- The No-Nonsense Guide to Archives and Recordkeeping by Margaret Crockett
One of the greatest challenges in writing a useful handbook or manual for the "lone arranger" archivist, volunteer archivist, or museum/historical society staff member who also manages archives is striking the proper balance of instruction, complexity, and ease of use: too much information can be intimidating, but not enough will limit a book's usefulness. Margaret Crockett ably strikes that balance in The No-Nonsense Guide to Archives and Recordkeeping, having created a guidebook whose comprehensiveness belies its relatively short length. While busy lone arrangers and archival volunteers may lack the time to dive fully into a book such as this one, it is nonetheless a valuable resource that these audiences would do well to have on their shelves for frequent consultation and guidance. [End Page 171]
As Crockett states in her introduction, the book was written for not only archives and records management staff, "especially those without formal training, but also people managing archives and records management staff and those working closely with archives and records management, such as IT professionals, librarians and museum curators" (p. xi). Attempting to cover the essential information for archivists and records managers as well as related professionals is a daunting proposition, but Crockett brings an impressive background to the task with her years of experience as an archival consultant and educator. Her business, the London-based Archive-Skills Consultancy Ltd., offers consultation services and training programs to archival institutions, both in the UK and internationally. The UK focus is most evident in the "Concepts and Context" chapter (p. 1), with descriptions of archival repositories, schools, associations, and other strongly UK based groups. Readers outside Britain may not find much relatable information here, though Crockett does include some very good general definitions and questions that could be helpful to a novice archivist. The astute reader will be able to make connections to related schools, councils, and organizations, and may be prompted to use the information presented in this chapter to seek out information about similar ideas and services closer to home.
Following the introductory section on concepts and context, which defines archives and records management and discusses types of archives, archival organizations, record formats, and challenges and issues, the book is further divided into sections on records management (chapters 2 and 3) and archival management (chapters 4 and 5). This format, along with the book's comprehensive index, allows the reader to easily locate and consult the sections that will be of greatest value. Not all archivists will perform records management duties, and not all records managers will perform archival duties, but the professions share enough similarities to make the inclusion of both sections very important to the reader's understanding of the creation of a record and its life cycle.
The section on records management, chapters 2–3, moves from the basics of records creation (how they are created, their characteristics) through to classification, filing systems, naming, documentation, and issues such as security and protection. Formal records management theory and practice is covered in great detail, including how to determine whether material is "information, record, or archive?" (p. 77); how to conduct a records survey; how to deal with digital records, including email; policies, procedures, and implementation guidelines; the impact of legislation, regulations, and standards; managing record content; storage and disposal; and record audits and reviews. This section is dense, but Crockett includes a wealth of charts, tables, checklists, and other examples throughout the chapter, which act as points of focus for important concepts and theories. Headings and key terms stand out in boldface and are defined in clear and simple language, and concrete examples of practices [End Page 172] such as naming files, conducting workshops, and implementing electronic records management systems are outlined clearly in the text with straightforward, how-to directions. The information is comprehensive enough that a non–records manager could realistically establish a proper records management program and, more importantly, understand both the theory and practice.
Continuing on in the record...