Cover Image
close this bookInternational Reader in the Management of Library, Information and Archive Services (UNESCO, 1987, 684 p.)
close this folder4. Organization and control
close this folder4.1 Organization and communication
View the documentOrganisational structure and communication
View the documentAnnual archives report

Annual archives report

Archives comprise, at every level, a range of offices, departments and agencies which are responsible for receiving, safeguarding and making available for use documents produced by the government, institutions or private individuals. This being the case, information on the archival materials received, stored and handled by them will be particularly useful for the originating agencies.

When the archival materials in question are documents issued by the government departments themselves as part of their official business, it is only natural that they should wish to be informed of their quantity, quality, state of preservation and the use made of them, and that there should be government regulations for collecting the information and making it available periodically. Government documents stand in their own right as the central, though not the only, source of the nation's official records, and information must consequently be provided periodically by the archivists - who are the custodians of the records - on the documents' life cycle from the time they leave the office which produces them until they reach the central files, then the central archives and ultimately, after being appropriately weeded and selected, the final or historical archives.

Two types of information document are produced to fulfil this important function: memoranda, in which developments relating to the record centres, staff and holdings are listed periodically in concise, numerical form, and annual reports, in which the same information is set out in detail, giving a follow-up account of the data contained in the memoranda and also including any comments and plans which the archivists feel should be brought to the notice of the authorities so as to improve the documentation services and the documents themselves. The use of both these channels of communication is a very old tradition in the Spanish archives system and has been the basis for all the reports, census returns, plans, etc. which have regularly been passed on to the competent authorities to facilitate the smooth functioning of the operations entrusted to them.

The archivists' tasks are extremely varied, as are the activities that they carry out in the performance of their specific duties. They also vary according to the type of centre concerned; in the case of record offices attached to the agencies which produce the documents, the archivist will provide a service directly geared to those agencies, whereas in the case of historical archives the archivist's work will focus more on research. Broadly speaking, however, they will all have to consider certain common factors, namely, funds and personnel, buildings, facilities and services, holdings, and scientific services and activities, which must be included in the reports. Requirements must be set forth by way of an assessment of the actual situation, which is very often inadequate, and work plans must be made to ensure continuity with the following financial period. These, in broad outline, are the points usually included in the reports, but the order in which they are presented and the chapter headings under which they fall are at the discretion of the report-writer. The result is that, with over a hundred reports to consult, processing can be slow, for not all the items are to be found in the same place and some are combined under a single heading. Moreover, when a report of this kind is drafted, there must be a logical thematic sequence for purposes of coherence and practicality. These considerations have prompted the following comments

1. Funds

Any record office is an administrative unit which incurs expenditure, receives funds and is required to manage its resources in order to operate. The unit occupies premises which have to be properly maintained, repaired, cleaned and fitted out. Communication must be maintained with the department to which it is attached and with the outside world; equipment, documentation and bibliographic information are also needed. When the records are kept as part of the producing unit, funding and the allocation and distribution of funds for these purposes may be the responsibility of the unit itself, but it is important to know the amounts involved, because the volume of business of a record office, as an active, operational unit, may increase or decrease, or remain stable; hence a yearly assessment of its financial resources is advisable. The obvious, acknowledged fact that the output of documentary information has grown in all sectors of the government, the establishment of new units and the diversification of those which already exist have meant that record offices have seen a massive influx of acquisitions which will call for a steady increase in funds in order to collect and process them and provide the necessary services. If there is no paper planning then, collection, storage and services will suffer from a lack of continuity and this in turn will result in a falling short in the information and services which the country's official records should supply to the government, to researchers and to users in general.

2. Personnel

Document handling at the various stages referred to in the above paragraph, namely collecting information, keeping records and providing user services, is a task which goes well beyond the administrative function of receiving documents and storing them in an orderly manner, since it means making them available for use and accounting for them. There must therefore be various categories of personnel working together who run the office, file and describe the information so that it can be made accessible, and actually deliver the information to the user. The government employs the specialized personnel qualified to perform these duties and will recruit the temporary staff required for special duties as and when necessary.

