RIM Professionals: A Distinct Personality? A Study Reveals That Records and Information Management (RIM) Professionals Exhibit Particular Personality Traits, Which Should Aid Those Making Hiring and Career Decisions

Article excerpt

As a discipline, records and information management (RIM) professionals are not much given to introspection. "Why do I like doing records-related work?" "What makes someone attracted to records management or archives management?" "What personal characteristics should one look for when interviewing applicants for a records management or archives position?" Knowing the answers to such questions could be important both to those contemplating entry into the field and those who want to establish those personality traits that suggest a successful hire. By contrast, librarians have for a long time paid a good deal of attention to the personality and image of their practitioners. (See sidebar "Examples of Book-length Studies")

In 1976, Wilmer Maedke surveyed the records management field and noted that the most important criterion in hiring was an "interest in records work." For too many years, RIM managers have characterized their entry into the field in critical terms: "I just fell into it" or "I was pushed into it." This puts the field in an unnecessarily unflattering light. There are several vocational aptitude tests (e.g., the Strong Interest Inventory) that help test takers align their interests with those who are successful in various fields.

There are also standardized tests that establish a person's ability to complete successfully an academic program in some desirable professional field (e.g., medicine, law, engineering) and, by extension, help test takers establish their "fit" with a discipline of their interest.

What, then, is already known about the personality traits of records managers? Very little. Most discussion is personal observation and anecdote. For example, in an article in The Records Management Quarterly, Robert Sanders suggests, "We records managers are known for our pessimistic point of view. We attend conferences devoted to planning for the worst imaginable contingencies. We participate in workshops on dealing with smoke and water damage ... However, without being ready to commit myself to an institution as a schizophrenic, I must admit that, alongside my usual pessimistic records management self, there lives a Wannabe Optimist."

In another article in Records Management Quarterly, "Recruitment to the Profession: A Key to Developing the Records Management Field," J. Michael Pemberton anecdotally explored qualifications and personality traits of records managers, but no hard data was collected at that point.

Skills as Personality Surrogates

Until now, desirable job-related competencies (knowledge, skills, and attitudes) have been obliquely used as characteristics in lieu of personality assessments. Attempts to describe those characteristics typically needed for those in records management and library services have been published by several organizations. The UK Society of Archivists, for example, suggests that records managers must have the following characteristics.

* Confident communication skills. Records managers deal with colleagues from all backgrounds, from the managing director/chief executive down. They also have to contact suppliers, contractors, and outside organizations.

* Good negotiation skills. It is not always easy to persuade senior colleagues to hand over "their" records or to agree to a retention period/ destruction date for a record they wish to preserve forever.

* Analytical thinking strengths. Records managers need to understand how their organization works to be capable of constructing systems that are integrated with business processes and organizational culture.

* Flexibility. Records managers are often expected to turn their hand to anything remotely connected with the provision of information.

* Comfort with new technology. RIM managers must demonstrate the ability to use and adapt to rapidly evolving information communication technology (ICT) packages and systems.

In a poster titled "Competencies for information Managers," the Records Management Association of Australasia notes specific workplace competencies but also suggests the following as "personal behaviors and characteristics": being discreet, thorough, ethical, and service oriented. …