Recordkeeping Methodology Day (RKM Overview)

At the 5th RK Day hosted by Library and Archives Canada (LAC), speakers from LAC and the consulting firm OSTA (On Second Thought Advisory) gave an overview of the methodology including some background, why it’s being done, and some of the benefits. I’ve provided here a brief summary and some thoughts.

Disclaimer: Please note that this is a personal explanation and may sometimes involve interpretation based on my own understanding and experiences. This is not an authoritative guide in any way. Links used here are not necessarily the most detailed or most authoritative links, but are used here because most documentation is internal to the Government of Canada. As always, opinions expressed are my own.

Recordkeeping Methodology

Trends and Shifts

LAC speakers spoke much on the shifts and trends happening in and outside the government that helped to push forward this initiative:

  • renewal and modernization of the office
  • culture change to convergence of policy, technology, etc.
  • rapid technology development
  • increasing difficulty in finding and accessing (definitive version of) information
  • reducing dependencies on paper


The initiative goes hand in hand with the policy that has been created. The Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (TBS) put into effect the Directive on Recordkeeping a couple of years ago mandating that all government departments need to be compliant by 2014.

The methodology is also to help departments align themselves with various frameworks and structures, such as:

New Approach

LAC is also taking a new approach to recordkeeping with this methodology. A few key differences:

  • New terminology: Information Resources (IR) to encompass everything instead of just records.
  • Focus on value: Business Value (BV) and Enduring Value (EV, what is more or less equivalent to archival value) instead of by format or medium.
  • Valuation is at time of creation not at the time of disposition or later.
  • Prioritization at a high level based on existing plans and structures of the department means that it is risk informed.
  • General valuation disposition tools (GVDT) that allow LAC to apply a disposition authority (RDA) to multiple institutions as a template with flexibility to ‘customize’ it for departments that need it. e.g. 60+ RDAs to 8? GVDTs to cover the same amount of IRs (don’t quote me on these numbers though).

The Methodology

The RK methodology focuses on using what the department already knows and has, and implementing everything based on existing knowledge, resources, and tools while filling in any gaps. So, if a department already has everything more or less in place, the project should take a relatively short time.

The methodology itself has 3 phases and 7 steps as shown in the diagram:

Recordkeeping MethodologyI’ll give a brief overview at a very high level just to give people an idea of what it’s all bout. There are a lot of documents, questionnaires, spreadsheets, etc. related to each stuff which they talked about at the presentation, but I won’t go through all of them here.

Phase 1 & Step 1: Planning

High level analysis is done at the department level to see where the department stands in terms of recordkeeping. There is an Initiation Survey, which is supposed to be a quick (approximately 15 yes/no type questions) assessment of the department’s current practices. A more in-depth Diagnostic Tool allows an analysis of the readiness and complexity of the project for the particular department as well as an initial evaluation of time and resources requirements. More questionnaires and reports build on these in looking at the current state of things, prioritization, building a project plan, and a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with LAC.

Phase 2 & Steps 2-5: One Time Effort Phase

If the diagram confuses you at this stage, it is essentially supposed to show that the steps are non-linear as things go back and forth and an organization can be in multiple steps at once. Allow me to explain.

Step 2 mentions engagement and of course, the department will begin the project, and with LAC’s assistance, focus on the highest priorities. Communications and presentations will be made to the department. Along with awareness and training throughout this process, obviously, documents to help staff on identifying information resources that have value and what to do will be created.

Once into Step 3 (Data Collection Exercise), more in-depth questionnaires are done at the sector level focusing on value, controls, risk, and capacity. Particularly for large organizations, those working on the project will have to engage each sector to collect information, and depending on how quickly one sector is completed at this step, they may move forward to the next before another sector.

Step 4 build reports and essentially an inventory of repositories, records, information resources, and what controls are in place to manage the information. Supporting documentation is also created with rationale on how to identify what information resources are of business and/or enduring value.

Step 5 puts it all together into one spreadsheet (Recordkeeping Accountability Instrument) listing program sub activities and outcomes, whether it has (or likely to have) business and/or enduring value, which disposition authority applies and how, and who holds responsibility among other things like security and risk (but I have listed the essentials to give the general ideas).  This spreadsheet would become a reference document for all staff, particularly those involved with information management (in any way, not necessarily in the IM branch only).