At the top of the staff pyramid are the professional archivists, helped by assistant archivists and librarians, both categories being specially trained in handling documentary information.] The administrative business of the record offices is carried out by civil servants of various categories, including subaltern officials. In cases where the record offices have special restoration, bookbinding and reprography services, persons specially qualified in these fields will be recruited. Finally, supervisory and maintenance duties must not be overlooked, since archives are part of the country's documentary heritage which must be safeguarded.

The pyramidal staffing structure must be well balanced, since it is largely upon this that efficiency will depend; a non-existent or inadequate base and consequent concentration of duties at one level of authority would not only impose an excessive work-load on the staff but would be an inefficient way of utilizing them, since some categories would be required to perform duties for which they were not qualified.

3. Buildings, facilities and services

It can be seen from the foregoing that archival work comprises two distinct areas of concern: the archives themselves and the work of the archives staff. Both must be attended to on their own terms so as to ensure both that no harm comes to the documents and that the personnel are not treated as a mere commodity. Furthermore, because of the records' value, the utmost care must be taken in choosing the premises, including their size and equipment, so as to avoid anything that might prejudice their maintenance and effective utilization. In addition, as the archives, which are cultural property, are continually expanding, it is also extremely important to ensure that there is enough space. It is therefore useful for these questions to be covered in a report describing in detail the circumstances in which each centre operates.

The main object with which we are concerned is in fact the archival materials, which may be acquired by transfer, purchase, donation or deposit; any documents transferred elsewhere, disposed of or destroyed fall outside the scope of this study.

In order to have an idea of the full range of documentary information in the possession of an individual, an institution, a department or a nation, or, indeed in that of all the countries of the world, it is necessary to know the quantity of documents, their category, type, state of conservation and processing requirements. Security copies will have to be made of particularly important, fragile or valuable documents, which must be annotated and published.

4. User service

Ever since ancient times when documents were first drafted, records have been of vital interest, and their primary function is therefore to provide user service. This calls for administrative management to make them accessible to users, who, whether they be the producing entity, researchers or private individuals, will require loans, consultation, information, certifications, copies and reproductions. At this stage the productivity of the record office comes into play measured in terms of the society in which it operates. For its own work and for the purposes of the users, the record office will have a specialized library to facilitate user service.

The service provided will vary according to whether the record offices in question are those directly attached to the parent organs or those containing archival materials of the non-current type - i.e. those known as historical archives. In the former the emphasis will be on loans and certifications, and in the latter on consultation and reprography. Every year hundreds of papers will be transferred from one category of archives to the other - on reaching 'retirement age', so to speak, forgoing their active status to be filed away in archives from which they will be retrieved for research purposes. Figures relating to services, users and the categories into which they fall will highlight the crucial evidential value of official documents as well as fashions in research and the value of historical records in the everyday lives of individuals.

5. Scientific activities of the record office

For these services to operate smoothly, the archivists and those who work with them must previously have completed a series of operations which will enable them at any time to perform the simple act of finding the right document at the right time. First, acquisitions have to be collected and registered, put in order, described and filed. This entails collating the documents without losing any papers in the process, recording acquisitions in accordance with a formalized system, incorporating accessions into the archives' existing holdings and giving each unit a specific reference system to set it apart from the other; this is done by means of lists, registers, inventories, indexes and catalogues, and requires special training. The archivist is the person best acquainted with the archival materials in his or her care and is therefore in a position to provide guidance and assistance in selecting what is needed. The archivist's role is therefore essential when it comes to deciding whether or not a document is useful and whether it should be discarded.

A substantial part of archivists' work will therefore be to develop the information aids which they will use to ensure the safe and speedy handling of the hundreds of files, plans, legal documents, reports, etc. which go to make up the documentary resources of a record centre. There will also be the subsidiary task of informing the government, researchers and the public at large about these aids, through publications.

