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LIKE meeting: Reimagining records for the real time world

Last Wednesday I went to my first LIKE (London Information and Knowledge Exchange) meeting, on “What kind of ‘record’ do organisations need in the age of the real-time web?”, with guest speaker James Lappin, a records management consultant. I went to the meeting for the opportunity to network, more than anything else. I didn’t really expect to take much away from the talk, as I am not a records manager and have (I thought) no real experience with records management. To be honest, I expected it to be deathly dull – records management has always struck me as a pretty dry subject!

Well, I was happy to be proved wrong. I didn’t take a huge amount of notes, because I was too busy listening, but I did jot down a couple of thinks James said. The most obvious point I came away with (and yes, I know, it’s one that really should have occurred to me already!) was that regardless of your job title, everyone is involved in records management. We’re all dealing with an enormous volume of correspondence (James asked us to imagine if all your emails were printed off and delivered to you twice a day on the post room trolley – we’d be drowning in paper!), as well as other documentation, and it’s so much easier now not to file it. Before email (etc.), if you had a document to deal with it was a physical item that just sat on your desk until you did something with it. You had an incentive to deal with it, if only to reduce clutter. With electronic documents, that incentive isn’t there. An email is automatically stored – to file it “properly”, you have to move it out of the system it was received in.

A few other points I scribbled down:

  • Records managers didn’t invent the hard copy file; the hard copy file created the need for records managers
  • Any attempt to impose a filing system on users will fail. The hard copy file grew out of how users were already working; the same needs to happen with digital records management
  • Problems caused by proliferation of formats: email, Twitter, wikis, Google Wave, etc. What is a document> What do you keep?

I know I’ve missed out loads here – as I said, I didn’t take many notes, and plenty more came up in conversation after James’ talk. It was an interesting evening – there was lots to discuss (with lots of interesting people), and the food (and drink) was good too! I’ll definitely be attending another LIKE event – hopefully I’ll take better notes next time!

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