It seems that every time un- and under-employment among archivists and librarians comes up as a topic for public discussion, at least one person chimes in with the usual trope about all the OTHER things one can do with the skills and qualifications of a librarian or archivist. Records management is often high on that list. So it struck me as somewhat humorous when I recently found myself, as a records manager, listing off my skills and the ways that I am of service to my institution OTHER than creating and managing records retention schedules.
As a records manager in a highly decentralized organization, I have to use persuasion rather than authority to convince individual units to participate in records management activities, a position I’m sure many of the roundtable’s members find familiar. Despite having it as a goal, I often find that scheduling records – that core RM activity – is one of the least attractive, or least urgent, services I can offer the units I serve.
“Oh, you don’t want to identify the functions your office performs and the records series that you manage, and then schedule those records series’ dispositions? Sorry, can’t help you!” said no employed records manager ever. Instead, it’s usually more like, “I understand that your office isn’t interested in creating a retention schedule right now. But here are some other ways I can be of service to you.” Through these activities, I can nudge the units closer to a managed records environment without being heavy-handed about scheduling records.
Here’s my current list of things I can do other than scheduling records that I’ve found may appeal to the administrative and academic units I serve:
- Advise about the selection and setup of digitization, content management and similar systems
- Document workflows and current practices related to the creation, maintenance and destruction of information (a remarkably valuable first step in a highly decentralized environment)
- Research standards and best practices for the handling of specific document types
- Survey the archives’ current holdings to identify what records we hold from a unit (this often leads to a discussion about destruction and planning for future transfers, which is a backdoor to retention schedules)
- Coordinate activities with other units managing similar or related records
- Act as a liaison to the office of legal counsel on issues related to retention and destruction of records
What about you? How do you sell your function and skills OTHER than creating retention schedules to the units you serve?