You grab your popcorn and snuggle down under a blanket to watch your favorite sci-fi movie or fantasy show. For a moment, you are whisked away from mundane reality—only to be brought back down to earth when the characters seem to be acting out scenes from your own workplace. We call this state of mind: RIM-brain! Do analysts dream of electronic records? Well, we certainly see Records and Information Management (RIM) even in our leisure activities. Here are two instances of RIM-brain we experienced while watching sci-fi and fantasy dramas.
Game of Thrones, Season 6, Episode 10: Sam Visits The Citadel
Samwell Tarly is a humble individual who begins to find his courage through the series, which is a relief in a world that fears dragons, magic, and conspiring rulers. He balances the moral compass of the show, often doing what’s right and staying loyal to his colleagues. Although he starts to become gallant, his main strength is being well-read. For this reason, there comes a point where he is sent to The Citadel to become a “Maester” for the castle he belongs to.
The Citadel is like a library that stores historic, medical, and scientific information of Westeros. Operating The Citadel are people called Maesters. A Maester is someone who assists the Lord/Lady of a House with decisions because of their knowledge gained from The Citadel. However, before obtaining the title of Maester and helping a Lord/Lady, trainees must earn their merit at The Citadel from the established elders.
When Sam reaches The Citadel, he hands over papers and says, “From Lord Commander Snow, Castle Black. I am to be the new Maester.” The clerk rudely takes the papers and confirms the previous Maester is no longer at the castle. After doubting Sam briefly, the clerk escorts him into The Citadel to start the Maester process.
Did Sam hand over an SLR 504 designating himself as the new RMO? Was that a new records management policy submitted with governing body approval? It is tough to imagine Records Management in a world like Game of Thrones, but if any of the characters were to correctly submit compliance documents, it would be Samwell Tarly. Of course, us analysts would never be rude or doubtful to accept you as an RMO, but we do ask for the updated RMO information within 30 days of assuming the position!
At TSLAC we do not implement an extensive program to obtain the RMO title. However, like The Citadel, we offer many resources and trainings for new RMOs to lead an efficient records management program. Maybe you aren’t protecting your records against dragons or advising council about an invading army, but you are assisting other leaders in the efficiency of their offices.
Blade Runner 2049
This sequel to the classic 1982 film is set in a near-future dystopia where the earth has been depleted of resources and humanoid robots are forced to perform labor for the benefit of humans. The main character, named K, is one of these robots, called “replicants,” and spends the film solving a mystery by following a trail of clues scattered through the records of various corporate archives. The secret he seeks to uncover has the potential to upend their entire society.
Toward the beginning of K’s search, he visits the archives of the Wallace Corporation which manufactures replicants. When K inquires about an old replicant’s serial number, we learn from the archivist about a digital “blackout” that occurred years ago. The archivist reminisces, “Everyone remembers where they were at the blackout. […] I was home with my folks. Then ten days of darkness, every machine stopped cold. When the lights came back, we were wiped clean—photos, files, every bit of data gone. Bank records, too. Didn’t mind that. It’s funny it’s only paper that lasted, I mean, we had everything on drives—everything, everything, everything! My mom still cries over the lost baby pictures.” K looks at the archivist’s sickly-pale visage and says, “Well, it’s a shame. You must have been adorable.”
Upon locating the serial number in the stacks of the archive, the archivist hands K what appears to be a futuristic microfiche card. He explains that the information is “fractured” and there’s not much left. K will have to keep searching if he wants to solve the mystery.
Watching this scene, I couldn’t help but be reminded of our Strategies for Preserving Electronic Records webinar, which discusses the fragility of digital information. TSLAC recommends keeping multiple backups in multiple formats for vital or essential records. For example, government entities can use the 3-2-1 Backup Rule which means keeping 3 copies in 2 formats, including 1 copy in an alternate location.
Seeing a humanoid robot use microfiche also reminded me of the imaging services available through the State Records Center. Microfilm might not seem futuristic, but it’s a stable and compact format for storing long-term records. For microfilm storage standards, local governments should refer to Bulletin A and state agencies should refer to Bulletin 2. Properly stored microfilm can last up to 500 years—well past 2049!
When you’re traveling through another dimension or journeying into a wonderous land, remember that records and information management is only bound by your imagination. That’s a signpost up ahead—your next stop, RIM-brain!
Check out our other RIM-Brain articles for more records management fun!