In which a Knowledge Manager with an MLS learns a thing or two about the field of Records Management.
I’m a Knowledge Manager with responsibilities for knowledge management, library services and records management at my organization. I’ve been juggling the first two for some years now, but records management is a new assignment for me. It coincides with the departure of our Director of Administration who handled this area previously (mostly by keeping everything) and the Presidential memorandum of November 28, 2011, calling for better records management across all federal agencies.
I had no training in records management, of course, but now I was responsible for developing a records management program for my organization. Which brings me to my attendance in a class at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) in College Park, MD. I’ve just completed the first of five courses to receive NARA’s Certificate of Federal Records Management Training.
Knowledge Area 2: Creating and Maintaining Agency Business Information (KA1 is an Overview and not part of the Certificate Program), is a two-day course devoted to helping us understand what federal records are (almost anything created or received by an agency in the course of business), who is responsible for various levels of managing records (almost everyone), how to plan and execute a records inventory (tougher than it looks), and elements of, and tools for, managing and organizing information. The course included instructional material, group activities and some sample handouts.
One amusing exercise called “Watch Your Lingo” directed us to look at different definitions for the same word (archive, file, etc.) coming from the records management or IT perspective. The same could be said about library science or knowledge management. Although most of the people in my class were already involved in records management in some way at their respective agencies as Records Liaisons or Records Officers, the language and topics of the course should be familiar to those of us with library science backgrounds and experience in knowledge management. For example:
- Understanding the business processes of an organization (knowledge management)
- Applying metadata to records (cataloging)
- Conducting a records inventory (inventory of print or electronic collections)
- Disposition of records (weeding or de-accessioning)
- Understanding the limitations of electronic media and the need to migrate data to new formats (digital collections)
- Electronic information systems (online catalogs)
- Change management to involve everyone in the records management process (knowledge management)
- Preservation of records and institutional knowledge
Given the natural affinity of librarians as information professionals for organizing data and dealing with records of many types, I was a little peeved when the instructors, following the course book, listed everyone from the agency head to the general counsel, public affairs officer, system administrator, historian and staff member as responsible in some way for records management, but failed to mention librarians or knowledge managers, even when the subject of metadata was introduced. I asked the instructors about the omission and they referred to the text. I suggested the text be revised. In small group discussion, my group deferred to me as the metadata expert.
Despite the similarities in how information professionals view records, documents, or data, records management is its own bailiwick. There is a lot to learn, particularly about how federal records are managed. And there is more to come…