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2007 Emmett Leahy Award Winner, Anne Thurston

Bio

An educator, practitioner, publisher, director and development specialist, she is acknowledged as a leading authority of records and information management. Recognizing that good records are fundamental in underpinning good governance, the reduction in corruption, the protection of individual entitlements and human rights, and the effective and efficient administration of government programs, she led a study of the state of record keeping systems in over 32 countries across Africa, Asia and the Caribbean. Based upon this study she created a master's program and post-graduate research program in records and archives management that focused on the needs and requirements in these countries. Subsequently, she realized that there was a continuing need beyond the university program for ongoing records management tools development and staff education and training, so she undertook a new initiative to create additional education and training opportunities and delivery methods for developing countries. To support this initiative, she created a non-profit organization, the International Records Management Trust (1989) to develop records management tools and techniques that can be incorporated into a training and development program and employed in specific 'country project' programs. In 2000 Queen Elizabeth made her a member of the Order of the British Empire in recognition of her service in promoting records management in developing countries. 

Introductory Remarks Charles Dollar, Chair, 2007 Leahy Awards Committee

Annual Business Meeting of the Institute of Certified Records Managers, Baltimore Maryland, October 7, 2007

For more than two decades, the Institute of Certified Records Managers has graciously included the presentation of the Leahy Award as part of its Annual Business Meeting. Through these years, the Leahy Award Committee has greatly appreciated the opportunity to annually recognize an especially distinguished leader of our profession before this gathering with the extraordinary records management expertise and experience that the ICRM embodies. The Leahy Committee looks forward to continuing its association with the Institute of Certified Records Managers in 2008 and beyond.
    

In 1991, Pierce Leahy Archives, believing that the then 20 year old Emmett Leahy Award exemplified the very best in the profession of records management, undertook a strengthening of the award by underwriting the Leahy Award Committee's expenses. When Iron Mountain acquired Pierce Leahy Archives this financial support continued. The Leahy Award Committee is deeply grateful to Iron Mountain , especially Richard Reese, Wendy Shade, and John Petralia, for supporting the Leahy Award. This support has enabled the Leahy Award Committee to recognize an individual whose impact on the information and records management profession perpetuates the information and records management legacy of Emmett Leahy.
    

It is now my pleasure to invite Christine Ardern, the 2002 recipient of the Leahy Award, to make the presentation of the 2007 Leahy Award .

Presentation of the Recipient

Christine Ardern

This year's winner of the Emmett Leahy award is no stranger to pioneering. Our winner has been committed to the growth and development of records management for over 30 years. As an educator, practitioner, publisher, director and development specialist, this person is recognized internationally as a leading authority of records and information management.
    

As an archivist and researcher in the 1970's, this year's Leahy award winner recognized early on the need for records management support and education. Her experience with government records led to the recognition that records are fundamental in underpinning good governance, the reduction in corruption, the protection of individual entitlements and human rights, and the effective and efficient administration of government programs. This recognition led to a study of the state of record keeping systems in over 32 countries across Africa, Asia and the Caribbean . The study, which she conducted on her own over a four year period, looked at the state of records management in those countries and identified requirements for training and education. The findings of the study encouraged our winner to boldly go forward and create a masters' program and post graduate research program in records and archives management. Five of the PhD students went on to become university lecturers. Many of the graduates of the program took senior positions in government departments and academic institutions where they expanded the growth of records management through their respective responsibilities. Many became national archivists thus fostering the establishment of a network of international archives and records leaders that would not have been in place otherwise. Our Leahy award winner recognized the need to build the records management capacity to establish records programs that would be relevant, effective, and, above all, sustainable. Relevant tools and techniques were lacking and in-country training programs designed to build the required human capacity were poor or non-existent.

     

Recognizing that there was a continuing need beyond the university program for ongoing records management tools development and staff education and training, a new initiative, designed to create additional education and training opportunities and delivery methods was developed. To support that initiative, a non-profit organization was created in 1989. Nothing like it had existed before and today it continues to be the only one of its kind in the world. Its three programs are closely interrelated. Its research and development program develops the records management tools and techniques which are then fed into the training and development program and employed in the ‘country projects' program where the learnings from these on-the-ground implementation efforts are used to inform the direction that should be taken by the research and development and training programs. Funding for these programs is drawn from a range of sources but primarily from development agencies. Through our winner's diligence, skill - and charm - she has managed to personally secure over $30 million dollars from multiple funding streams based on collaboration and partnerships with government and non-government organizations.
    

Today the now almost 20 year-old organization continues to foster educational programs, establish opportunities for partnership and collaboration and design and deliver on-site technical assistance projects to build sustainable records management in developing country governments. A 60-member consultancy team, committed to furthering the direction of the organization supports the full-time administrative staff in the development and implementation of the products and services.

     

Among the products and services, she has led the production of 7 videos related to the issues surrounding the role and importance of records and good governance and what can be done to ensure that records management serves this role effectively, especially in an electronic environment. Through the Trust she has also led and contributed to the development of assessment tools to measure the adequacy of records management within the context of government administration, e-government, and information technologies such as those supporting financial management systems.
    

