Friday, November 28, 2014

What are our admins supposed to do?

So, what's the basic guidance on record keeping? James Stroman's "Administrative Assistant's and Secretary's Handbook" gives it to us. We learn that before filing we have to separate personal correspondence, ensure that stapled items are actually related, remove paper clips, mend torn pages, and highlight the name or subject under which the paper is to be filed.

He then gives us some advice on how to create tabs and then presents a variety of filing systems: alphabetical, subject, geographical, numeric, or a combination. Most offices apparently use an alphabetical system. Two lesser used system are decimal filing and phonetic filing systems. Decimal filing is based on Dewey concepts (and perhaps explain some of those strange old DDC schedules at archive.org!). Phonetic systems group like-sounding things together (e.g., Allan, Allen, Allyn; Xu, Zhu, etc.).

Alphabetical systems are "most widely used" because they're the "most efficient and least complicated" (p.95). Papers are filed according to name, in chronological order with the most current date in front. If there is heavy correspondence, it might be necessary to use multiple folders for date, year, etc. It might also be desirable to divide folders by geography. You might want to use different colours for the year/geo file.

Subject systems are best for non-personal issues such as advertising, brand-names, etc. Always use chronological arrangement. Subject systems often require a subject index maintained on cards or electronically. It should enable cross indexing.

We then get into some guidance about authority control, naming conventions, etc.

Basically, prep before filing. I think that we still run into the basic issue of how to separate records from documents. What should get filed by process? What gets filed by name? And what gets filed by subject?

What's interesting about this practical focus on names of people and entities as the primary focus is the human factors angle. I think that a name-based system works because people primarily think about other people or relationships. We certainly a similar pattern when we look at the information seeking behaviour of professionals. In many cases they would rather just talk to someone than actually look anything up!

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