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Technological Means of Communication and Collaboration in Archives and Records Management

Journal of Information Science, XXX/1 (2004): 30-40. © Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP)


Technological Means of Communication and Collaboration in Archives and Records Management

Bekir Kemal Ataman
Department of Archives and Records Management, Marmara University, Istanbul, Turkey.


Abstract:
This study explores the international collaboration efforts of archivists and records managers starting with the hypothesis that Internet technologies have had a significant impact on both national and international communication for this previously conservative group. The use and importance of mailing lists for this purpose is studied in detail. A quantitative analysis looks globally at the numbers of lists in these fields and the numbers of subscribers. A qualitative analysis of list content is also described. The study finds that archivists and records managers have now created more than 140 mailing lists related to their profession and have been contributing to these lists actively. It also "estimates" that about half of the profession follows a list relating to their work and that archivists seem to like lists more than records managers. The study concludes that mailing lists can be seen as a virtual college binding these groups together to develop the field.
Keywords:
archives administration, records management, Internet, mailing lists, forums
1. Introduction
1.1 Internet refinements – enriching communication
With the invention of writing, mankind achieved a stable method of transferring its accumulated knowledge to later generations. It gained the ability to keep and pass onto others more information than could possibly held by one individual and be communicated verbally. Because of the link between information and power, writing remained the prerogative of the ruling classes. However with the invention of printing, the availability of written material expanded dramatically until by the end of the twentieth century there was not a society that did not aspire to having universal literacy—if only as a remote aspiration.

Writing remained the major means of distant communication until the invention of telephone, after which it was often replaced by oral communication. People found telephones easier to use and much more immediate than writing. It permitted the use of nuances like accent and intonation, which can change the whole course of communication, something that cannot be conveyed easily in writing.

However, with the advent of the e-mail via the Internet, there arrived a speedy and cost effective way to communicate in writing with almost the same immediacy as the telephone. With this, writing once again became the choice means of communicating facts and ideas from a distance. Even casual conversations now use this medium, with the addition of “emoticons” to convey subtle nuances and emotion.

1.2 The evolution of group communication
Since the birth of e-mail, written communication has become richer and more sophisticated placing new demands on technology and protocols. The internet has responded with new facilities. Gopher and FTP arose to meet the need to transfer documents too large to be sent by e-mail and the need to navigate around complex multi-media information gave birth to the World Wide Web. A need to bring immediacy and collaboration back into communication created instant messaging (IRC) and Usenet newsgroups, both supporting communities of users often linked by a common interest. Today the number of newsgroups on the Usenet backbone is over 10,000. In many of these, hundreds and sometimes even thousands of messages are posted in a single day.

The need for sharing information in generally narrower and more specific fields of interest compared to Usenet Newsgroups gave rise to the birth of electronic mailing lists, serviced by “List Servers” much simpler than the powerful servers on the Usenet backbone. People who are interested in the major topic of the list first send a special command to the server program by e-mail and become subscribed. This allows them to make and receive posts to the list in question and allows access to a list archive of old message threads.

Mailing lists tend to aim at much more specialised topics of interest, compared to Usenet newsgroups and therefore their numbers of subscribers are much smaller. Many lists have just tens or perhaps hundreds of subscribers and in most cases the daily flow of messages is less than ten. Although it is a very small figure, compared to Usenet newsgroups, following a mailing list can still be a seriously time-consuming task. Although one can choose to receive the messages in a “digest mode” (combining all posts for a period into a single e-mail) the total length of text to be read is often extensive given the specialised topics of interest and detailed issues considered.

1.3. Basis of this study
This study explores the extent to which mailing lists are now used by archivists and records managers for international communication and collaboration. It proposes that the way they are now used reflects the interdisciplinary nature of the profession. In doing this it assumes that the basic tool used for national and international communication and collaboration is mailing lists and that the basic criterion in measuring the penetration of the technology into the normal work of the profession is reflected in the number of messages that can be effectively followed (read and replied) by an archivist/records manager during a normal working day without interrupting one’s professional duties.

2. The Use of the Internet in Archives and Records Management
The use and usefulness of the Internet in people’s lives of today has been the subject of numerous studies. The Journal of Cybersociology [1] is dedicated to the study of this topic. The earliest of such studies was a paper by J. C. R. Licklider and Robert W. Taylor, who prophesied, as early as 1968, that computers would become an important device of human communication and interaction [2].

This section will look at the ways in which the Internet is used in the archives and records management world by grouping them under four main categories:
as a medium of consumption,
as a medium of production
as a medium of document production
as a medium of professional communication
2.1 The Internet as a medium of consumption
Archivists and records managers have similar usage patterns as other Internet consumers. Key activities are:
Researching suppliers in the field
Exploring the work of other (potentially competitive) organizations in the field and
Accessing online professional publications and information resource catalogues.
2.2. The Internet as a medium of production
Archivists and records managers have created many web sites with the aim of promoting and e-enabling the organisation they work for. For many of the more forward thinking archives, the Internet is now a key medium of interaction with their client base.

Working hours and the terms and conditions of service are now available on-line for most archives. However many take this further, distributing the publications prepared by the archives free of charge over the Internet or putting their archive holdings catalogues on-line. Archives associated with libraries have generally taken the lead in this area. In the last few years, methods and standards have been developed to publish archival descriptions at the fonds/collection level over the web. These standards have been spreading steadily and been put to use by various archival organisations around the world. The most commonly adopted of these are the applications called Encoded Archival Description (EAD) [3] and Extensible Mark-up Language (XML), which are hardware and operating system independent structures. The use of EAD and XML enable the creation of archival descriptions that can be accessed and read by anyone with web access.

Kinsey argues these descriptions will enable users to search concurrently for sources relating to their area of interest in a variety of repositories [4]. As Horsman suggests, when accompanied by scanned images of the documents this will enable at least part of the problems associated with archives that relate to more than one country (belonging to one country by its provenance but relating to another by its information content), to be solved by enabling documents to be consulted across borders [5]. As Peterson suggests, this will also enable more than one person to access the same document at the same time. This is a benefit that can never be achieved with real documents [6].

2.3 The Internet as a medium of document production
However, Internet and Intranet applications bring with them many problems for archivists and records managers. Managing e-mail records and following rapidly changing web pages are the major ones among these. In addition, archiving documents kept only in electronic medium need some special techniques for handling them as well as solving special problems tied to the medium on which the information is recorded.

Balough points out that the cost of magnetic storage has dropped from ten thousand dollars to six cents per megabyte in the last 44 years. This has created an illusion in some minds that most of these problems can be solved by storing everything. However, the cost of the medium is not of major importance in any record system. Ignoring this fact will cause wrong decisions to be taken [7] regarding the cost of storing documents kept in electronic medium. Unfortunately the prevalence of the idea that storage in this medium costs virtually nothing can often hide the reality which is that the cost of keeping electronic records can reach enormous levels. Proving authenticity of such records and taking measures against technological obsolescence of both hardware and software are just two examples of the factors that can contribute to this enormous cost.

Haspel asserts that the major function of the archivists and records managers of the future will be based on keeping the content rather than the carrier medium. They will deal with the preservation, analysis and dissemination of information and hence be freed from other tasks to concentrate on the essence of their profession, appraising and preparing the material for the user. To be able to do these, they will need to raise their knowledge of computers to much higher levels. As a result of this a new profession might be expected to emerge: Archives Engineering! [8]

2.4 The Internet as a Medium of Professional Communication
2.4.1 Link pages
When the widespread presence of archivists on the Internet reached such a level that finding a certain piece of information or a specific site became difficult to locate, archivists started forming archival networks. Aiming to facilitate communication among archives and to form mechanisms to direct users to the right sources, archivists started establishing national archival networks [9].

When the number of such initiatives started increasing, it was suggested that such networks be established between countries, too. Consequently, a decision was passed at the European Summit on Archives, organized by the International Council on Archives, in Bern, Switzerland between 14-16 May 1998, to establish a European Archival Network [10].

However, because the presence of archivists on the Internet has gone far beyond such regional networks, people started making attempts at collecting addresses related to archives and records management. Though most of these have limited themselves to list sites in their own countries only, a few have attempted to do this at a larger scale [11].

2.4.2 Mailing Lists
Archivists and records managers have founded numerous mailing lists related to many different aspects of the profession. People joining these lists from everywhere around the world exhibit a solidarity, possibly unseen in any other environment before, in sharing information they have acquired both personally and through their local or national traditions.

This urge to help others on the net, in fact, is not unique to archivists and records managers. It is a feeling shared by many others joining discussion forums on the Internet and has been the subject of many cybersociological studies. Hauben and Hauben call this type of people Netizens, defining them as people who work in a co-operative and collective nature to contribute towards the development of a great shared social wealth by making the Net a regenerative and vibrant community and resource where intellectual activity is welcomed [12]. Rheingold believes the basic motivations behind these are altruistic and suggests that these societies function by drawing on the rules of the "gift economy" [13]. Barbrook argues this is in fact an existing form of anarcho-communism where money-commodity relations play a secondary role [14].

