It’s common wisdom in the library and information science community that if you have something and you can’t find it, you don’t have it. This principle is as true for agencies’ records as it is in university libraries, and it directly affects the efficiency and effectiveness of agency FOIA programs.
We’ve written before about President Obama’s Memorandum on Managing Government Records and the Managing Government Records Directive, issued jointly by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and our parent agency, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). These directives represent a new focus at the very highest levels on the importance of government records management.
In the five months since it released the Directive, NARA’s Records Management staff has been working hard to lay the groundwork for the major changes in store, and agencies also have taken first steps. The Directive requires agencies to select a Senior Agency Official (SAO) who is ultimately responsible for leading the records management effort.
The SAO has an essential role in the records management directive:
- Ensuring that permanent records are identified for transfer and reported to NARA;
- Establishing agencywide records management training; and
- Ensuring that all agency records are scheduled for retention and disposition
Archivist of the United States David Ferriero hosted the SAOs for a kickoff meeting on November 25, 2012. Much of the discussion focused on SAOs’ responsibilities under the Directive, including establishing a records management training program. There was also a great deal of discussion on OPM’s goal to establish a records management job series by the end of 2013.
As the Archivist pointed out in his remarks, the hard work on the records management effort is still to come. While the goals and timelines of the Directive are daunting, the meeting attendees made it clear that agencies are ready to move forward and modernize their records management programs.
OGIS has continually beaten the drum for improved records management practices. We’ve observed how agencies that link their records management and FOIA programs tend to see improvements in both. We cannot wait to see how improving records management across the government yields benefits for FOIA programs. We will continue to report on the Directive’s progress, but if you are hungry for more information, check out the Records Express blog.