You probably think that ‘Records Management’ is a glorified term for Filing and it sorta is. It certainly does involve filing but so much more… There
are now Records Information Management Professional Associations and even companies whose sole business is Records Management such as Iron Mountain… There are national and state bodies who are dedicated to the setting of schedules for the retention and disposal of records, mainstream
courses in the field and a lot of technology being bought to bear. Obviously, there are also a lot of jokes about records management.
A classic is: Archivists make it last longer…
I have been involved, to varying degrees with records management for many years though I am not formally trained in the field. I did start a correspondence course during
a previous job on records management but a combo of not liking the structure of learning and the way it was going turned me off pretty quickly. At the same time I decided to leave that particular job to pursue something I did have formal qualifications
in. It’s not that I lack formal qualifications in other things it’s just records management is something I fell into. Strangely, it is now the one area that I can show an almost continuous history of employment in… of course
this is one string for a broad applicant like myself.
It started many years ago with alpha-numeric filing in a large compactus in a state government department head office. We were dealing with large volumes of paperwork that had
to be filed. It was rather boring, mundane, mind-numbing work and although I was promised further development at that time, my only option to leave the compactus was to open mail in the mail room of this big government body. Well, I did that too
but felt I wanted something better…. I didn’t know what but I did not hang around too long as it was only a temporary contract.
My next major encounter with records management was working for another large state government
department and I ended up in the file management area. This section proved to be my training ground for further endeavours in this field. We batch scanned applications and other incoming correspondence in addition to keeping microfilm of the scanned
forms as well. Wasn’t so much maintaining physical files per se but more about establishing a ‘paperless office’ and allowing others to process the applications as they arrived.
I enjoyed the part of
the job that involved being able to move around the office and not being locked at my desk processing data. I certainly spent a lot of time in front of a big old scanning machine and in the scanning room preparing and securing the batches. Unfortunately the
role I was performing was changed somewhat and with that I transferred to another section where I was just processing data. I often looked back at my time in the file management area with a certain wishfulness to be back there.
It was this job that I came into contact with an electronic Document and Records Management System, they were using Objective at the time. I have since had a lot more exposure to various eDRMSs such as TRIM, RecFind and more recently InfoXpert. These systems are a way for organisations to capture and track various filing systems and sort them into searchable, easily retrievable
ways. They do this to varying degrees of success and only need a little bit of user training to get started. In the new realms of Information Management, Knowledge Management these systems are tools of trade.
working in various Document Management sections for several government departments, who mostly combined mail management with records management, I relocated to a regional area for a job at a local council as their Records Officer. This was at a time
of great change for the council internally and had to do with the introduction of a number of new IT facilities and programs to streamline the operation. Of course, change is never met by all parties the same way but it was my job to implement a new
package that had already been chosen and roll it out across the board. I became the System Administrator for this new package and set about the tasks of establishing a BCS (Business Classification Scheme) and security settings for the various council officers from executive management to workshop administration staff.
This role gave me a great insight into project management as well
as more in-depth knowledge of records management functions. As part of this role I was heavily involved in getting the archiving as well as the retention and disposal procedures down. It was a full-on job that was pretty much autonomous and although
overwhelming at times, it was rewarding in its own way especially when the new package was rolled out and the section staff were using it to varying degrees. I had moments when I thought things could have been done better but I worked with what I had
and made the best of it.
As I said I moved on from there to pursue something I had formal qualifications in…. Down the track and having relocated again to a bigger centre, I was hired to be part of a team that was conducting
a file review in a major federal government department. Our function was to conduct an internal compliance audit on the files of the particular branch and report any findings/issues to management for their awareness. We looked over quite a volume
of both paper files and electronic shared drive type structures within the branch and at the end compiled a report outlining what we found. The team had a range of experience and ages but we got along quite well and they were a pleasure to work with
Records management is one area of my skills and experience that I am now looking to develop further and certainly not something I’m afraid of. It’s a role that is important to any organisation whether big
or small but it is very often underutilised, underresourced and most common of all just misunderstood. A well-functioning records management system is vital for those who wish to serve their customers better, it should keep you well-informed about
the organisations endeavours and thought processes. Just like that other form of record-keeping i.e bookkeeping/accounting, records management is now a career although not quite as well known but no less necessary. I will talk more about
Accounting in a coming blog post…so Stay Tuned.