Having qualified as an Archivist and Records Manager from University College Dublin (UCD) in 2017, I was delighted to receive a job offer in my native county of Limerick just one month after handing in my research thesis. The post is Assistant Digital Records Manager in the local authority. The position is new one based in the Archives department and is a direct result of the Limerick City and County Council’s decision to introduce a new innovative and efficient digital information management system. The job has been extremely rewarding so far, with many surprises also. While undertaking the course last year I never thought that working in the digital records management field would require quite a lot of workshops, chocolate and quizzes!
I was hired to work directly on the Limerick Information Transformation eProgramme (LITe), which entails a series of projects carried out over four years by a team consisting of records managers, digital strategists, business development strategists and members of the ICT department. The Limerick City and County Council has identified the importance of managing and preserving digital information for the organisation and the Limerick community. However, the LITe programme is not just a new digital information management system, but also a major cultural change programme that will transform the way employees work and how the Limerick City and County Council manages its digital information. Consequently, one the most important aspects of my work is informing and engaging all members of staff, thereby selling information management as a fun(ish), easy and positive aspect of their work.
ADVOCATING AND PROMOTING
Many different factors need to be considered when working on a large initiative such as the LITe Programme. All of the usual records manager functions are relevant, such as developing a classification and retention policy, all while ensuring legislative compliance and accessibility. As the Assistant Digital Records Manager, I regularly work alongside colleagues from a variety of other departments to achieve the objectives of the programme. Forging relationships with other key stakeholders ensures not only that the new digital information management system will be sustainable, but also that the core records management principles, standards and guidelines are adhered to. In turn, I’m ensuring that the new digital information management system is not only practical and efficient, but also that the organisation’s information is accountable, constitutes the local authority’s memory within the community and provides authoritative sources of information from which employees and the public can benefit from.
UNDERSTANDING THE ORGANISATION – COMMUNICATIONS
In order to design a suitable business classification scheme and retention policy, as well as deliver the project in an appropriate way, an understanding of the workflows of the Limerick City and County Council is important. Achieving this not only requires research and information gathering to understand the organisation, its corporate culture, people, and the existing attitudes to information and records, but also a large amount of time interacting with staff. Records Managers can achieve the most if they work alongside the organisation’s employees at all times. The most ideal information management system will be futile if it does not suit the way people work within the organisation, as they will not be willing to use it. Therefore, working with the Council’s staff from the very beginning and throughout the programme has been invaluable in the planning and decision-making process. All of this work necessitates excellent interpersonal skills and the ability to identity and adapt to the organisational culture. Indeed, in the two months since I began working in the Limerick City and County Council, my responsibilities have largely concerned effective communications. As records management is not perceived as the most interesting of subjects, in order to draw people to our meetings and sessions they have been designed as interactive, fun workshops, with quizzes, chocolate and prizes. From organising Christmas-themed workshops and quizzes with staff to introduce the programme and gain their input, to writing an article for the internal newsletter, to holding ‘fish bone’ workshops with teams to build their file plans for the new system, interaction with staff guides and informs all aspects of my job. I have also found that interaction with the people of the organisation creates a greater awareness of records management.
In just two months, working on this busy programme has already developed my experience and knowledge on the information management theory I received during my training in UCD. In addition, I can also see how the position has helped me cultivate a variety of other skills that are essential to any Archivist or Records Manager seeking to introduce and manage a significant programme such as this. For instance, along with the Records Manager, I need to manage a number of events, meetings and projects on a daily basis. Therefore, Records Managers must not only be experts in information management theory, but must also be effective project managers, be competent in their communications and marketing abilities and have excellent interpersonal skills. In addition, having the adeptness to source and process new information and methodology is particularly beneficial in the area of digital information management, which is constantly changing and developing. In this regard, I believe that new professionals have something unique to contribute to jobs like this one. Newly qualified Records Managers and Archivists have fresh and up-to-date knowledge of ever-changing topics such as digital records management and preservation, as well as an eagerness and innovative approach to learning and development that can be injected into any organisation.
Aoife Morrissey, Assistant Digital Records Manager at Limerick City and County Council