Whatever the motives behind contributions for each individual are, mailing lists are a unique source of information both to exchange information via active participation and to gather information about archival activities around the world simply as a passive "lurker".

Accessing professional information through this channel is so practical that some people seem to have started depending on mailing lists instead of following professional literature. In contrast, Cox believes information gathered through these lists is not any more useful than that acquired at daily chats at the office coffee machine [15]. Respecting the element of truth in this and making the provision that one does not go to extremes like substituting mailing lists for professional literature, I believe it is possible to access important information or at least to learn where it is located via mailing lists.

There are various studies analyzing the usefulness of this type of computer mediated communication. Anderson and Kanuka compare on-line forums with face to face meetings and conclude mailing lists are beneficial and are effective and functional means of consultation and collaboration work with professionals [16]. Rafaeli and Sudweeks analyze computer mediated communication at a social level and find that content on the net is less confrontational than is popularly believed: conversations are more helpful and social than competitive [17]. Savolainen tries to figure out if they are a "living encyclopedia" or idle talk and finds that they can be both but that they incorporate potentials in information seeking and daily communication [18].

3. METHODOLOGY
All existing mailing list studies share a common methodology: they take a single electronic forum and analyze, using quantitative methods, the content of messages posted to the forum. The current study will differ from these in two aspects. First its scope will be archives and records management and there is no such study, in this field. Second, instead of analyzing the content of messages posted to a single list, it will take a global approach and attempt at a quantitative analysis via the number of lists, number of subscribers to these lists, etc. A content analysis will also be attempted at but based on qualitative observations.

3.1. Compiling the list of mailing lists
An extensive search was conducted to compile the catalogue of mailing lists. Some lists related to museum science and librarianship were included in compiling the catalogue of mailing lists in our field. There are clearly subjects within these fields that are shared with archives administration and records management.

The first were web sites with links to professional archival resources. Among these, the following pages which give information about mailing lists related to archives and records management formed the starting point:
UK Archives Info’s "Professional Associations and Discussion Lists": http://www.archivesinfo.net/proassn.html
Canadian Archival Resources on the Internet’s "Archival Listservs": http://www.usask.ca/archives/car/lists.html
Misc.Business.Records-Management faq’s "Mailing Lists": http://www.geocities.com/WallStreet/1867/sect_211.html
University of Marburg, Archive School’s "Mailing-Listen": http://www.uni-marburg.de/archivschule/mailinglisten.html
SAA Student Chapter’s "Other Archive Sites, Student Chapters, Listservs" : http://ils.unc.edu/saa/sites.html
SIGDA: Le monde...de la gestion de l’information administrative’s "Listes d’envoi": http://www.mediom.qc.ca/~robergem/monde.htm
University of Texas at Austin, Student Chapter of SAA’s "Listservs: Subject List": http://volvo.gslis.utexas.edu/~epcsaa/subject.html
Washington Research Library Consortium’s Special Collections and Archives [Lists]: http://www.wrlc.org/LiblistsQueries/SDetail.idc?SubID=30
Second, search activity was carried out using popular search engines using related keywords and appraising the results that are related to the subject of study.

Third, a similar search was carried out in specialized sites like Lizst, JISC, etc. using their own search facilities.

Fourth, a similar search was done in sites offering free mailing list services, like yahoogroups, topica, etc.

Fifth, my extensive private collection compiled over seven years was added to the catalogue. These have been compiled from announcements made in other mailing lists, professional journals and newsletters. The newsletters of the Society of Archivists and of the Business Archives Council, for example, were the major sources for discovering new professional lists opened in the UK. The full catalogue is now available on-line [19].

3.2. Compiling detailed information about lists
In addition, the information compiled for this study is not limited to summary information as in similar sites listed above. In compiling information about the total of 141 lists [20], a questionnaire that carried the following questions was prepared:
Name of the list:
Subject of list:
Country specific? Yes/No
If yes, country:
List server software:
List address for messages:
List address for subscriptions:
Web site for information about the list? Yes/No
If yes, URL for information:
Web site for subscriptions? Yes/No
If yes, URL for subscriptions:
Web site for archive of old messages? Yes/No
If yes, URL for archive:
Moderated? Yes/No
If yes, name and e-mail of moderator:
Open discussion? (Can anyone post? Or is it open to list members only?) Yes/No
Name and e-mail of administrator:
Language:
Date established:
Name and e-mail of founder:
Number of subscribers as of this date:
Average number of messages per month:
Topics discussed (types of questions/messages posted/discussed):
Notes:


Some of this information is gathered by questioning the list server software, when it allowed such questioning, via certain commands sent to it. The primary information gathered via this method is the number of subscribers to the list and the e-mail address of the list administrator.

Information about the presence of a web page giving information about the list and whether the messages are archived on the web are gathered via traditional web search engines whenever possible.

For the number of messages sent to the list the web archive of the list, if it exists, is used. When this is not possible, the mirror [21] established on ArchiMac BBS is used. However, on lists where subscriptions need to be approved by the list administrator, even this method did not work, in some cases. Thus it was not possible to find the number of messages sent to certain lists.

After the information gathered was filled in to the questionnaire, it was sent to the administrator of the list and s/he was asked to complete the missing parts and correct errors, if any. It was hoped this would facilitate faster responses to the questionnaire. List owners who did not respond were reminded twice, with bimonthly intervals, and if they did not respond despite these attempts, it was assumed they did not want to give further information about their list. In these cases the current study had to suffice with whatever was available.

Once this stage was completed, the information gathered was made into a separate web page for each list and published on ArchiMac server for public consultation.

3.3. Compiling information about list membership in the profession
A similar approach to that described above was followed for compiling data about list membership in the profession. For country specific lists, the major list(s) in that country was taken as the main criterion and the list server software was interrogated by special commands to get a list of subscribers to that list. The number of members with e-mail addresses ending with that country’s suffix was counted. When this was not possible, a message to the administrator of that list was sent, asking for help in finding out the figure. This attempt was repeated at bimonthly intervals until a figure was obtained. However, in one case, even this method did not work and thus no data could be gathered for Belgium.

For the number of professionals in a country, membership to the major professional association(s) in that country was assumed to be a measure. The figures for association memberships were gathered by writing to the major mailing list(s) in that country and asking for help. Again, apart from Belgium, this inquiry was almost immediately responded to by colleagues on that list.

The method used here does have several drawbacks. The first of these is that, counting the number of subscribers to mailing lists in each country by looking at the country suffix of e-mail addresses is not a true measure, because this approach ignores those subscribers using e-mail address from free services like yahoo, hotmail, etc. which theoretically belong to the United States. Also, the assumption that the same people who are members of the professional association(s) of the country would also be subscribers to mailing lists has other drawbacks. For example, from my personal experience in Turkey as the list administrator, I know for sure that, except for three people, there are no subscribers to the list from the professional association of the country.

In spite of these caveats, the analysis was carried to yield an estimate for a ratio of list membership in the profession, or the "market penetration" of lists.

4. SURVEY RESULTS
4.1. Quantitative Analysis
The total number of lists used in this section is 141. When the list owner/administrator did not respond to the questionnaire and it was not possible to obtain the information needed through other sources, such lists were not included in the analysis and were deducted from the population for that question. The survey quantitatively analysed the distribution of lists according to the number of their subscribers and according to the average number of messages posted.

4.1.1 Distribution of lists by number of subscribers
Table 1 shows the distribution of subscribers by list. Judging by the numbers of subscribers, nearly 75% of lists can be described as “active” (>100 subscribers) indicating a surprisingly heavy usage of these systems by archivists and records managers.

Number of

subscribers
Number of

Lists
Percent

0
9
7.1

1-50
11
8.7

51-100
13
10.2

101-250
30
23.6

251-500
26
20.5

501-1,000
21
16.5

1,000+
17
13.4

Total
127
100.0




Table 1 - Distribution of lists by number of subscribers

4.1.2. Distribution of lists by number of messages posted
Based on an average 20 day working month 57% of lists have postings of just one or less messages per day. With 1-5 message a day 26% of lists are reasonably active and the remaining 17% of lists are very active with >5 postings per day. When compared with the numbers of subscribers, this overall relatively low level of posting indicates that records and archivists read much more than they post.

Number of

Messages per month
Number

of Lists
Percent

0-5
31
25.0

6-10
25
20.1

11-20
15
12.1

21-100
32
25.8

101-200
10
8.1

200+
11
8.9

Total
124
100.0




Table 2 - Distribution of lists by number of messages posted

Based on my personal observations there are various reasons behind this:

1. Archivists and records managers tend to follow lists mainly at their office and therefore refrain from writing messages that are not directly related to their work.

2. Many archivists and records managers subscribe to more than one list. The message traffic in some of these lists is extremely high. (For example the daily message traffic in the RECMGMT list is limited to 80 per day to keep it at a readable level and the distribution of any message beyond this borderline is postponed to the following day.) Because it can become an extremely time consuming task to follow these lists at times, people refrain from writing unnecessary messages and disapprove of those who write such messages.

3. Archivists and records managers who subscribe to more than one list prefer to ask questions that relate to more specific issues in lists that are established to deal with those issues only. This allows the replies received to be more informed and on topic.

