If Being a CRM Is the Answer, What Is the Question?

Article excerpt

As a field, information and records management is clearly gaining momentum in a developmental process called professionalization. Used by sociologists who study occupational fields, "professionalization" is a term describing the progress of an occupation (lower order) toward the coveted status of profession (higher order). This process affects every person in the field because as the field becomes more and more professionalized, the stature of each practitioner is enhanced, though expectations of practitioners often increase proportionately. For this reason, everyone in the information and records management field will want to understand and take an interest in the factors that are part of professionalization, some of which will be discussed in "Perspectives" in this and coming issues of RMQ.

ELEMENTS OF THE PROFESSIONAL MODEL

There are several conceptual frameworks, or models, useful in understanding the professionalization process, and, after outlining one model, below, we will zero in on an element in the professionalization process which is a professional issue of increasing importance to records managers: certification. Established professions share a number of characteristics; one analysis provides the following elements:

1. Professions are undergirded by an organized body of specific knowledge including theoretical principles as well as specific, practical skills. This specialized knowledge serves as one source of legitimization for the profession's authority.

2. Professions demand a period of education and training whose dimensions are clearly defined by the profession itself. This educational experience increasingly takes place in a university environment. The training includes abstract and theoretical knowledge as well as the more technical skills of the field.

3. The practitioners of a profession have client service as their primary, or central, motivation rather than financial reward.

4. As ministers are said to be "called" to the ministry, practitioners of a profession are drawn to it at a level of intensity which implies a long-term personal commitment to the field.

5. Within each profession there develops a professional subculture which consists of values -- not simply techniques -- shared by all the profession's practitioners. This sense of community is characterized by a common vocabulary and a sense of common occupational identity.

6. To be recognized as a profession by society, a profession's value system must have a relationship to values held by members of society outside the profession. The would-be profession must be able to show commitment to these broader values. Society understands, for example, that the commitment of physicians and nurses to the broader values of health care transcends service to immediate clients or merely earning a fee.

7. To enunciate its points of contact with basic social values and to constantly remind practitioners and clients of the profession's commitment to such values, a profession develops a code of ethics, one which is more systematic, broad, and binding on members than the codes of ethics of occupations or unions.

8. Community endorsement of the profession becomes strong enough over time so that the profession achieves the autonomy to set its own educational standards, curriculum accreditation, and a sanctioned licensing or certification system. This licensing system has force of law in that no one practices the occupation without proper credentials.(1)

The roots of the need for certificaion lie deep in the professionalization process, and it is important to note the relationships among some of the elements of the professional model, especially education, autonomy, and certification or licensing.

CERTIFICATION AND RECORDS MANAGEMENT

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) was right when he said "knowledge is power" (Essays and Religious Meditations, 1597), but what we know today is that exclusive knowledge is far more powerful. …