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Recordkeeping definitions in legislation:: a conceptual step towards smoothing business interaction in the digitally networked world?
Mid Sweden University, Faculty of Science, Technology and Media, Department of Archives and Computer Science. (SIIS)ORCID iD: 0000-0003-1247-0467
2013 (English)In: Archives: the Future: Australian Society of Archivists 2013 Conference / [ed] Shapley, Maggie, Canberra, 2013Conference paper (Other (popular science, discussion, etc.))
Abstract [en]

Legislation is important to recordkeeping strategies and requirements, since it determines which records are needed for legally legitimate actions. Yet the concepts of a document, a record, a case, a transaction, etc., are frequently defined differently in various laws even within national boundaries and are urgently in need of harmonization to minimize complications and barriers to e-business transactions.

Every country has its own legislation system which has been adjusted over time in correlation to national context and its surrounding society (Duranti, 1989-1990, p. 5). Duranti and Goh (2012) provided sound arguments as to why it is important to ensure national archival legislation keeps pace with our digitally networked society with its increasingly blurred borders. In addition to their own national law, members of the European Union (EU) are obliged to follow EU-legislation requirements. There are three types of EU legislation: regulations, directives and decisions. A regulation is applicable in all EU countries. Directives are general rules. A decision is a stipulation of issues of concern for specifically mentioned persons or organizations (European Commission, 2013).  Recommendations and statements are not binding, but may, for example, be used by the EU as support in interpretation of EU-legislation (Sveriges Riksdag, 2013). Hence, within public organizations, there is a close relation between records, recordkeeping processes, legislation and accountability.  Yet research in Sweden has shown that 24/7 e-service web-interfaces serving e-government strategies and ambitions are sometimes developed without consulting recordkeeping professionals, in ignorance of legal requirements for capture of records and that preservation issues are rarely considered when acquiring new digital systems (Kallberg, Svärd and Sundberg, 2010). Several other European studies also identify a lack of recordkeeping awareness within public organizations (Barata, 2004; Valtonen, 2007; Shepherd, Stevenson, & Flinn, 2009; Riksarkivet, 2010). However, there is currently a strong European political ambition to implement eGovernment services, which aims to promote cross-border business development. On the other hand, this challenges archival thinking to meet business, technological and legal requirements stipulated for each country. Varying legal definitions used can cause major problems for transactions both within a country and across national borders, even in something as seemingly simple as exchanging e-invoices. This paper will discuss an approach to identifying a way forward for harmonizing legislation that contains recordkeeping requirements across the EU.

  • Identifying the range of / types of laws within countries and EU that define a record
  • Using the ICA multilingual terminology database, to check and add to definitions already found there
  • Checking against definitions found in international standards.

Research towards harmonizing these crucial definitions will be very challenging, given linguistic and cultural differences but the ICA multilingual terminology database is a potential vehicle for checking existing usage, adding to the definitions and quotations from legalislation and the literature already found there and adding new terms. The foundation version of the ICA-funded Terminology Database, developed as an ICA Section for Archival Educators’ project led and hosted by the University of British Columbia, contains definitions with examples of usage for an initial 300 archival terms across 16 languages. It is planned for public release in the first half of 2013.


Barata, K. (2004). Archives in the Digital Age. Journal of the Society of Archivists, 25(1), 63-70.

Duranti, L. (1989-1990). Diplomatics: New Uses for an Old Science (Part II). Archivaria, 29, 4-17.

European Commission (2013). Legislation Retrieved 5 February, 2013, from

Goh, E., Duranti, L. and Chu, S. (2012). Archival legislation for engendering trust in an increasingly networked digital environment. Paper presented at A climate of change: International Council on Archives Congress, Brisbane, 20-24 August, 2012. Retrieved 3 March 2013 from:

Kallberg, M. , Svärd, P. & Sundberg, H. (2010). Improving Local Government - A Survey of Problems.  Proceedings of the IADIS International Conference e-Society 2010. pp. 76-84.

Riksarkivet (2010). Rapport rörande enkätundersökning - myndigheters hantering av elektroniska handlingar. Stockholm: Riksarkivet.

Shepherd, E., Stevenson, A., & Flinn, A. (2009). The Impact of Freedom of Information on Records Management and Record Use in Local Government: A Literature Review. Journal of the Society of Archivists, 30(2, October ), 227-248.

Sveriges Riksdag (2013). EU-upplysningen Retrieved 6 February, 2013, from

Valtonen, M. R. (2007). Documentation in pre-trial investigation, A study of using the records continuum model as a records management tool. Records Management Journal, 17(3), 179-185.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Canberra, 2013.
Keyword [en]
Archives; Archives Legislation; Archival terminology
National Category
Information Systems
URN: urn:nbn:se:miun:diva-20796OAI: diva2:680887
Australian Society of Archivists 2013 Conference
Available from: 2013-12-18 Created: 2013-12-18 Last updated: 2013-12-20Bibliographically approved

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