Archival and Records Management Perspectives

Margot Note

Margot Note

October 13, 2023

Records managers and archivists play critical roles in information management by preserving and providing access to records.

However, due to their distinct responsibilities and objectives, they may view each other through different lenses. Exploring these varying perspectives, understanding each profession’s different users, and delving into their unique definitions of evidence and evidential values strengthens the effectiveness of each field.

Breaking Stereotypes

Records managers and archivists often view each other through preconceived notions shaped by the nature of their work. Records managers may perceive archivists as collectors of records with potential liability. From their perspective, archivists may seem to accumulate and preserve records that no longer serve an immediate purpose, potentially taking up valuable storage space and resources. This view can lead to tensions and a lack of appreciation for the long-term historical value that archivists seek to preserve.

Archivists may see records managers denying access to valuable records. Records managers’ focus on timely destruction may lead them to prioritize immediate business needs over preserving historical or culturally significant records. This perception may result in archivists feeling that records managers overlook certain records’ importance and potential impact on future knowledge.

Evidence or Insight

The distinctions between records managers and archivists also manifest in the users they serve and the information they seek. Records managers cater to users seeking evidence and information. These users require well-organized records with high integrity to be used as evidence in legal proceedings or to support administrative decisions.

Archivists, conversely, serve users seeking knowledge about past events, people, and organizations. These users are interested in the historical and cultural context of records, seeking insights into the events that led to their creation and the broader impact they may have had on society. Archivists provide historical narratives and a deeper understanding of the records they preserve, going beyond the immediate business value they contain.

Joining Perspectives

Records managers and archivists have differing definitions of evidence and evidential values. For records managers, evidence refers to records with sufficient integrity to be admissible in court or meet regulatory requirements. Ensuring the authenticity and reliability of records is essential for their use in legal proceedings or administrative decision-making.

On the other hand, archivists define evidence in a broader cultural and historical context. They see records as providing insights into the events that led to their creation, shedding light on the people, societies, and organizations involved. The evidential values lie in the records’ cultural significance, historical relevance, and social impact. Archivists seek to preserve records that contribute to a deeper understanding of our collective past and heritage.

While the differences between fields are evident, there is immense potential for collaboration and mutual understanding. Both professions play integral roles in information management, each bringing valuable strengths.

To bridge perspectives and foster collaboration, records managers can appreciate the cultural and historical significance of certain records archivists seek to preserve. Acknowledging the long-term value of these records can lead to more thoughtful retention and disposition decisions.

Archivists, in turn, can recognize the necessity of efficient records management for an organization’s day-to-day operations and compliance with legal requirements. Understanding the immediate business needs can lead to more collaborative efforts in preserving records with historical and cultural importance.

Comprehensive Approach

Records managers and archivists may have different views of each other, driven by the nature of their work and the users they serve. However, they can unite for a comprehensive and practical information management approach by understanding each other’s objectives and appreciating their unique contributions.

Collaboration between records managers and archivists is crucial for organizations to achieve present business objectives and preserve past knowledge. Embracing these differences and finding common ground can lead to a harmonious relationship, benefiting users and preserving collective memory and cultural heritage.

Margot Note

Margot Note

To learn more, please join us for Archivists and Records Managers: The Dynamic Duo, presented by Margot Note on Wednesday, October 18, 2023 at 11 a.m. Pacific, 2 p.m. Eastern. (Can’t make it? Register anyway and we will send you a link to the recording and slides afterwards). Register now or call 604-278-6717.

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