Part of the archives cultural activities - for they are dealing with cultural property - will be to publicize their work through exhibitions, visits, lectures and meetings. The archivists themselves, as specialists in their field, may teach courses or seminars, and take part in congresses or meetings to which they can contribute their expertise. Their training and their work place them mid-way between management and research and, with their experience, they can make an effective contribution to both.

6. Requirements

By taking stock of the work accomplished in the course of a year, the report shows in what ways this has fallen short of its goals. Shortcomings may be revealed in the first three areas outlined in the plan, namely, funds, staff and buildings, facilities and services. It should state the areas where improvement, expansion or updating is required so that the authorities, taking into account both the present situation and possibilities for the future, can raise the necessary funds to meet those requirements.

7. Work plans

An important aspect of archives work is the time factor involved in any human undertaking, for if the work is interrupted the momentum will be lost. If the flow of documentation is checked, the papers will pile up, with disastrous consequences. Nothing could be more remote from the archivist's work than the common misconception of the archivist as a scholar buried in his own papers, oblivious to what is going on around him. The archivist is dealing with a store of information that grows by the day, as fast and as steadily as the human race itself, since it is people who generate documents. Every live birth signifies an entry in some register, a statistical entity and a quantity to be reckoned with in a budget, all of which are reflected in documents.

All these incoming and outgoing documents must be passed on from offices to their own records, from there to the central files and, via the intermediate record centres, on to the final repositories. This means that every year plans must be made for collecting and receiving acquisitions which, in accordance with the process described in Section 6, must be ordered, described and culled. As a result, every year archivists must draw up a plan of these various stages in their work, so that the records can be properly channelled. The situation of the archives' holdings will determine the services offered and the scientific activities that can be carried out. As requirements are met, the plans will gradually become more comprehensive and the archivist's work more gratifying and administratively more productive.

The work plans may set the tone for the vitality of the centres, providing a broad outline of how they should function ideally, in the light of the criteria set out above.

The reports of the country's record offices, taken together, give an overview of the many different aspects of the prevailing situation and reflect a conscious effort and renewed enthusiasm for collecting, safeguarding and handling the documentary records of the nation over a given period. This information gives an idea of the magnitude of the task to be accomplished with the resources available as a basis for future plans.

Plan for an annual report

1. General expenses

1.1 Preservation and repair
1.2 Cleaning, lighting and heating
1.3 Communications (correspondence, telephone, etc.)

2. Staff

2.1 Professional
2.2 A and B auxiliary
2.3 Administrative
2.4 Subaltern
2.5 Temporary

3. Buildings, facilities and services

3.1 Premises, condition and capacity
3.2 Facilities, condition and capacity
3.3 Archives services

4. Holdings

4.1 Acquisitions received by transfer, purchase, gift or deposit
4.2 Records disposed of by transfer, weeding or destruction
4.3 Present state of holdings: quantity, state of preservation and restoration
4.4 Security copies

5. Services

5.1 Administrative management
5.2 Loans
5.3 Consultation
5.3.1 Written and oral information. Searches
5.3.2 Consultation at the record centre. List of researchers
5.4 Certification
5.5 Direct copying
5.6 Reproduction
5.7 Auxiliary library: holdings, acquisitions and services
5.8 Total services and users

6. Scientific activities of the record office

6.1 Collection and reception
6.2 Ordering
6.3 Description: listing, inventorying, indexing, cataloguing
6.4 Weeding
6.5 Publications
6.6 Exhibitions
6.7 Congresses, meetings
6.8 Courses, seminars, lectures
6.9 Visits

7. Requirements

7.1 Funds
7.2 Staff
7.3 Buildings, facilities, services
8. Work plans
8.1 Collection and reception
8.2 Ordering
8.3 Description
8.4 Transfer, weeding
8.5 Services
8.6 Publications
8.7 Cultural activities: exhibitions, competitions, meetings, courses, seminars, lectures, visits.