Saturday, January 21, 2012

ATR: Changing the Way We Certify

I've been thinking a lot about certifications lately. On my goals for this year, I'll probably try to get a CISSP via the "boot camp" method, as that certification is more relevant to what I do now than the CRM or the CIP. I'm now 20 years a CRM and I plan to mothball that certification. Records Management isn't my primary job responsibility and the annual dues and hassle of doing certification maintenance paperwork isn't necessarily yielding a benefit to me at this stage of my career. I suppose some will rail against me for this stance, but with my job much more focused on information risk and information security, the CRM doesn't quite measure up. Be that as it may, I'd like to throw into the wind some thoughts that I have about certifications.

You've seen some of my concerns about the CIP. I also raised some issues earlier about the CRM. For the former, the bar is probably too low. For the latter, too high. And that got me to thinking... what about a gradated series of records management certifications. It would be an interesting change, but would provide some differentiation for candidates.

I think the CRM is the best candidate for some disassembly.

Level 1: We'll call this the "RRM" or "Registered Records Manager". Candidates who successfully complete the five multiple choice sections of the CRM exam would have this status conferred upon them. This would reduce cycle times and enable candidates to walk away with a designation more quickly. In some respects, this is like the "ABD" (All But Dissertation) that a PhD candidate can post to a CV. Ideally, the candidate would move on, but some might find it a comfortable stopping point wherever they are in their career. This is still differentiated from the CIP by the number of questions and the depth of the questions, but it enables the candidate who isn't ready for the essay exam to walk away with something after a fair amount of work to pass exams one through five.

Level 2: The existing CRM.

Level 3: I'd call this "FRM" or "Fellow in Records Management". That probably needs work, but it is a higher level distinction. It's also going to be very hard to judge. My thinking is that, in lieu of the essay portion of the CRM exam, the candidate would need to write a proper scholarly research paper on some aspect of records management. That means a minimum page length, proper citations, and so forth. It would have to be juried by records managers with advanced degrees and, like a dissertation, I think it would also need to be defended. Probably not as rigorous as a dissertation, but we'd want to see that the candidate did the work. Perhaps the defense could be a session at ARMA where the candidate defends his or her research for an hour with a distinguished panel, and then the audience gets an hour. I'm not sure there are many folks who would run that gauntlet, but I think it would be interesting to try out. I would also suggest that given the rigor of the process, this level of designation would be permanent. The benefit here would be advancing the profession with proper research that would be published.

In addition, the CRM process needs additional specialty designations. At present, there is only the "/NS" for candidates working with records relating to nuclear energy. I'd suggest that there needs to be a "/LS" for the legal profession, "/FS" for financial services (mainly to cover the specialized regulatory environment), and perhaps a "/DP" for a round of questions dealing with Data Privacy. While the last designation would not substitute for the CIPP, I think it could be a nice warm up or even something that the IAPP and the ICRM collaborate on.

Friday, January 6, 2012

ATR: Rant On, Rant Off

A colleague forwarded a job ad to me the other day. Not because he thought I needed a job, but because I suspect that he knew it would initiate a launch sequence in me. Houston, we have liftoff...

I'm going to name names because this job posting is a matter of record and frankly, the institution should be ashamed. The B&O Railroad Museum in Baltimore apparently needs an archivist. However, they seem to have very low regard for archivists. The position pays between $25,000 and $27,500.

Yes, annually. But you do get benefits. To quote another blogging colleague, "Are you kidding me?"

However, you do need to, " able to stoop, bend, reach, crouch, climb ladders and lift up to 40 pounds to retrieve, store, and work with objects." And bring a Master's degree and three to five years of experience with you. And just in case you think this is really something of an intern's job, nope -- plan to manage a budget and train and manage interns, docents, and volunteers. And be ready to scrounge up some money by writing grant requests.

I was paid that sort of money in 1988 by the Archdiocese of Chicago with similar experience and responsibilities.

Now we are talking about a non-profit here. I get that. But this is a non-profit organization with over $20 million in assets, a lot of which is physical plant. They have, however, modestly grown their over $9 million in cash and investments each of the past several years. Seeing positive investment growth over the past couple years is something remarkable. I'm sure they work at that. I'm sure that their budgets are relatively tight. But I fear that those results come at the expense of their "professional" staff. I doubt that someone earning the sort of money being offered could afford a decent rental unit in a safe neighborhood in the Baltimore area. How do you pay back the loans for your Master's degree? How do you even try to get ahead? Twenty-some years ago it was difficult to live on that money, even with two adults in the household working.

The problem is that the archival profession is glutted with unemployed and underemployed professionals so there are plenty of people who are archivists who will take any job to build their resume for the "big" job some day. Supply, meet demand. But for a profession that prides itself on generally exclusive requirements for the positions that become available, AND usually require an advanced degree, this pay is insulting.

This is why I shifted from archives to records management. The pay is better. And we have cookies.

I'll also point out that some archivists "get" this. They are embarrassed as well. And they do their best to embarrass institutions that do this sort of thing. This job hasn't made it to the blog yet, but I suspect it will.