Embracing Archival and Records Management Differences

Margot Note

Margot Note

October 02, 2023

Archivists and records managers play distinct but equally vital roles in information management. 

The differences between these professions arise from various factors, such as cultural, societal, and historical influences. Exploring the dissimilarities between archivists and records managers and understanding these distinctions can lead to more effective collaboration between fields.

Shaping Perspectives 

Archivists and records managers operate within different contexts, significantly impacting their respective approaches. Archives often deal with academic and political records, which carry the weight of preserving historical narratives and supporting dominant positions or metanarratives. This focus can sometimes result in records being preserved selectively, reflecting the status quo of a given society or institution.

On the other hand, records management is integral to business processes based on administrative and legal necessities. The focus is on efficiency, productivity, competitive advantage, strategic value, profit increase, and risk management. Records managers are primarily concerned with ensuring that records are managed to optimize organizational operations and minimize risks associated with data breaches or legal non-compliance. 

Destruction vs. Preservation

One of the most significant differences between archivists and records managers is their priorities. Records managers ensure the destruction of the largest quantity of records at the earliest possible time. This practice aims to maintain efficiency and prevent an overwhelming accumulation of data that may hinder business operations. As a result, records managers may sometimes perceive archivists as collectors of unnecessary materials.

Conversely, archivists prioritize the preservation of historical records with enduring value. They advocate for transferring historical records to archives when they are no longer required for active business purposes. Archivists see these records as valuable assets that provide insights into an organization’s history, culture, and societal impact. As such, they may sometimes view records managers as denying access to records with archival value due to their focus on destruction.

Ultimately, the end of the records lifecycle is marked by carefully curating records to meet operational, legal, historical, and research needs. Both records managers and archivists contribute to the decision-making process to ensure that records are managed appropriately and that their value is preserved following organizational policies and broader information management goals.

An Understanding 

Despite the differences between archivists and records managers, effective collaboration is essential for a successful information management strategy. To bridge the gap, both professions must seek to understand each other’s priorities and perspectives.

Archivists can acknowledge the significance of efficient records management for an organization’s functionality and the need to manage records with a focus on risk and compliance. At the same time, records managers can appreciate the historical and cultural importance of certain records that warrant preservation for future generations.

Building Bridges 

Organizations can facilitate collaboration between archivists and records managers to foster a more unified approach to information management. Encouraging both professions to work together on common goals, such as data preservation and legal compliance, can lead to more efficient and well-rounded practices.

Furthermore, organizations can benefit from integrating records management and archival considerations from the early stages of record creation. This approach ensures that records are managed and preserved cohesively throughout their lifecycle, making the transition from active use to archival preservation more seamless.

Power of Collaboration 

While archivists and records managers have different focuses and priorities, collaboration is crucial for a comprehensive and practical information management strategy. They can find common ground and work together to achieve shared goals by understanding and appreciating each other’s roles and perspectives.

Archivists and records managers are both custodians of valuable information, with each profession bringing unique strengths to the work at hand. Through collaboration, they can preserve history, support organizational efficiency, and ensure that information is accessible and meaningful for the future. Embracing differences and building bridges between professions paves the way for more unified information management.

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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