Records managers are responsible for managing the retention and storage of records.
Modern organisations generate huge numbers of documents, in electronic form such as emails and websites, as well as in paper format. As a record of the organisation’s activities, these documents must be organised and stored.
What do records managers do?
Key tasks include:
- classifying and indexing; organising filing and storage systems
- carrying out inventories of the information held and arranging for records that are no longer needed to be destroyed
- meeting legal requirements, including the Freedom of Information and Data Protection Acts, and ensuring that everyone in the organisation understands procedures for recording information
- protecting records from unauthorised users, such as computer hackers
- liaising with senior management, to explain how accurate records can help with the effective running of the organisation
- managing resources, including budgets and staff.
Records managers have to achieve a balance between: 1) making sure they have records which are useful to the organisation and meet legal requirements and 2) storing too many records for too long, which is a waste of time and resources. For this reason, they allocate a retention period to each record. At the end of that period, the record is normally destroyed.
Employers of records managers include local and central government, universities, large companies, banks and other financial institutions, museums, galleries and charities. The profession is growing, partly as a result of legal requirements such as the Freedom of Information Act, partly because of the exponential growth of electronic information.
There is some overlap between the work of records managers and archivists. However, archivists are concerned with keeping records over a longer period of time, as a historical resource.
Records managers may work alone, or as members of a small team.
Getting into records management
There is competition for entry, so it is an advantage to have experience, either as a paid assistant or a volunteer.
Many records managers are graduates – in any subject. There are no first degrees in records management, but studying a related subject such as information management could be an advantage.
Full-time, part-time and distance learning postgraduate programmes in archives and records management, accredited by the Archives and Records Association are offered at universities in the UK and Ireland.
As there is fierce competition for entry to postgraduate courses, it is an advantage to have experience in a records department, either as a paid assistant or as a volunteer.
It is possible for non-graduates to enter records management after gaining relevant work experience. University of Liverpool Centre for Archive Studies LUCAS offers distance learning programmes in records management at undergraduate level.
Building a career in records management
For professional development, courses and networking opportunities, records managers can join one or more of the professional associations:
- Archives and Records Association
- Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals
- Information and Records Management Society
The Archives and Records Association Registration Scheme, which takes three years to complete, is similar to chartered membership of a professional body.
Records management is a relatively new profession and career paths have yet to be established. To achieve promotion, it may be necessary to move to a different employer. Experienced records managers can become self-employed consultants.