Cover Image
close this bookInternational Reader in the Management of Library, Information and Archive Services (UNESCO, 1987, 684 p.)
close this folder2. Managing information: Introduction
Open this folder and view contents2.1 Management of an information service
View the document2.2 Records management

Management and policies of an information unit

Management is the process of directing individual skills and energies and allocating material resources to attain an objective. It can also be regarded as a set of techniques for reaching rational decisions ensuring that all available resources are fully utilized in their implementation, and checking their effectiveness.

These techniques are based on: quantitative methods, or the use of measurements that are as objective as possible, the need for efficiency, the careful preparation of decisions in accordance with firm criteria, and teamwork and leadership.

Modern management is also a state of mind and an attitude to work centred on effectiveness and rationality. It cannot be effective unless all members of the group or organization feel involved: each individual has a vital role to play and must therefore understand its principles while accepting that the final decision at each level must be the clear responsibility of a particular person or group of persons.

Owing to their wide range of activities, their human and material resources, rapid technical progress and, above all, the many different functions they have to perform in backing up the productive activities of their users, information services must lay great stress on management.


Management deals in varying degrees with: (a) all the personnel and all the material components of an organization; (b) all its activities: routine tasks (the sale of products and services), or organization of the whole (staff promotion regulations). This does not mean to say that management is concerned with all the minor details that crop up.

The purpose of management is to enable the organization to produce the best possible results under the best possible conditions. The world situation today is so difficult and changing that no organization can attain this objective by relying on habit or intuition. There must be a systematic effort: (a) to analyse situations; (b) to define objectives; (c) to select the most economic means of attaining them; (d) to organize resources in consequence; (e) to monitor results; and (f) whenever the need arises to adapt the objectives, resources and organization in the light of the results obtained, new circumstances and new tasks.

Policies are guidelines or general principles which help to express objectives in terms of actions by establishing codes for the taking and implementation of decisions.

The structures of an organization are an essential concern of management, whatever its size. Indeed, the smaller it is, and therefore the more limited its resources, the more efficiently it must be run. These structures form a complex whole and can be regarded:

- As internal (organization of the various subdivisions and assignments of tasks) and external (links with the parent or other organizations).

- As functional (arrangements for the proper execution of tasks) and relational (links between the subdivisions of the organization).

Communications are very important in the life of any information unit, yet they give rise to a great many problems. There are various types of communication:

- Vertical communication, that is, from top management down through each level of responsibility, or from the bottom up.

- Horizontal communication, between people with the same level of responsibility, or of different levels when hierarchical considerations are ignored.

- Controlled (or official) communication, from a person in authority and in the proper form, as against spontaneous communication.

- Formal communication, which uses specific predetermined channels, forms and carriers, as against informal communication.

- Communications that differ in content (administrative or technical), in target (internal or external, individual or general communications), in purpose (an instruction; the minutes of a meeting), and in form (oral, written, posters, etc.).

- Management must pay special attention to communication in order:

- To ensure as far as possible that the organization disposes of all the types of communication needed for it to function smoothly.

- To establish communication circuits that cover all needs, are as direct and short as possible, familiar to all staff and fully utilized.

- To see that the communication work smoothly, i.e. that there are no breakdowns, that people are not by-passed and that the messages fulfil their functions, come from a competent authority and are put into effect.

The management and policies of any information unit must deal with the following areas: organization of services, personnel, equipment, collections, services for users, production, relations with users, relations with the parent organization and relations with other organizations (especially other information units).

The responsibility for management lies with the head of the information unit. In most cases it is, at a certain level, shared with higher authorities outside the unit itself (the directors of the parent organization) or not involved in its daily routine (the board of governors or advisory committee of a large unit). When the unit is large enough, managerial responsibility is also shared with the heads of each section and the staff. All staff members in fact have some say in the various aspects of management, even though general supervision, evaluation of activities, and choice of policies and plans are the responsibility of senior staff.

The legal status of a unit affects its choice of policy. Some units come under public administration and must therefore respect official regulations which are not always geared to their managerial problems; moreover, they must provide the same quality of service for all users, in many cases free of charge, or respect certain general obligations (preservation of the national heritage, for instance) which can limit their freedom of action.

- Other units are private concerns and operate in a context of competition. For example, certain information searches from external sources might reveal the commercial strategy of the firm.

- Many information units have been set up to serve the information needs of a larger organization. Their problem is to know how far they can serve users from outside the parent organization and what links can be established with other units.

- Lastly, certain units from the start, or soon afterwards, depend entirely on the proceeds obtained from selling their services and are therefore restricted to profitable activities.

Policies have to be formulated, and regularly updated, for the main aspects of the unit's work. Their purpose is to provide the clearest possible guidelines on: the target clientele; priority needs; the limits and scope of the unit's field; the types of services; the creation and management of collections, the nature and organization of technical operations; relations with users; the use of material resources; personnel management; the system of administration; relations with other units and with the parent organization, etc.

The analysis on which policies are based must not be restricted to the unit alone but take into consideration all aspects of its current environment and how this is likely to develop, including the branch of activity with which the unit is concerned, the national and international information infrastructure, information technology and so forth. This will make it possible to clarify the user services to be provided and the most effective methods not only for immediate purposes but in the longer term. It should also be stressed that policies cannot be formulated unless user needs have been adequately defined.

Planning is the means whereby the unit's resources are marshalled over a given period of time in order to attain predetermined objectives.

Plans and programmes can be regarded from. two points of view:

- First, their time-span: for example, a unit might have a long-term plan to develop into a specialized national documentation centre and the hub of a full-fledged network, medium-term plans for the successive stages involved, and short-term plans for expanding each service in the context of these stages.

- Secondly, their scope: for example, a strategic plan covering the full development of a system designed to satisfy 80 per cent of potential users, operational plans for establishing a range of services (such as the selective dissemination of information), and functional plans covering particular tasks in a given stage of the unit's development (such as the intellectual processing of documents with a view to building up a minimal data base).

As all these levels are naturally interdependent, more complex and comprehensive plans must be drawn up, or at least outlined, before the others.

The plans of an information unit must be consistent both with those of the parent organization (which are in turn geared to plans for the branch of activity concerned and the national plans) and with national plans for scientific and technical information.

For large units, the planning process will probably require the assistance of specialists and special machinery such as working groups, advisory committees, a planning committee, and so on. In smaller units, it is one of the normal managerial tasks of those in charge.