4.1.3. Distribution of lists by their topic
The extremely wide and rich variety of topics related to archives and records management reflect itself in the variety of mailing lists related to the profession, too. The existence of more than twenty different headings among the topics of mailing lists related to archives and records management can be taken as the most important reflection of this richness:
General

Archives administration (7 lists)
Records management (4 lists)
Specific subjects
Disaster planning (5 lists)
Information technologies (23 lists) [EAD related subjects excluded]
Film, photo and image archives (16 lists)
Cartographic archives (3 lists)
Indexing (1 list) [archives related only]
Conservation (7 lists)
Music archives (5 lists)
Description (7 lists) [including EAD]
Health archives (5 lists)
Other specific archives (9 lists)
Archives and Museum Informatics
Business archives
Digital Audio Libraries
Lesbian and Gay Archives
Marine History
Private archives
Recorded Sound Collections
Specialized research collections
University archives
k. Sister subjects (7 lists)
Book arts (binding, paper production etc.)
Business Forms Management
Freedom of Information
Oral History
Rare books
Visitor services
Watermarks

Despite this variety, which reflects the interdisciplinary nature of the profession, there is no doubt that archives and records management professionals participate in other professional lists and discussion groups, like those on history, business management, computers, etc, too, to reflect the multi-skilled professional in the modern information economy.

4.1.4. Ratio of List Membership in the Profession
A comparison of the number of subscribers to the major mailing list(s) in a country with that of the members of the major professional organization(s) in that country on archives and records management reveals that roughly half of the profession follows a professional mailing list.

In the Anglophone world, where archives administration and records management tend to be two distinct professions, membership to a professional list seems to be more popular among archivists than that among records managers. (See Table 3.)


Archives
RM
Total


List
Assoc.
%
List
Assoc.
%
List
Assoc.
%

USA
3127
3400
92
2340
10000
23
5467
13400
41

UK
1009
1400
72
368
657
56
1377
2057
67

Australia
663
635
104
873
628
139
1536
1263
122

New Zealand






402
318+
126

Canada
543
542
100
220
1339
16
763
1881
41

Sub-Total (Anglophone)
5342
5977
89
3801
12624
30
9545
18919
50












Germany






295
2200
13

Belgium










France






974
1200
81

Holland






350
2600
13

Italy






1024
1183
87

Spain






781
700+
112

Turkey






102
235
43

TOTAL






13071
27037
48




Table 3 - Ratio of list membership in the profession

4.2. Qualitative Analysis
When the content of messages sent to lists related to archives and records management is analyzed, based on a method of observation, one sees that certain subjects commonly appear in many lists.

4.2.1. Popular topics
i. Vacancy notices

The most common topic that recur in many lists is job vacancy notices. Some of the times these are sent by persons leaving the job and who are asked to find and choose the person to succeed. At other times the person sending the message could be a professional trying to help a colleague. Whatever the cause, people send their job vacancy notices to mailing lists, before sending them for publication in traditional media.

ii. Conference, etc. announcements

Another topic that commonly appears in lists related to archives and records management is announcements of conferences, symposiums, etc. related to the profession. Such announcements are sometimes sent, in the form of call for papers, when the activity is still in the pre-preparation stage. At other times, this would be a call for people to attend the activity.

iii. Announcements of professional associations

Announcements related to the activities of associations and similar professional organizations in the archives and records management field are another common type of message that appear in mailing lists. Because some of these lists are founded by and sometimes founded for the internal communication of units in such organizations, the majority of messages sent to these lists might be announcements of this type.

iv. Announcements regarding new research

Another common type of announcements made in the lists relate to new research being carried out or just completed. Such announcements might be in the form of call for comments on draft texts that appear during the course of research or links to web pages publicizing the findings of completed projects. For example, a solution developed in the Victoria Province of Australia, the Victorian Electronic Records Strategy (VERS), for problems relating to the management of electronic records, was announced in a number of mailing lists around the world and people were asked to comment on the draft texts made available via its web site. These comments were then incorporated into the research and the developed texts appearing as a result of these findings were again publicized on the same web site and subsequently announced in the mailing lists. Among other examples of announcements relating to current research that has drawn widespread contribution, one can cite the Australian Records Management Standard that opened the road for the ISO standard on records management and the Access to Archives (A2A) project in the UK that aims to increase access to archives by publishing archival finding aids on the Internet.

v. Questionnaires

Some other research related to archives and records management may show themselves at the data gathering stage of the project in the form of questionnaires. In such cases, the questionnaire forms are either directly posted to the mailing lists asking potential contributors to send them back to the researcher after filling them in, or just a call for contributions is made inviting people to a certain web address with the same purpose. In the last five years, one of the most popular of such studies was the one on salaries paid to archives and records staff. After the study made in the United States, similar studies were carried out in Europe and Australia and the findings of the first one was publicized on the web site of the American Records Management Association (ARMA).

vi. Records/Archives in the News

Another popular subject that regularly appears in mailing lists related to archives and records management is news relating to the profession that appear in the press. Messages starting with RAIN, short for Records and Archives In the News, are messages carrying such news or comments made on them. These messages were initially created by an archives and records professional named Peter Kurilecz, when he started sending his compilation of such news items to the lists ARCHIVES&ARCHIVISTS and RECMGMT. They became so popular over time that now other people, too, are sending in similar messages, paving the way towards turning it into a tradition. Such messages sometimes quote the whole news article, whereas others just summarize the content and direct readers to the web page where the whole article is located.

vii. Announcements of web sites and updates

Another type of message that directs people to web pages is the announcements sent to mailing lists when web sites of archival organizations are updated. Addresses of sites that archivists and records managers find to be of interest to the profession and want to share with colleagues may also be noted among addresses sent to mailing lists related to archives and records management.

viii. Humour

Messages carrying humour, generally sent on Friday afternoons under the title "Friday Funnies," are another type of message archivists and records managers send to professional mailing lists, with the aim of relaxing a little after a busy week. Although they receive complaints at times because they create unnecessary message traffic in lists formed to exchange professional information and ideas, they are mostly tolerated and those who do not want to see them are asked to simply delete them without opening after seeing their subject.

ix. Archives/RIM software

Another topic that commonly appears in mailing lists related to archives and records management is archives and records management software. Observations of users of such software on the pros and cons of the product they are using are especially sought for. However, because employees of companies producing this type of software subscribe to the same mailing lists quite often, such views (especially the negative ones) are almost always sent to the inquirer privately. The motives behind this are to avoid unnecessary discussions that would last for a long time and concern for possible litigation by the software company.

x. Information on suppliers

Correspondence on the whereabouts of suppliers of archives and records management equipment and supplies is another topic that commonly appears on mailing lists related to archives and records management.

xi. Professional queries

The most common message type seen, within the context of exchanging professional information and ideas, are those asking for help on a certain specific problem that an archivist or a records manager encounters in the daily course of his/her professional life. A typical example of these are messages, sent by professionals early in their career, who are asked to shape policies and prepare a procedures manual, asking for help in gathering samples of similar work carried out by others. Because replies to such inquiries tend to contain long documents, they are sent directly to the inquirer, most of the times and the fact that s/he has found what s/he was looking for shows itself in messages they send to the list, collectively thanking people who have helped with the query.

If the inquiry is of a nature that does not require long answers, it has become a tradition for the inquirer to compile and summarize the replies/he has received and send them to the list collectively. This summarization has become almost an ethical obligation and people who do not obey this are perceived to be egoists, even though it is never openly expressed, and sometimes protested via indirect implications.

xii. Discussions

However, the most useful and indispensable type of messages appearing on mailing lists, no doubt, are discussions around professional issues. As can be expected in all environments where more than one person come together, different opinions clash on mailing lists where archivists and records managers meet each other "virtually". These differences in opinions may occasionally cause hot debates and even fights, or "flames" as they are called in mailing list jargon, and sometimes last for months. A typical example of these was a discussion back in 1995 that took place on the ARCHIVES&ARCHIVISTS list under the heading "Tobacco Company". [22] Although the discussion reached such fury at times that some people started calling each other names, all ideas that were put forward had an element of truth in them and the whole discussion was very informative from a professional ethical perspective.

4.2.2. Netiquette
The Subject used in the header of messages is worth noting. Because this field repeats itself in every message sent in response to the previous one on the same topic, it is possible to follow the chain of messages that follow each other, collectively called to form a thread. However in cases when the discussion moves into a different direction from that which was discussed in the first message, the Subject field may become totally irrelevant to what is being discussed. In such cases, some contributors prefer to change this header to represent the topic in question better but to enable people to follow the thread, they remind the previous one by keeping it in parentheses and adding the word "was" in front of it. Such practices do help people who read messages selectively according to their subjects but when nobody bothers to do this, it may become very misleading to select messages in this fashion.

Another common practice that helps people in following the discussions is to quote the relevant parts of the previous message so that people can understand what is being referred to. However, when this is overdone, that is when people quote the whole message and add just a few words like ’I agree" or "me too", it is seen as bad netiquette and create discontent among list members.

