We have a fantastic opportunity at the Parliamentary event to really make our case to central government and I'm sure that Rene and everyone else going will make the most of it. Please all continue to make your arguments here so they can be condensed down to perhaps three key messages for government that everyone at the event can repeat.
However, I think our case is more likely to be heard when our users speak for us. Perhaps we should use the launch of the ARA (UK and Ireland) to foment a public campaign targeted at public and private bodies to remind them of the value - social, economic and political that our collections hold.
I think the message that I would like to make - and please be warned everyone this is rather bleak!
We are passing out of a period which may be looked back on as the heyday of public services. When everyone has been sacked and there's no money left, the records created by this period represent a significant resource. They contain the knowledge of the organisation at its highest peak and will help to get organisations through their lowest if they are kept, managed and made accessible in a strategic, directed and holistic fashion.
Where services are facing outsourcing I think the message we need to get over is that
storage companies profit comes from increasing inefficiency and ignorance (i.e. more file requests, returned boxes etc) whereas an in house model's profit comes from the shared vision of continuous improvement. In house records management services are most efficient when the people using them know what they're doing and why.
I think we ought to seize on Freedom of Information as the closest thing we have (at least in the public sector) to archival legislation. It supports all the functions of our service and justifies them continuing. In fact - and I would value the debate here so we can get very clear about our arguments - I believe that councils would have to invent archive services to meet FOI if they didn't exist already and some are doing that because they don't know they have them already.
In terms of the reuse of public information agenda archivists and records managers have the skillset to implement this effectively. What is selection other than seeing the potential for information to be used for future research
Finally - as archivists and records managers we have the oversight of our whole organisation. We see it as a whole and probably have as much understanding of the way it functions and could improve itself as most CEOs. We've always let records speak for themselves and that as far as research is concerned is how it should continue - however - it is not an excuse for ducking the significant contribution archivists could make to supporting this terrifying process.
Whilst I'm on this and to include conservators in this debate - it's probably getting to a point where we can't afford air conditioning so if we switch off the plant what can we do to be more sustainable.
Archivists and recordkeepers of the world unite! Throw off your brass chains.
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