The planning process itself goes through several stages: definition of objectives, analysis of the present situation and available resources, assessment of the required changes, elaboration of alternative proposals and determination of the resources needed in each case, evaluation of the various proposals and recommendation of a particular plan, its adoption, implementation and subsequent regular revision and updating.

It is advisable for the objectives of the plan to be quantified. Though it is not always possible to do this with a high degree of precision, the plan should at least contain estimates that can subsequently be compared with the actual results obtained.

Organization of an information unit

The organization of the unit is not an abstract construction reflecting a purely administrative logic; neither is it settled once and for all. It is another means of helping the unit to perform its function as well as possible. It must not, of course, be constantly altered but it should be possible to make adjustments whenever necessary.

The structure of an information unit can be envisaged in accordance with the following criteria:

- The functions of the documentary chain (acquisition, bibliographic description, retrospective searches, etc.).

- Fields covered (for example, an agricultural documentation centre would deal with crop production, animal production, rural engineering, etc.).

- Types of document (books, reports, periodicals, audio-visual documents, special collections, legal documents, regulations, patents, etc.).

- In the case of a large unit, the location of each service (central service, the services attached to the various branches of the parent organization, the computer-processing department, the central repository of documents, etc.).

- The clientele (for example, a development bank would have a general director's office, a studies division, a legal service, an industrial loans division, an agricultural loans division, etc.).

- Services (library, documentation centre, translation service, publications service, industrial information service, liaison service, etc.).

Naturally, these criteria can be and in practice usually are combined so as to meet user needs more effectively. At all events, it is always important to study, clarify and monitor the distribution of functions because this governs the smooth execution of operations.

Basing organization solely on the functions of the documentary chain facilitates standardization and control, and makes for greater homogeneity in the division of work, but tasks tend to be more fragmented, and it becomes more difficult to staff each section with people who are familiar with different types of document, subject and clientele. Other methods of organization result in more interesting tasks with staff members covering at least one of these different areas, but there is a greater risk of overlapping, and standardization and control are rendered more difficult.

The selected structure should minimize efforts; in other words, each operation should serve directly for as many subsequent operations as possible and everything needed for each service provided should be quick and easy to obtain. Each section should be given a clearly defined role that is logical and interesting. The communication circuits should be as direct as possible and avoid pointless duplication for both staff and users.

FIG. 25. Organizational chart of an information unit (a theoretical example based upon an arrangement by functions).

If the unit is large (the information service of a ministry working for institutions in different places, for example), it will have to choose between centralization and decentralization. With a centralized organization, the services can be fully integrated and are simpler and cheaper to run, but the unit is often located far from its users and even runs the danger of becoming completely cut off. Decentralization presents the opposite advantages and drawbacks. In many cases a compromise is worked out in which technical operations such as cataloguing and the production of bulletins are centralized and input and output functions located close to the user.

It is useful, not to say essential, to have a sufficiently clear and detailed description of the unit's structure and mode of operation for each staff member to know where he fits in, what he has to do, and how and why. This is the point of organization charts, such as in Figure 26.

Task analysis

Task analysis and the organization of work are major concerns with a vital role in maintaining the productivity of units faced with the steadily growing mass of information.

By careful observation of all the work performed in an information unit and a detailed analysis of the processes Involved, it is possible to distinguish elementary tasks, the series of tasks that make up an operation and the set of operations that comprise a function or service.

Tasks are discrete acts which cannot be broken down any further and which have a specific location in the documentary chain or administrative procedures; they effect a single transformation (for example, marking the accession number on a document or identifying the main keyword). The degree of skill required depends on the nature of the task. Tasks are differentiated according to this degree of skill, the amount of freedom left to the performer and the responsibilities implied in regard to other members of the staff.

A work unit or job is composed of a varying number of tasks. The distribution depends on the amount of work, the size of staff and the unit's organization. They should normally involve a set of closely related tasks or consecutive operations at the same level. In principle, no task should be performed by a more qualified, or less qualified, person than the work involved calls for.

Work units can be organized in accordance with the same criteria as those mentioned above for the unit as a whole. A division on purely functional lines might well prove monotonous for the staff, but this danger can be avoided by alternating duties from time to time. On the other hand, a division based on the type of public, product or specialist field-often preferably in combination with a functional division sometimes tends, especially in smaller information units, to result in too many tasks performed by under-qualified staff. As all the functions of an information unit are interdependent, it is better for all the staff to be perfectly familiar with all the unit's work. This can be arranged in providing a thorough introduction for new staff and by job rotation. Since most information units have a small staff, it is advisable to be able to cope with any eventuality, to define jobs with some flexibility and ensure that all staff members are as polyvalent as possible.

Fig. 26 Flowchart of the operations of an information unit

Information units offer many employment opportunities: (a) administrative jobs (typing, bookkeeping, legal services, personnel department, etc.); (b) technical jobs (reprography, binding, computer processing, etc.) ; (c) specialized jobs in scientific and technical information (archives, librarianship, documentation, etc.).

These jobs can be filled at different levels of execution, supervision or management (see Chapter 24). They should be accurately described so that candidates or staff members know exactly what is involved. This 'job description' covers the hierarchical level, the responsibilities, the amount and kind of work, the qualifications required, salary and administrative status.

When information specialists have an officially recognized administrative status, the job description must mention the fact.

Personnel management is of particular importance in information; in many countries, career prospects are still all too often limited. Staff must be recruited with great care and efforts made to keep up their enthusiasm by arranging meetings, discussion groups, etc., and continuing in-service training.

The salary scale and increments should reflect the general conditions of the profession, growing responsibilities, further qualifications and improved performance. Salaries are sometimes supplemented by other payments (,allowances, bonuses, etc.). It is most important that members of the staff have clear salary and career prospects.

Costing and performance evaluation is fundamental to most managerial activities. There are direct costs, which are those related to a particular documentary function (for example, the salaries paid to indexers) and indirect costs which are chargeable either to documentary functions in general (the indirect costs of the system: thesaurus maintenance, for instance) or to general overheads (the indirect costs of the organization: lighting, for instance). There are three categories of direct cost: staff costs, materials (documents, supplies) and equipment (amortization, operation and servicing). Costing calls for the analysis of transactions and the time taken. The transactions cover the quantity and cost of purchased items (for example, the number and total cost of microfiches bought in one year), intermediate products (number of documents indexed), and the products and services delivered to users (number of photocopies). The other element is the time spent on executing each task, for the measurement of which a unit of time and a nomenclature of the tasks involved are required (time spent on indexing a document of twenty pages, for example'). The time spent implies certain labour costs and the cost of using equipment.

