The use of the models in practice
In theory there are best-practice models, such as the RCM that could help records managers and archivists to effectively implement and promote good information planning in organizations. Models should help people to see and understand things, but their acceptance as Upward (2000) posits depends on how much contact they make with the practical consciousness of those who are supposed to use them. Karabinos (2015) posits that the universal applicability of the RCM is not yet established but the author believes this will only be achieved if it is put to use by more people. The RCM can be used to facilitate an understanding of the emerging complex information/records management environment. This environment has become complex because of the new requirements that are placed upon government institutions. For example, European government institutions are required to free their information flows in form of data sets and this is clearly an addition to the records they have traditionally made accessible to the public. This requires robust information/records management regimes and the RCM would more effectively prepare these institutions, to package their information for pluralization compared to the Life-Cycle Model.
In an article entitled, “Reading the Records Continuum: Interpretations and Explorations” Reed (2005a) demonstrated the capacity of the RCM to support different interpretations and contexts. She argued that the model should be used as a vibrant and dynamic tool by archivists to articulate recordkeeping methodologies in different contexts. The reality, however, is different because though the RCM is quite prominent among Archives and Information Management Scientists, it is has not yet been fully embraced by practitioners and others outside the discipline. For example, Enterprise Content Management (ECM) proponents, use the Life-Cycle Model in a digital environment to manage all content and yet the RCM would have been more practical and suitable (Glazer, Jenkins, & Schaper, 2005; MacMillan & Huff, 2009). The author’s supervisory work at her university in Sweden also confirms that students focusing on the model have so far not been successful in identifying organizations that use the RCM. If the challenges of managing digital information are to be effectively dealt with, information managers and information systems developers need to understand the implications of both information/records management approaches.
Karabinos (2015) posited that the proponents of the RCM see it as a replacement of the Life-Cycle Model. He however confirmed that it is the Life-Cycle Model that still dominates the management of records in many parts of the world despite the fact that the RCM was developed in 1990. In 2001, Flynn argued that records managers and archivists in the United Kingdom paid very little attention to the use of the RCM use. Svard’s (2014) research experience in two Swedish municipalities and a Belgian municipality further confirmed Karabinos’ argument. Svard (2014) drew a conclusion that none of the investigated municipalities named their information management strategies according to the two models but that it was her a priori knowledge of the two models that enabled her to judge the municipalities’ records management strategies as life-cycle oriented. The three municipalities still lacked electronic archival repositories, which inclined them to organize their information resources as if they are still operating in a paper-based environment. The archivists in the three municipalities were quite progressive in their thinking but they were organizationally placed last at the chain of the Life-Cycle Model. Hence, information planning and management strategies would be developed without any longterm information and records management perspectives (Svard, 2011a, 2014).
The RCM can be used as an instrument of analysis, that can facilitate an understanding of the information and records management activities that take place at each dimension along the continuum (Svard, 2011b, 2014). This would further enable records managers and activists to address the negative attitudes that organizational employees have towards the management of public records. The RCM is about managing the entire records’ continuum, which means planning for the records prior to their creation. The activities that take place under each dimension involve most people in an organization. Therefore, the effective capture of records hinges on the fact that everybody understands and appreciates the strategies put in place to facilitate the management of information and records. The negative attitudes affect the activities that take place at each of the RCM’s dimensions and hence a continuum of attitudes that either promote good or bad records management.