Recordkeeping people in 2010

It’s really encouraging to see the Society of Archivists’ Chair, Katy Goodrum, believes so strongly in using the common ground between the branches of the recordkeeping professions.  In last month’s ARC, Katy said

We do spend too much time citing differences and that gets in the way of the goal of any records manager, archivist or conservator which is the better management, preservation of and access to the records and information of our employing organisation.

Katy recognises the progress made in continuing professional development but is also keen to make more of the benefits of CPD.  She’s also keen to widen recruitment to the profession.  I’m looking forward to working with her on some of this and pleased that the SoA, National Council on Archives and Association of Chief Archivists in Local Government have signed a memorandum of understanding to explore the creation of the new merged body for the sector.

It’s also really encouraging to see the chief executive of the Society of Archivists Records Managers & Conservators, John Chambers, making real connection with the Chair of the Records Management Society, Matt Stephenson.  And that the SoA, CILIP, RMS and British Computer Society are collaborating on training and skill gaps for UK government departments with a demand for “professional bodies to co-operate to ease movement across professional boundaries by recognising transferable skills and by offering joint accreditation” (source: John Chambers’ column in ARC December 2009).

These developments are supported by some robust comments from Sue Hill Recruitment in the latest RMS Bulletin.

As recuiters talking to employers across the private and public sectors, we see that they have little understanding of, or patience for, the distinctions those within the “management of information” profession make between various flavours of roles.  An organisation just wants its information managed, stored, organised and available for retrieval on request – whether that “information” is called a record, an archive, a journal article, a piece of know how, or whatever, is largely irrelevant to them.

Imagine if IT staff were divided into silos in the same way – “the Database Management Society” and the “Email System Group”, the “Wordprocessing Association” and the “Banking Front-Office Transaction System Institute”, the “Society of Programmers” and the “CRM Association”.  Would C[hief]I[nformation]O[fficer]s have the place they currently enjoy in the boardroom?

Perpetrating the division of the information sector into librarianship, information management, knowledge management, records management and archives management is likely to lead to continued misunderstanding, poor image, lack of a place at the “top table” of decision making, and low salaries for information workers.

Nicola Franklin at Sue Hill Recruitment goes on to comment on recruiting to records management vacancies

The stumbling block doesn’t seem to be whether organisations… need records management, but instead how to meet their “wish list” of demands in the person specification….

If recruiting organisations could take more account of both transferable technical skills (classification of information is classification of information, whether that is content on an intranet or records in an EDRMS), and the personal and “soft” skills which are also eminently transferable, then perhaps more RM roles could be filled, more quickly.

Substitute “individuals” for “recruiting organisations” and I think we also have a call to individuals not to box themselves into corners or hide behind special pleading and also to continue to develop professionally.

A couple of months ago I wasn’t optimistic about us as a profession of recordkeepers being able to change some of our entrenched/perceived differences for all our benefit.  I wasn’t optimistic about individual professionals recognising and more importantly, acting on the need for reflective CPD in the modern changing world.

I’m feeling a bit more optimistic now but it’s going to take a lot of us a lot of work and we’re going to have to focus on the common ground that Katy articulates to avoid some of the false starts and dead ends and (whisper it) irrelevancies that both Elizabeth Shepherd (link to my summary) and Steve Bailey (link to James Lappin’s summary) have identified from the past and from the present.

James has recently set out some practical recommendations for the membership societies with regard to social networking media which also exposes the challenges to the membership society model in the current climate.


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