One Year In: Reflections on the First Year as Records Manager

I have had a foot in the archives world for some time, but I’ve only recently stepped into the world of records management. Like many of us, I have a dual title job – “Digital Archivist/Records Manager.” I started my position just over a year ago. My university’s records management program has been around for a long time, but the digital archives part is new, and a large part of my position is determining how we’ll manage born-digital archives. A frequent challenge I’ve found since arriving at my position is educating university offices to make the mental leap from thinking of their paper records as “potentially archival” to thinking the same thing of their electronic records. People are pretty good about calling us up when they’re performing a physical records cleanup (often triggered by a facility move or running out of space) to archive records as instructed on their retention schedule. However, our decentralized university environment means we have fewer triggers to encourage people to voluntarily cleanup (and subsequently transfer) electronic records.

This is the first position I’ve had in which I’ve had significant records management duties. Because I’m still learning so much about general records management practice, this has given me a lot of insight on how to effectively communicate similar messages to the people I work with and educate. In my first year, I’ve conducted several campus training workshops, and what I’ve realized is that the majority of people want to maintain their records according to our program guidelines. What becomes difficult is university staff workload often prevents people from having adequate time to tackle their records challenges. Because implementing any type of EDRMS is so unlikely I can barely entertain the thought of it, I have embraced the message of telling people that they can send me a calendar invitation any time for any reason if they feel stuck and don’t know where to start.

This means that most of my meetings are for things like record cleanups and retention schedule revisions. But it also means that I have received interesting requests, like reviewing an RFP draft for a new asset management system. Like Christie, I have found success in framing my offer of help as something other than “records management.” If people leave my workshops and the only thing they remember is there’s someone out there to call for assistance, I consider that a successful outcome.

Since I started, I have had several meetings a month with many different colleges and departments across the university’s campuses. Not only does it mean I have a better sense of the recordkeeping landscape of our university, but it allows me to build relationships and create connections that improve my larger understanding of the community and how to operate in it. In a decentralized university, the biggest challenge of all is figuring out who to talk to about any given matter. Job titles and org charts give you a starting point, but rarely tell you who the most responsive person is when you need an answer. Thanks to my frequently full calendar, I am embarking on my second year with a much broader set of personal connections and ideas to tackle the challenges I began to face in the first year.

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