wild frontier" of the electronic office environment, which persists today despite the hopeful expectations he remembers expressing over a decade ago. What he describes is a universal milieu instantly recognizable not just to information professionals but to anyone in the white collar world, with electronic document and records management systems that too frequently become dumping grounds for email messages, attachments, and miscellaneous documents. In making a case for change, he notes that sophisticated and computer-literate younger users have higher expectations. These include direct access to records kept by government and other institutions and an interest in relationship building. For readers who provide information resources or services in the age of electronic journals and the blog, these requirements easily evoke the impact that ubiquitous Internet access and Web 2.0 are having on the library.

From the beginning, the editors develop several main themes, a couple of which are general enough to pass for conventional wisdom: the importance of continuing education and of investing in knowledge and skills as well as in technology and the crucial role that support from high-level management plays in ensuring the success of large projects that affect the organization as a whole. Other themes may or may not resonate with librarians, depending on length of their professional memory and the nature of their work. …

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