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As the need for professionals to manage information grows, there’s an increasing desire to define the different roles required to do so effectively. Businesses are data-driven and rely heavily on information to make crucial decisions, understand historical events, and often, to avoid litigation. This is where records managers and archivists come in to save the day. So, what do these professionals do and how do they complement each other? Read on to learn more about their backgrounds, focuses, and how they work together to maintain the records in their care.
While not a hard and fast rule, many archivists hold university degrees, often at the graduate level. On the other hand, many records managers have vocational training in their field. Both forms of education are rigorous in their own right and prepare these professionals to manage the demanding requirements of their jobs. You might see different credentials following a records manager’s name, such as Certified Records Manager (CRM) and Certified Records Analyst (CRA). Likewise, archivists might hold additional credentials in addition to a university degree, such as Digital Archives Specialist (DAS). Continued education is something both professions engage in to stay up-to-date with the latest requirements in record handling.
What’s the Focus?
Records managers deal with records from the time they’re created until disposition. They handle the lifecycle of the records in an organization, including their use, storage, and retention. Archivists, on the other hand, focus more heavily on what happens to records after their disposition. Archives are often the final resting place of records if destruction wasn’t part of their fate. The records selected for an archive are considered permanently valuable, even though they might not be useful in the day-to-day operations of an organization. This is usually because an archivist believes the record holds historical usefulness.
Archivists typically focus on the cultural and historical significance of records, while records managers juggle record workflow with legal requirements and business needs. Deciding how long to retain records and ensuring adherence to retention policies are key elements of what records managers do. That isn’t to say archivists don’t need to be concerned with legislation and privacy, in fact, they do, but frequently with an eye towards preservation.
Professionals that seek out the services of a records manager or an archivist usually have different requirements. For example, legal professionals might call upon records managers to provide records and advise on retention schedules. Alternatively, archivists regularly work with researchers that want to understand the cultural or historical value of records.
In organizations that employ both records manager and archivist roles, the two positions must often work together. The records manager might present the archivist with records at the end of their retention period, and the archivist will evaluate the records she believes to have historical value and decide which records to keep. Both records managers and archivists need to manage electronic records and keep up with the swelling burden of digital information, and so at times some of their duties overlap. However, their purpose for working with the records are typically, if not always, different.
For all their differences, archivists and records managers have many similarities. Both roles must maintain the records in their care, adhere to existing retention policies, and classify records so they can be easily retrieved. Both professions care about how records are handled and what happens to them at the end of their lifecycle. And, ultimately, both the records manager and the archivist go through extensive educational programs to provide them with a strong foundation to make well-informed decisions about records in an organization. In today’s digital world, both professions are invaluable, and both work hard to make sure records are organized and easily retrievable.
Disclaimer: The purpose of this post is to provide general education on Information Governance topics. The statements are informational only and do not constitute legal advice. If you have specific questions regarding the application of the law to your business activities, you should seek the advice of your legal counsel.