Presentation of the 2005 Leahy Award to Charles Dollar

Annual Business Meeting of the Institute of Certified Records Managers
Chicago, Illinois
September 21, 2005


Presentation of the Recipient
Christine Ardern


Our winner this year is truly a pioneer and leader in activities that span both the records management and archives professions. Long before records managers were raising concerns about electronic records, the archival community was facing the challenges of how to maintain and make accessible electronic data and records of historical value. This year's winner recognized the challenges and issues related to the long-term preservation of electronic records, created a vision and embarked on an action plan to proactively address these challenges.


As stated in the submission, the vision and commitment have evolved as technology has evolved but have always been supported by four recurring themes:

  •     A definition of a model electronic records program
  •     Conducting research in electronic records issues
  •     Developing electronic records standards and
  •     Educating people in electronic records.

Our winner has, throughout a long and varied career, worked as a full-time employee in one of this nation's largest government institutions, has participated on numerous association committees, published articles and books, has taught both seminars and full-time university courses and currently is a consultant focusing on electronic records programme design and implementation.


Throughout his full-time career, he designed best practices for dealing with technology obsolescence and media degradation that have been adopted by other organizations. His work with a number of major organizations, as both a project contributor and advisor, continues to enhance the knowledge of and create solutions to the area of long-term preservation of digital records. His insights into electronic records preservation issues resulted in a redefinition of "preservation" in the archival community, a redefinition that has subsequently been adopted in other information management areas.


In addition to his contribution as an information management professional, this year's recipient of the award is an educator, teaching for four years at a renowned Canadian university. The courses he taught dealt with electronic records management, digital information technologies and office systems. He has presented more than 75 papers, workshops, seminars and courses on electronic records preservation strategies to archivists, records managers and information technology professionals both locally and internationally.


As you can see, our winner is a strong advocate of collaboration between archivists, records managers and IT professionals, in an era where no one professional group can "go it alone" and strongly believes that electronic records are an interdisciplinary issue. His vision and foresight in this area have resulted in his participation on numerous committees in both archival and information management associations.


And not to stop there, our winner has ensured that the information management communities are aware of these issues through over 25 articles written for publications such as the Information Management Journal, Archivaria, Archivum, UNESCO's RAMP study series and numerous IT related publications. Most recently, our winner wrote one of the first books on digital preservation: Authentic Electronic Records: Strategies for Long-term Access.


In addition to educating, publishing and creating innovative ideas our winner continues his tireless crusade through his participation in standards development. He has been a strong advocate of international standards since the mid 1990s and has been a strong advocate of XML as a key tool to support the long-term usability and trustworthiness of electronic records. As the current Chair of AIIM's standards board he continues his work on digital preservation through the creation of a draft international standard on preservation through ISO's TC 171 committee.


I have not covered all the elements of this individual's career but I am sure that he will be happy to share them with you throughout the conference. Our recipient this year will be adding this award to awards from the Society of American Archivists and AIIM, among others. Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in recognizing this year's Emmett Leahy award winner, Charles M. Dollar.

Emmett Leahy Award Acceptance Speech
Charles Dollar


This award has a special significance for me. Over the last decade I have been working sporadically on a biography of Emmett J. Leahy. Although I have not had time for sustained research and writing, I do have a good sense of what Emmett Leahy was about when he worked at the National Archives (1935-1941) and the Department of the Navy (1941-1945) where he organized a first class records administration program that established many records management precedents, many of which the National Archives later adopted in its records management. In 1948 he established the National Records Management Council that spun off Leahy Business Archives and Leahy and Company Management Consultants a few years later.


I would like to take about ten minutes of your time to share with you some reflections on the career of Emmett J. Leahy that illuminate the importance and continuing relevance of the Leahy Award.


In July 1935 Emmett Leahy joined the staff of the National Archives as a Special Examiner to inspect records described in agency lists of "useless records" that could be destroyed or otherwise disposed of because they were without "permanent value or historical interest." Over the next several years, like many of his peers, Leahy began to realize that the absence of systematic management of records by federal agencies made it difficult to identify records of permanent value. Over time they concluded that involvement in the creation and filing of records, especially in terms of segregation of records of temporary value from those of permanent value, was essential. Leahy played a key role in the emerging records administration program that the National Archives promoted to ensure that records of temporary value were segregated from records of permanent value. At the same time, he began to devote his attention to the huge accumulations of duplicated or useless records that many government administrations held.

In the fall of 1938, Leahy undertook a nine-month trip around the world to study the "policies in the reduction of archival material of the more important European governments." He visited national archives in Egypt, Greece, Italy, Germany, Poland, France, and the United Kingdom, among others. In 1940 he published the results of this study in an article in the American Archivist entitled "Reduction of Public Records" in which he identified the elements of a records reduction program. These elements included:

  •     continuing authorization for the destruction of past and future accumulation of approved lists of records
  •     periodic transfer of records to central archives
  •     scientific sampling and microfilming
  •     insuring the integrity of valuable data
  •     segregation of papers having no permanent value
  •     prevention of excessive recording


In September of 1941 Leahy resigned from the National Archives to become the Director of Records Coordination for the Navy in the Office of the Secretary of Navy where he established a model records management program that introduced new records management concepts and techniques. By mid-1945 the outcome of the war seemed clear and Leahy began thinking about what he would do as a civilian. He decided to accept an offer to join the Microfilming Division of Remington Rand as National Sales Manager.