Some people have got the habit of setting their mail programs to send an automatic "out-of-office" reply when they go on a holiday or a business trip. However, for each message sent to the list, this automatic reply function sends a reply to the whole list. This creates an unnecessary traffic on the list. If the listserver software is set to send a copy of one’s own messages to him/herself to acknowledge receipt of the message, then an infinite loop is created, causing the list members extreme frustration, until the list administrator intervenes and stops this traffic. However, if the list administrator is not readily available to stop this right there and then, tens or sometimes hundreds of messages may be sent to each list member before someone takes any action. One such case that lasted for about three days was experienced in a list in Australia a few years ago.

5. DISCUSSION
Mailing lists are now a vital tool for archivists and records managers the world over, creating a vibrant community facilitating the access of each member to internet resources that would have been inconceivable only a few years ago.

For scientists and researchers living in countries that do not have financial resources as developed as the Western world, mailing lists serve an even more valuable role, allowing them to access materials that would otherwise not be cost effective to acquire. For example, some publications which would not normally be published on the Internet because of copyright or basic security limitations may sometimes be obtained directly from the author in the form of an e-mail attachment.

Mailing lists present some additional benefits that cannot be acquired by other means when it enables experts to collaborate on the preliminary findings of new research projects when they are opened to public discussion.

Another major importance mailing lists carry for scientists and researchers is the unique ease it presents for studies that require fieldwork. Being able to carry out research, based on information gathered from a target audience that is reached directly, via questionnaires sent to mailing lists, and furthermore, being able to do this in a very short period of time and on a population distributed all around the world, is not possible with any other means.

Viewed from these points, mailing lists can perhaps be described as an "invisible college" for archivists and records managers. With the internet as its “library” the lists provide access to a multitude of experts on various topics all acting as reference librarians. In its classrooms one can discuss any specialised subject both with informed and interested colleagues from all around the world and the best experts in the field. These discussions are recorded on the spot, to create a resource for others who might want to inquire on the same subject in the future. In its laboratories wait a population of subjects, gathered from all around the world, waiting to be questioned on any specialised topic of research; and most important of all, all these cost almost nothing for the researcher.

Because of these qualities, mailing lists have found themselves a place as an educational tool in real life universities, too, especially in distant education applications. For example, in the distant education program on archives and records management served at Edith Cowan University of Australia, mailing lists are used to simulate real life class rooms where students are encouraged to discuss matters among themselves and the educator stays as an observer as much as possible and interrupt only when necessary and even then mainly to steer the discussion in a different direction [23].

6. CONCLUSION
Wherever they may be located in the world, archivists and records managers have made active use of the Internet to share information and develop the profession. They have employed mailing lists as the major means of this collaboration and communication and made substantial use of them.

Today there are more than 140 mailing lists, related to archives and records management in one way or the other – over 50% of which have more than 250 subscribers. This high level of membership is notable but not surprising given the estimate that nearly 50% of record managers and archivists belong to one or more lists. For a relatively young medium of communication, this level of take up among a traditionally paper based profession is significant. Nearly 20% of the lists have a large number of monthly postings (>100), covering more than twenty different headings among the topics of these mailing lists. With this variety of professional topics being discussed and extensive debate on professional issues, these mailing lists are now effectively the virtual college of our profession.

7. References
[1] Available at: http://www.socio.demon.co.uk/magazine/ (accessed 26 October 2003).

[2] J. C. R. Licklider and Robert W. Taylor, The Computer as a Communication Device reprinted in In Memoriam: J. C. R. Licklider 1915-1990 (Digital Systems Research Center, Palo Alto, Calif., 1990); originally published in Science and Technology (April 1968). Available at http://memex.org/licklider.html (accessed 26 October 2003).

[3] EAD is developed mainly by the Library of Congress and more information about it can be found at http://www.loc.gov/ead/. For a study relating to its use in other countries see M. Sweet, The Internationalisation of EAD (Encoded Archival Description), Journal of the Society of Archivists 22 (1) (April 2001), 33-38.

[4] S. Kinsey, Putting Images on the World Wide Web: A Guide for Business Archivists, Business Archives; Principles and Practice 75 (May 1998), 1.

[5] P. Horsman, Archives Crossing the Borders, In: P. Cadell and F. Dalemans (eds), Archives et Bibliotheques de Belgique = Archief en Bibliotheekvezen in Belgie, Special Edition on International Council on Archives - European Summit on Archives, Bern, Switzerland, 14-16 May 1998 69 (1-4) (1998), 75-83.

[6] T. H. PETERSON, The Internet and the Archives, Atlanti 8 (1998), 17 and 20.

[7] A. Balough, Electronic Media: State of the Disk, Records and Information Retrieval Report 14 (2) (February 1998), 3.

[8] B. Haspel, Computer Revolution and its Impact on the Archival World; Atlanti 8 (1998), 34-36.

[9] For examples see Archives On-Line: The Establishment of a United Kingdom Archival Network (National Council on Archives, Birmingham, 1998); S. J.A. Flynn, M. Hillyard and B. Stockting. A2A: The Development of a Strand in the National Archives Network, Journal of the Society of Archivists 22 (2) (October 2001), 177-192; G. SLATER, Networking for Cooperation: The Experience of Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, Journal of the Society of Archivists 22 (1) (April 2001), 5-16.

[10] Available at http://www.european-archival.net (Accessed 26 October 2003)

[11] A collected list of such links pages can be found at: http://www.archimac.org/Profession/Links.spml (Accessed 26 October 2003)

[12] R. Hauben and M. Hauben, Netizens: An Anthology . (IEEE Computer Science Press, Los Alamitos, Calif., 1997). Available at http://www.columbia.edu/~hauben/netbook/ (Accessed 26 October 2003)

[13] H. Rheingold, The Virtual Community (1993). Available at http://www.well.com/user/hlr/vcbook/index.html (Accessed 26 October 2003)

[14] R. Barbrook, The High-Tech Gift Economy, First Monday 3 (12) (December 1998). Available at http://firstmonday.dk/issues/issue3_12/barbrook/index.html ( Accessed 26 October 2003) reprinted in Cybersociology (5)

[15] R. Cox, Do We Understand Information in the Information Age? Records and Information Report 14 (3) (March 1998), 8.

[16] T. Anderson and H. Kanuka, On-Line Forums: New Platforms for Professional Development and Group Collaboration, Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 3 (3) (December 1997). Available at http://www.ascusc.org/jcmc/vol3/issue3/anderson.html (Accessed 26 October 2003)

[17] S. Rafaeli and F. Sudweeks, Networked Interactivity, Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 2 (4) (March 1997). Available at http://www.ascusc.org/jcmc/vol2/issue4/rafaeli.sudweeks.html (Accessed 26 October 2003).

[18] R. Savolainen, ’Living Encyclopedia’ or Idle Talk? Seeking and Providing Consumer Information in an Internet Newsgroup, Library and Information Science Research (23) (2001), 67-90.

[19] The full catalogue of the lists is available at: http://www.archimac.org/Profession/Lists/index.spml (Accessed 26 October 2003)

[20] The total number of lists on the web site is more than 200. The figure quoted here represents the part which relate to archives and records management and thus exclude the ones that relate only to museums or to Turkish history.

[21] On ArchiMac: (http://www.archimac.org/ ArchiMac/index.spml) separate mail accounts are opened for each list. These accounts are subscribed to the lists in question individually. Thus a copy of each message sent to the lists are obtained. Subsequently, these messages are transferred to the echo conference areas of the BBS using some special software designed for this purpose and then they are transferred to the web interface of the BBS by another utility. However, due to a legislation passed in Turkey in 2002, which holds the web administrator responsible for anything that is broadcasted on the web, this part of the system is now closed to public and is accessible only by the systems operator.

[22] The chain of events that gave way to this discussion started with some research, carried out in the laboratories of a tobacco company, that found that smoking was harmful to human health. The company had hidden this finding from the public. A law firm, whom the tobacco company was a customer of, was aware of this finding. An employee of the law firm, who was fired for some reason, anonymously sent copies of certain documents that relate to this finding to some newspapers and to a university professor who was carrying out research on this topic. The whole thing was widely discussed in the papers and in public for quite a long time during that period. However the real chain of events that caused the big discussion on the mailing list started after the death of the university professor, to whom copies of the same documents had been sent. The professor’s family donated all of his papers to the university library. And the library, realizing the popularity of the subject, published these documents on the Internet.

Some of the archivists joining the discussion asserted that this action was normal and that archivists were expected to protect the public’s right to be informed while another group challenged that position on the grounds that the documents in question were obtained by illegal means and archivists are in no position to support illegitimate actions. Yet another group maintained that the documents were already published in the press in detail and that there was no problem in publishing them over the Internet again. Hence the discussion went on for months.

[23] See K. Anderson, Distance Education: Facilitating Student Communication, Workshop Presentation presented at European Conference for Archival Educators and Trainers, Marburg, September 24th and 25th 2001, Reading the Vital Signs: Archival Training and Education in the 21st Century, International Council on Archives Section for Archival Education and Training. Available at http://www.ica-sae.org/mrconfpaper2.ppt (Accessed 26 October 2003)Journal of Information Science, XXX/1 (2004): 30-40. © Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP)


Technological Means of Communication and Collaboration in Archives and Records Management

Bekir Kemal Ataman
Department of Archives and Records Management, Marmara University, Istanbul, Turkey.


