Book Review: The Secrets to Successful Archives and Records Management
TITLE: Leading and Managing Archives and Records Programs: Strategies for Success
AUTHOR: Bruce W. Dearstyne, Ph.D.
PUBLISHER: Neal-Schuman Publishers
PUBLICATION DATE: May, 2008
LENGTH: 347 pages
SOURCE: Available at www.arma.org/bookstore
Leading and Managing Archives and Records Programs is a welcome addition to the archivist's and records manager's bookshelf series. It serves as a compilation of essays on leadership and management, written from multiple perspectives and capturing the collective wit and wisdom of more than a dozen respected professionals. Above and beyond the tactical advice it imparts, this book comprehensively details the records management profession's most pressing challenges.
Editor Bruce Dearstyne aptly sets the stage in Chapter 1 by providing not only an introduction to this volume, but a reality check as well. He offers a sobering glimpse into the profession's current state of affairs. Many archives and records management professionals are members of the "baby boomer" generation and, for them, retirement looms near. There is concern that there are not enough younger professionals interested in these occupations to satisfy information management needs through the 21st century.
In addition to records management becoming a graying profession, it's also failing to attract a diverse minority representation. Dearstyne indicates that approximately 10 percent of archivists and records managers claim minority group membership. U.S. Census Bureau projections indicate that minority group populations will grow from 28 percent to 50 percent of the total U.S. populace by 2050. Archivists and records managers bear the responsibility of maintaining organizations' cultural identity and history. Minorities should be better represented and their collective voices should be heard.
Greater vocational awareness of archives and records management, both inside and outside the industry, is also warranted. One possibility to increase visibility and grow demand for workers is to achieve buy-in for the importance of professional certification. Professional certification efforts sponsored by organizations bestowing the Certified Records Manager and the Certified Archivist designations have, it would seem, fallen short of any mandate to boost awareness or foster greater interest in the profession. In fact, it seems that certification is far from universally embraced by professionals in archives and records management. Dearstyne notes that certification is held by a minority of individuals in both sectors. As an example, a visit to the Institute of Institute Certified Records Managers' website shows that, excluding retirees, there are fewer than 800 names in that organization's member directory.
However, even if interest in the profession can be stimulated - whether the United States has the systems and resources in place to train the next generation is questionable. The Society of American Archivists published the A*CENSUS in 2004, and according to that organization's research, 71 percent of educators involved in archival education are 50 years of age or older. Upon reflection, it might rightfully be said that archivists and records managers are, to use the biologist's nomenclature, "at risk for extinction."
As its subtitle suggests, the strategies for success that this book outlines are addressed to both archives and records programs. To create programs that are durable, valid, and integrity-based, historical and administrative services should be equal partners. From a realtime perspective, this is a marriage that has yet to be consummated, though. Throughout the book, the themes of unity and collaboration between archivists and records managers resound. These professions can (and should) synergistically co-exist. In Chapter 12, there is mention of the Australian Records Consortium model, in which the partnership of archivists and records managers is declared to be "inseparable. …