The following responses were provided by Emma Jean Staton, manager of the Records and Archives Department of the American Council of Life Insurance, a trade association that represents the life insurance industry in legislative and administrative matters. The material is intended to provide students with an idea of what working as a records manager might be like, and some steps they can take to prepare for a career in that field.

Originally from Wilmington, N.C., Staton grew up in the Bronx, N.Y. A graduate of Morris High School in the Bronx, Staton has attended New York City Technical College and Northern Virginia Community College. She began working as a records manager in 1974. NATURE OF THE WORK:

"Basically, I supervise two records management assistants in classifying, indexing, filing and retrieval of records. I am responsible for budgeting, planning and organizing the department. I am also responsible for getting the minutes of the board meetings microfilmed and stored off site in a vault.

"In addition, we handle requests for documents that might be needed by attorneys and actuaries. These documents might include magazine and newspaper articles, kits which contain various information on a particular insurance subject, original papers that were presented as testimony to congressional committees, subcommittees and commissions, correspondence, statistical information, studies, surveys, litigation, pamplets and newsletters.

"Many might find being buried under documents boring, but I find it to be interesting and rewarding. I recall starting on the job and having many tell me that {President} Grover Cleveland was once the chairman of the Association of Life Insurance Presidents (one of two organizations that merged to become the American Council of Life Insurance). I ran across some letters that he had written; I was holding letters that a United States president wrote. The letters are now the property of the Library of Congress.

"We use both computer and manual filing systems. About 80 percent of our documents are retrieved on "hard copy" -- not in electronic media. However, we do maintain certain information in the computer; an inventory of the files maintained by the department is stored in the computer. As new files are created, they are added to the inventory list. When files are borrowed or returned, the information is noted on the inventory list.

"We always maintain a file copy of any document placed in the {electronic} archives. We classify the documents and index them. Only 'significant' documents are indexed; indexing is the procedure of typing important details about the document on a index card for future reference. The documents are screened and assigned a subject code by the records management assistants before going into the file and are filed in an alphabetical and chronological filing system.

"The day begins with gathering information needed to compile the 'letterpack' (a compilation of letters written by the ACLI professional staff to members of the Board of Directors, committees, regulatory agencies and insurance executives). When all the previous day's correspondence has been compiled, it is distributed to the entire staff electronically.

"After the electronic letterpack has been compiled and distributed, requests for documents received from the member companies and staff are handled. The information we require to fill the request is the subject matter or title of the document, the exact or approximate date(s) of document requested, the author originating the document and the type of document (testimony, minutes, speech or litigation brief.

"Salaries in the records field can range from $15,000 a year for a clerk, which is the beginning step in records management, to $57,000 for a company's records manager with a master's degree in records management and several years of experience."

EDUCATIONAL REQUIREMENTS:

"Students interested in a career in records management should take college-level records and filing classes and courses in records protection (which involves learning how to protect a document from possible fire or water damage). Although I started out as a clerk and worked my way up, it is necessary to have a degree now, usually in records management with a strong emphasis on computers and vital records.

"At the high school level, courses in English and math are extremely important. A records manager needs math to be able to do the budget and planning for his department; English is needed for the written communication required of management personnel. High school classes in office procedure, filing, typing and, of course, computers are invaluable."

MATCHING YOURSELF WITH THE WORK:

"Working as a records manager requires an inquisitive mind, one that questions and reads a lot. A good memory is also an assest to bring to the job. Records managers should also be quick-thinking, it is often necessary to fill in the missing link when someone does not have the precise information about a requested document.

"Finally, a records manager must work effectively with all levels of personnel, be able to supervise, must be a good organizer and a decision maker."