Abstract:
This study explores the international collaboration efforts of archivists and records managers starting with the hypothesis that Internet technologies have had a significant impact on both national and international communication for this previously conservative group. The use and importance of mailing lists for this purpose is studied in detail. A quantitative analysis looks globally at the numbers of lists in these fields and the numbers of subscribers. A qualitative analysis of list content is also described. The study finds that archivists and records managers have now created more than 140 mailing lists related to their profession and have been contributing to these lists actively. It also "estimates" that about half of the profession follows a list relating to their work and that archivists seem to like lists more than records managers. The study concludes that mailing lists can be seen as a virtual college binding these groups together to develop the field.
Keywords:
archives administration, records management, Internet, mailing lists, forums
1. Introduction
1.1 Internet refinements – enriching communication
With the invention of writing, mankind achieved a stable method of transferring its accumulated knowledge to later generations. It gained the ability to keep and pass onto others more information than could possibly held by one individual and be communicated verbally. Because of the link between information and power, writing remained the prerogative of the ruling classes. However with the invention of printing, the availability of written material expanded dramatically until by the end of the twentieth century there was not a society that did not aspire to having universal literacy—if only as a remote aspiration.

Writing remained the major means of distant communication until the invention of telephone, after which it was often replaced by oral communication. People found telephones easier to use and much more immediate than writing. It permitted the use of nuances like accent and intonation, which can change the whole course of communication, something that cannot be conveyed easily in writing.

However, with the advent of the e-mail via the Internet, there arrived a speedy and cost effective way to communicate in writing with almost the same immediacy as the telephone. With this, writing once again became the choice means of communicating facts and ideas from a distance. Even casual conversations now use this medium, with the addition of “emoticons” to convey subtle nuances and emotion.

1.2 The evolution of group communication
Since the birth of e-mail, written communication has become richer and more sophisticated placing new demands on technology and protocols. The internet has responded with new facilities. Gopher and FTP arose to meet the need to transfer documents too large to be sent by e-mail and the need to navigate around complex multi-media information gave birth to the World Wide Web. A need to bring immediacy and collaboration back into communication created instant messaging (IRC) and Usenet newsgroups, both supporting communities of users often linked by a common interest. Today the number of newsgroups on the Usenet backbone is over 10,000. In many of these, hundreds and sometimes even thousands of messages are posted in a single day.

The need for sharing information in generally narrower and more specific fields of interest compared to Usenet Newsgroups gave rise to the birth of electronic mailing lists, serviced by “List Servers” much simpler than the powerful servers on the Usenet backbone. People who are interested in the major topic of the list first send a special command to the server program by e-mail and become subscribed. This allows them to make and receive posts to the list in question and allows access to a list archive of old message threads.

Mailing lists tend to aim at much more specialised topics of interest, compared to Usenet newsgroups and therefore their numbers of subscribers are much smaller. Many lists have just tens or perhaps hundreds of subscribers and in most cases the daily flow of messages is less than ten. Although it is a very small figure, compared to Usenet newsgroups, following a mailing list can still be a seriously time-consuming task. Although one can choose to receive the messages in a “digest mode” (combining all posts for a period into a single e-mail) the total length of text to be read is often extensive given the specialised topics of interest and detailed issues considered.

1.3. Basis of this study
This study explores the extent to which mailing lists are now used by archivists and records managers for international communication and collaboration. It proposes that the way they are now used reflects the interdisciplinary nature of the profession. In doing this it assumes that the basic tool used for national and international communication and collaboration is mailing lists and that the basic criterion in measuring the penetration of the technology into the normal work of the profession is reflected in the number of messages that can be effectively followed (read and replied) by an archivist/records manager during a normal working day without interrupting one’s professional duties.

2. The Use of the Internet in Archives and Records Management
The use and usefulness of the Internet in people’s lives of today has been the subject of numerous studies. The Journal of Cybersociology [1] is dedicated to the study of this topic. The earliest of such studies was a paper by J. C. R. Licklider and Robert W. Taylor, who prophesied, as early as 1968, that computers would become an important device of human communication and interaction [2].

This section will look at the ways in which the Internet is used in the archives and records management world by grouping them under four main categories:
as a medium of consumption,
as a medium of production
as a medium of document production
as a medium of professional communication
2.1 The Internet as a medium of consumption
Archivists and records managers have similar usage patterns as other Internet consumers. Key activities are:
Researching suppliers in the field
Exploring the work of other (potentially competitive) organizations in the field and
Accessing online professional publications and information resource catalogues.
2.2. The Internet as a medium of production
Archivists and records managers have created many web sites with the aim of promoting and e-enabling the organisation they work for. For many of the more forward thinking archives, the Internet is now a key medium of interaction with their client base.

Working hours and the terms and conditions of service are now available on-line for most archives. However many take this further, distributing the publications prepared by the archives free of charge over the Internet or putting their archive holdings catalogues on-line. Archives associated with libraries have generally taken the lead in this area. In the last few years, methods and standards have been developed to publish archival descriptions at the fonds/collection level over the web. These standards have been spreading steadily and been put to use by various archival organisations around the world. The most commonly adopted of these are the applications called Encoded Archival Description (EAD) [3] and Extensible Mark-up Language (XML), which are hardware and operating system independent structures. The use of EAD and XML enable the creation of archival descriptions that can be accessed and read by anyone with web access.

Kinsey argues these descriptions will enable users to search concurrently for sources relating to their area of interest in a variety of repositories [4]. As Horsman suggests, when accompanied by scanned images of the documents this will enable at least part of the problems associated with archives that relate to more than one country (belonging to one country by its provenance but relating to another by its information content), to be solved by enabling documents to be consulted across borders [5]. As Peterson suggests, this will also enable more than one person to access the same document at the same time. This is a benefit that can never be achieved with real documents [6].

2.3 The Internet as a medium of document production
However, Internet and Intranet applications bring with them many problems for archivists and records managers. Managing e-mail records and following rapidly changing web pages are the major ones among these. In addition, archiving documents kept only in electronic medium need some special techniques for handling them as well as solving special problems tied to the medium on which the information is recorded.

Balough points out that the cost of magnetic storage has dropped from ten thousand dollars to six cents per megabyte in the last 44 years. This has created an illusion in some minds that most of these problems can be solved by storing everything. However, the cost of the medium is not of major importance in any record system. Ignoring this fact will cause wrong decisions to be taken [7] regarding the cost of storing documents kept in electronic medium. Unfortunately the prevalence of the idea that storage in this medium costs virtually nothing can often hide the reality which is that the cost of keeping electronic records can reach enormous levels. Proving authenticity of such records and taking measures against technological obsolescence of both hardware and software are just two examples of the factors that can contribute to this enormous cost.

Haspel asserts that the major function of the archivists and records managers of the future will be based on keeping the content rather than the carrier medium. They will deal with the preservation, analysis and dissemination of information and hence be freed from other tasks to concentrate on the essence of their profession, appraising and preparing the material for the user. To be able to do these, they will need to raise their knowledge of computers to much higher levels. As a result of this a new profession might be expected to emerge: Archives Engineering! [8]

2.4 The Internet as a Medium of Professional Communication
2.4.1 Link pages
When the widespread presence of archivists on the Internet reached such a level that finding a certain piece of information or a specific site became difficult to locate, archivists started forming archival networks. Aiming to facilitate communication among archives and to form mechanisms to direct users to the right sources, archivists started establishing national archival networks [9].

When the number of such initiatives started increasing, it was suggested that such networks be established between countries, too. Consequently, a decision was passed at the European Summit on Archives, organized by the International Council on Archives, in Bern, Switzerland between 14-16 May 1998, to establish a European Archival Network [10].

However, because the presence of archivists on the Internet has gone far beyond such regional networks, people started making attempts at collecting addresses related to archives and records management. Though most of these have limited themselves to list sites in their own countries only, a few have attempted to do this at a larger scale [11].

2.4.2 Mailing Lists
Archivists and records managers have founded numerous mailing lists related to many different aspects of the profession. People joining these lists from everywhere around the world exhibit a solidarity, possibly unseen in any other environment before, in sharing information they have acquired both personally and through their local or national traditions.

This urge to help others on the net, in fact, is not unique to archivists and records managers. It is a feeling shared by many others joining discussion forums on the Internet and has been the subject of many cybersociological studies. Hauben and Hauben call this type of people Netizens, defining them as people who work in a co-operative and collective nature to contribute towards the development of a great shared social wealth by making the Net a regenerative and vibrant community and resource where intellectual activity is welcomed [12]. Rheingold believes the basic motivations behind these are altruistic and suggests that these societies function by drawing on the rules of the "gift economy" [13]. Barbrook argues this is in fact an existing form of anarcho-communism where money-commodity relations play a secondary role [14].

