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Bio

The 2009 recipient of the Emmett Leahy Award is an individual who has always regarded the information and records management function as a civic, legal and moral responsibility of everyone, from the politician to the auditor, from the legislator to the administrator, from the employee to the user. To be a records professional involves first and foremost reminding the citizenry at large and those who govern and control us that accountability and transparency, democracy and justice depend on good records, and ensuring that they recognize the need for a highly educated community of trusted professionals managing such records throughout their life cycle. This professional has developed records systems for organizations in the public and private sectors, from banks to utilities companies, and from regional and city administrations to insurances; has been state archivist and archival superintendent, government appointed member of the highest bodies having oversight on public assets, and university professor, vice-president technology, and Provost. In addition, this person has exercised a strong influence on the International Council on Archives, the DLM Forum, the European Union Cultural Activities Committee and the Forum for Information Society; has been co-principal investigator in international research on digital preservation projects, such as ERPANET, DELOS and CASPAR, head of a national team in InterPARES, member of the boards of Digital Preservation Europe and DigCultCurriculum; member of ISO standards committees, and of the Moreq 1 and 2 editorial boards; editor of several professional journals, a prolific writer, with 3 books and so many articles that I have stopped counting after one hundred, and an indefatigable contributor to continuing professional education, with hundreds of seminars, workshops and public lectures delivered all over the world. With every position occupied and every role played, this person has left a recognizable mark. I will only mention the most significant contributions.

Institute of Certified Records Managers Annual Business Meeting October 14, 2009

Introductory Remarks by Charles Dollar, Chair, Leahy Award Committee

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Introduction of the awardee, Maria Guercio

Luciana Duranti, Presenter

The Emmett Leahy Award is the highest award for individual accomplishment in the information and records management profession. Given in honor of Emmett Leahy, the legendary pioneer of records management, this award annually recognizes an individual whose contributions and outstanding achievements have had a major impact on the records and information management profession. The Emmett Leahy Award differs from other awards in the following ways:

  • The recipient does not have to be a member of a professional organization
  • The Award does not require a service component and is not based on volume or number of contributions, and
  • The Award acknowledges the unique impact of an individual who has moved the field in a direction that it might not have gone otherwise, thereby recognizing the visionary and the activist.

     

The 2009 recipient of the Emmett Leahy Award is an individual who has always regarded the information and records management function as a civic, legal and moral responsibility of everyone, from the politician to the auditor, from the legislator to the administrator, from the employee to the user. To be a records professional involves first and foremost reminding the citizenry at large and those who govern and control us that accountability and transparency, democracy and justice depend on good records, and ensuring that they recognize the need for a highly educated community of trusted professionals managing such records throughout their life cycle.


The 2009 Leahy Award recipient’s career has been varied and multifaceted. This professional has developed records systems for organizations in the public and private sectors, from banks to utilities companies, and from regional and city administrations to insurances; has been state archivist and archival superintendent, government appointed member of the highest bodies having oversight on public assets, and university professor, vice-president technology, and Provost. In addition, this person has exercised a strong influence on the International Council on Archives, the DLM Forum, the European Union Cultural Activities Committee and the Forum for Information Society; has been co-principal investigator in international research on digital preservation projects, such as ERPANET, DELOS and CASPAR, head of a national team in InterPARES, member of the boards of Digital Preservation Europe and DigCultCurriculum; member of ISO standards committees, and of the Moreq 1 and 2 editorial boards; editor of several professional journals, a prolific writer, with 3 books and so many articles that I have stopped counting after one hundred, and an indefatigable contributor to continuing professional education, with hundreds of seminars, workshops and public lectures delivered all over the world. With every position occupied and every role played, this person has left a recognizable mark. I will only mention the most significant contributions.

In the years 1998 and 2000, as a member of the Parliamentary Committee responsible for drafting the legislation regulating public offices, this person succeeded in including in the legislation the requirements for:

  • a record management office in each department of every level of government (state, region, province, municipality);
  •  a records management professional with graduate education in records and archives management as the manager of such office;
  • the development of classification and filing plans as integrated tools; and
  • the development and mandatory use of a records management manual for each agency. Today this manual is used also in the private sector.

     

Since then, this year's Leahy Award recipient has led all the initiatives of the country related to records management and digital record making and keeping by drafting the policies, strategies, procedures and regulations issued by its competent organs. Moreover, this person has developed policies and procedures for digital records creation and use for the IT departments of several important universities in the country.


