A final festive flourish from Anne Hopwood, Corporate Records Manager at Rochdale Council. If you’ve enjoyed the series (or used it with your own team or organisation), why not let us know?
It was Christmas Eve and as usual Ebenezer Scrooge the Record Keeper was sitting in his office, feet up on an archive box full of unindexed files, looking at vintage computer games on Ebay. He hadn’t updated the electronic file management system for 6 weeks because he just didn’t see the point, and he only checked his retrieval requests once a month because he just did not see why people still needed paper files anymore.
Where did it all go wrong for Ebenezer? He was a child of the 90’s. He truly believed that paper was dead and electronic records were the future, so how did he end up here in the paper pit? He had such high hopes when he started in Records Management; providing sexy new electronic systems that gave you what you wanted at the touch of a button, sending frontline workers out in the community with digital pens, tablet computers and fancy do-it-all smart phones – but here he was, shuffling paper.
Ebenezer was getting warm in the paper filled office and was just beginning to doze when he noticed a bright light under his door. He was about to approach the door to see what the fuss was about when it was flung back with such force that it almost came off its hinges. Standing in front of him was a large jolly man wearing a bright blue suit with a great mane of white hair flowing to his shoulders. Before Ebenezer could say anything, the man said
“Come, come my boy! Time is a-passing and we must reply to our Data Protection requests before time runs out!”
Before he had chance to say anything at all, the Ghost of DP (for that is who he was) had grabbed his hand, and was leading him down the stairs which Ebenezer was sure had not been there before.
The ghost took him to an ordinary house on an ordinary street that could have been anywhere. At first it wasn’t clear what he was supposed to be looking at, but a young man appeared, limping slowly along the street. The man hesitated at the door of the house, took a deep breath and knocked just loud enough to be heard. The woman who opened the door bore a striking resemblance to the man, and they spoke for a few minutes. Then something happened that melted Ebenezer’s heart – they hugged as if they never wanted to let go of each other. Ebenezer looked in askance at the ghost of DP.
“That’s Tiny Tim. He is has been in care since he was a baby. Last week he got to see his social care file and found out he had a sister. They have never met before tonight.”
Ebenezer was shocked. Surely he would have found her if he hadn’t seen his file? Someone must have known? The Ghost of DP assured him that this was not the case; Tiny Tim had lost touch with all his foster carers and never knew his family.
The ghost of DP asked Ebenezer to look over his shoulder. He turned to see the same man sitting alone eating a Christmas dinner for one. This would have been Christmas for Tiny Tim if he had not found his family.
Ebenezer squirmed inside and thought about the boxes of unindexed care files in his office. If Tiny Tim’s file had been one of those, he would be spending Christmas alone.
He turned to speak to the Ghost of DP but the street was empty. Ebenezer started walking down the street, deep in thought, when he fell and twisted his ankle. He looked at the road and noticed that he’d been felled by a massive pothole. He looked up just as a woman in a brown flowing dress, with flowers in her hair, and a laugh like sleigh bells on the breeze, reached out to help him up. She told Ebenezer that she was the ghost of FOI:
“If only Mr Roadcare had got the information he needed when he asked about where the biggest potholes were in the district, his pressure group might have been able to get something done about this one!”
Unfortunately the records he needed were in a paper complaints file that couldn’t be found. Ebenezer knew why it couldn’t be found; he was using it as a stand for his computer screen and hadn’t bothered to extricate it when he was asked.
Ebenezer puts his head in his hands and feels ashamed of the way he has treated the precious paper files. When he looks up, he is back at his desk and it’s still Christmas Eve. Ebenezer knows he has to change his ways. He now understands the value of his files ; he knows how much easier he can make the lives of the people who need the information they contain.
He starts straight away and indexes the archive boxes around him. He feels happy that he could now help another 152 people just like Tiny Tim if they wanted access to their files. Then he extricates the complaints file from under his screen and files it away properly for next time. Ebenezer then makes a list of all the things he can do to help people know where their files are, what is in them and when they can be destroyed.
Ebenezer truly is a changed man who takes care of the paper files and understands their true worth. He does such a good job that the Information and Records Management Society ask him to be the keynote speaker at their next annual conference. This truly is a Christmas miracle!
Huge, huge thanks to Anne for writing all these fantastic Christmas stories. And a very Merry Christmas to all our readers – see you in 2014!