Core Competency F: Apply fundamental management theories and principles to the administration of records and recordkeeping organizations.
What do you understand this competency to mean?
The effective administration of records requires the application of fundamental management theories, much like many other disciplines. Each element of recordkeeping and records administration is subject to basic management principles that govern the care, storage, and retention of records. Businesses are managed based on criteria specific to their industry, so management practices are tailored to suit the needs of the company. This is true for records administration as well, and management practices must be in place for a multitude of scenarios and situations that are specific to the field of recordkeeping.
Management policies are often multi-faceted, with the inclusion of a number of elements specific to recordkeeping in place to ensure the protection of the facility, its staff, and its holdings. As Elizabeth Shepherd and Geoffrey Yeo wrote in ‘Managing Records: A Handbook of Principles and Practices,’ “a comprehensive records management system is a complex operation with many facets…[involving] planning, designing and implementing subsystems for the…storage of records, for their classification, maintenance and disposal, and for the provision and regulation of access” (Shepherd and Yeo, 2003). Among the elements subject to managerial practices requiring tailored responses are acquisitions, de-accessioning, censorship, and privacy, in addition to the other steps in the records lifecycle model. All of these elements must be approached with management practices that consider not only sound business practices but also take into account the specialized nature of recordkeeping.
Managing an archive or records center means making the best executive decisions for the records in one’s care. Conflicting considerations such as privacy vs. transparency and preservation vs. accessibility must be weighed for each situation that arises in an archive or records center, and then the best outcome must be determined. This might mean that a compromise must be struck – protecting the records and satisfying a user might be more complicated than it sounds, and the archivist must apply the management practices he or she deems most prudent as dictated by the situation.
The application of fundamental management principles to recordkeeping includes dealing with potentially delicate situations with employees, colleagues, and clients. A records manager must be prepared to handle all dealings with their staff and their clients with a level of professionalism that protects all involved parties, such as the individuals and the institutions, as well as the records themselves. Recognizing the diplomacy required for handling situations in which not everyone sees eye to eye can help the records manager determine the best management policies for their facility and for their records.
What course assignments or other work products are you submitting as evidence of your mastery of this competency? Which source or class is your evidence drawn from?
As evidence of my mastery of this competency I am submitting pieces of work from LIBR 256: Archives and Manuscripts. From this course I have chosen three samples of participation discussion responses and the final exam essays, all of which are rooted in real-world scenarios to which realistic responses were required.
Why did you select these particular work products as evidence for your mastery of this competency? How do your selections show not simply learning by also application?
Each of the following samples was chosen for its ability to provide ample proof of the mastery of this competency. The multifaceted nature of records management and the fundamental management principles which are required for its governance are represented in the following bodies of evidence. The participation responses chosen from LIBR 256 present real-world situations in which I was asked to respond to situations as if I were the archivist in charge of the theoretical institution. In this manner, I crafted responses to the questions based on my own professional judgment, which has been shaped by my coursework, various readings, and my experiences volunteering and interning in the field.
- LIBR 256: Archives and Manuscripts: Theme Two Participation Responses
Theme Two is comprised of two questions and their corresponding responses. The first question discusses the questionable practices of an archivist whose religious beliefs have clouded her professional judgment and required a response that would discuss the role religion should or should not play in an archive, de-accessioning practices, and a possible resolution to the situation. My response included examples of the necessity for objectivity while performing one’s professional duties, along with possible disciplinary action as a result of the employee’s activities. Both of these management activities are critical for the effective operating of an archive or records center. Objectivity is particularly important to the management of records – a records manager or archivist must be able to care for the records in their custody regardless of the records’ content.
The second theme presents a scenario regarding a potential acquisition that would not only be a waste of the facility’s money and resources, but whose content is not within the scope of the archive’s mission. The questions accompanying this scenario include the legitimacy of this acquisition, what arguments against the acquisition you would use to defend your discontent with the proposition, and what would you do with the collection should your argument against it fall on deaf ears. In my response I argued against the acquisition since it posed no real value for the facility’s mission as it could at another’s, and it would put an unnecessary strain on the facility’s resources. The management of an archival facility requires the efficient allocation of resources – using up manpower or other resources on collections that would be better used at another facility is potentially damaging to the facility and undermines the management structure.
2. LIBR 256: Archives and Manuscripts: Theme Three Participation Responses
The first scenario presented in Theme Three asks three questions regarding a graduate student’s request for photocopies of an entire archival collection. These questions include gauging one’s reaction to such a request and what general reference services policies you would cite in your response to such a request. This scenario – and the subsequent responses I provided – also pertain to the archivist’s responsibility to allocate resources appropriately and effectively as part of a management program. This request for copies of all documents in a collection is unrealistic and not feasible within the working parameters of an archive since archives and records centers are generally operated by a minimal staff. That specific points of interest were also included in this inquiry makes it unfeasible for another reason – for this inquiry to be sufficiently fulfilled for the graduate student, the archivist would have to view the collection as a researcher, which may not be within the realm of their job description, nor a possibility due to time constraints.
Management practices that come into play in this scenario include the necessity for objectivity and the allocation of resources for activities that are pertinent to the operation of the facility. However, providing access to records does fall within the scope of the archivist’s responsibilities, and I therefore made the recommendation that the graduate student review the finding aid to narrow down their search and then make a more realistic request for specific copies of documents relevant to their research. Management policies should also be in place that will help researchers in their endeavors to effectively use archive and records center resources to their best advantage without compromising the functionality of the archivist’s or records manager’s position.
