September/October 2001 // Letters to the Editor
Record Keeping in the Electronic Age
by Rob Spindler
Note: This article was originally published in The Technology Source ( as: Rob Spindler "Record Keeping in the Electronic Age" The Technology Source, September/October 2001. Available online at The article is reprinted here with permission of the publisher.

Readers of The Technology Source who are interested in electronic academic record keeping will want to review a videostreamed presentation given by Clifford Lynch, Executive Director of the Coalition for Networked Information. His presentation was the keynote address for the Electronic College and University Records Events (ECURE) 2000 conference.

Lynch described a range of challenges concerning both the academic and administrative sectors of colleges and universities. He discussed relationships between content, context, and medium in electronic environments and products that are unique to academia. He also recognized that academic faculty and staff now have the power to create large quantities of digital content, but are not actively selecting and retaining those materials of enduring value. Lynch described a future in which our systems are burdened by the digital remnants of former students, staff, and faculty who have not provided the sources of and the purposes for their orphaned work.

Lynch stated, "We have to fundamentally rethink what we're doing about records. The relatively static boundaries we've understood between scholarly publication, academic records, and what happens in the classroom are all getting blown out the window." He described several examples of electronic academic products that may or may not be records, including electronic theses and dissertations, telemetry from campus buildings, and student class projects. "Now they [our students] leave these enormous trails of term papers and class projects. Are those things going to become records? The way we're going right now, this is left to the discretion of the faculty member and the availability of disc space," Lynch said.

Much of Lynch's perspective on academic networking issues comes from his lengthy experience as Director of Library Automation for the Office of President, University of California. He is also a key player in the development of Internet II, the Dublin Core, and other Internet standards projects. Lynch is past president of the American Society for Information Science and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The ECURE Web site includes links to several 1999 and 2000 presentations concerning metadata, preservation of Web sites, copyright issues in electronic courseware development, student privacy in the electronic age, and other topics of interest to educators. ECURE is sponsored by Arizona State University. The 2001 conference is scheduled for October 12-13 in the Phoenix metropolitan area.

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