Whatever the motives behind contributions for each individual are, mailing lists are a unique source of information both to exchange information via active participation and to gather information about archival activities around the world simply as a passive "lurker".

Accessing professional information through this channel is so practical that some people seem to have started depending on mailing lists instead of following professional literature. In contrast, Cox believes information gathered through these lists is not any more useful than that acquired at daily chats at the office coffee machine [15]. Respecting the element of truth in this and making the provision that one does not go to extremes like substituting mailing lists for professional literature, I believe it is possible to access important information or at least to learn where it is located via mailing lists.

There are various studies analyzing the usefulness of this type of computer mediated communication. Anderson and Kanuka compare on-line forums with face to face meetings and conclude mailing lists are beneficial and are effective and functional means of consultation and collaboration work with professionals [16]. Rafaeli and Sudweeks analyze computer mediated communication at a social level and find that content on the net is less confrontational than is popularly believed: conversations are more helpful and social than competitive [17]. Savolainen tries to figure out if they are a "living encyclopedia" or idle talk and finds that they can be both but that they incorporate potentials in information seeking and daily communication [18].

3. METHODOLOGY
All existing mailing list studies share a common methodology: they take a single electronic forum and analyze, using quantitative methods, the content of messages posted to the forum. The current study will differ from these in two aspects. First its scope will be archives and records management and there is no such study, in this field. Second, instead of analyzing the content of messages posted to a single list, it will take a global approach and attempt at a quantitative analysis via the number of lists, number of subscribers to these lists, etc. A content analysis will also be attempted at but based on qualitative observations.

3.1. Compiling the list of mailing lists
An extensive search was conducted to compile the catalogue of mailing lists. Some lists related to museum science and librarianship were included in compiling the catalogue of mailing lists in our field. There are clearly subjects within these fields that are shared with archives administration and records management.

The first were web sites with links to professional archival resources. Among these, the following pages which give information about mailing lists related to archives and records management formed the starting point:
UK Archives Info’s "Professional Associations and Discussion Lists": http://www.archivesinfo.net/proassn.html
Canadian Archival Resources on the Internet’s "Archival Listservs": http://www.usask.ca/archives/car/lists.html
Misc.Business.Records-Management faq’s "Mailing Lists": http://www.geocities.com/WallStreet/1867/sect_211.html
University of Marburg, Archive School’s "Mailing-Listen": http://www.uni-marburg.de/archivschule/mailinglisten.html
SAA Student Chapter’s "Other Archive Sites, Student Chapters, Listservs" : http://ils.unc.edu/saa/sites.html
SIGDA: Le monde...de la gestion de l’information administrative’s "Listes d’envoi": http://www.mediom.qc.ca/~robergem/monde.htm
University of Texas at Austin, Student Chapter of SAA’s "Listservs: Subject List": http://volvo.gslis.utexas.edu/~epcsaa/subject.html
Washington Research Library Consortium’s Special Collections and Archives [Lists]: http://www.wrlc.org/LiblistsQueries/SDetail.idc?SubID=30
Second, search activity was carried out using popular search engines using related keywords and appraising the results that are related to the subject of study.

Third, a similar search was carried out in specialized sites like Lizst, JISC, etc. using their own search facilities.

Fourth, a similar search was done in sites offering free mailing list services, like yahoogroups, topica, etc.

Fifth, my extensive private collection compiled over seven years was added to the catalogue. These have been compiled from announcements made in other mailing lists, professional journals and newsletters. The newsletters of the Society of Archivists and of the Business Archives Council, for example, were the major sources for discovering new professional lists opened in the UK. The full catalogue is now available on-line [19].

3.2. Compiling detailed information about lists
In addition, the information compiled for this study is not limited to summary information as in similar sites listed above. In compiling information about the total of 141 lists [20], a questionnaire that carried the following questions was prepared:
Name of the list:
Subject of list:
Country specific? Yes/No
If yes, country:
List server software:
List address for messages:
List address for subscriptions:
Web site for information about the list? Yes/No
If yes, URL for information:
Web site for subscriptions? Yes/No
If yes, URL for subscriptions:
Web site for archive of old messages? Yes/No
If yes, URL for archive:
Moderated? Yes/No
If yes, name and e-mail of moderator:
Open discussion? (Can anyone post? Or is it open to list members only?) Yes/No
Name and e-mail of administrator:
Language:
Date established:
Name and e-mail of founder:
Number of subscribers as of this date:
Average number of messages per month:
Topics discussed (types of questions/messages posted/discussed):
Notes:


Some of this information is gathered by questioning the list server software, when it allowed such questioning, via certain commands sent to it. The primary information gathered via this method is the number of subscribers to the list and the e-mail address of the list administrator.

Information about the presence of a web page giving information about the list and whether the messages are archived on the web are gathered via traditional web search engines whenever possible.

For the number of messages sent to the list the web archive of the list, if it exists, is used. When this is not possible, the mirror [21] established on ArchiMac BBS is used. However, on lists where subscriptions need to be approved by the list administrator, even this method did not work, in some cases. Thus it was not possible to find the number of messages sent to certain lists.

After the information gathered was filled in to the questionnaire, it was sent to the administrator of the list and s/he was asked to complete the missing parts and correct errors, if any. It was hoped this would facilitate faster responses to the questionnaire. List owners who did not respond were reminded twice, with bimonthly intervals, and if they did not respond despite these attempts, it was assumed they did not want to give further information about their list. In these cases the current study had to suffice with whatever was available.

Once this stage was completed, the information gathered was made into a separate web page for each list and published on ArchiMac server for public consultation.

3.3. Compiling information about list membership in the profession
A similar approach to that described above was followed for compiling data about list membership in the profession. For country specific lists, the major list(s) in that country was taken as the main criterion and the list server software was interrogated by special commands to get a list of subscribers to that list. The number of members with e-mail addresses ending with that country’s suffix was counted. When this was not possible, a message to the administrator of that list was sent, asking for help in finding out the figure. This attempt was repeated at bimonthly intervals until a figure was obtained. However, in one case, even this method did not work and thus no data could be gathered for Belgium.

For the number of professionals in a country, membership to the major professional association(s) in that country was assumed to be a measure. The figures for association memberships were gathered by writing to the major mailing list(s) in that country and asking for help. Again, apart from Belgium, this inquiry was almost immediately responded to by colleagues on that list.

The method used here does have several drawbacks. The first of these is that, counting the number of subscribers to mailing lists in each country by looking at the country suffix of e-mail addresses is not a true measure, because this approach ignores those subscribers using e-mail address from free services like yahoo, hotmail, etc. which theoretically belong to the United States. Also, the assumption that the same people who are members of the professional association(s) of the country would also be subscribers to mailing lists has other drawbacks. For example, from my personal experience in Turkey as the list administrator, I know for sure that, except for three people, there are no subscribers to the list from the professional association of the country.

In spite of these caveats, the analysis was carried to yield an estimate for a ratio of list membership in the profession, or the "market penetration" of lists.

4. SURVEY RESULTS
4.1. Quantitative Analysis
The total number of lists used in this section is 141. When the list owner/administrator did not respond to the questionnaire and it was not possible to obtain the information needed through other sources, such lists were not included in the analysis and were deducted from the population for that question. The survey quantitatively analysed the distribution of lists according to the number of their subscribers and according to the average number of messages posted.

4.1.1 Distribution of lists by number of subscribers
Table 1 shows the distribution of subscribers by list. Judging by the numbers of subscribers, nearly 75% of lists can be described as “active” (>100 subscribers) indicating a surprisingly heavy usage of these systems by archivists and records managers.

Number of

subscribers
Number of

Lists
Percent

0
9
7.1

1-50
11
8.7

51-100
13
10.2

101-250
30
23.6

251-500
26
20.5

501-1,000
21
16.5

1,000+
17
13.4

Total
127
100.0




Table 1 - Distribution of lists by number of subscribers

4.1.2. Distribution of lists by number of messages posted
Based on an average 20 day working month 57% of lists have postings of just one or less messages per day. With 1-5 message a day 26% of lists are reasonably active and the remaining 17% of lists are very active with >5 postings per day. When compared with the numbers of subscribers, this overall relatively low level of posting indicates that records and archivists read much more than they post.

Number of

Messages per month
Number

of Lists
Percent

0-5
31
25.0

6-10
25
20.1

11-20
15
12.1

21-100
32
25.8

101-200
10
8.1

200+
11
8.9

Total
124
100.0




Table 2 - Distribution of lists by number of messages posted

Based on my personal observations there are various reasons behind this:

1. Archivists and records managers tend to follow lists mainly at their office and therefore refrain from writing messages that are not directly related to their work.

2. Many archivists and records managers subscribe to more than one list. The message traffic in some of these lists is extremely high. (For example the daily message traffic in the RECMGMT list is limited to 80 per day to keep it at a readable level and the distribution of any message beyond this borderline is postponed to the following day.) Because it can become an extremely time consuming task to follow these lists at times, people refrain from writing unnecessary messages and disapprove of those who write such messages.

3. Archivists and records managers who subscribe to more than one list prefer to ask questions that relate to more specific issues in lists that are established to deal with those issues only. This allows the replies received to be more informed and on topic.

