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Subject: Re: FW: Definition of Record vs Document
From: Lawrence Medina <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Records Management Program <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Wed, 22 Oct 2003 06:35:42 -0700

text/plain (124 lines)

> The conflicting views on this issue is from a
> professional point of view
> quite an embarressment at the moment.  In order to
> create a standardised
> view at least in my environment I have created an
> explanation that most
> people seem to understand.

I'm glad most in your environment understand this and
you're able to speak a common language when it comes
to understanding withing your environment what you
mean when yu ue the terms "document and record", but
it doesn't fit for many of the rest of us.
> According to ISO the word mentioned in the
> definition for document that is
> different to record is the word unit.

Okay, I'm with you thus far, however, ONE is a unit
(known as a unit of one) and I don't think that when
ISO refers to a unit it's referring to a "group of
ones" with some commonality.

> So how I
> explain it is that Concept
> Policy, Policy, Minutes of meeting with regards to
> that policy, e-mail
> message with input on that policy each constitute a
> document (unit).

While these together form the basis of recording
something, each of them individually can be a record
on their own, and in most organizations the items you
mention all have independent RECORD retention periods.
Seldom do you see a retention period based on a
compendium of documents that "record" an event or
"document" an occurence.

(in this case, I'm using "record" as to capture the
incident's occurence and "document" as to certify that
something took place)

> The
> record is all this information managed together
> within context.  In the
> paper world as an example think of the old brown
> file, each item on that
> file constitute a document but the whole file with
> items in chronological
> order and numbereds items with the correct reference
> and noted in the
> Register of Opened Files = the record.

There is NO WAY that you'll get RIMs to agree on this
concept.  Each of the items in this "old brown file"
are created independently, belong to different record
series, have their own retention periods and are
related to a common event, but that does not make them
constitute a record only when they're combined.

I think in part the difference here is the use of a
registry system in the UK, AU (and I believe NZ) for
documents that is peculiar to those locations, hence
the use of the terminology "Register of Opened Files"
in the explanation.

> This file in
> context with other
> files is a more complete record etc.

For historical purposes, I agree that the composition
of these documents forms a more complete record
(similar to a project file) of an event and allows
someone to review everything that was involved in
making a decision or documenting how a decison may
have been made, but this is not the classic definition
of a record.  A single document can be as complete a
record as a family of documents (the Bill of Rights,
the Magna Carta, the Declaration of Independence, one
Doctor's notes on a single visit, etc.)

> The same can be applied in the electronic
> environment when you manage the
> electronic documents in folders by means of folder
> structures, document
> properties and automated numbering within the sytem.

And it DEFINITELY doesn't fit here.  Each electronic
file has a creation date of it's own, can stand on
it's own, is backed up independently, can be revised
with no impact on the others in the folder, can be
distributed on it's own, and can be called into a
legal proceeding on it's own merits.  It can also be
used to support a variety of purposes and therefore
reside in MANY folders at the same time, which in your
example make it part of a number of records and
possibly, it serves a different purpose in each of

> To me that is the
> point where legal and information requirements can
> be met.

I think you would have a difficult time making this
explanation of "document and record" stand up in any
US court of law, I don't know about other locations
around the world, but it would be defeated soundly

> It is crucial that a clear standardised explanation
> be made available in the
> RM world.

I agree that we should be able to develop a common
language around such regularly used terms, and maybe
some day we will... and when we do, then we can also
tackle Archive and archiving =).

Just my view from this part o the World.


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