Maintaining Standards

Every archivist and records manager has probably said the magic words “ISO 15489” at some stage in their career. It supports good records management, it’s based on some great Australian work, and you can find it embedded in most of the standards and advice prepared by the State and National Archives,e.g. http://prov.vic.gov.au/government/standards-and-policy/all-documents/as-iso-15489; http://www.naa.gov.au/records-management/strategic-information/standards/international-standards/index.aspx

There are other standards that are important to archives and records managers too, include the ISO suite of quality assurance standards, around ISO 9000, and the standards for digitisation and microfilm quality and storage. We rely on them a lot. They’re made available on the Standards Australia website, via SAI Global, but I expect most of us have searched for and found them in the catalogues and electronic databases provided by the National and State Libraries (NSLA), where we have accessed them for free. Recently, NSLA advised that this service would come to an end as they could not come to an agreement with SAI Global over how these standards are to be accessed. Standards Australia and SAI Global appear to be locked in a contract until 2018, with a likely renewal until 2023.

For most of us, this is a blow, but not a major problem. For those of us in Western Australia, however, the matter could become more complicated. If you are in the WA state and local government sectors, you’ll know that one of the key tools for records management assurance is the Recordkeeping Plan, developed in accordance with the State Records Commission’s (SRC) Principles and Standards. Standard 1 identifies AS ISO 15489 as the model for best practice recordkeeping. Standard 1, and all the other standards developed by the SRC have the same legal standing as regulations. Last week, a Parliamentary Committee brought down a report on access to Standards embedded in WA legislation and regulations. In part, if adopted, it will require Government agencies that include International and Australian Standards in their legislation to provide access to those standards to the public and to other organisations, for free.

The Committee has recognised that simple access can be provided to a physical copy in the offices of State and Local Government agencies. And, it has wrestled with the thorny issue of copyright, both for the physical copies and for ongoing online access. Their summary of the ALRC review into copyright is masterful (see s.5.13 and 5.14 on p.50 of the report), with some pithy yet subtle comments on the roundaboutation used by the ALRC when addressing fair use in copyright.

On the positive side, the Committee has recognised a right of free public access to information of benefit to the public. They have also recommended that

the Minister for Commerce seeks to arrange to have this matter placed on the agenda of the Industry and Skills Council of COAG as soon as possible, in the hope that the governments of the Commonwealth and other States and Territories might
reach an agreement whereby universal free access is achieved through a nationwide publicly-funded model.

I’m looking forward to that.

 

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inthemailbox

Archivist, historian, avid reader

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