Other documents are also created at this stage to identify any gaps and actions to address these gaps.  Recordkeeping roles are also identified and committed to by the department. Plans are also created for the final phase.

Phase 3 & Steps 6-7: Ongoing

Finally, the department is to maintain the reference materials and follow through on the action plan. Results are reported, information is managed, change is monitored, and things are revised as needed.

The Benefits to the Department

I think benefits to the department should be fairly obvious, but here are a few:

  • compliance to the TBS Directive, Policy on Information Management, and LAC policies
  • (almost definitely) compliance with internal policies on information and records management
  • alignment with Management Accountability Framework (though I believe this is still in the works)
  • decrease in storage and management of unnecessary information
  • increase findability of authoritative information, including fulfilling Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) requests
  • (likely) support of clean up and disposition of legacy records

There are others, mostly surrounding information and records management, and some which are more related to the archival side, such as preventing lost of information with enduring value.

Benefits to Government

Other than the myriad benefits related to information management within a department and compliance by all government departments, I believe that applying this methodology to the government as a whole has some added benefits. For the most part, these benefits stem from collaboration:

  • reuse of documentation, tools, reports, etc. including training and awareness tools
  • development and refinement of the methodology such that the process should go faster for those implementing the project later
  • development of general disposition authorities (versus institution specific) means quicker roll out of authorities


Certainly for anyone in the Canadian government who was not already aware of all this would be most interested in the expected timeline.

Summer 2011 – Preparation

Initiation surveys have been sent out with the diagnostic tool available this month. Selected departments will be contacted to be early adopters and begin the project. LAC will also be training their staff and certifying consultants.

Fall 2011 – Phase 1 for GC

LAC will be getting all departments through phase 1 by the end of the year with early adopters moving into phase 2.

Winter 2012 – GC Wide Implementation

Projects will begin in clusters of institutions (presumably similar ones will be grouped together). LAC hopes to finish by June 2014 in order for all departments to be compliant with the directive by the ‘due date’.

Sounds very ambitious, but it also sounds like they thought it through. One can only see if it works out, I hope it does!

Some Thoughts and Reflections

The Event

The event itself was well organized for the most part. There was definitely a good turn out. I think there’s room for improvement for the next time they do something similar though.

Considering the audience and that most people will not have been exposed to the methodology before, I thought the presentation went into a bit too much detail at times, overwhelming some. Talking about the tools at a high level is great, but showing people unfamiliar with the project an actual spreadsheet struck me as something that would simply confuse people.

The presentations were also done in both English and French. I understand the importance of having the presentations in both languages, but considering that most people are bilingual, hearing each slide done first in English and then in French is repetitive to most. If the presenters are worried about presenting in someone’s primary language, is it not common practice to simply have two presentations, one in English and one in French separately? On the upside, I got to learn some of the French vocabulary related to the project, which I had not been previously exposed to.

Some things were simply logistical in nature, but I think made a difference:

  • if you are going to advertise a twitter hashtag, make sure your presenter knows what it is (and advertise it before hand)
  • if you have a twitter hashtag, have it projected somewhere so people can see the conversation
  • either make people hold extra questions until later or allow more time for questions so as not to go overtime
  • have the event in the afternoon so that people west of Ontario can participate at a reasonable time (it was a morning half day)

Nevertheless, overall, I think the presentations were well organized, and the presentations on presenting the rationale for the project and the timeline were definitely well done, giving people a good sense of why the initiative is happening and how LAC will lead the departments into compliance.

Personal Value

Attending the session really helped me get an overview of the methodology and to put my work into context. Having entered the RK Project in the middle of the pilot made it so that I had to do a lot of catch up work, and unfortunately, I will not see the department complete phase 2 either. The overview gave me the big picture of the project as well as informed me on the status with the rest of the government, which was great. I also go to report back to our team with the information that the presentations were done in both languages, which I think will be of use to us.

