BOOK AND SOFTWARE REVIEWS


Lowry, James and Wamukoya, Justus (Eds.) Integrity in government through records management: essays in honour of Anne Thurston. Farnhem, UK: Ashgate, 2014. xxiv,254 p. ISBN 978-1-4724-2845-5. 65.00


The first thing I would like to do in this review is explaining the sub-title of the book to those uninitiated in records management. Anne Thurston started her career as a records manager in Kenya National archives and has done a number of important jobs, occupied different posts in different archival and records management institutions. She worked at the School of Library, Archive and Information Studies at the University College London, renovating the existing records management programmes and expanding doctoral studies. One of the most important among her achievements is the establishment of the International Records Management Trust in 1989. Its main goal is helping strengthening and development of public records management and archival systems working with governments and professional all over the world. It had especially influenced governmental records management practices in Africa and other developing countries. The Trust has developed a variety of freely available materials and products for education, such as research and consultancy reports, and assessment tools. Records management researchers and practitioners have contributed to the reviewed volume to honour the founder of the Trust and its 25th anniversary.

One of the remarkable features of the volume is that the contributions have come from a number of records management professionals and researchers from a wide range of African countries, not only from the UK, Canada and the USA or some other European countries. I suspect that their origin and affiliation reflects the range of influence of the Trust as well as that of Ann Thurston herself.

The first part of the volume is devoted to the activities of Anne Thurston and the International Records Management Trust. It includes both the overview of Anne Thurston's professional biography and the history of the Trust, the educational programmes created by the Trust, the approach to collaboration appropriated by the trust and the value of national archives to the development of the democracy, human rights, implementation of the right to information.

The second part of the book includes the chapters looking into the legacy of colonial record-keeping in previous British colonies mainly in Africa and also at the development of the public sector records management under the context of different political and cultural climate in African countries. I have read some of these accounts with great interest and it helps understanding of some of the conditions that we face at present in the development projects, in which I happen to be involved on the librarianship side.

The third section looks into the major problems that could be addressed and cured to some extent by professional and responsible governmental records management policies and practices. The issues of fraud, missuse of public finances and other resources, criminal negligence and corruption can be aided by bad and intransparent records systems, not to speak of violation of human rights and causing internal conflicts between interests groups. While transparent records management alone cannot prevent or entirely cure these problems, it is an essential and powerful tool in the hands of governments willing to address these issues.

The section on Digital records management and preservation dig deeper into the usage and potential of digital technologies in the archival and records management work in the development context. One of the issues that seems to me as the most important is the conditions of application and use of international standards when the records management practice is still underdeveloped and the professional competence rare.

As an educator who has been working within archival and records management education in addition to my main library and information science area, I read the final part with extreme attention. The review of the developments within the records management programmes at the UCL, the meaningful cooperation between international bodies of professional archivists and records managers as well as of other institutions and networks seem to have opened interesting development avenues in the past and maintain their potential for the future. I would recommend this volume to the community of records managers, but also to all those who are involved in one or another way in building information structures, especially in the public sphere and for governments in the developing world. It helps to make sense of different experiences and develops understanding of the cultures that one meets on this path.

Elena Maceviciute
Professor, University of Borås
May, 2015