Work Halting on Records Management Functions Thesaurus

Work is being officially suspended on the Records Management Roundtable’s functions and activities thesaurus, whose goal was to provide a vocabulary for use by records managers and archivists when classifying and describing records.

Members of the Roundtable’s leadership started work on the thesaurus in 2008, and work has been sporadic since then. However, the project has repeatedly failed to generate enough community support to sustain the effort. The past seven years have shown that creating and maintaining a thesaurus requires more organized effort than the roundtable has been able to sustain.

Records managers and archivists who need or want a controlled vocabulary for functions already have several to choose from. Getty Research’s Art & Architecture Thesaurus, for example, contains a functions hierarchy that “includes descriptors for activities relating to the manipulation of data, the collecting of objects, human communication, economics, business, law, and government, as well as other professional activities.” As another example, archivists and records managers working in higher education might find the Thesaurus for use in College and University Archives useful when describing their records.

It is not clear who would be the likely users of a functions thesaurus created and managed by the roundtable, nor have any specific use cases been identified in which such a thesaurus would be preferable to any of the thesauruses and vocabularies that are already developed and in use.

Therefore, the functions thesaurus project is being officially suspended until such time as (a) compelling use cases can be identified and (b) a critical core group of RMRT members who are invested in the thesaurus’ success can commit significant time to its completion and maintenance.

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8 thoughts on “Work Halting on Records Management Functions Thesaurus

    1. Christie Peterson Post author

      It is unclear to me why this project would be of more interest or use to a group affiliated with ARMA than it has been to the RMRT, but if someone affiliated with an appropriate ARMA group would like to discuss transfer of the work to date, please let us know.

      Reply
      1. pak152

        “It is unclear to me why this project would be of more interest or use to a group affiliated with ARMA than it has been to the RMRT,” well ARMA International has a standards/best practice/guidelines program that regularly produces such documentation. you can learn about the program here
        http://www.arma.org/r2/standards-amp-best-practices
        the process is explained here
        http://www.arma.org/r2/standards-amp-best-practices/standards-development-process
        note there is a form for proposing new projects.
        I offered up ARMA because the RMRT is composed of archivists who are also records managers. .hope this helps

      2. Christie Peterson Post author

        The issue is not so much that nobody is interested in working on standards in general. SAA also has a Standards Committee and many members involved in the development and maitnenance of national and international vocabularies and standards of all types.

        Instead, the issue is that nobody has uncovered or demonstrated an actual need for this particular vocabulary. As someone else recently put it, it has been a solution in search of a problem for some time.

        Note that the ARMA form for proposing new standards and best practices projects that you reference explicitly asks the proposer to “include how the document is to be used and describe the records and information management (RIM)-related questions to be answered with this publication”. This is exactly the question that, after over 6 years of work on this project, the RMRT steering committee is unable to answer to its satisfaction, given the vocabularies already available, supported and in use.

        The RMRT would welcome involvement from practitioners who would find this tool useful, or who would like to take it on under the aegis of a different group.

      3. pak152

        ” This is exactly the question that, after over 6 years of work on this project, the RMRT steering committee is unable to answer to its satisfaction, given the vocabularies already available, supported and in use.”
        then a wooden stake should be put through its heart

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