In 2003, this individual designed and developed an entire graduate level program on Electronic Records Management and Preservation, today delivered by four universities, and adopted by the European Commission as the foundation of a European Master’s Program in Electronic Records Management and Preservation. Presently, this person is teaching the courses of the Supreme School for Public Administrators, which prepares all public managers for the positions to which they have been appointed.


Many colleagues regard this individual’s intellectual contribution to MoReq 1 and 2, the European model requirements for electronic recordkeeping, as seminal and deserving of the award on their own right. However, if asked about her most important achievement and the one with the most impact, this year's award recipient would most likely say that it is to have educated so many graduates in records management who firmly believe in their mission of “active citizenship” and who are already leaving their mark as professionals, teachers, researchers, and engaged contributors to all aspects of their field, especially the political, legal, and ethical aspects.


For all the activities and the research that she has spearheaded in Europe, for the impact that she has had on the legislative and regulatory framework of her country, for the difference that she has made in the education of the new generation of professionals in Italy and Europe, the Emmett Leahy Award Committee is proud to present the 2009 Emmett Leahy Award to the Chair of the Master of Records Management and Archival Science Program, Head of the Archival, Library and Information Studies Department, Vice President Technology, and Provost of the University of Urbino, Italy, Dr. Maria Guercio.

Acceptance of the 2009 Emmett leahy Award

Dr. Maria Guercio

A premise

I would like to dedicate this important award to the thousands of colleagues around the world who share with me the passion for this wonderful and complex work which, to be successful, requires generosity, spirit of sacrifice and a continuing effort in reformulating and openly discussing the knowledge and the tools necessary to face the challenges presented by contemporary records.  In my long professional life I had the opportunity to join practical experience as State archivist, records manager and consultant for the private and public sectors with educational and training responsibilities.
    

My commitment to practice all facets of the records profession while maintaining a consistent vision and enthusiasm has been exacting and exhausting (my family has paid a price for this and I think that this is the reason why they have been as happy as I for this important recognition: it is a recognition also for their patience and their loving support).


I believe, though, that without this passion and the direct involvement in the real world to improve the quality and the centrality of recordkeeping with good principles and efficient methods, without tenacity in the commitment that one makes, our profession would be overwhelmed by the complexity of the technological and organizational changes and the proliferation of uncontrolled information, with dire consequences for the protection of the world documentary memory.


The ability to face risks and challenges  using sound and convincing theories and coherent methods is the best instrument we have not only to induce records creators and those who regulate and audit them to accept our assistance as an authoritative resource and to get interested and involved in the determination of records related processes and procedures, but also  to pass on to our younger colleagues a degree of emotional investment similar to the one that has driven us to accomplish what we have accomplished or we have tried to.


With Jean Paul Ricoeur (Memory, History, Forgetting, 2000, p. 206), a French philosopher who has  examined in depth the legal and moral duties of preserving and using our documentary memory, against the attempt of some writers to deliberately misrepresent and manipulate documentary evidence, I wish to stress how central and relevant is to the protection of the tangible representations of our past to develop concepts, principles, methods and tools that allow us to exercise systematically and rigorously the function of trusted custodians against the present and persistent danger of wilful oblivion. According to Ricoeur, the reasons for doubting the past are always present in any  scientific reconstruction as conducted by historical work: this is why - he states - we have to celebrate as much as possible the victory on the abuse and arbitrary analysis of documentary sources as the proud result of the fatigue and labour of the records profession. This professional effort must not be primarily focussed on the permanent custody of valuable records, but on the building and defence of the evidentiary capacity of the records and any recorded information at the moment of its creation and on our capacity of documenting reliability and accuracy, presuming authenticity, and making possible its verification over time. In the end, we do not have anything better than the documentary evidence - Ricoeur concludes - to be assured that a fact has happened and can be verified for centuries. For this reason, the wisdom and the skills of records managers and archivists, applied to the societal need for trustworthy records, have been and are crucial in pursuing the goal here envisioned.


To accomplish such goal has always been difficult, but in the digital environment – as all we know very well – it is a true challenge, never to be solved and continuously faced. A deep understanding of this challenge is necessary to accomplish our professional goal which can be acted as the defence of documentary memory to support democracy, participation, and access, as a mission of active citizenship. This requires that we define the right balance between:

  • innovation and tradition,
  • information technology and record theory,
  • the protection of the impartiality and integrity of the records as  evidence and the need for flexibility and interoperability.