The costs are measured on the basis of bookkeeping vouchers and records which are analysed systematically or over a given period of time. In some cases a general estimate ",ill suffice, but good management requires them to be broken down into cost units, that is, according to the functions stated in an accounting scheme. The accounting scheme is a double-entry matrix which shows the various types of cost for each function. The definition of functions depends on the organizational structure of the unit.

Another important aspect of performance is the time taken. This can be checked by recording the dates when documents or queries (individually or in sets) pass through each work place or function. These data can then be noted on a planning chart to facilitate analysis. Even though information work is of an intellectual nature, it is preferable to treat it like normal production activities and to make sure that capacity' is being full) utilized. This is done by establishing the normal work load for each job and each piece of equipment in the form of a chart which states, for a given period, the theoretical production capacity, the expected amount of activity and the actual production. This will show where performance has been good or poor, help identify the reasons and make it possible to take advantage of success or put the matter right.

The qualitative aspect of performance evaluation is more delicate to handle. If the unit has no arrangements for monitoring each task or operation, it will have to resort to sample surveys or artificial tests. With monitoring procedures- which cannot be recommended too highly-the proportion of products rejected and the reasons why (for example, 5 per cent of Indexing operations for lack of specificity) are recorded. A useful form of control, which can provide a partial and subjective indication of performance, is based on user reactions, which can and should be systematically requested. It is also possible to establish special criteria for each function. service or product and to measure performance on a regular or occasional basis. For example, the effectiveness of a question-answer service could be assessed in terms of speed, exhaustivity, precision and case of use. These data, together with the cost structure, will provide enough information to improve this service and the unit as a whole.

Budget control integrated planning data (that is, the estimated volume of activity: the number of SDI profiles planned for the Year, for example) and accounting data (the actual number profiles served, the rate of production and the cost). This will point to ways of Improving the unit's mode of operation and make it easier to foresee the consequences of decisions or other factors likely to have an influence.

Unfortunately, available data on costs and performance are at present in short supply and difficult to compare. They obviously depend on the situation and organization of each unit. and on the methods of calculation, which vary, consider ably. Disparities in the available figures are too great for the conclusions to be significant.

Budget and financing

The budget and financing of information units depend on their legal status and their type: clearly, there will be a considerable difference between a computerized national centre and the library of a small university research laboratory, but their budgets have much in common.

The main items of expenditure are as follows:

1. Staff salaries and related charges; this is the largest budget item in all units and often accounts for over half the total expenditure.

2. Purchase of documents; this is the second largest item though it occasionally-all too rarely-exceeds staff costs.

3. Expenditure on processing (use of the computer, production of bulletins, etc.).

4. Supplies.

5. Equipment (amortization, servicing and replacement).

6. Premises (only significant for large units).

7. Communications (mail, telephone, telex, transport, etc.).

8. General overheads (electricity, cleaning, etc.).

9. Expenditure on sub-contracting. This item can be quite important if certain functions (computer processing) are performed by other organizations or if certain jobs (elaboration of a thesaurus) are contracted out.

In normal circumstances, Items 1 to 9 account for only a small proportion of the total budget, two-thirds of which is devoted to 1, 2 and 3. In most cases, the unit's resources are in the form of budgetary allocations from the parent organization. The amount generally depends on needs and possibilities but there also exist certain standards and ratios for determining the desirable level of a unit's resources in relation to its clientele and the overall budget of the parent organization. Unfortunately, the actual allocation is sometimes simply what is left over after the requirements of other departments have been met. This explains the need for accurate accounting and efficient financial administration to help the unit defend its requests more effectively, and for high-quality management in general to provide a clear justification for the sums involved.

For some units, especially those which benefit from legal deposit, the various types of free acquisitions can make a significant contribution. Lastly, many units are deriving more and more resources from the sale of products and services.

It should be observed that the separate items of the budget are relatively inflexible: it is not easy to make much change in the distribution of expenditure or to increase overall resources. At the same time production costs, in particular for staff and acquisitions, are rising steadily. This obliges units to pay special attention to management, and in particular to policy formulation and increased productivity.

The budget is prepared in conjunction with the plan and takes the financial data and results into account. It can either start with available resources, distribute them among the items of expenditure and it' necessary try to make cuts or find additional resources, or it can work in the other direction. In many cases the two approaches are combined.

Payment of services: here a frequent problem is that many information units are in one way or another public services expected to function free of charge or come under the general services of their parent organization. Another difficulty with charging is the widespread view that information should be freely available to everyone, or that it is a right. This is perfectly true, but health is also a right and this does not exclude medical fees. Even where no actual charge is made, however, payment can be used as an administrative technique for the unit and its partners, since it is a simple and effective way of measuring the usefulness and utilization of services. In this case, the payments would be fictitious or returned at the end of the financial year.

When information services which have been free begin to make charges, even a very small fee will at first lead to a drop in the number of users. Even services that were free only for a trial period and whose users are perfectly aware that the time will come when they will have to pay experience this. Nevertheless, if the service proves its worth, it should quickly make up the lost ground and then find the number of users rising. The fact is that users are read),, at least those in productive activities, to pay a fair and even a high price-and often do so-for really useful information that reaches them in time and in acceptable form. Often the refusal to pay is simply a sign that the service is being rejected because of low quality or unsuitability.

Information units can charge for admission to the unit, for their various products and services (publications, SDI profiles, answers to questions, translation, etc.), for photocopies or microcopies, for postage, or to help defray the cost of meetings, visits or other activities that they organize.

Payments can take the form of dues, subscriptions or a charge for each service rendered. Regular users would have an account and pay the bill at fixed intervals.

The charges made can cover all the direct and indirect costs of each product or service, but this system is still only practised by a few commercial units, whose prices also include a profit margin. Another approach is for the charge to cover all production costs but not the initial cost of setting up and running in the system and its products. Sometimes only direct production costs or a varying proportion of them will be demanded, while other units require payment only for certain products or services, particularly those which involve extra work in addition to what they regard as normal services: for example, they might make no charge for a retrospective search but demand payment for a selective bibliography.

