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Exemplary Practices in Electronic Records and Information Access Programs

The Search for Exemplary Practices

Exemplary Practices as a Foundation for the Gateways Project Results

An important part of the design of this project was to base the analysis and results on as wide a range as possible of experience and existing knowledge. Therefore an early stage in the project consisted of research to identify and describe exemplary practices in providing electronic access to information. This research included examining the professional academic literature on this topic, exploring Web-based resources, and gathering data about exemplary practices in selected organizations. The literature and Web research led to the selection of 22 organizations in the government and private sectors that engaged in one or more exemplary practices that seemed worthy of further investigation. We arranged extensive interviews with professional staff in these agencies to elicit more detailed information about their practices and related issues. The results of these interviews provide the data on which this report is based.

The agencies selected for these interviews were deliberately chosen to represent a highly diverse sample of information access providers. The sample includes government agencies in the US, Europe, and New Zealand. It also includes academic and nonprofit organizations, with a wide range of missions and methods. Their access programs range from support for social science research, to advocacy for children, to regulation of the banking industry.1 As a result of this diversity, the research brought to light two valuable kinds of result. First, the interviews documented important similarities in access issues and practices across very different organizations. Second, the results include descriptions of some very creative and effective practices that might not otherwise been identified. These findings are described in more detail below.

Both the similarities and diversity in access programs seen in this research provided useful insights for the overall project. This research fed directly into the development of the dimension-based approach to program analysis and design presented in the full project report. These dimensions represent program design factors that were found to be important in the agencies participating in this research. The varied ways agencies dealt with these factors provided important information for understanding the dimensions and the role they play in electronic information access programs. In these exemplary practices can be seen many instances of how the appropriate matching of program features with information characteristics and users can produce effective and efficient access and information use.

1 A list of the participating agencies and contact information is listed in an appendix.