Ingrid Parent – Fast Forward: 21st Century Libraries in a Global Context

The university librarian at UBC presented today at the SLAIS colloquia. There were a number of interesting and salient points that she made, so I thought I’d summarize them here.

Fast Forward: 21st Century Libraries in a Global Context by Ingrid Parent

Information is worldwide and information seeking behaviour is rapidly changing along with technology. So do libraries change user behaviours or do user behaviours change libraries? Really, it’s both. “In the face of seismic shifts in technology and social organizations, librarians and library staff face changing roles” (2010, Gutsche), but this need not be a seismic change, but rather, a wave of adaptation. The sharing of knowledge and networking allow for collaboration and can ease this adaptation. Not a lot has changed in what the library is so much as changes are happening in how information is delivered.

“information overload triggered a crisis in the way people saw their lives. It sped up the way we locate, cross-reference, and focus the questions that define our essence, our roles – our stories…” (Douglas Coupland, Player One) Libraries and librarians are still needed to help our users even if they have direct access to resources.  Librarians’ skills in organizing information are needed more than ever whether in libraries or in other organizations.  More creative positions are being created in response, and employers are looking for skills including in areas of communications and marketing.

“If there is a future for libraries this is where that future will be made – in the digital realm.” (Allan Bell, Director of Digital Initiatives, UBC Library) A large part of the strategic plan is focused on digital projects and initiatives.

Assessment has also become critical, but the shift in focus is on the library’s impact by trying to measure the influence and success the library has with its users.

Convergence & Collaboration
An example of a radical convergence is the Library and Archives Canada. Convergence needs to happen in more areas, mostly in the form of collaboration. It begins with contact and may end in convergence.  The way to do this is through digital technology in order to converge the knowledge and information. Users don’t care who the information “belongs” to, but simply that they can use and find it. Collaboration not only serves our users, but allow us to do more. Even technologies are converging, such as cloud computing.  Digital libraries and collections are quickly growing.

Examples of Collaboration Projects

Still the perception is that libraries are only associated with books. Libraries have the challenge to change that perception to include management of information, accessible from home, and really, a “living lab.” This is important as “information consumers are shifting into ‘prosumers.’ These hybrid users are producing, classifying, and distributing content as well as consuming content from others.” (Tom Evens, University of Ghent)

We are up to the challenge of meting these challenges. Digitization is a key factor, collaboration and converging, and come to an understanding on how to best deal with all the information. We need to move forward together in a global world where information is available to so many and in so many ways.

Q & A

What academic librarians need to do in moving forward? More consistent messaging and communications because things are done inconsistently as well. Need to talk to students more. Need more community engagement, which Irving K. Barber is a good example. Train staff to go out to the community.

What are you looking for in new hires? What kind of skills and knowledge set? Understanding and willingness to understand the information community out there. Going out to find the skills. Teamwork. Not hired for one job for whole life. Looking for possibilities working in different ways, innovation, and creativity. Can we do something better even if done the same for many years before. Need to be open-minded on sharing ideas and knowledge.

How is the library helping with research? One of the major objectives is to accelerate research. Need to work with faculty more, but life sciences more open than some others. Librarians sometimes to help with grant proposal. [Okay, I didn’t quite get the complete question/answer here.]

Transition between high school to university is a hot topic. How is the university helping with that? Learning commons to support writing skills and other skill sets, which is well used. Online tools on how to write essay, manage projects, etc. Anyone who is interested can come. No dedicated approach in the high school community. Will bring the topic to advisory committee in order to discuss how best to help support students to have skills before they leave high school.

What are your ideas for initiatives and if you see any changes when your presidency of IFLA? Have yet to choose theme that cuts across libraries. Libraries drive you to knowledge, but what do you do with that knowledge? Trying to look from user’s perspective, so looking at how libraries impact people including looking at inclusiveness, multiculturalism, collaboration. One initiative/event that want to do: Indigenous knowledge and how do we approach expressions of traditional knowledge.

Going out to the community requires support of institution. What do you find works for advocating within an institution? It’s not really common in part because of funding. Part of it is setting up advisory group in order to be in touch with people. Becoming involved in associations, but it all comes down to resources and priorities, but see it growing.