In each case, once the production cost is known, the price should be set bearing in mind that if it is too high it will be out of the reach of the user however much he is interested in the product or service. The prices of similar products and services available elsewhere should also be taken into account, the aim being to make the unit's activities as profitable as possible or at least to obtain the maximum amount of income.

Promotion and market research

All information units, even those whose usefulness seems self-evident, must pay careful attention to these if they do not want to go into a gradual decline.

Market research involves an integrated set of activities whose purpose is to determine:

- The potential clientele of the various products and services, together with their characteristics, needs and motivations.

- The characteristics of the products: nature, content, presentation, quality, availability and possibly price.

- The standing of a product in relation to other similar products (for example, the advantages of a national abstracts bulletin in relation to equivalent foreign publications).

- The possibilities of a broader clientele (,attracting new groups of potential users) or of consolidating the clientele (taking action to convert as many potential users as possible into actual users).

- Strategies for the promotion and dissemination of the products.

In business concerns, for example, the library is often regarded as a possibly useful luxury. By studying the various categories of potential users it is possible to find out the reasons for this image., what the people would like the library to contain and how they would like to utilize it. This will suggest how the library should be laid out, how it should be run and what documents it should acquire. The next step could be to see what other libraries offer the same services and whether they have any particular advantages. An attempt would then be made to discover how many potential users could be attracted to the library and the best way of going about it, and whether the library should be opened up to outside users and, if so, how to attract them. The reorganized library would then be promoted along lines that the preceding research had indicated.

The promotion of' an information unit is represented by an interrelated set of activities whose aim is:

- To publicize the unit, its products and its services among potential users.

- To encourage them to utilize the unit; to make its products and services attractive.

- To show potential users how to make use of' the various products and services and what advantages they offer.

- To maintain contact with the users with a view to keeping them informed about the unit and obtaining their reactions.

A wide range of methods is used: advertisements in newspapers, leaflets given or sent to potential users, the organization of visits to the unit, demonstrations and open days, posters, offers of products and services on a trial basis, and personal contacts with individual users and their superiors.

Though personal contact is the most effective approach, a unit will in practice often find it worth while combining several of these methods to form a promotion programme.

Efforts to promote the unit should not be restricted in time, for instance, to when the unit is created or a new product introduced, but should be kept up at a high level. The aim should be to put the dialogue with users on a permanent footing, one possibility being to organize a club or association so that users can be directly or indirectly associated in the management of the unit as actively as possible.

A natural part of promotion activities is user training, with the unit providing appropriate instruction by means of documents or theoretical and practical training sessions to show how the unit's products and services can be employed to the best advantage.

The unit's links with the parent organization often have a decisive influence on the way it is run. They can be seen from two points of view: the unit's official place in the hierarchy and organization chart of the parent organization as a whole, and its informal working relations with other departments and individuals.

For its official standing, a number of requirements have to be taken into consideration. There is the need for it to be close to the users and especially the most important ones, which explains, for instance, why information units are frequently' attached to research departments; to have fairly direct and effective links with all the other departments; to be of central importance or at least highly respected, especially if the unit's task is to collect the documents produced by the organization; to offer satisfactory conditions of employment for the staff, particularly in regard to status, and to be able to count on stable resources over a long period. Clearly, there exists no ready-made solution to these problems. In practice every possible kind of approach is encountered: units attached to research and development services, to technical services, to administrative services or to general management; units regarded as less important than or as the equal of the other departments. Each organization makes its own arrangements and its decision in this respect has to take into consideration the objectives, policies and resources of the unit and the structure, policies, operation and general life of the organization. These last two aspects can make the situation appear highly satisfactory on paper but much less so in practice, for example, when the unit comes under general management and other departments are kept strictly separate from each other and jealously watch over their privileges. In many cases the unit itself has little say in the arrangements made on its behalf.

These decisions are taken either when the unit is set up, which clearly has important consequences, or in the course of a subsequent general reorganization if the unit wants its position to be changed.

The relative position of the unit in the organization's hierarchy has a pervasive but not decisive influence on its informal relations with the other departments. Owing to the nature of its work, it functions in parallel with production and administrative activities. It has to make sure that it has links with all parts of the organization at all levels and find ways to getting round any reluctance to co-operate on the part of certain sectors or at a particular level. Through paying systematic attention to these links the unit could become the unofficial hub of the organization, a standing that could well make up for its possibly unsatisfactory position in the hierarchy.

Links with the outside: the unit can establish relations with, as the case may be, users not belonging to the parent organization, the authorities responsible for national information policy and the development of information infrastructure, other units, and the profession.

There is no problem with external users unless it is desired to give internal users special advantages. This would make it necessary to restrict the former's access (special opening times, limited borrowing privileges, certain services excluded) or to charge more (a small charge or entirely free to internal users with a varying charge for the others). Such discrimination is only worth considering if the unit is unable to extend its clientele. However, every effort should be made to associate external users with the running of the unit in the same way as internal users.

The purpose of establishing relations with the national authorities responsible for national information policy is to ensure that the unit has a recognized role in the information infrastructure, is invited to take part in policy formulation and the preparation of programmes, particularly through the working groups and commissions of the national plan, and is thus enabled to base its own policies and development on these national actions.

Links with other units can serve a number of purposes: first, to establish friendly relations that will allow the units to exchange information and back each other up; secondly, in case of need, to exchange services, perhaps under preferential conditions; and thirdly, to promote co-operation, which can range from task sharing or a simple division of labour in the field concerned to the setting up of joint services or even a network. Whatever the arrangement, it is essential for the senior staff of units working in the same field or located in the same area to keep in close touch with one another. More often than not co-operation proves indispensable, if only to avoid pointless overlapping (for example, the purchase of rarely requested costly books which can be borrowed from another unit). Even in the absence of a national programme, information units are increasingly tending to share out tasks (in regard to acquisitions, their clientele, and the provision of joint services such as bibliographic bulletins or data bases) and to form networks involving adoption of the same techniques and methods of operation.

