Tell me more about Records and Information Management
March 22, 2017 9:45 PM   Subscribe

I'm interested in making a career shift and I'm curious about records and information management. I think the field would be a good fit for me. However, I'm not sure where to begin to make this change. What type of further education/qualifications would I need to get? I've noticed that some people in the field have an MLIS, some don't, etc. After I manage to get those qualifications, how do I get my foot in the door? The field seems a bit mysterious to me!

I'm not sure if this will make answering my questions easier, but I have a BA, I'm a paraprofessional in a library, and I'm in Canada.
posted by VirginiaPlain to Work & Money (8 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Our company is in the midst of a data classification/record retention/Enterprise Information Management/regulatory compliance effort that is massive. Wise companies have a dedicated department for this. I predict at some not-so-far-distant date that we will end up paying some 3rd party company big bucks to come in and take over this initiative and run it for us. Because no one wants to do it, but it must be done.

I say wholeheartedly, YES- this is very much a growth niche, and one you would do well to pursue. There are many courses certifying you in these areas, and ways to establish yourself as an expert.

Everything related to data capture, processing, storage, management, record retention and disposal... all these areas are only going to grow in importance. "Corporate Records Manager" is a job title every company should have, since no one else's job truly encompasses these functions. Most fob them off onto to Legal Department, but the decision-making they require has a unilateral scope. Adding these skills to your arsenal will single you out in a very good way.

Last year, the GDPR was passed. This is important as it will impose requirements on companies that collect personal data of any kind. Just about every company collects some form of personal data, so companies must comply. It's only applicable in the European sector now, but it's likely that these reforms will eventually find their way everywhere. The healthcare and insurance industries, HR departments- these especially are paying attention to the GDPR fallout, since they are prime candidates for needing to reform their methods of recordkeeping and personal data management.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 2:39 AM on March 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

To illustrate- here is what the GDPR will do to European companies:

Organizations need to act now to ensure that they are ready to comply with the new Regulation when enforcement begins May 2018. An important first step will be for organizations to have clarity on how they manage personal information, including:

What personal data they process
Where it is stored across the organization
Who has access to it
What consent has been provided and where it is documented
Where it is transferred from and to (including to third parties and cross-border)
How it is secured throughout its lifecycle
If there are processes in place to dispose of personal data, as per policy

If that is not a bunch of jobs in the making right there, I don't know what is! I can't think of a single place I've ever worked that would be able to meet all those standards.

Seek out certifications that establish you with expertise in this area. Promote yourself on LinkedIn and other ways as a Records Manager, Information Management Specialist, Data Protection Officer, etc. Look for job postings that sound like they are related to this type of skill set. Focus on industries that are likely candidates for needing to improve their records management processes- HR, Healthcare, Insurance, Government, etc. Also look into the companies that do this type of work- Iron Mountain is one.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 2:46 AM on March 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

Al the real growth in that business involves technology and automation. You might be best off getting trained specifically in that. MLIS programs still primarily train librarians and archivists and that job market is shitty AF. (Some of my best friends are in that biz, I'm an academic archivist on the faculty side.)

Your best bet would be to know database architecture and backend platforms like Fedora Commons and D-Space (or whatever the commercial equivalents are). All the money flowing into records management and the like flows through expensive technological implementations these days. Being a decent coder who understands the larger issues is a golden combination, along with project management skills.

I often say you don't want to be the person writing the code (unless you're really good and that's your thing of course, I just mean in terms of career development), but the person hiring that person. But to get there you need to know something about what coders can do.
posted by spitbull at 6:21 AM on March 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

To add you can definitely learn that stuff in good MLIS programs, but it takes an effort to learn it to a higher level than is likely going to be required for an MLIS.
posted by spitbull at 6:27 AM on March 23, 2017

And to add one more thing, the glaring huge need for Information/Data security and security compliance efforts to be ramped up suggests another technical area where you could enter the field with a skill set in demand. I know a guy (CS engineering BA, so a little different) who specialized in data security who walked out of college to multiple very lucrative job offers in the private sector records management field. This was, to be sure, in the financial services industry.
posted by spitbull at 6:31 AM on March 23, 2017 [3 favorites]

I will come back later and write more as I am passionate about records management. You can start by visiting and finding a local chapter in your area. You will find folks in every spectrum of the practice from many different educational and work backgrounds - but they are all very keen on supporting each other :)

My background is library technician by the way.
posted by Calzephyr at 6:52 AM on March 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

I was a records management sysadmin at a Fortune 100 company for about 8 years.

I had no background in the field, but administering the system was more of technical/light programming job. The system we used was chosen by a team of people in the department who would be using it, who had no records management experience and had bizarre/unrealistic expectations. They chose the product we had recommended they NOT use, but was the cheapest. It never worked properly or reliably.

People cycled in and out of their team for 8 years. Only one, I recall, had any background/certification in records management, and he lasted maybe a month. Most folks just had some corporate project management experience and seemed to cycle through on their way to some other assignment.

I saw some people from our vendor(s) go into bioinformatics, so if science is at all interesting to you, it seems there are some transferable skills between general records management and bioinformatics.

I would think about what sort of environment you want to work in -- corporate? library? law? medicine? The requirements for getting jobs in those areas may vary greatly, so maybe let your interests guide you rather than a one-size-fits-all approach to RM. The corporate world seems the easiest to get into, in terms of often having fewer government-required minimum education requirements.
posted by MonsieurBon at 10:26 AM on March 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

All right! So this isn't the first time I have done my rah rah records management yay! on Metafilter. Although there are now certified certificates and diplomas in records and information management (Dalhousie has one), this was not always the case. Many people find themselves voluntold to do something - filing, make this compliant, administer a groupware solution - and then seek out finding the information. They become educated by accident or trial and error. You might find opportunities in your current employment to accidentally become educated :)

My library dream fizzled when I realized without a four year degree in anything, I wouldn't get anywhere past circulation clerk. There was too much competition for too few jobs and too few hours, which still seems to be the case today. I was stuck at 15 hours a week and no benefits. I worked at two different libraries six days a week at one point :(

So I left libraries and became a web developer instead. The company acquired a (new concept at the time) groupware solution and I was voluntold for it. This turned out to be job security as no one else wanted to look after it :D

Since that one "Yes sir!", I have had a long and happy career managing information in different industries. Records management gave me a lot of things that sadly the library world could not offer. I get to indulge my techie side a lot, which I personally enjoy. I receive respect for being a knowledge leader. Being the groupware admin gives me a huge feeling of satisfaction - honestly I feel like a wizard on top of the data mountain most days ;) Plus I am well paid with stable hours and benefits. I enjoy giving time back to my co-workers by making documents searchable and I love training people on the groupware solution.

As long as you can care about the things that people don't want to, you can find employment in any industry from public to private. There are so many facets to RIM from e-discovery to privacy to system architecture and you can explore them all. It's not just filing. In some ways records management is pick your own career. If you love learning, there's never a shortage of trends and information. As long as information is generated and poorly managed, there will always be a place for records expertise. You can also be an entrepreneur and contract out your skills to small business. You can also gain experience by volunteering or mentoring non-profits. One of my favourite times was mentoring a volunteer at an artist run centre. Organizations struggle for that kind of help and knowledge. Everyone needs records management!

Whew! That's my passionate endorsement for records management. On the practical side I would look at provincial privacy training which may be free or for fee where you live. Privacy is a huge deal and risk for companies and government agencies. It is definitely an asset if you want to work in government.

MeMail if you have any more questions :)
posted by Calzephyr at 12:06 PM on March 23, 2017 [7 favorites]

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