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1. Introduction

This document defines a records management metadata element set recommended for use in the Government of Canada ("GC"). It outlines the metadata that should be captured in records management systems used by federal government institutions. This element set shall be known as the Government of Canada Records Management Metadata Standard ("GC RMMS"). It forms the basis of the Government of Canada Records Management Application Profile ("GC RMAP").

Essentially, both the GC RMMS and GC RMAP outline the "language" of the business of records management, a language which consists of 50 concepts.

1.1 What is metadata?

In general terms, metadata is structured information about the characteristics of a analog or digital resource1 which helps identify and manage that resource. It is information about a resource constructed for a purpose to fulfill an activity.

There are many types of metadata, serving different functions:

  • Descriptive metadata describes resources for purposes of identification, discovery and retrieval.

  • Structural metadata indicates how compound resources are constructed.

  • Administrative metadata indicates how resources may be used or must be handled (e.g. usage conditions).

1.2 Why is metadata useful for records management?

In the context of records management, ISO 15489 - Information and documentation - Records management - Part 1: General defines metadata as "data describing the context, content and structure of records and their management through time".2

The use of metadata helps government institutions identify, authenticate, describe, locate and manage their resources in a systematic and consistent way to meet business, accountability and archival requirements. In this respect, the metadata schema plays the same role as descriptive information captured in the registry tools used in the paper-based environment to apply intellectual and physical controls to resources.

In the records management domain, metadata falls into two categories3:

  1. Metadata at point of record capture: this documents the business context in which the records are created as well as the content, structure and appearance of the records. This metadata helps users understand the reliability of the record-creating authority, the record-creation environment, the purpose/business activity for which the record was created and relationships with other records or record aggregations. It also assists in the search and retrieval of records.

  2. Metadata after record capture: this documents the management of captured records and the processes in which they are used. This metadata contributes to the preservation of record authenticity, reliability, usability and integrity over time.

Additional information about metadata and its uses can be found on the GC Information Management Portal4.

1.3 Why use GC RMMS metadata?

The GC RMMS promotes a standardized approach to managing metadata necessary for records management within and among GC institutions. It simplifies the management of records throughout their life cycle. Furthermore, it promotes the ability to access the correct information at the required time for improved decision-making.

The GC RMMS and GC RMAP outline the 'language' of the business of records management.

Metadata identified in the GC RMMS helps institutions to meet their legislative, regulatory, policy and compliance requirements. It supports the implementation of the GC's Management of Government Information Policy (MGI Policy)5, the purpose of which is to "ensure that information under the control of the Government of Canada is managed effectively and efficiently throughout its life cycle."

The GC RMMS establishes a common vocabulary that facilitates and promotes interoperability for accessing records across large knowledge management domains. In addition, it ensures that records transferred to Library and Archives Canada will contain appropriate metadata to assist in continued access and retrieval.

1.4 Alignment with standards

The GC endorses ISO standards for records management and is a proponent of their use.

The GC RMMS conforms to the following ISO documents for records management:

  • ISO International Standard 15489-1: Information and Documentation - Records Management - Part 1: General, 2001-09-15; and,

  • ISO Technical Specification 23081-1: Information and Documentation - Records Management Processes - Metadata for Records - Part 1: Principles, 2004-05-01.

Taken together, the GC RMMS and GC RMAP supersede a previous GC metadata element set, Record Keeping Metadata Requirements for the Government of Canada (January 2001)6. This previous element set was originally developed by members of the Work Processes and Practices Working Group in the context of implementing Records, Document, and Information Management System (RDIMS), the shared solution for records, documents and information management in the GC.

The GC RMMS is aligned with the GC information management standard, TBITS 39: Treasury Board Information Management Standard, Part 1: Government On-Line Metadata Standard7. A mapping is provided from the GC RMMS to the five mandatory metadata elements required to describe GC resources for information discovery purposes. Elements requiring population with values from enumerated domains or controlled vocabularies are identified.

1.5 Intended audience

The GC RMAP is directed to employees of the GC and, in particular, to the following groups:

  • Information management professionals, especially records managers;

  • Knowledge management professionals;

  • Metadata specialists who work in the records management domain;

  • EDRMS designers and developers; and

  • Information technology staff responsible for supporting EDRMS.

1. For the purposes of the records management domain and the GC RMMS in particular, use of the word "resource" pertains to a record or a file.

2. ISO International Standard 15489-1:2001, s. 3.12

3. ISO Technical Specification 23081-1:2004, s. 5.3

4. www.informationmanagement.gc.ca/index_e.asp

5. www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/pubs_pol/ciopubs/TB_GIH/mgih-grdg_e.asp

6. www.imforumgi.gc.ca/products/meta/metadata3_e.pdf

7. www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/its-nit/standards/tbits39/crit39_e.asp

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