When it is only a matter of helping each other, the relations can be kept informal, but joint initiatives should preferably be based on a formal agreement stating the rights and duties of each party. Sometimes, however, the unit's official status rules this out, and it is also possible for the conditions on which the co-operation was based to change quite quickly,. When the situation is favourable, two units can develop very close relations without a formal agreement and thus avoid temporary legal or political obstacles. For example, two information units belonging to organizations which themselves are reluctant to co-operate could quite easily adopt the same documentation system and the same equipment and thus in actual practice work together.

It is just as essential to establish and maintain relations with the profession. Contacts through professional organizations will enable the unit to exchange technical information, join in cooperative research on methodology, and so forth. Conversely, the unit's active participation will strengthen these organizations and contribute to the general progress of the profession itself.

Evaluation of activities

This is not a theoretical and purposeless exercise but one of management's essential instruments, which should be applied to all aspects of a unit's work.

One method is to check a unit's operations and functions by regularly monitoring some of their essential aspects. The number would depend on the type of operation or function: for example, 5 per cent of the queries processed each month could be taken to ascertain whether the time needed for the answers, their precision and exhaustivity and the procedure followed were in accordance with the standards fixed. From time to time however, particularly, when a medium- or long-teem plan is being prepared, it is a good idea to undertake a systematic evaluation.

There are three levels of evaluation: the evaluation of effectiveness, of the cost-effectiveness ratio and of the cost-benefit ratio. The first level attempts to assess how far the unit is meeting its objectives or, in short, how far it satisfies its users. The second attempts to determine the cheapest and most efficient way of running the unit while the third is focused on the benefits derived by, users of the service or services and whether they justify, the cost.

Evaluation is a form of research states its hypotheses and objectives, defines the objects to be examined, collects the necessary data (by means of documents, observation, measurement and interviews), analyses them and draws conclusions. Each operation or function has its own special methods of evaluation, which can be adapted as necessary. It is also possible to employ advanced techniques such as models, simulation or operational research. The evaluation can be centred on some or all of the functions of an information unit, and each function calls for special evaluation techniques and criteria. The sectors with which evaluation is most often concerned are the holdings. the provision of primary. documents, question- answer services, information retrieval, data bases and documentary products, catalogues, technical services computerization, and management.

The most usual criteria include standards. costs. effort (,amount and complexity of the work involved for staff and users), response time, qualitative criteria such as exhaustivity precision, recall, novelty and relevance and the various signs of user satisfaction.

When these studies are carried out by or for information units, they have a very specific and practical purpose: either to detect and put right any weaknesses or to help select and organize new activities, and in many cases both. Clearly, the cost of an evaluation and the effort involved must be commensurate with the advantages to be derived from its conclusions; it would hardly be reasonable to allocate resources at the expense of production itself. But this argument is no reason for the systematic refusal to undertake evaluations, which is often in reality a refusal to change. Without evaluation, arty information unit is likely to take the wrong direction, lose its adaptability or become obsolete.

Check questionnaire

What is 'management’?
What are the advantages of organizing an information unit by functions?
What are the two main items of expenditure for an information unit?
What are the different levels of planning?
Is it possible to define a policy that takes only the information unit into consideration?
What is the function of a campaign to promote an information unit?
What is the purpose of evaluation?


BUCKLAND, M. K. The Management of Libraries and Information Centres. In C. A. Cuadra (ed.), Annual Review of Information Science and Technology. Vol. 9, 1974, pp. 335- 79.

DRUCKER, P. F. The Practice of Management. New York, Harper, 1954.

DUTTON, B. G. Staff Management and Staff Participation. Aslib proceedings. Vol. 25, No. 3, 1973, pp. 11125.

LICKERT, R. The Human Organization. New York, McGraw-Hill, 1967.

MURDOCK, J.; SHERROD, J. Library and Information Center Management. In: E. Williams (ed.), Annual Review of Information Science and Technology. Vol. 11, 1976, pp. 381 -402.

REES, A. M. (ed.). Contemporary Problems in Technical Library and Information Center Management. A State of the Art. Washington, D. C., Asis, 1974.

SLATER, F. (ed.). Cost Reduction for Special Libraries and Information Centers. Washington, D. C., Asis, 1973.

VEAZIE, W. H., Jr.; CONOLLY, T. F. The Marketing of Information Analysis Center Products and Services. Washington, D. C., Asis, 1971.

VICKERS, P. H. A Cost Survey of Mechanized Information Systems. Journal of Documentation. Vol. 29, No. 3, 1973, pp. 258-80.

WASSERMAN, P.; BUNDY, M. L. (ed.), Reader in Library Administration, 5th ed, Washington D. C., Microcard Editions, 1974.

WEISMAN, H. M. Management of Information Services, Centers Operational Administration. Information Systems, Services and Centers, pp, 107 -25. New York, Wiley, 1972.

Organizing and operating an information and documentation centre

Robert Harth

General organizational aspects

As in all tasks involving organization, the purpose of an IaD centre must be the decisive factor in determining the most rational form of organization. The IaD centre is a business concern which provides services. In organizational terms, it regulates and directs relations between the highly varied 'market' of information sources and the equally varied 'market' of Information needs. This applies equally to public and private IaD centres, but we shall concentrate here on the requirements of IaD centres In the private economy.

The 'market' concept Is used in this context to make it easier to draw parallels with other economic activities, for example trade. In commercial concerns, familiarity with the producer market and with consumer needs determine turnover and hence economic success. Optimum organization helps to keep a business's costs as low as possible.

Similarly, in the case of an IaD centre familiarity with information needs and information sources is the most important factor in ensuring an efficient information supply service. Proper organization will also ensure that the costs of this service are kept at an economically rational level.

In practice, many different approaches are now adopted to the organization of IaD centres, depending on the function they perform. Specialized libraries are frequently linked with IaD centres whose services include the provision of information and literature.

However, only IaD centres engaged essentially in providing information are dealt with below.

Activities and functions

Users expect an IaD centre to provide the following services:

A. Information through the supply of original documents, e.g.:

Newspaper circulation

- supply of research papers, reports on meetings, etc.;
- book lending;

B. Information on specific subjects, e.g.:

- bibliographical research;
- data inventories;
- product and producer listings;

C. Current information on the state of the art through Information services, e.g. :

- in-house bibliographical information services;
- profile services;
- abstract sources;
- information on application techniques;
- market data.

The activities of central specialized information establishments as independent service enterprises are on a far larger scale than those of subsidiary establishments.

The range of services required by users has a decisive influence on the various procedures that need to be efficiently combined in the work routine of an IaD centre.

