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People frequently turn to technology because they find they can’t manage their paper records. Either they are swamped by too much paper on site, or they can’t find the documents they need, or both. By itself, technology cannot fix a records management problem; technology applications need a lot of research and planning to be effective. While automating records can be a valuable tool, there are challenges to integrating these technological devices into a record system.
Tennessee State Library and Archives states that, a records centre is, “an interim storage and retrieval facility where inactive records of more than one agency may be administered on behalf of such agencies and may be stored and retrieved conveniently, economically, and in good order and inventory control until their final disposition and yet remain under the access and disposition control of their originating agencies. Roper and Miller (1999; 6) postulates that, “Records centre is a building or part of a building designed or adapted for the low-cost storage, maintenance and communication of semi-current records pending their ultimate disposal. ” The Records Centre is responsible for protecting the records from unauthorized access, damage, and deterioration. Both legal control and control of access to the records is retained by the agency until the records are either transferred to the Archives section or destroyed.
Automating as defined by Alexis L (1999; 5), “is the use of machines, control systems and information technologies to optimize productivity in the production of goods and delivery of services. ” The scholar also propounds that, “the correct incentive for applying automation is to increase productivity, and/or quality beyond that possible with current human labor levels so as to realize economies of scale, and/or realize predictable quality levels. In the scope of industrialisation, automation is a step beyond mechanization.
Whereas mechanization provides human operators with machinery to assist them with the muscular requirements of work, automation greatly decreases the need for human sensory and mental requirements while increasing load capacity, speed, and repeatability. ” Automation plays an increasingly important role in the world economy and in daily experience. In support to the above, Dorf and Bishop (1998; 8) also states that, “automating is the control of an industrial process (manufacturing production, and so on) by automating rather that manual means.
Roper and Miller (1999; 6) also point out automating as, “the use of machines or systems to perform tasks normally performed or collected by people. ” Some of the challenges that are faced by records centres in Zimbabwe in automating their records systems include, upkeep and maintenance expenses, specialists are required, new hardware and software need to be purchased, local management and workers need to be trained, a complete re-appraisal of specialist staffing may be necessary (the recruitment of systems analyst already familiar with the design and implementation of distributed systems) among others.
In relation to upkeep and maintenance expenses, Alexis L (1999; 5) propounds that, “Once technology is purchased for a records centre, the cost of upkeep and maintenance can be too great for the building to maintain. Outdated software and hardware components can be incompatible with available programs. Also, the cost of repairing broken equipment may be too expensive for records centre budgets. ” The researcher also notes that in order for a records centre to successfully automate its records system, there must be a rolling replacement or updating plan in place to keep technology current and useful.
There are also incompatibility issues in automating the record systems of records centres in Zimbabwe. According to Harvest (1992; 57), “Many records centres today have curricula and programs based on state or national assessments. The majority of these tests and measures are paper-and-pencil based in order to make them accessible for all users. Because learning with technology involves typing input into a computer, there is a disconnection between the assessments that determine government funding and the use of technology in the records centres. To adequately prepare for these tests, users need practice with authentic assessments most closely imitating those of the standardized test. Waites and Knott (1992; 523) states that, “automating records present an added challenge to records managers in records centres because they must deal with users of varying computer literacy levels. Some users enter the records centre fully versed in the applications of a computer, while others come with no prior experience.
It is difficult for records managers to deal with this vast difference and ensure that they provide users who need assistance with that assistance while not requiring capable users to slow their academic progress and wait. ” Another challenge faced by these records centres in Zimbabwe in automating their records systems is that there is lack of support. Perderson (1987; 5) states that, “While technology can be a great addition to the records centres, it also can be a source of frustration for both the records manager and the user.
Unless the records manager is well trained in technology and can support the hardware in the records centre, a technology expert will be needed to troubleshoot problems. If records centre cannot support the purchased technology, it essentially renders it useless in times of crisis or disrepair. ” Additionally from the researcher’s point, technology often needs frequent maintenance to keep it in good condition for use. If all these are not available it means more money will be needed for the upkeep as well as hiring experts to use the automated systems.
Training the staff and patrons to use a newly automated system can be challenging. According to the Colorado Department of Education, “Training is expensive and you can never pay for enough. ” If the staff is unfamiliar with computerized records management software, they will need many hours of training to feel comfortable operating the system. A select number of staff will also need training to manage specialized operations, such as cataloguing or patron record management.
Additionally, patrons will need assistance using the system to search for library materials. Some patrons may be reluctant to change to a new system, especially if they don’t like computers. With proper training and plenty of support, users will adjust to the new system. Prythesh (1996) forwarded that, “because connection problems, downloading issues, policing software and other difficulties can cause road blocks when implementing a lesson in the technology based records centre, records managers sometimes shy away from using it simply because of lack of time.
With all of the demands on users, the amount of time spent in the records centre is more and more valuable. ” To lose a few minutes because of connectivity issues is not feasible, and it’s one important reason why automating records systems often fails in records centres in Zimbabwe. More time is lost due to connection problems. Technology is another hurdle to cross while automating a records system. When selecting records automation software, one must make sure it will work with the existing equipment or be financially prepared to purchase upgraded technology.
Kerri Cox Online (2013) postulates that, “Analyze the records assistants’ workstations, patron access points, network server, Internet access and building electrical system. Some records centres may require minor technological upgrades, while others will require an expensive technological overhaul. ” The technology team, or lack of one, can be another challenge of records system automation. Harvest (1992; 57) states that, “A records centre needs a strong technology support system in place prior to automation. Someone needs to oversee the automation process and troubleshoot any software or hardware problems.
The researcher also notes that once the system is in place, the technology team will need to continue to monitor and upgrade the system. Apart from the challenges, automating records system in records centres has some benefits and some of them are higher production rates and increased productivity, more efficient use of materials, better product quality, improved safety, shorter workweeks for labour. Kerri Cox (2013) outlines that, “Higher output and increased productivity have been two of the biggest reasons in justifying the use of automation.
Despite the claims of high quality from good workmanship by humans, automated systems typically perform the manufacturing process with less variability than human workers, resulting in greater control and consistency of product quality. Also, increased process control makes more efficient use of materials. ” Also an automated system results in efficiency, Alexis L (1999; 5) forwards that, “they get more done than humans but cost less to operate. This is because they do need breaks, wages, holidays, canteens, heating and lighting.
The quality of the work done is always of the same standard being materials are not wasted due to human error. The scholar in terms of speed also states that, “automated systems can process information much more quickly than humans. ” This means they are good for controlling machinery that might need to be adjusted instantly. To sum up the researcher notes that, records systems automation is a great enhancement for a records centre, but it comes with plenty of headaches. It is a time-consuming process. Records Centres may struggle to have the proper technology for the automation. Staff and patrons may need a lot of training to properly operate the new system.