Preserving Electronic Records in Colleges and Universities workshop

On Friday, July 9 I went to a Preserving Electronic Records in Colleges and Universities workshop held at Cornell University and sponsored by the New York State Archives. The workshop was presented by Steve F. Goodfellow, President, Access Systems, Inc. The workshop was well organized and Steve Goodfellow did a good job presenting the material. In some respects, I can’t say I learned a real lot, especially on the technology side, but the workshop was more the worthwhile, if only to have some of my thoughts on the issue reinforced by an expert. I did learn about some policy considerations and retention schedules however.

During a break I talked with Steve and we agreed that while the technology is important and their are technological challenges, really electronic preservation is more of a policy challenge then a technological one. If the policies are in place and carried out (which included the proper funding), the technology can be worked out. That is not to say the technological solutions are always worked out properly. During the first part of the workshop we discussed items when it didn’t. One example was a client of his had an old student records system and they thought they migrated everything. However, they kept the old system around for old lookups “just in case.” Well, a new CIO came in and asked when was the last time it was used. The answer was not in a long time, so the old system was removed. Guess what happened? Not everything was moved and now they didn’t have it any more.

One of the big take aways for me was the Fundamental Goals of an electronic records preservation system identified during the workshop. The three are:

  1. Readable of electronically stored records
  2. Authoritative & trustworthy process
  3. Maintain a secure and reliable repository

These to a large degree are obvious, but if you are embarking on a electronic preservation program, you should identify how you are accomplishing these goals.