Each IaD centre may be said to perform three broad functions related to the flow of information from the producer (information profile) to the user (profile of interests):

(a) acquisition;
(b) documentation;
(c) information.

An additional field 'word processing and reprography' is usually superimposed on these basic functions.

The information system as a simple feedback control system

Information systems can be represented as a simple feedback control systems (diagram 65) operating between the producer of information and the user. The feedback control system is made up of the following functions: acquisition, documentation, information and management.

The purpose of the system Is to select from a wide-ranging supply of Information the elements that match the user's profile of interests. The information system is controlled by the regulator (management) by means of constant adjustment. Changes In user requirements, for example, lead to corresponding changes in individual functions. Each and every change in and addition to the IaD task necessarily calls for an Investigation of the consequences for the entire system. A really smooth flow of information can only be achieved on the basis of an overall review of the system.

Diagram 65: Information system as a simple feedback control system

Diagram 66: Organization chart of an IaD centre

Organization chart

On the basis of the sequence of steps involved in providing an information service, an IaD centre may be divided up into the following fields:

1. Functions
1.1 source collection (specialized library)
1.2 documentation
1.3 Information

2. Management and related fields
2.1 management
2.2 central services
2.3 co-ordination and systems development

A detailed organization chart is shown in diagram 66. It is applicable to almost every kind of enterprise, with possible variations in the prominence assigned to individual fields.

Provision of services (dissemination of information): The problems

The services provided by IaD centres have hitherto been based essentially on primary publications. They have played a decidedly secondary role In the normal process of disseminating information through the mass media, the specialized press, specialized literature, etc. They concentrate instead on processing and organizing information in the light of users' interests. However, an IaD centre's supply of services Is in competition to some extent with the acquisition of information by users themselves. It is therefore essential, if the supply is to be accepted by the user, to ensure that an IaD centre's information potential is greater than the user's information stock. An efficient system is expected to be able to supply information from virtually all relevant sources, shedding light on the particular problem concerned. Users also expect the supply of information to adapt itself to changes in interests without entailing major expense.

The resulting qualitative expectations of a more or less anonymous 'user market' exert an important influence on the planning and efficiency of an information system.

Planning and organization

Planning is a prerequisite for organization. Analysis of interests, identification of service expectations and selection of the sources to be consulted for that purpose (information profile) provide the basic data needed for the efficient organization of an IaD centre.

The establishment and organization of this kind of operational field may be divided into the following three stages:

(a) planning;
(b) systems development;
(c) testing of the system and attainment of 'maturity'.


In the planning stage, guidelines are drawn up for the actual design of the system. An attempt is made to illustrate the interdependence of system components and user-dependent factors in the form of a matrix.

User-dependent factors

System components




level of information


type of service desired



user frequency


exercise consists in identifying the specialized field for which documentation is required. It is important to know (field - user relationship) whether the subject to be dealt with is narrow (plastics in motor vehicles) or wide ranging (car manufacturing). This will have an influence (field - source relationship) an the selection of sources to be consulted (important: existing stock and growth rate).

The next set of questions concerns the level of information for which services are to be provided. If it is exclusively for research and development purposes, this will affect the structure of the publications to be covered by the documentation (patents, research reports, scientific journals, legislation, etc.), the factual content and the detail of cataloguing. If the service is to cover a more general field of information, this will have a qualitative effect (structure of sources) and an effect on data selection (factual content, cataloguing).

In this connection, it is also useful to know the number of persons to be informed:

A further aspect to be taken into account in designing a system is, broadly speaking, the type of services desired. This influences the type of storage facilities to be provided and has implications for the factual content and detail of cataloguing.

A final question concerns expected frequency of user recourse to the services. This may have implications for storage design and search strategies.

The planning stage concludes with a rough preliminary estimate of staff needs for setting up an IaD centre in the following two stages: development and testing. A rough estimate of financial needs is also made at this stage.

Systems development

The system must in any case be designed in such a way as to be expandable in any desired direction. It must be possible, therefore, to make the transition from manual documentation to mechanical procedures with the minimum disruption. The sequence is more or less as follows: selection of the optimum organizational procedure (classification, thesaurus, etc.):

- preliminary design of the storgage system;
- design of a data-gathering sheet for recording data and reports;
- drawing-up of guidelines for formal data collection and cataloguing;
- decisions regarding the installation of technical equipment;
- revision of staff needs.

Testing of system

During the test period, the system must be tested to ensure that it is providing users with a largely satisfactory service and developed until it reaches 'maturity'. The steps in the process may be as follows:

- documentation - formal compiling and cataloguing;
- building up a storage system;
- use of forms to direct and control the work process;
- training of documentation staff;
- training of users;
- research work;
- supply of periodically produced information services;
- analysis of relevance;
- improvements to the system;
- establishment of cost indicators for evaluation of the system.

A mature information system?

The steps in setting up an information system set out chronologically above are very difficult to carry out in practice in the same sequence. There is heavy overlapping of the individual phases during the development process. User needs should be the overriding consideration in all cases during the development and testing stages.

As user needs always evolve in the light of progress, information systems are also subject to structural fluctuations. A system's 'maturity' is therefore limited in time.

Internal documentation work or reliance on outside services

As information and documentation are highly labour-intensive activities, it is advisable in designing the system to consider what kind of outside services might be used by the new information system. This calls for market analysis to determine whether IaD work is already being wholly or partially executed elsewhere. It should prove less costly to purchase required services from outside suppliers and concentrate on internal aspects of the documentation project (e.g. Independent research, etc.). Indeed the expected increase in specialized information centres, providing services ranging from print services to magnetic tape services and linking up terminals to the ADP store, will make it possible to reduce the scale of independent documentation work.

General observations on the low-cost organization of IaD centres

The following 'maxims' are key considerations to be borne In mind in organizing an IaD centre. They are Intended as a 'summary' of the preceding sections.

1. Necessary personal services are to be organized in terms of the expertise required.

2. Considerable division of labour, with the possible use of temporary staff or outside services where they prove cheaper.