Our winner has a strong appreciation for the power of networks. Given the interest in electronic records, this year's recipient led a major video conference project to examine electronic records issues in 38 English speaking developing countries. Nine video conferences provided an opportunity for 292 people to discuss these important issues and to lay the basis for finding solutions. Additional information was obtained from 770 participants who joined four electronic discussions.

     

Another major product of this individual's tireless efforts is a series of 26 publications which cover a myriad of records management related topics. In addition, over 4000 pages of study materials are available free of charge to anyone who wants to access them. Countless copies of these publications have been downloaded and they have provided the basis for the development of new education programs such as those in Uganda , Zimbabwe , Eritrea and Tanzania .
    

Our Emmett Leahy recipient is committed to the principle that good record keeping results in good governance, integrity and accountability.
    

So let's take a quick look….development of an MA and PhD program which prepared individuals to become university professors and national archivists; establishment of an organization that has raised over $30,000,000 to support records management training and education resources that are free to those who require them, establishment of research initiatives leading to the development of records management tools and techniques that are sensitive to developing country requirements (and that I suggest are just as relevant to the developed world as well), and leadership of on-site records management improvement projects in numerous developing countries around the world. Is that it? Well, just a couple of other things.
    

To support all these international activities, our 2007 Emmett Leahy winner established the Association of Commonwealth Archivists and Records Managers in 1984 and has fostered its development and growth ever since. She continues to work closely with ACARM. Recognizing, as we all do, that there are benefits in collaboration, she has also worked with ICA and ARMA in pursuing joint international endeavors and in 1997 was a signatory to the ARMA/ICA/IRMT accord.
   

She has presented at numerous conference and seminars and has truly made inroads through her networking and partnerships on behalf of the profession in areas where no-one else thought to go. Her fund-raising efforts are second to none internationally and for those of us who know her well, we are always amazed at her ongoing stamina, passion and commitment to the International Records Management Trust, her brainchild, to good records management and its role in protecting the rights of citizens through good governance. Her tireless efforts were recognized by the Records Management Society of the United Kingdom when it bestowed a life time achievement award in 2006 - the first time that anyone has been given such an award. And she is the only person I know personally who has been recognized by Queen Elizabeth as a member of the Order of the British Empire , an honour she received in 2000.. I am now proud and honored to be able to present the 2007 Emmett Leahy Award to my good friend and colleague, Dr. Anne Thurston.

2007 Emmett Leahy Award Acceptance 

Anne Thurston

I am very grateful to receive the Leahy Award in recognition of my work. I am even more pleased that in honouring my work, you have honoured the network of professionals across the world with whom I have worked closely and who are your colleagues.
    

My entire working life has been dedicated to serving records and archives management in developing countries in support of democracy and good governance. During my 16 years at the School of Library , Archive and Information Studies at University College London, I focussed on strengthening the study of records and archives management for international students and on empowering the students to feel confident in addressing new challenges. This work overlapped with the 18 years that I have spent developing the International Records Management Trust as a vehicle for introducing new ways of collaborating and cooperating in applying global good practice to local requirements in developing countries. Taking these two phases of my career together, it has been possible to develop an international network of professional contacts as a basis for building awareness, capacity and infrastructure for managing records.
    

Over the years, my interest in and support for my students and colleagues from developing countries has changed in only one significant way. Originally, my intention was to find ways of fixing the problems that I had observed. Later, my intention changed to a simpler wish to join the people with whom I worked, to experience together our mutual wish to be of service and to enjoy the process. I remember the day that I became aware that this had happened. Walking into a records office in Sierra Leone , I saw the heaps of unfiled papers and the broken shelves and cabinets that are so familiar to me; but that day, as I greeted each of the records staff sitting around the room, my focus was on their eyes and on their kind warm welcome. Being of service has brought me much greater happiness in the context of joining.
    

Against this background, I want to talk about how this work began and how it has developed, about the challenges that records managers face in developing countries across the world, and about what the records profession internationally might want to consider contributing toward the objective of building a global network of good practice. 
    

In 1984, with generous help from the Leverhulme Trust, and on behalf of University College London, I began a series of international study visits to English-speaking countries, in the Caribbean, in all regions of Africa, and in South and Southeast Asia, in order to understand how records were created and preserved so that we could develop a relevant educational programme at University College. Travelling with colleagues from the university and from the UK National Archives, I set out to visit at least five ministries and the national archives in each of the 32 countries that we visited. I think that this was the first time that anyone had examined the management of records in developing countries on an international basis. As the study progressed, I realised that we were looking at a major issue for international development.
    

Later, a government official in West Africa described very well the situation that we saw when he said: ‘Over the years, important records have deteriorated considerably, been tampered with or even disappeared. The lack of accurate and accessible information hinders efficient personnel administration as well as long-term staff development. It also hampers effective planning and implementation of development programmes and leads to mismanagement of finances and the inability of government to maintain accountability. Reform in this area will lay the basis for other public sector reform programmes, the introduction of computerisation and the restructuring of manual information systems.'

