Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Program Review: Taming the Tsunami, November 2nd

On November 3, CLA-CASLIS was fortunate to have Suzanne LeBlanc present a talk entitled, “Taming the Tsunami: Best Practices in Email Records Management for Small Organizations”. Suzanne has worked as an Information Management Specialist at Service Ontario for five years and clearly has a passion for digital preservation and records management. Her job incorporates many of the theories and practices she learned in the Archives Management courses at the University of Toronto.

The presentation took place at Oakham House within the Ryerson University campus. Oakham House appeared to be a busy place, but luckily, the venue was separated from the noise of the street and other presentations. The room was on the cozy side but was also very bright and welcoming.

Suzanne explained that paper records are becoming less popular because they are inadequate for simultaneous consultation and document linking. Email presents its own special challenges, for example, how one might preserve emails for periods of 50 years or more. Emails that seem trivial today may contain invaluable information at a later time. The legal ramifications of poor records keeping can include loss of credibility, lack of transparency, large financial fines, and loss of context and access.

Reuse of reliable data is one of the prime objectives of email management. Increasingly, modern organizations are using business email as a record of project development. To sell the idea of email records management to a boss, a Records Management Specialist may want to sell his or her skills based on the concerns of a boss. At the moment, there is a bit of a generation gap in terms of willingness to adopt new archiving strategies, but this is changing with shifts in the business world.

Suzanne explains that records do not arrive at an “end stage,” but instead are always moving between stages of documentation and organization. Records Management Specialists use criteria of content, context, structure and appearance to prioritize which emails are worthy of preservation. There are a number of methods that Records Management Specialists use to determine and organize relevant email. The first method is to instruct users on proper practices in email (such as use of real names), the second is to consider metadata as a tool to record attributes of email, the third is to use automated message sorting and filtering with a stored file system, and the fourth is to manually select either some or all of the emails for storage. The approach that Suzanne personally recommends is to convert emails to a standard such as PDF, TIFF, XML, or RFC-2882.

Companies often use default, traditional Operating System folder classifications, but Suzanne recommended a customizable, open source Digital Repository system for superior organization. In the discussion following the presentation, She explained that a third party such as ArchiveMatica would offer this software. She also recommends archiving for your own email!

Martinus Driessen
M.I. Student - Faculty of Information, University of Toronto

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