The second scenario addresses resource sharing and the risks associated with implementing an inter-library loan practice in an archive. Another key feature of the archivist’s or records manager’s responsibilities is the security of the collections at their facility. Fundamental management practices must be in place to protect collections from both internal and external threats, and ILL would most certainly be classified as possessing high risk factors for external threats. For example, were an ILL to take place between two archival institutions, a sound management policy would dictate that the receiving facility be equipped with security and preservation features – like temperature controls – that are equal to the facility lending their collection.
3. LIBR 256: Archives and Manuscripts: Theme Four Participation Responses
Sometimes important features of management principles employed as part of a fundamental management program are circumvented due to loopholes left open by poor wording or a lack of specifics in the policies. This can be detrimental to archival materials as well as to the institution to which they belong. The circumventing of an archive’s management principles is the scenario presented in the first theme. In this scenario, an author reproduces a photograph outside the perceived boundaries dictated by the archive that owns the photograph – I use the word perceived because the wording of the agreement with the author was not detailed enough to rule out the uses he employed, therefore the author used semantics as his loophole in the agreement. Maintaining detailed agreements for the use of archival materials will help prevent their misuse.
The second theme addresses privacy and confidentiality, which should feature prominently in the fundamental management principles employed in recordkeeping. Collections’ content varies widely, and may contain information deemed confidential – this information could potentially damage the reputation of a person, group of people, or organization. Management policies must be in place to protect information that can be classified as confidential or be subject to privacy concerns in any way. In an effort to address privacy concerns, time restraints can be placed on collections to ensure that named individuals are deceased prior to any private information being released to archive patrons, or potentially damaging information may be redacted from the copies to which patrons are allowed access.
4. LIBR 256: Archives and Manuscripts: Final Exam Essays
The essay section of the final examination for LIBR 256 was comprised of two essay questions, both of which presented real-world scenarios to which I was required to respond with real-world solutions. The first essay required the implementation of an archival management program with a specific mission statement and primary and secondary goals after being hired on to manage an archive that had, up until then, been in utter disarray. My response to this question demonstrates full competency in the understanding of the fundamental management policies necessary for the efficient operation of an archive.
The second essay presented a scenario in which the use of a photograph without any information regarding ownership – and was taken by an unknown photographer – is called into question. The response to this question required a weighing of the copyright laws attached to the photograph, even though the owner has not been identified, and to whom credit would be attributed since neither the owner nor the photographer can be located. This is another issue that would require management policies to stipulate the protocol followed in the event of such a dilemma. In my response I expressed the desire to err on the side of caution – use of the photograph could be detrimental should the owner or photographer eventually appear and take issue with its use. I also outlined steps that could be taken in an effort to locate the copyright holder and/or photographer prior to its use. Management policies that could protect a records center or archive in this type of scenario could include protocols regarding copyright holders and measures taken to contact them for their permission to use an image, as well as whether or not to use an image without the copyright holder’s consent should they be indeterminable and what can be done to protect the facility should the image be used thusly.
What have you learned?
There is a particular business aspect of records administration, requiring careful application of management practices that have been tailored to suit the needs of records administration. Issues such as privacy, copyrights, resource sharing, resource allocation, employee conduct, communication, security procedures, preservation, and the steps of the records lifecycle, should all be addressed by the management policies set forth in an archive.
The effective management of an archive or records center requires communication between the records manager and other members of staff, to ensure they are all operating with the same objectives in mind. According to Carol E.B. Choksy in her chapter of Leading and Managing Archives and Records Programs, titled ‘Leading a Successful Records Management Program,’ records managers and archivists “must be able to communicate with all levels of an organization: from entry-level mailroom workers to the board of directors…[because] emphasizing the need to manage information strategically rather than tactically makes it easier for employees to understand and accept the need for sound records management practices” (Choksy, 2008). When an employee is fully aware of the importance of their role in the managing of the company’s information, the records manager can better secure and manage the records in their care. A level of accountability must be attained to ensure the protection of the records, especially when considering internal threats to a records management program.
Communication is inevitably linked to a necessary level of flexibility required to assert one’s leadership over a records management program in addition to adequately managing one’s records. As Edie Hedlin states in Leading and Managing Archives and Records Programs, “leading your program often means explaining, defending, and advocating for your program…[so] you must be able to articulate” your archive’s mission to any audience, which may require the “use of different language when addressing different audiences” (Hedlin, 2008). The archivist or records manager who successfully communicates with their team and members of staff from other departments will be more apt to run a more effect records management program. When staff members are informed of their responsibilities and the role they play in the records management process, they are more likely to adhere to those policies, thus making the management program more effective.
Management policies and principles help records managers efficiently run their facility and protect their records by putting into place protections for a variety of scenarios that can effect records at various levels in their lifecycle. Accessioning policies protect the records center’s or archive’s resources, allowing the records manager to allocate resources that will optimize the results and benefits. Privacy policies can protect the records center from copyright infringement laws, confidentiality issues, right-to-know issues, and transparency concerns. Employee conduct policies and security policies can protect the records from both internal and external threats, such as theft, vandalism, and improper handling of materials. Management policies cover an array of issues that affect an archive or records center, and effective policies can protect the facility, the staff, and the records.
Choksy, C.E.B. (2008). Leading a successful records management program. In B.W. Dearstyne (Ed.) Leading and Managing Archives and Records Programs (pp. 69-90). New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers, Inc.
Hedlin, E. (2008). Meeting leadership challenges: lessons from experience. In B.W. Dearstyne (Ed.) Leading and Managing Archives and Records Programs (pp. 163-181). New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers, Inc.
Shepherd, E. and Yeo, G. (2003). Managing records: a handbook of principles and practice. London: Facet Publishing.