Overcoming Challenges in Records Management

Asser Nakale

The effective management of information and records is important for the smooth functioning of organisations across various sectors.

However, a concerning trend has emerged involving the misunderstanding and misclassification of roles within information management disciplines, particularly between records managers and librarians.

While both professions deal with organising and managing information, their focus and expertise differ significantly.

Librarians focus on providing access to information resources in libraries and supporting patrons in their use.

Records managers deal with the systematic management and governance of records and documents within organisations to ensure compliance and efficiency.

Understanding these distinctions is crucial for institutions to accurately determine their expertise needs.

IT’S COMPLICATED

Advertising a position with a clear job description for records management but making it eligible for someone with a background in library science is problematic.

It is worse when they advertise positions combining library and records management responsibilities, yet require qualifications in only one of those fields. Expecting a records manager to handle library tasks, or vice versa, is unrealistic and undermines the expertise of each profession.

It also complicates the recruitment process. If the organisation requires both sets of skills, they ought to advertise two separate positions.

Perhaps additional training could be offered to the successful candidate to bridge any gaps in expertise.

In certain instances, the issue may stem from a lack of awareness. Hence, it is advisable for organisations venturing into records management implementation to seek assistance from qualified consultants.

Collaborating with experts can help with drawing up job descriptions and organising teams in a way that aligns with the organisation’s requirements.

Consulting experts can also help ensure they establish effective structures and roles tailored to their unique needs.

GRADING CHALLENGES

When incorporating records management into an institution, a challenge often arises over grading of positions.
Ideally, an organisation should have a minimum of two records management personnel, adjusted according to its size: A records manager/head and a records management officer/clerk.

The records manager assumes a crucial role by providing leadership and strategic direction for the records management programme.

They are responsible for developing and implementing policies, procedures, and guidelines to ensure efficient record management in compliance with legal and regulatory standards.

Additionally, they assess risks associated with records management and implement necessary controls.

Conversely, the records officer supports operational aspects by handling tasks like filing, indexing, and retrieving records.

They ensure proper organisation, maintenance, and accessibility of records according to established protocols, managing intake, processing, and retrieval as required.

Together, the records manager and records officer ensure a holistic approach to records management, combining strategic planning with day-to-day operational support.

PRIORITIES

Institutions aiming to introduce or integrate records management into their structures should prioritise the creation and advertisement of the senior position, such as a records manager or head.

This individual would establish the foundation for records management, develop and implement policies and guidelines, and oversee all aspects of records management.

The ideal candidate should possess extensive qualifications and experience in records management.

However, organisations often introduce records management by advertising junior positions like a records clerk or a records management officer.

These positions typically have lower grading and only require a diploma or sometimes just a high school diploma, along with minimal exposure to records management environments.

As a result, organisations may struggle for years to implement relevant policies because the person in charge lacks the necessary qualifications and capacity.

The preferred approach would be to advertise both senior and junior positions simultaneously.

If this is not feasible, prioritising the recruitment of a qualified manager or head first would allow them to determine the required number of additional personnel based on the organisation’s size.

BENCHMARKS

It is possible some organisations overlook the importance of records management because of a lack of understanding or awareness, leading them to bypass consulting or benchmarking with relevant entities.
This neglect can create unrealistic expectations regarding hiring practices and performance outcomes.
To sum up, the effective management of information and records is vital for the smooth operation of organisations in diverse sectors.
Implementing best practices in records management not only ensures compliance and efficiency but also contributes to organisational success.

– Asser Nakale is an assistant archivist in the ministry of education, Oshikoto Region. This article is written in his personal capacity; email: laudikanakale@gmail.com

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