     

About innovation: e-government as an opportunity for change and a challenge for democracy

     

The starting point of this effort to balance opposite needs is a direct and involved participation of all kinds of records professionals and an integration of their competencies in their academic curriculum and across curricula of the experts active in this area: technological and organizational knowledge, together with records management and archival knowledge have to  be supported by developing more comprehensive educational initiatives like the one that is presently being undertaken by the European Commission through the development of a postgraduate master in Digital Preservation. Its aim is to build a standard reference curriculum with an interdisciplinary approach and to create the conditions for developing interrelated and multidisciplinary working teams, strongly motivated and able to take on the responsibility for  advanced management systems.


In synthesis, a renovated culture for innovation is required, based on established principles, but result-oriented, involving integration of competencies and supported by a rigorous and concrete vision, which is sustainable and capable to exploit the potentiality derived from a wise and smart use of ICT.  The effort of ensuring efficiency and quality of public service can be a crucial engine of the whole process. The goal is ambitious and implies a convinced and harmonic participation of all the involved actors: public administration, private sector, universities, and all the organizations dedicated to the creation and dissemination of knowledge in the relevant fields.


It is important to be aware of the non transient nature of this complexity due to the continuing innovation of the technologies and the organizational changes; also for this reason cooperation is going to be the major factor for success: it is not by chance that institutional networks and networks of competences are largely promoted and financed by research agencies in Europe. JISC, ERPANET, DELOS, DCC, DPC, just to name some of them, are networks that have primarily focussed on the role of individual professionals and the need for stronger and interdisciplinary skills.  The traditional prescriptive approach to do our jobs is not adequate to face the uncertain boundaries of digital records and the varied nature of the skills required: the ability to define standards and rules, to provide consultancies, prototyping, auditing, and educating and training staff and manager’s organizations.


In the Italian Government School for the Public Administration, where I will work for the next two years, we are going to deliver, in the context of a master of e-government, a course specifically dedicated to design profiles of in house trainers in electronic record management systems, with the aim of ensuring the presence in every agency of proactive individuals able to support their institution in the correct and smart use of technologies, to adapt business processes without losing the quality of their information and records systems, and to wisely direct any outsourcing decision because of their understanding of technological evolution and their ability to take advantage of it, based on  a solid conceptual background.
    

Goals and requirements for the future: maintaining the quality, accuracy, and reliability of our documentary memory and educating complete professionals
    

Documentary memory, be it used for communication and accountability or for instrumental abuse, is part of our personal and collective identity. Identity is one of the key terms that need to be included in the records professional’s vocabulary, and we know that, although complex, this is a crucial thing to do as a healthy exercise in democracy. Historians have dedicated thoughtful pages to the function of records professionals as mediators between personal and collective memory. But to fulfil this function in such a way that it can support democracy, we need stable and authoritative principles and consistent but non rigid methods guiding our actions: we can keep the past alive by preserving its authentic and reliable traces.  To do so, the first step is to define and consolidate, in the form of standard functional requirements, those basic and advanced principles which enable us to plan and verify the adequacy of the documentary information systems, their procedures and their methods. Such a step must be supported by research.


The role of the research as a critical component and a means for combining the need for innovation, quality and consistency with established principles and methods.


Indeed, the participation of our professional community to research activity is necessary:  educators and trainers must push towards scientific research to overcome the limits of the present circumstances and avoid the marginalization identified by Ken Thibodeau in his Leahy Award acceptance speech last year. Research can:

  • reinforce  the work of the professional international community and its cooperative interrelationships,
  • stabilize our achievements as the bases for further concrete applications,
  • increase the knowledge and the participation of younger researchers and professionals who are the beneficiaries of leading edge academic knowledge.

     

A conclusion
    

In some countries, the defence of recordness and its role in ensuring transparency in government and business is a dangerous activity, which requires a degree of courage and independence we could not have imagined to have to demonstrate. In some other countries of consolidated democracy, there are unexpected periods (I have direct experience for this) when this effort of defence requires a high level of tenacity and real confidence in the mission of our profession and in the theoretical principles and methodological tools supporting it. In all these situations, positive results can be achieved only if relations with allied professions and all stakeholders are strong and we are convinced and convincing. The capacity and the will of cooperating within organizations and with the outside world and trusting the others is the most important social quality to be nurtured for facing the future (as in my life I have always personally tested). This is why I wish to conclude with the words of another important philosopher, the American John Dewey, who reminds us what is at the basis of the records profession in a mature democracy: “until secrecy, prejudice, bias, misrepresentation, and propaganda as well as sheer ignorance are replaced by inquiry and publicity, we have no way of telling how apt for judgement of social policies the existing intelligence of the masses may be.”  (The public and its problems, 1927, Henry Holt & Co., p. 209)

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