Posted by: stackedfivehigh | August 23, 2010

So, Like, Byte Me

The sessions that I attended at the Society of American Archivists Conference primarily involved records management.  On Friday, I went to a session titled “So, Like, Byte Me: A Critical Response by Records Professionals to Born-Digital Records” and it was absolutely fascinating.  Not only was the information valuable – though I’ll be honest and say a good bit of it was over my head when the acronyms started flying – but the best part was the amount of polite disagreement, or “we don’t know” that occurred.  It’s always great to hear professionals able to bounce ideas off each other, and discuss the differences in their points-of-view.

I took three pages of notes, and learned a number of valuable things – including the fact that I need a laptop for taking notes.

As is probably evident by the title, the session dealt with electronic records and the changes that will need to be made to properly manage what are called ‘born digital’ records – records that have never existed in physical form.  This is a critical change.  Previously, records were taken from paper and put into the computer via “conscious digitization.” In other words, we made the records become electronic.  Now, 90% of records are born digital.  Everyone in the records and information management industry, from professionals in archives, libraries, and the corporate world to the industry groups that are responsible for devising best practices, have to look at records differently and try to adapt to the new media.

Obviously electronic records aren’t new. The record management industry has been talking about how to handle just this sort of change for a couple of decades but there are always unexpected changes, like the now ubiquitous social media formats.  Trade organizations are trying their best to account for the rapid changes in technology and to help guide the industry in best practices for retention, maintenance, and availability. But the new ability to create so many records so quickly leads to a number of new concerns for placing value, best storage practices, and accessibility, among others.

The session ended with suggestions for where to follow these changes and possibly join the dialogue, such as the Australasian Digital Recordkeeping Initiative and International Organization for Standardization.  Also – ISO 16175 was the oft-mentioned standard that primarily deals with electronic records, and is pending revision if you’re interested in learning more about current best practices.



  1. Would you be willing to share your notes? I’d love to know more about this presentation.

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