4.1.3. Distribution of lists by their topic
The extremely wide and rich variety of topics related to archives and records management reflect itself in the variety of mailing lists related to the profession, too. The existence of more than twenty different headings among the topics of mailing lists related to archives and records management can be taken as the most important reflection of this richness:
General

Archives administration (7 lists)
Records management (4 lists)
Specific subjects
Disaster planning (5 lists)
Information technologies (23 lists) [EAD related subjects excluded]
Film, photo and image archives (16 lists)
Cartographic archives (3 lists)
Indexing (1 list) [archives related only]
Conservation (7 lists)
Music archives (5 lists)
Description (7 lists) [including EAD]
Health archives (5 lists)
Other specific archives (9 lists)
Archives and Museum Informatics
Business archives
Digital Audio Libraries
Lesbian and Gay Archives
Marine History
Private archives
Recorded Sound Collections
Specialized research collections
University archives
k. Sister subjects (7 lists)
Book arts (binding, paper production etc.)
Business Forms Management
Freedom of Information
Oral History
Rare books
Visitor services
Watermarks

Despite this variety, which reflects the interdisciplinary nature of the profession, there is no doubt that archives and records management professionals participate in other professional lists and discussion groups, like those on history, business management, computers, etc, too, to reflect the multi-skilled professional in the modern information economy.

4.1.4. Ratio of List Membership in the Profession
A comparison of the number of subscribers to the major mailing list(s) in a country with that of the members of the major professional organization(s) in that country on archives and records management reveals that roughly half of the profession follows a professional mailing list.

In the Anglophone world, where archives administration and records management tend to be two distinct professions, membership to a professional list seems to be more popular among archivists than that among records managers. (See Table 3.)


Archives
RM
Total


List
Assoc.
%
List
Assoc.
%
List
Assoc.
%

USA
3127
3400
92
2340
10000
23
5467
13400
41

UK
1009
1400
72
368
657
56
1377
2057
67

Australia
663
635
104
873
628
139
1536
1263
122

New Zealand






402
318+
126

Canada
543
542
100
220
1339
16
763
1881
41

Sub-Total (Anglophone)
5342
5977
89
3801
12624
30
9545
18919
50












Germany






295
2200
13

Belgium










France






974
1200
81

Holland






350
2600
13

Italy






1024
1183
87

Spain






781
700+
112

Turkey






102
235
43

TOTAL






13071
27037
48




Table 3 - Ratio of list membership in the profession

4.2. Qualitative Analysis
When the content of messages sent to lists related to archives and records management is analyzed, based on a method of observation, one sees that certain subjects commonly appear in many lists.

4.2.1. Popular topics
i. Vacancy notices

The most common topic that recur in many lists is job vacancy notices. Some of the times these are sent by persons leaving the job and who are asked to find and choose the person to succeed. At other times the person sending the message could be a professional trying to help a colleague. Whatever the cause, people send their job vacancy notices to mailing lists, before sending them for publication in traditional media.

ii. Conference, etc. announcements

Another topic that commonly appears in lists related to archives and records management is announcements of conferences, symposiums, etc. related to the profession. Such announcements are sometimes sent, in the form of call for papers, when the activity is still in the pre-preparation stage. At other times, this would be a call for people to attend the activity.

iii. Announcements of professional associations

Announcements related to the activities of associations and similar professional organizations in the archives and records management field are another common type of message that appear in mailing lists. Because some of these lists are founded by and sometimes founded for the internal communication of units in such organizations, the majority of messages sent to these lists might be announcements of this type.

iv. Announcements regarding new research

Another common type of announcements made in the lists relate to new research being carried out or just completed. Such announcements might be in the form of call for comments on draft texts that appear during the course of research or links to web pages publicizing the findings of completed projects. For example, a solution developed in the Victoria Province of Australia, the Victorian Electronic Records Strategy (VERS), for problems relating to the management of electronic records, was announced in a number of mailing lists around the world and people were asked to comment on the draft texts made available via its web site. These comments were then incorporated into the research and the developed texts appearing as a result of these findings were again publicized on the same web site and subsequently announced in the mailing lists. Among other examples of announcements relating to current research that has drawn widespread contribution, one can cite the Australian Records Management Standard that opened the road for the ISO standard on records management and the Access to Archives (A2A) project in the UK that aims to increase access to archives by publishing archival finding aids on the Internet.

v. Questionnaires

Some other research related to archives and records management may show themselves at the data gathering stage of the project in the form of questionnaires. In such cases, the questionnaire forms are either directly posted to the mailing lists asking potential contributors to send them back to the researcher after filling them in, or just a call for contributions is made inviting people to a certain web address with the same purpose. In the last five years, one of the most popular of such studies was the one on salaries paid to archives and records staff. After the study made in the United States, similar studies were carried out in Europe and Australia and the findings of the first one was publicized on the web site of the American Records Management Association (ARMA).

vi. Records/Archives in the News

Another popular subject that regularly appears in mailing lists related to archives and records management is news relating to the profession that appear in the press. Messages starting with RAIN, short for Records and Archives In the News, are messages carrying such news or comments made on them. These messages were initially created by an archives and records professional named Peter Kurilecz, when he started sending his compilation of such news items to the lists ARCHIVES&ARCHIVISTS and RECMGMT. They became so popular over time that now other people, too, are sending in similar messages, paving the way towards turning it into a tradition. Such messages sometimes quote the whole news article, whereas others just summarize the content and direct readers to the web page where the whole article is located.

vii. Announcements of web sites and updates

Another type of message that directs people to web pages is the announcements sent to mailing lists when web sites of archival organizations are updated. Addresses of sites that archivists and records managers find to be of interest to the profession and want to share with colleagues may also be noted among addresses sent to mailing lists related to archives and records management.

viii. Humour

Messages carrying humour, generally sent on Friday afternoons under the title "Friday Funnies," are another type of message archivists and records managers send to professional mailing lists, with the aim of relaxing a little after a busy week. Although they receive complaints at times because they create unnecessary message traffic in lists formed to exchange professional information and ideas, they are mostly tolerated and those who do not want to see them are asked to simply delete them without opening after seeing their subject.

ix. Archives/RIM software

Another topic that commonly appears in mailing lists related to archives and records management is archives and records management software. Observations of users of such software on the pros and cons of the product they are using are especially sought for. However, because employees of companies producing this type of software subscribe to the same mailing lists quite often, such views (especially the negative ones) are almost always sent to the inquirer privately. The motives behind this are to avoid unnecessary discussions that would last for a long time and concern for possible litigation by the software company.

x. Information on suppliers

Correspondence on the whereabouts of suppliers of archives and records management equipment and supplies is another topic that commonly appears on mailing lists related to archives and records management.

xi. Professional queries

The most common message type seen, within the context of exchanging professional information and ideas, are those asking for help on a certain specific problem that an archivist or a records manager encounters in the daily course of his/her professional life. A typical example of these are messages, sent by professionals early in their career, who are asked to shape policies and prepare a procedures manual, asking for help in gathering samples of similar work carried out by others. Because replies to such inquiries tend to contain long documents, they are sent directly to the inquirer, most of the times and the fact that s/he has found what s/he was looking for shows itself in messages they send to the list, collectively thanking people who have helped with the query.

If the inquiry is of a nature that does not require long answers, it has become a tradition for the inquirer to compile and summarize the replies/he has received and send them to the list collectively. This summarization has become almost an ethical obligation and people who do not obey this are perceived to be egoists, even though it is never openly expressed, and sometimes protested via indirect implications.

xii. Discussions

However, the most useful and indispensable type of messages appearing on mailing lists, no doubt, are discussions around professional issues. As can be expected in all environments where more than one person come together, different opinions clash on mailing lists where archivists and records managers meet each other "virtually". These differences in opinions may occasionally cause hot debates and even fights, or "flames" as they are called in mailing list jargon, and sometimes last for months. A typical example of these was a discussion back in 1995 that took place on the ARCHIVES&ARCHIVISTS list under the heading "Tobacco Company". [22] Although the discussion reached such fury at times that some people started calling each other names, all ideas that were put forward had an element of truth in them and the whole discussion was very informative from a professional ethical perspective.

4.2.2. Netiquette
The Subject used in the header of messages is worth noting. Because this field repeats itself in every message sent in response to the previous one on the same topic, it is possible to follow the chain of messages that follow each other, collectively called to form a thread. However in cases when the discussion moves into a different direction from that which was discussed in the first message, the Subject field may become totally irrelevant to what is being discussed. In such cases, some contributors prefer to change this header to represent the topic in question better but to enable people to follow the thread, they remind the previous one by keeping it in parentheses and adding the word "was" in front of it. Such practices do help people who read messages selectively according to their subjects but when nobody bothers to do this, it may become very misleading to select messages in this fashion.

Another common practice that helps people in following the discussions is to quote the relevant parts of the previous message so that people can understand what is being referred to. However, when this is overdone, that is when people quote the whole message and add just a few words like ’I agree" or "me too", it is seen as bad netiquette and create discontent among list members.