     

Specific conditions varied from country to country, but the issues and the consequences that we observed during the study were broadly similar. We noted that officials could not easily locate the information they needed to take decisions; that vast quantities of closed records with no ongoing value were being kept at great expense; and that historical records were not being protected or preserved. The countries we visited did not have national strategies, policies, frameworks or systems for managing the records needed to support national development, and the status of the records profession was low. National archives had statutory responsibility for official records, but they were isolated from the management of the government and often they played virtually no role in managing active records. All of this created an environment in which corruption could flourish and citizens' rights were not protected by written evidence.
    

In the years that have followed, the significance of these findings has become increasingly clear to me. Reliable and trustworthy records are fundamental for public sector accountability and effectiveness, and for the protection of citizens' rights. International efforts to reduce poverty, control corruption and support democracy all rely on authentic and reliable records. Weak records systems provide opportunities for fraud, corruption in procurement and money laundering. Access to justice is obscured, citizen participation is limited, human rights cannot be protected, freedom of information laws cannot be implemented and entry in financial markets is hindered. The lack of attention to records management has left many countries without the evidence they need to make the transition to electronic government.
    

Just as University College London used the findings of our study to develop relevant new courses, the International Records Management Trust has used them as a basis for supporting governments and records professionals in moving forward in an atmosphere of rapid administrative change. Early on, the focus was on the management of paper records, but the extremely fast growth of information technology has presented major new global challenges for capturing and preserving fragile digital evidence over time. As technology has had an increasing impact on the way that records are created, used and stored, we have placed ever greater emphasis on supporting the transition from paper to electronic records.
    

Records management is not typically incorporated in electronic government programmes, and although governments and donors around the world recognise the tremendous benefits of computerisation, very few understand the discipline required to manage electronic records. Nor is there adequate understanding of the need to manage paper and electronic records together to provide complete information and legal proof of compliance. Many government officials and development advisers do not yet realise that computerisation will only provide the basis for informed decision-making, effective service delivery and tackling corruption, if the information generated is reliable and trustworthy over time.  They do not yet understand the need to build frameworks of laws, policies, systems and skills to ensure that electronic records can be captured and preserved in a reliable form, accessible over time.
    

Very few records professionals, no more than several dozen across the whole of the developing world, have had experience in actually managing electronic records, and the growing body of experience from developed countries has not been adapted for use in lower resource environments. Recognising these issues, the Trust has developed a range of programmes and projects that are informed by a continuous cycle of research, education and training, and practical application.
    

Our research projects have examined the realities of introducing records management in relation to development priorities, focussing on key areas of public resource management, and exploring how records management can be integrated in ICT strategies. Since the management of money and people is fundamental to the accountability, efficiency and effectiveness of all governments, the Trust has given particular attention to financial and personnel records, both in the paper-based and electronic environments.

     

In terms of education and training, we have been working since 1994 to develop appropriate study materials and to make them available free of charge through the Trust's website; educators are free to download this material to develop new courses, supplement existing courses or develop new teaching materials. Anyone may download the materials for self study. We also have been able, with support from ARMA International, to give hard copies to national archives and training institutions in 60 developing countries. A new programme is underway to develop an additional suite of ten training modules along with good practice guidance material aimed at supporting the transition to the electronic working environment.
    

The Trust's consultancy projects are designed to support governance objectives, strengthen local professional capacity and build awareness among government officials of the significance of records. Our projects support both paper and electronic records systems, particularly in relation to financial, human resource, legal and judicial, and healthcare management as well as to freedom of information. They seek, for instance, to strengthen records control systems to reduce fraud and strengthen payroll control.
    

These programmes and activities have helped foster a new awareness of the importance of well-managed records for international development and have highlighted the value of international cooperation. However, given the commitment by the international development community to using technology to support accountability, transparency and good governance, it is clear that a new level of global cooperation is essential to building capacity for managing records in the electronic environment. If this can be achieved, expensive computerisation projects will be much more likely to succeed, e-government will be based on information that can be trusted, citizens' entitlements will be better protected and the national collective memory will be more likely to be preserved.
    

A decade ago, in 1997, the Trust signed an Accord of Agreement on the Management of Modern Records with ARMA International and the International Council on Archives. Perhaps now is the time to really put the Accord into effect and to consider how the international records professional community can collaborative toward harmonising the spread of capacity across the world.
    

If the international professional community wishes to help facilitate a wider set of international initiatives, perhaps we could explore, through a creative brainstorming forum, coordinated actions that would make a real difference. These could include, for instance, developing and endorsing a clear set of functional requirements for records management to be incorporated in the computerised systems that donors and lenders fund. Other examples might include an ongoing programme for developing and sharing relevant educational and training material; developing a new approach to mentoring professionals from developing countries in introducing electronic records management programmes; and introducing a series of online electronic and video based teaching and discussion programmes.
    

The challenges for the profession and the scale of the opportunity are unprecedented. It gives me great pleasure to know that you have reached out, through giving this award, to the hundreds thousands of records professionals across the world whose goals are the same as yours.

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