3. Control of steps in the work process through form-filling.

4. Development of storage and information supply, making substantial use of external services.

5. Full use of all opportunities for co-operative agreements with other IaD centres operating in the same field.

6. Constant reappraisal of the work process with a view to simplification.

7. Development of indicators through cost-benefit analysis with a view to controlling costs and evaluating performance.

Staff costs are the main component In the overall cost of running an IaD centre, accounting for about 75 to 80 per cent of the total in the case of small- and medium-scale enterprises. In the interests of low-cost organization, therefore, all measures required to fulfil users' requests must be critically investigated from the standpoint of their impact on staff costs.

2.2 Records management

Not all archives services carry out a records management programme, though in principle most would have the possibility of introducing one to cover the records created by their governing authority. Where an archive service has the primary duty of serving an employing authority or institution, the records management aspect is of major importance, and affects all the processes which come after it. Records management can also be considered as a function exercised independently of archival management, but the two logically go together and either may suffer from the absence of the other.

Records management is a field which has attracted increasing attention in recent times. The growing sophistication of administrative practices, and the increasing complexity of organisations, together with the enormous expansion of the quantity of records produced, has made it necessary to introduce conscious management into this area, and to develop it as a set of techniques or as a discipline.1

Historically, interest in records management has arisen from different points of origin. In some cases the initiative has come from archivists, whose main concern is the control of material passing out of current record systems into archival care. Records management in this tradition is concerned mainly with retirement of records from currency and their appraisal. In other cases the initiative has come from organisation and methods or management advisory units, whose main concern has been the reduction of administrative costs. In other cases again the records management system may have originated in central secretariat departments, whose main concern has been to regulate the flow of information and documentary media within the central offices. There may also be cases where records management has begun with legal advisers, whose concern has been to preserve and retrieve official documents. Finance departments have also had to develop systems to serve the needs of audit.

The historical point of origin impresses its character on the resulting programme, and it may determine where the main thrust of management effort is placed. The present study takes as its starting point the view that records management is a branch of information management. The quality of the information it supplies is the main criterion for an RM programme, and this information supply is radically affected by its relationship with in archives service.

RM is a field of management whose material is the data, media and systems used in the record-making and record-storing processes in any organisation. Its aim is to achieve the best retrieval and exploitation of the data held in these media and systems, and incidentally to reduce the cost and improve the efficiency of record-making and keeping processes.

The relationship between archives and records management can be illustrated by two models: Figures 1 and 2.

Two recent developments reinforce the validity of an information-centred approach to RM. One is the advent (more gradual thin at one time foreseen) of office automation; the other is the increasing tendency of legislators to introduce specific legal requirements for record retention and access.

Office automation

A useful recent summary of developments in the automation of administrative processes has been published by a working party of the Records Management Group, headed by S.C. Newton.2

This investigation divides the automation of office processes into four groups: electronic data processing; word processing; micrographics; and telecommunications. Each has a distinct influence on record processing.

Electronic data processing usually involves using a machine-readable data base. From the archivist's point of view, there are two kinds of these, the accumulated and the regenerative. Accumulated data banks consist of collections of data used as a whole at one time. Regenerative data bases are constantly, or at least periodically, updated with new information, so that there is never a moment when the information is in a definitive state. Data base management systems are in frequent use today. The Newton study gives examples of integrated ledger systems, personnel records systems, automated pensions programmes, and documentation systems containing textual records. When an organisation introduces any form of data base management, it is necessarily involved in some form of administrative restructuring, aimed at assimilating the newly necessary data processors, but also taking into account the consequences of the central data base being shared by various sections or departments.

Figure 1 Records management as a front-end system

Figure 2 Records and archives management as parallel systems

Word processors are rapidly replacing typewriters as the main means of storing words on paper. They are inherently more efficient and flexible. When an organisation introduces word processing, it inevitably finds that it has begun a process which leads, once again, to change in its administrative structures. This is because word processors are only a small step away, technologically, from integrated electronic office communication systems. In the first stage, manually generated pieces of writing are translated into formal shapes by typing them on a word processor. In the second stage, the administrators write directly on to the word processor, which is capable of transmitting their words to colleagues or addressees, and also, if required, storing them electronically. Thus a system originally thought of as meant for formalising text ends as one for transmitting it. It will be noticed that writing and transmitting messages has always constituted a large proportion of all administrative work.

Micrographics have now developed far from their origin as storage media, into technological components of information systems. Automated retrieval of data from microforms is now advanced, either by electro-mechanical means or by using computers. Computer output is also often in microform. Recent applications include pensions records, insurance claims, purchase invoice control, and incoming correspondence.

Telecommunications is likely to be important in combination with the data transmission processes mentioned with word processors. It is already technically possible to extend these automated communication systems by means of telephone lines, and this extends into the transmission of visually read data (view-data). Together with document facsimile transmission and teleconferencing, these are developments which are likely to change the whole work environment of administrators.

All four sectors of automated recording interrelate, and all are rapidly advancing. It is interesting to notice that all concern the management of information, and the media which retains it. Whether or not we are to see the advent of a 'paperless office' (and this has been questioned), it is clear that the advance of information technology has reinforced the importance of RM as central to management planning. An extreme view might be that in high-level administration only two kinds of managers are needed at the centre: the decision-makers, who rely on the data provided for them by the service; and the records managers, who devise and maintain it.

The design and retention of automated data bases is subject to statutory control much more closely than similar records kept in hard-copy form. Many governments, including the British, have appointed officials to supervise them, and have instituted legal codes to protect the individual. Data protection legislation is based to a great extent on international accords, and supplements the increasingly detailed requirements of law over other forms of record. Records managers must of course be equipped to observe the law in these respects, and to design their systems in accordance with relevant codes of practice.

All this shows that RM has an increasingly important role in an automated administration, and that the design of the records series to be generated, stored and accessed is a central concern of management.

Newton's study concludes with a model for the positioning of an RM service within an automated organisation: see Figure 3.

Legal control

The second recent development is that in all countries, but especially in North America and in the European Community, the law is taking an increasing interest in specifying the retention of records and in allowing litigation to be based upon record evidence over longer periods of time.

There is no comprehensive summary of these legislative requirements, which would indeed be difficult to assemble from a wide variety of statutes and legal decisions. A recent brief survey, also by S.C. Newton,3 covering recent changes to the law of criminal and civil evidence, and of contract, is a useful guide. J. Smith's study of the law covering records of drug manufacture illustrates the importance and the complexity of the subject as it extends into technical areas.4 Health and safety legislation has tended to specify the retention of personnel records, and to dictate the creation of records of accidents and hazards, all with long periods of currency5. As mentioned above, machine-readable data bases are specially regulated.