Leahy's decision to work in the private sector marked a new phase in his records management career that eventually would bring him considerable financial success and wide spread recognition as an ardent promoter of records management. Two years after joining Remington Rand he resigned from that position to organize the National Records Management Council, a non-profit records management service company. In his capacity as the President of the National Records Management Council Leahy chaired a task force on records management in 1948 for the Hoover Commission on Organization of the Executive Branch of the Government. The recommendations of his task force led to enactment of the Federal Records Act of 1950 that established a federal records management program. In 1953 Leahy left the National Records Management Council to head his own records management consulting business, Leahy and Company as well as a records storage business called Leahy Business Archives, Inc. These two business enterprises became the pre-eminent records management consulting and records storage companies for the commercial sector with hundreds of clients.


Leahy's extraordinary career in records management ended on June 23, 1964 when he died a day after suffering a stroke. Three years later Rod Exelbert, then Editor and Publisher of the Information and Records Management magazine, established the Emmett J. Leahy Award to honor Leahy's contributions to records management. Even though Leahy was not the "father of records management" as some have suggested, he was the pre-eminent promoter of an expanding vision of records management to solve a broad range of current records problems and issues. Leahy's expanding vision of records management was based on his ability to:

  •     Think "outside the box" about records creation and storage
  •     Develop innovations to achieve cost effective records management
  •     Simplify work processes to reduce the creation of unnecessary records
  •     Introduce new technologies in the storage and retrieval of records
  •     Promote records management as an important discipline for business management


A brief review of each of these follows.


Thinking "outside the box." Today the notion of a records center where inactive records are stored is accepted practice. It became an accepted practice in the federal government and later in the private sector only after Leahy installed the first centralized records centers in the world for the storage of inactive Navy records in 1942. Later he pioneered in the establishment of business records centers where records could be stored at a low cost.


Innovations. Leahy recognized that in the Navy Department numerous forms were used to collect and disseminate information. In fact, there were more than 1,258 such forms that Leahy and his staff eliminated or substantially simplified. Later the National Archives adopted this innovation and incorporated into its records management program and called it "Forms Management." Leahy also recognized that microfilm could be used to store multiple copies of Navy ship and submarine drawings that would facilitate speedy repair without returning to a port in the United States.


Simplification. Leahy believed that work simplification was also part of the domain of records management because it could reduce the cost of creating records. This is evident in his work at the Navy Department where he introduced the use of standard paragraphs that could be used as needed to respond to repetitive correspondence. Later he expanded work simplification to cover what he called a paperwork management program as the "only true birth control" on the creation of future records.

New Technologies. Leahy was a firm believer in the use of new technologies in records management. While at the Navy Department he introduced the use of microfilm for space reduction of old records as well as new records. In 1960, four years before his death, Leahy concluded an article entitled "Don't Keep It - Throw It Away" with a brief discussion of continuing improvement in records management.


    Closed circuit television opens up a whole new area of quick reference. Before long a records storage area will be piped right into headquarters office so that management and personnel will be able to view and discuss with the archives clerk any document in the files.  Also during this period of time, he installed mobile telephone headsets for records center personnel that allowed them to go directly to where records were located so they could respond immediately to requests for records or for information in the records.


Leahy's ideas about the potential use of video and mobile telephones occurred more than two decades before the desktop computer and more than three decades before the explosion of the Internet. I dare say that if Emmett Leahy were alive today he would have a clear understanding of the challenges and opportunities of better and faster technology and an even greater compression of time that we face today.


Promotion of Records Management. Several of Leahy's contemporaries have noted his remarkable ability to present powerful arguments to senior managers in behalf of records management. Part of this ability stems from the graphic descriptions of waste, duplication, and inefficiency in the way many records were being managed and how substantial cost savings could be achieved through the proper reduction of records. The notion of achieving substantial cost savings had an intuitive appeal to senior managers in both the public and private sectors. Although a "throw it out" approach has been closely associated with Leahy, he made equally strong arguments in behalf of maintaining a corporate memory of business and government. In 1963 Leahy and Christopher Cameron co-authored a book on Modern Records Management. In the concluding chapter of the book there is section with the heading "What Is Worthy of Permanent Preservation?" They wrote:

  •     There are two broad classes of business records generally considered worthy of permanent preservation.
  •     Those that must be kept as continuing evidence of corporate and individual rights
  •      Those that shed light of historical interest on the organization, functioning, and accomplishments of the company.


In summary, I think Emmett J. Leahy's records management legacy is the "reinvention" of records management for the 20th century. Today the Leahy Award Committee with the support of the Institute of Certified Records Managers and Iron Mountain, celebrate for the 35th time this "reinvention" through this Award of Excellence in Records Management. This is an important event and of course I am very grateful to be selected as the thirty-fifth recipient of this distinguished Award.


Far more important, I think, is for all of us to practice principals that were so successful for Emmett Leahy and meet the extraordinary new need: a comprehensive reinvention of records management for the 21st Century. Electronic records, new information technologies, and new legislation pose enormous challenges and difficulties for records managers These challenges and difficulties offer opportunities for innovation, "thinking outside the box," expanding our vision of records management, and charting a new course. In the last five years, there has been considerable movement in expanding our vision of records management and charting this new course, but so much more needs to be done. It is my hope that the spirit and vision of Emmett J. Leahy will energize the records management community to embrace fully both the necessity and opportunity for a reinvention of records management that is appropriate for the 21st Century.


Thank you for this award and thank you for the opportunity to share these thoughts.