Attracting and Retaining Great Talent: Government Records Archives and Records Management as a Career

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Ask almost any state and territorial archivist today what their number one challenge is and they’ll tell you it is chronic funding reductions and the resultant loss of staffing. State government can be a tough place to nurture and grow professional staff, much less maintain a workforce these days. Wracked by budget cuts and wage/hiring freezes, shrinking benefits packages, and restrictions that can limit access to professional development opportunities, is it any wonder that state agencies generally find it a challenge to attract and retain great talent?

Within this universe are state and territorial archives – governmental agencies with the legal mandate to document and preserve the records of state government, ensuring that they are always available when needed by government and the people. While great emphasis has been placed in recent years on the technical aspects of dealing with the expanding number and formats of the records themselves, less collective emphasis has been placed on the nature and health – and future – of the archives workforce.

It almost goes without saying that without a continual stream of talent offering new and updated approaches and in doing so questioning the status quo, state archives run the risk of losing ground at a time when forward-thinking man-and woman-power is most needed. Among the challenges are funding constraints that can lead to low salaries and suppressed advancement, compounded by a general lower visibility for government careers. But there are some bright spots, too, as state archives work creatively to attract the next generation of archives professionals. This white paper also examines the skill sets and attributes archivists need now to make themselves attractive to potential employers and advance the work of archives agencies. An agenda at the end of the narrative offers some best practices and suggestions for action across the archives profession.

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