6.4. Planning for equipment
Any plan will also indicate the equipment requirements of the institution. Archival institutions need equipment at two levels. At one end they need equipment for routine administrative work in the offices and this includes typewriters, word processors, duplicators, photocopiers, telexes and telefaxs. It is interesting again to note how by and large archival institutions tend to lag behind other sectors in the adoption of office technologies. A very tiny sprinkling of institutions have telexes' for instance, let alone fax facilities. Word processors are being used but again it is to a very limited extent. Is it a question of failure to secure such facilities or is it that such facilities are not seen as essential to archival operations? It is difficult to provide an answer and yet one can for instance see how fax technologies can enhance the retrieval of documents for depositors, giving them instant visual access to documents stored a long distance away.
The second category of equipment required is that which is used for the handling of archives in one way or another. This equipment falls into three major groupings. In the first instance equipment is required for the conservation of archives. A primary duty of the archivist is the conservation and preservation of the archives to ensure that archives can survive for as long as is possible. As the archives are received into the repository they should be fumigated to kill any insects that may have infested them. It goes without saying that the storage area of the archives should have certain environmental controls to reduce or eliminate dust and dirt, protect records from direct sunlight, provide storage temperatures that have no major and frequent fluctuations and an atmosphere that is not too humid or too dry. A good storage environment prolongs the life of the archives but even so, there are other factors to be considered. Quite often, by the time that the archives reach the repository, they will have been badly damaged or will be in a fragile condition. Constant use by researchers can also lead to the degradation of the archives. For these and other reasons, therefore, it is necessary to provide facilities for the repair and reconditioning of the archives.
Archival institutions as a matter of routine normally have conservation laboratories in which damaged archives can be repaired and restored. Such laboratories need a lot of equipment ranging from hygrometers, pH metres, washing basins and drying racks to laminators and binding presses. The equipment requirements need to be identified and quantified, related to the increases in record accumulation forecast in the plan and to the conservation requirements.
Besides the conservation equipment there is need for reprographic equipment. Basically it is necessary to reproduce archives for one reason or another. Some archives are reproduced in order to provide researchers with copies of the documents. Reproduction is also done as a means of conservation or as a means of reducing the physical volume of the records or archives. A reprographic unit will therefore generally have equipment for reproducing maps and photographs, slides, films and for microphotography. It is necessary to have a fully equipped reprographic unit because the work of the unit is a crucial element in the work of the institution. Reprographic equipment. like all other technologies, is not standing still. The planning therefore must aim both at replacing equipment that has come to the end of its working life as well as to acquire new equipment in line with any new technological innovations. The acquisition of appropriate reprographic equipment with modern technological capabilities can enhance the decision-makers access to archives. And yet few institutions make use of Computer Assisted Retrieval systems, for instance, for their microfilm collections.
Archival institutions are gradualy automating. While indeed only eighteen out of sixty five institutions that responded to the question on automation had automated or were in the process of doing so, nevertheless this is an inescapable process especially since the records creating agencies themselves are automating. The nature of computer records is such that any institution that receives them must itself have a computing capacity. Archival institutions can also have several applications for computers. At one end they can use the computers to handle their finding aids and thus facilitate and speed up access to the records and archives. They can also input certain categories of documents so that such documents can be retrieved on-line by the depositors. The developments currently taking place with Image Management Systems will certainly have an impact and greatly increase access to information. Computers can however be used also to service the machine readable records that will have been deposited by the ministries and departments. There are very few countries, if any, in which computers are not being used in one way or another to carry out certain functions.
Machine readable records are similar to manual records in many respects but they also have very distinct differences. In terms of their archiving they are distinct in the way in which they can be erased. altered or amended. and in the way in which they need the provision of certain equipment in order to be accessed. As long as these records are being created their archiving and retention must be considered. The dangers of magnetic tares and disks being destroyed by fire or being accidentally erased are so real that the deposit of duplicate copies of the records in an archival institution is an absolute must. Such deposit will also provide the depositors with a measure of security and relief. Those drawing up plans must therefore in the first instance carry out a survey of computer applications in the ministries and departments to identify those areas that have been computerised, the types of records being generated, the computer equipment being used and the types of software. Even where machine readable records are already being received and stored. information technology is changing so rapidly that continual surveying is needed to ensure that the archives facilities remain at par with the changes in the record creating agencies. The plan must therefore consider the storage and processing facilities required and the provision of access.
The short, medium and long term plans of the archives are the ones that determine the financial resources that are required. If the plans have been well prepared, presenting in a clear, logical sequence, the position of the archival institution in relation to the agencies that it is servicing, showing the changes that are likely to be occurring in the plan period and justifying the resources that are required, it should be relatively easy to bid for and receive a larger allocation of the resources. No-one could guarantee that all that is requested is granted, for this rarely, if ever, happens but one would hope that the submissions would have taken account of this factor so that after the budget trimming, the allocated amounts are reasonably close to the actual requirements.
As plans are implemented they need to be monitored, controlled and adjusted periodically. The short term plan will relate to the coming financial year. As this progresses assessments are continually being made. The performance of the institution in that financial year and the achievement or non-achievement of certain programmes, determines adjustments that need to be made to the medium and long term plans. The medium term plans tend to cover a period of some three to five years. In formulating the median term plans the overriding consideration should be the assesser priorities and requirements of that given institution. In the Developing World however, where there are many constraints in terms of the resources available and especially the amount of foreign currency that can be secured it is useful to link the Medium Term Plan to the International Council on Archives Medium Term Plan. This makes it easy to plan as well as to review and monitor progress. It is essential also in that the plans for implementation through the ICA programmes, will usually have a regional and international involvement. While they may be for implementation by the archival institution, they may determine the programmes, and priorities of that institution, and make certain facilities available such as training workshops and certain equipment and resources as in cases where pilot projects are undertaken. The long term plans relate to longer periods and this can be done over a ten year period, for instance, or over fifteen years.
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