Most intelligent people recognize that ignoring serious medical, financial, or emotional problems won't make them "just go away"; action is needed. But judging by the lack of open discussion about image and status in records management, there seem to be otherwise intelligent records managers who must think this problem area will vanish or somehow resolve itself if we just keep quiet about it. Perhaps no one has noticed: silence hasn't helped. The image and status of records management are neither what they should be, what we would want them to be, nor what they could be if we choose to do something about it. This issue's "Perspectives" column attempts to provoke thought about the matter of status with the hope that we might begin to address these continuing concerns in positive and constructive ways.
While image and status are occasionally - if all too rarely - topics at ARMA's annual conference, the records management literature is virtually silent on the subject. Judging by the literature of other information-management fields, image and status concerns provoke considerable discussion, reflection, and calls for action. It is perfectly reasonable for records management to consider - as do many non-information fields - a variety of issues related to status and to examine specific initiatives to enhance their status in society. Some initiatives in that direction are noted here.
IS YOUR IMAGE SHOWING?
What is the difference between "status" and "image"? The term "image" is likely to be more familiar in everyday speech than "status." In our daily lives, we may be concerned with some frequency about our personal image without necessarily relating the concept to our occupational endeavors. Image concerns then can easily be separated from our profession if we personalize it into areas over which we have some individual control (e.g., dress, appearance, manners). While important at a personal level, of course, these image concerns have little or nothing to do with the status of our field. No single person can be responsible for the image of a field or for its status in society.
One of the great movements in contemporary American life is that of self-improvement. Books, non-credit college courses, and itinerant seminars extol their ability to help us become smarter, fitter, happier, wealthier people. The popular press and the less scholarly occupational media intone a steady litany of suggestions:
* Take an image improvement course,
* Lose excess weight and get into shape physically,
* Learn how to listen effectively and become a good conversationalist,
* Take time for others,
* Improve your mind, take some academic courses,
* Learn how to relax and let your intuitive faculty help you,
* Develop new interests and skills, and
* Set personal goals and be self-motivating.
Then, there are those useful, if somewhat trite or cosmetic, suggestions:
* Keep your shoes shined,
* Always give a firm and warm handshake,
* Keep your clothes well pressed and cleaned,
* Dress for the job you want, not the one you have,
* Always be on time for an appointment, and
* Always look people in the eye while speaking to them.
Advice about image can come with a gender spin. Special concerns suggested for the working woman include:
* Don't cry at the office,
* Don't wear mini-skirts,
* No flirting,
* Don't lose your temper,
* No chewing gum, and
* Don't go stockingless in summer or wear sleeveless dresses.
Compared to the issue of status for occupations or professions, discussions of image tend to be: 1) more personalized, 2) reflect current tastes and manner, and 3) are matters about which only individuals can take action. There is less of a serious or scholarly attempt to study "image" than "status."
Occupational fields, however, can project an image. …