Resourceful Records Managers #1: Laurence Brewer

Below is the inaugural interview in our new monthly RMS series Resourceful Records Managers.  If you are interested in sharing your journey as a Records Manager please contact me at jgd1(at)williams(dot)edu.

Laurence Brewer, Chief Records Officer of the United States1. What led you to choose your current career in Records Management? Like many of us career records managers, it kind of chose me! My education and first jobs out of school were in the political science field; however, being a political science major in DC is not easy! I learned very quickly that I could not put food on the table at $5/hour with no benefits. So when I accepted that reality, the first company that hired me was a RIM organization.

2. What is your educational background? I have two degrees now in Political Science that I am not using at all. My parents are not very proud of that, especially since I have not been successful explaining to them what it is I actually do!

3. Do you or did you have a mentor who has helped you in the Records Management field? Actually the person I have to give credit to is Laura McHale, who when I worked for her at EPA, she encouraged me to learn more about RIM, and in particular advised me to study for and obtain my CRM designation.

4. How did you first become interested in Records Management? In my first jobs at EPA as a contractor, I developed an appreciation for the business-centric orientation of RM, especially when compared to archival practice. I enjoyed consulting, advising staff, and helping people with solutions to their RM problems.

5. What is your role at your institution? Currently, as Chief Records Officer, I lead an office of talented records managers and archivists who work with all federal agencies to advocate for and improve records management across the Government. Central to this charge is promoting electronic records management and modernizing recordkeeping practices in all agencies.

6. What do you enjoy most about your job? I enjoy the challenge of our core mission, but more than that, I enjoy the people who work with me to make these changes in the Government happen. We enjoy what we do and we have many smart, dedicated professionals who are responsible for our success.

7. What would you consider to be your career highlight or greatest success? Ask me when I retire in 20 years! I feel like the best is still to come!

8. What type of institutional settings have you worked in? Corporate? Government? Higher education? If more than one, how do they differ? My records management career started in the private sector as a federal contractor at EPA, then I took a position in RM at the state level in Virginia before joining NARA, where I have been in several positions since 1999.

9. What advice would you give to an individual considering Records Management as a career? It’s a challenging and rewarding field, but more than anything success today requires learning about more than just RM. Knowledge of many other disciplines is important to be successful and add value to your organization. Truly, an information governance approach is critical today – one that focuses on coordination and partnerships with IT, Legal, HR, security, privacy and so on. The world has gotten more complex, and so has the profession.

10. Do you belong to any professional organizations (SAA, ARMA…)? No, I do not….need to find the time, though I do attend many events sponsored by these organizations.

11. Thoughts on the future of records management? See #9

12. What do you perceive as the biggest challenges in the Records Management field? Keeping abreast of technology and the implications for RM for many of the emerging issues. Spotting trends and interpreting the impact on RM for our organizations is going to continue to be a challenge.

13. Besides focusing on work, what are some of your other interests or hobbies? Outside of work, I enjoy live music so you may run into me one night at the 930 Club!

14. Do you have a quote you live by? None at all. However, I do have a tattoo that reminds me to stay balanced and calm in how I approach life.

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