Just as the Federal government has adopted electronic records and electronic document management as its standard going forward, so have many (if not all) states. All of these governments look to standardized electronic documents so they are more easily, and more efficiently managed. By standardizing records, these governments actually lower the burden on the departments and agencies they oversee.
The state of Virginia is among those whose government has defined standards for electronic records. These are published by the Library of Virginia and are intended for all state government agencies and local governments.
The Virginia guidelines cover both the records themselves, and their management. With regard to the records themselves, the guidelines cover 3 aspects:
- The record’s content
- The record’s context
- The record’s structure
The guideline’s direction regarding the first item, content, isn’t terribly detailed or unusual. It is a bit more verbose about the latter two however.
Regarding the document’s context, the guidelines discuss capturing metadata about the document as a way of preserving its “evidentiary function”. The guidelines recommend that agencies capture the following metadata on every record:
- Which organization created and/or maintains the record
- All other organizations that are, or have been, associated with the record
- The creating/maintaining agency’s purpose for the record
- Date of creation
- Time period(s) for which the record applies
- How often the record is, or will be, used
- How valuable the record is to the agency’s functions
- What record management system is used for the record
- All relationships between the record and other records or materials
- Any laws, processes, procedures, or agreements that affect the record
Regarding the record’s structure, the guidelines merely indicate that the structure of a record is also important and should be captured with the content and context. It suggests that capturing the structure in the attached metadata as a way to keep the record itself relatively simple and easily managed. As far as capturing the structure, the guidelines suggest using an open standard like extensible markup language (XML) or standard general markup language (SGML). This suggestion mirrors those from our earlier posts about formats for document scanning and imaging.
Now bear in mind, these guidelines from the Library of Virginia are merely those for government agencies and localities within the Commonwealth of Virginia. However, they do provide a good look at what one state considers important for electronic records and that information may be valuable for your own document management system.