Some people have got the habit of setting their mail programs to send an automatic "out-of-office" reply when they go on a holiday or a business trip. However, for each message sent to the list, this automatic reply function sends a reply to the whole list. This creates an unnecessary traffic on the list. If the listserver software is set to send a copy of one’s own messages to him/herself to acknowledge receipt of the message, then an infinite loop is created, causing the list members extreme frustration, until the list administrator intervenes and stops this traffic. However, if the list administrator is not readily available to stop this right there and then, tens or sometimes hundreds of messages may be sent to each list member before someone takes any action. One such case that lasted for about three days was experienced in a list in Australia a few years ago.

5. DISCUSSION
Mailing lists are now a vital tool for archivists and records managers the world over, creating a vibrant community facilitating the access of each member to internet resources that would have been inconceivable only a few years ago.

For scientists and researchers living in countries that do not have financial resources as developed as the Western world, mailing lists serve an even more valuable role, allowing them to access materials that would otherwise not be cost effective to acquire. For example, some publications which would not normally be published on the Internet because of copyright or basic security limitations may sometimes be obtained directly from the author in the form of an e-mail attachment.

Mailing lists present some additional benefits that cannot be acquired by other means when it enables experts to collaborate on the preliminary findings of new research projects when they are opened to public discussion.

Another major importance mailing lists carry for scientists and researchers is the unique ease it presents for studies that require fieldwork. Being able to carry out research, based on information gathered from a target audience that is reached directly, via questionnaires sent to mailing lists, and furthermore, being able to do this in a very short period of time and on a population distributed all around the world, is not possible with any other means.

Viewed from these points, mailing lists can perhaps be described as an "invisible college" for archivists and records managers. With the internet as its “library” the lists provide access to a multitude of experts on various topics all acting as reference librarians. In its classrooms one can discuss any specialised subject both with informed and interested colleagues from all around the world and the best experts in the field. These discussions are recorded on the spot, to create a resource for others who might want to inquire on the same subject in the future. In its laboratories wait a population of subjects, gathered from all around the world, waiting to be questioned on any specialised topic of research; and most important of all, all these cost almost nothing for the researcher.

Because of these qualities, mailing lists have found themselves a place as an educational tool in real life universities, too, especially in distant education applications. For example, in the distant education program on archives and records management served at Edith Cowan University of Australia, mailing lists are used to simulate real life class rooms where students are encouraged to discuss matters among themselves and the educator stays as an observer as much as possible and interrupt only when necessary and even then mainly to steer the discussion in a different direction [23].

6. CONCLUSION
Wherever they may be located in the world, archivists and records managers have made active use of the Internet to share information and develop the profession. They have employed mailing lists as the major means of this collaboration and communication and made substantial use of them.

Today there are more than 140 mailing lists, related to archives and records management in one way or the other – over 50% of which have more than 250 subscribers. This high level of membership is notable but not surprising given the estimate that nearly 50% of record managers and archivists belong to one or more lists. For a relatively young medium of communication, this level of take up among a traditionally paper based profession is significant. Nearly 20% of the lists have a large number of monthly postings (>100), covering more than twenty different headings among the topics of these mailing lists. With this variety of professional topics being discussed and extensive debate on professional issues, these mailing lists are now effectively the virtual college of our profession.

7. References
[1] Available at: http://www.socio.demon.co.uk/magazine/ (accessed 26 October 2003).

[2] J. C. R. Licklider and Robert W. Taylor, The Computer as a Communication Device reprinted in In Memoriam: J. C. R. Licklider 1915-1990 (Digital Systems Research Center, Palo Alto, Calif., 1990); originally published in Science and Technology (April 1968). Available at http://memex.org/licklider.html (accessed 26 October 2003).

[3] EAD is developed mainly by the Library of Congress and more information about it can be found at http://www.loc.gov/ead/. For a study relating to its use in other countries see M. Sweet, The Internationalisation of EAD (Encoded Archival Description), Journal of the Society of Archivists 22 (1) (April 2001), 33-38.

[4] S. Kinsey, Putting Images on the World Wide Web: A Guide for Business Archivists, Business Archives; Principles and Practice 75 (May 1998), 1.

[5] P. Horsman, Archives Crossing the Borders, In: P. Cadell and F. Dalemans (eds), Archives et Bibliotheques de Belgique = Archief en Bibliotheekvezen in Belgie, Special Edition on International Council on Archives - European Summit on Archives, Bern, Switzerland, 14-16 May 1998 69 (1-4) (1998), 75-83.

[6] T. H. PETERSON, The Internet and the Archives, Atlanti 8 (1998), 17 and 20.

[7] A. Balough, Electronic Media: State of the Disk, Records and Information Retrieval Report 14 (2) (February 1998), 3.

[8] B. Haspel, Computer Revolution and its Impact on the Archival World; Atlanti 8 (1998), 34-36.

[9] For examples see Archives On-Line: The Establishment of a United Kingdom Archival Network (National Council on Archives, Birmingham, 1998); S. J.A. Flynn, M. Hillyard and B. Stockting. A2A: The Development of a Strand in the National Archives Network, Journal of the Society of Archivists 22 (2) (October 2001), 177-192; G. SLATER, Networking for Cooperation: The Experience of Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, Journal of the Society of Archivists 22 (1) (April 2001), 5-16.

[10] Available at http://www.european-archival.net (Accessed 26 October 2003)

[11] A collected list of such links pages can be found at: http://www.archimac.org/Profession/Links.spml (Accessed 26 October 2003)

[12] R. Hauben and M. Hauben, Netizens: An Anthology . (IEEE Computer Science Press, Los Alamitos, Calif., 1997). Available at http://www.columbia.edu/~hauben/netbook/ (Accessed 26 October 2003)

[13] H. Rheingold, The Virtual Community (1993). Available at http://www.well.com/user/hlr/vcbook/index.html (Accessed 26 October 2003)

[14] R. Barbrook, The High-Tech Gift Economy, First Monday 3 (12) (December 1998). Available at http://firstmonday.dk/issues/issue3_12/barbrook/index.html ( Accessed 26 October 2003) reprinted in Cybersociology (5)

[15] R. Cox, Do We Understand Information in the Information Age? Records and Information Report 14 (3) (March 1998), 8.

[16] T. Anderson and H. Kanuka, On-Line Forums: New Platforms for Professional Development and Group Collaboration, Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 3 (3) (December 1997). Available at http://www.ascusc.org/jcmc/vol3/issue3/anderson.html (Accessed 26 October 2003)

[17] S. Rafaeli and F. Sudweeks, Networked Interactivity, Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 2 (4) (March 1997). Available at http://www.ascusc.org/jcmc/vol2/issue4/rafaeli.sudweeks.html (Accessed 26 October 2003).

[18] R. Savolainen, ’Living Encyclopedia’ or Idle Talk? Seeking and Providing Consumer Information in an Internet Newsgroup, Library and Information Science Research (23) (2001), 67-90.

[19] The full catalogue of the lists is available at: http://www.archimac.org/Profession/Lists/index.spml (Accessed 26 October 2003)

[20] The total number of lists on the web site is more than 200. The figure quoted here represents the part which relate to archives and records management and thus exclude the ones that relate only to museums or to Turkish history.

[21] On ArchiMac: (http://www.archimac.org/ ArchiMac/index.spml) separate mail accounts are opened for each list. These accounts are subscribed to the lists in question individually. Thus a copy of each message sent to the lists are obtained. Subsequently, these messages are transferred to the echo conference areas of the BBS using some special software designed for this purpose and then they are transferred to the web interface of the BBS by another utility. However, due to a legislation passed in Turkey in 2002, which holds the web administrator responsible for anything that is broadcasted on the web, this part of the system is now closed to public and is accessible only by the systems operator.

[22] The chain of events that gave way to this discussion started with some research, carried out in the laboratories of a tobacco company, that found that smoking was harmful to human health. The company had hidden this finding from the public. A law firm, whom the tobacco company was a customer of, was aware of this finding. An employee of the law firm, who was fired for some reason, anonymously sent copies of certain documents that relate to this finding to some newspapers and to a university professor who was carrying out research on this topic. The whole thing was widely discussed in the papers and in public for quite a long time during that period. However the real chain of events that caused the big discussion on the mailing list started after the death of the university professor, to whom copies of the same documents had been sent. The professor’s family donated all of his papers to the university library. And the library, realizing the popularity of the subject, published these documents on the Internet.

Some of the archivists joining the discussion asserted that this action was normal and that archivists were expected to protect the public’s right to be informed while another group challenged that position on the grounds that the documents in question were obtained by illegal means and archivists are in no position to support illegitimate actions. Yet another group maintained that the documents were already published in the press in detail and that there was no problem in publishing them over the Internet again. Hence the discussion went on for months.

[23] See K. Anderson, Distance Education: Facilitating Student Communication, Workshop Presentation presented at European Conference for Archival Educators and Trainers, Marburg, September 24th and 25th 2001, Reading the Vital Signs: Archival Training and Education in the 21st Century, International Council on Archives Section for Archival Education and Training. Available at http://www.ica-sae.org/mrconfpaper2.ppt (Accessed 26 October 2003)


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