Figure 3 Possible organisation of a Records and Information Division

Source: S.C. Newton, Office Automation and Records Management, Society of Archivists, Records Management Group, Occasional Paper No. 2, 1981

The structure of an RM service

Records are information media which are generated by an administrative system. They include data which originated outside the organisation (for example in incoming letters), but are essentially an internal information source. Most organisations need also to provide and manage information services which seek for and use information of external origin: books and documents. No single source of information will by itself satisfy the total information requirement of any organisation, so that the RM service depends for its success on building up a workable relationship with four other facets of the organisation:

- the administration (financial, legal, general and specialist) in which the records originate;
- the special library service;
- the technical documentation centre; and
- the archives.


Source. Cook6

The administration generates records which carry the information it acquires and uses in the course of business. It arranges these records in systems which are the stock-in-trade of administrative departments. The RM unit must be able to build up a relationship with these administrative units which will allow the records manager a degree of responsibility for the design and maintenance of record systems, and for the disposition of particular series. The relationship should also allow the administrative departments to become accustomed to using the RM system and to call on it for information.

It is often difficult to define the concept of administration. Most organisations have a central office, the headquarters of overall management. It is common to find that there are also important administrative centres outside this. Some will be specialist or technical departments or units; others will be branches or sub-organisations, often situated away from the main administrative centre. Processing or manufacturing units also generate records, and may be administratively distinct. If it is to deal with all these, the RM programme has to be able to enter into relationships with all the different kinds of administrative entity.

The internationally accepted model for RM within government and business administrations proposes that it should be responsible for the design and maintenance of what have traditionally been the three main types of record created.7 Under this model RM should include mail, reports and forms 'management. Mail management covers not only systems for receiving, distributing and storing incoming mail, matching it with mail sent out in reply, but also extends into the design of form letters and even into campaigns for improving the language used in official letters.

It is clear that mad management also involves the design of systems for filing. A filing system is essentially a practical application of a classification scheme covering the organisation's area of interest; but it also has another dimension. This is the control of movement of documents round the office, plotting a lifecycle for each letter. Incoming documents are filed, the file placed before the official who is to take action, and the resulting outgoing document takes its place next on the file. In this way a full and retrievable record is available on the whole transaction: but to set it out in this way involves a good deal of structural organisation in the office.

Reports should of course be succinct and accurately expressed, should conform to established standards, and be available to any proper user for reference. Forms must be well designed, must make the data they carry easily usable, and (as is often remarked today) should be understood by those who have to fill them up.

The special library service assembles books, journals and published materials, including non-book materials, on subjects relevant to the information needs of the organisation and its staff, and runs a service based upon these. The documentation centre assembles published and unpublished technical papers of relevance to the organisation and its staff, obtaining these from sources outside the organisation itself, and running a service based upon these materials. An automated documentation service, common today, provides the organisation's access to international, local or specialised data bases. Clearly, reports generated from within the organisation should also be dealt with in a documentation system.

All these services may have a similar structure, consisting of input, store, and user services. The arrangements for input differ between the different services, but it is easy to suggest that store and output could be combined. In particular finding aids, systems for disseminating information, and the arrangements for communicating data have no theoretical need to be separate.

The archives service receives all or some of its material from the RM programme, as a result of the process of appraisal. which is the interface between them. It shares with the RM programme a concern over the completeness of the documentation assembled by the system, because in the end this is what determines the value of the archive. Looked at from the other direction, the RM service uses the archives for the storage and use of its most valuable materials, over long periods.

In view of the closeness of the relationships suggested above, one could hardly suggest an RM system which does not incorporate them as an essential feature. RM systems ought to function hand in hand with the other information services.

Surveys and registers of classes

The first important job of a records manager is to find out what records are being produced by his employing organisation, and what systems are being used for their deployment.

Previous writing on RM has sometimes neglected the second half of this statement. Walk-through surveys are often recommended,8 as an alternative to, or backed by, surveys by questionnaire. These surveys identify classes of records, and note details of thew on field work sheets. This is a good way of doing a survey which notes the existence of particular records series, but it is not sufficient if the objective is to evaluate systems.

It is possible, therefore, that an RM survey should be carried out in two parts, one to establish what classes of record are being produced, and the other to determine the production processes used. The normal method in the first case would be for the survey team to use worksheets which can later be turned into a register of classes. In the second case. the survey might use flowcharts, indicating the contributory flows of manpower which lead to the production of record classes. Figures 4 and 5 refer.

Figure 4: A records survey worksheet

Records Survey Worksheet


Division Unit


Record Class
Title / Description

Date Span

Storage Accommodation


(lin. m.)

(cub. m.)

Floor Space
(sq. m.)

Total Office Space
(sq. m.)

Spare/Unused Space

Frequency of Reference Proportion %




Retention Period Proportion %

Short Term

Medium Term


Accrual Rate (lin. m. Per annum)

Legal Requirements

Staff Involvement

Value of Equipment


Source: Cheshire Record Office

Figure 5: Data capture processes in PROSPEC


1. The principal study of RM in a government context is Schellenberg, T.R., Modern archives, principles and techniques, Chicago, 1956. In a business context it is Benedon, W., Records management, California, 1969. No recent synthesis is available, but see Records management 1-9, published by the Records Management Group, Society of Archivists, 1977-date; also Cook, M., Archives administration, Dawson, 1977, pp. 25-94, and Couture, C. and Rousseau, J.Y., Les archives au XXe sie, University of Montreal, 1982.

2. Society of Archivists, RMG, Office automation and records management, 1981.

3. Newton, S.C., 'Selection and disposal: legal requirements', Records Management 1, Society of Archivists, RMG, 1977.

4. Smith, J.G., 'Archives and the food and drug industries: a preliminary notice of proposed US legislation', Business Archives 44 (1978), pp. 31-43.

5. Miller, D., Health and safety in the conservation workshop, an information leaflet to be issued by the Society of Archivists, may start a compilation of relevant statutes.

6. Cook, M., op. cit., 1977, p. 27.

7. Cook, M., Guidelines for curriculum development in records management and the administration of modern archives: a RAMP study, Unesco, Paris, 1982.

8. Cook, M., op. cit., 1977, p. 30. Benedon, W., op. cit., Chapter 2.