What is a record?: Information governance and records management

There’s been a bit of to-ing and fro-ing recently on various information and data management blogs and journals about information governance and records management. One of the things that I find disturbing is the definition of what it is that records managers do, and through that the increasingly restricted view of what records and, ultimately, archives, are.


“The best place to start comparing them is by defining exactly what that problem is:

  • every day there is a massive flow of written communications into, out of, and around every organisation.  Thirty years ago they moved around in envelopes.  Now most of them move around as e-mails or in attachments to e-mails.   But the flow has continued uninterrupted.
  • what we call ‘records’ are simply these written communications when they are at rest.”

ISO 15489, the international standard on recordkeeping, identifies a record as “information created, received, and maintained as evidence and information by an organization or person, in pursuance of legal obligations or in the transaction of business”.  Records management is defined as “[the] field of management responsible for the efficient and systematic control of the creation, receipt, maintenance, use and disposition of records, including the processes for capturing and maintaining evidence of and information about business activities and transactions in the form of records”. Why, then, the continued insistence that records are largely correspondence, captured only in EDRMS and other mail registries, and often paper. What about GIS, accounting software, CAD, relational and flat databases, photographs, youtube videos and web instances? All of these are records too.

How do we move the conversation from the differences between RM and information management, information governance and information systems, to the similarities?




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Archivist, historian, avid reader

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