Vast Active Library and Information Science blog. From a recent library science graduate in Wellington, New Zealand. A focus on reference and current awareness tools and issues, especially free, web-based resources.

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Sunday, May 18, 2003
(study) Information in Society: assignment 2  
As part of the Information in Society paper we are required to keep a diary detailing what we think are the key points of each week's reading and discussion, to describe a study we could conduct to aid our understanding of these issues, and to identify two other sources which are relevant to the topic. So I thought I might as well type 'em up here.

Week 8: Access to Official Information
I guess one of the key issues in this topic for me is the level of understanding of the Official Information Act in New Zealand. I think both the general public, and the staff of government agencies, need to be better informed about their rights and responsibilities under the Act. The actual legislation seems to be well thought out (Snell, 2000; Review of the Official Information Act 1982, 1997) and to work well where it is understood.

The problems that do exist seem to relate to human factors - poorly framed requests ("give me everything you have on...."); a lack of advice and training; and an inability of agency staff to respond to requests within the required timeframe (Review of the Official Information Act 1982, 1997). The work of Clemens (2000) provides additional support for the view that agencies themselves lack knowledge about the workings of the Act. From my own experience working with a Crown Entity, I'd agree- it isn't a lack of desire to help that leads to delays in dealing with OIA requests, but a combination of poor information management and a lack of awareness of the Act's requirements.

What questions could be asked about this issue?

1. What is the level of awareness of the OIA among members of the general public?
2. What is the level of awareness of their responsibilities among agency staff?
3. What training is provided to crown agency staff regarding the OIA?

My study is about the relationship between OIA training received by agency staff, and their level of compliance with OIA legislation.

Additional sources

Sprehe, J. Timothy, Charles R. McClure, and Philip Zellner (2002): 'The role of situational factors in managing U.S. federal recordkeeping'. Government Information Quarterly ,19(3):289-305

Relevant because it discusses different problems faced by government records management staff in terms of how to manage and classify information, especially electronic information. Shows that training they recieve is somewhat haphazard, and discusses how resources, leadership, and organizational culture impact on the effectiveness of record-keeping.

The Public service and official information : a paper in the guidance series. Wellington, N.Z. : State Services Commission, 1995.

Relevant because it shows what sort of training NZ government staff have been receieving already.

Both of these would be cited as background papers, not as ones which had answered the specific query.


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