Adapting OAIS for records management

In planning this project we’re obviously referencing the OAIS standard for a digital archive.

To quote from Wikipedia, ‘Open Archival Information System (or OAIS) is an archive, consisting of an organization of people and systems, that has accepted the responsibility to preserve information and make it available for a Designated Community’.

The OAIS approach reminds me of the old style paper records store method for managing records. We (the records manager) receive the closed files and store them safely and securely. When a record is required we are asked by the department for a specific box or file. We then make it available.

This is being replicated in several ways in current records management approaches. At one conference I heard of one organisation moving its paper files to offsite storage, then providing a ‘scan on demand’ approach when a file was requested. The offsite store would provide a scanned copy and email it to the requesting department. I thought this was a nice way of sidestepping a massive digitisation project – a digital ‘copy’ is provided when required, the mass of original paper retained in a low-cost storage environment.

In-house electronic document management solutions, from a simple intranet to a full blown EDRMS, have often relied on the information being available instantly via a search.  That obviously relies on the quality of the stored records and speed / accuracy of the search engine.

Could the OAIS approach work in an internal business context? Can the electronic records be submitted or ‘declared’ to the records management team and stored. The records with long term retention converted into preservable formats. On demand, the records can be made available through a print to PDF facility. The audit trail of access is inherent in the very record produced.

There are several visual depictions of the standard on produced on page 4-1 on http://public.ccsds.org/publications/archive/650x0b1.pdf, to which I add my ‘scrawled on the back of a napkin’ version to explain how this approach might work:

The benefit, you’d hope, would be ‘future proofed’ electronic documents managed and made available at a reasonable cost over decades. The drawbacks would, perhaps be in the user experience where people are used to the instant search return of a Google query. Now the user would effectively be searching a catalogue of record references and requesting access to the one they want.

The challenge is: would the approach actually work? That is one of the things we are trying to explore with this project.

1 thought on “Adapting OAIS for records management

  1. Stefanie

    I’ve been looking at some of the National Archives Digital Continuity advice at http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/information-management/our-services/digital-continuity.htm to explore the ways in which we could encourage active management of born digital records over the whole of their lifecycle to support records management/information governance requirements in the short to medium term and to provide metadata and useful contextual information for digital records selected for more permanent preservation.

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