Wednesday, January 5, 2011

What's in a Name?

Is it appropriate to use the title "Archivist" in recruitment postings for paraprofessional positions?

If, for example, a job listing describes archiving tasks as side duties (archiving here most likely meaning the filing of inactive records), and the job requires no sort of post graduate degree or certification in Archives Administration, should the job be advertised simply as "Archivist," or should it include a qualifying word such as "technician," or "clerk"? 

The Oxford English Dictionary describes "paraprofessional" as:

a person to whom a particular aspect of a professional task is delegated, but who is not licensed to practise as a fully qualified professional.

 Some job listings offer extremely low wages, but justify this by saying they do not require a Master's Degree.  I would argue these jobs need to be clearly identified as paraprofessional positions.  For example, you would never see the following recruitment ad:

Wanted:  Lawyer

Duties:  Complete legal paperwork

Qualifications:  No law degree required

Instead, you would see an ad for a Paralegal.  This is a separate occupation from being a lawyer or solicitor.  It does not require the same amount of education. 

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics the average wage for an Archivist in the US is $46,000, with the lowest 10% earning just $27,000.  These statistics are calculated from employer-submitted data.  Clearly, if we do not educate employers this issue, they will continue to declare they employ "Archivists" while they actually have "Records Clerks."  This drives down the median wage statistics and gives us all less leverage in salary negotiations.  The situation in Ireland is a little less dire, as the Central Statistics Office only lists wages for broad groups, such as Managers and Professionals.  Archivists fall into the category of Professionals, who earn on average about 50,000 Euro per year.  These statistics are also based on employer-submitted surveys.

 Being an Archivist is a profession, and should be recognized as such.  Most public sector employers understand the lingo, with NARA frequently posting "Archives Technician" positions.  However, most private institutions haven't quite caught on yet.  If we don't address this issue, who will speak up for us?