My experience in the records and information management and archival fields prior to entry into SJSU’s MARA program was basically non-existent. Granted, we all create, store, access, and destroy records in both our professional and personal lives, but few of us have the knowledge, understanding, or appreciation of the actual impact records have on our everyday actions and our perception of the world surrounding us. I entered this program as a retail store manager for a sporting goods chain from which I gained immeasurable experience in the harnessing of human potential to drive the operations and sales of a retail establishment. In this position I also handled records in many forms—POS, HR, federal and state firearms transactions, employee training and counseling, to name a few. I had the opportunity to complete most of the MARA program during this employment, and with that I was able to immediately utilize much of the knowledge gained through my course studies to my position as a store manager. A few of these instances were used to show my application of MARA concepts as detailed in the applicable competencies.
Through the MARA program I have been able to delve into the intricacies of records and information and have developed a deep passion for the field of records management. In fact, few topics of conversation can get me as excited as digital objects, metadata, information governance, and records classification do. I am not blind to the fact that in many of my personal encounters, even after detailed explanation, I am often alone in my understanding and passion of the topic and am always thrilled to meet a fellow professional. It may seem trivial, but the topic that impacted me the most in my information management studies was the issue of bring-your-own-device or BYOD. It began with a Records Access, Storage and Retrieval course required journal article reading by Brent Gatewood titled The Nuts and Bolts of BYOD. I became so intrigued by the conversation of mobile devices and how they impacted recordkeeping that I went on to read every article written by Gatewood that I could find, any article written on the topic, and then went on to write my final course paper on everything BYOD, including the potential health risks that using mobile devices for work pose on employees titled BYOD: Embracing the Future. I noted at the end of that paper at that time that very little research had actually been conducted in the field on BYOD and its implications on quality of work, effects on employee health, and security vulnerabilities. I still have a personal interest in someday filling this deficiency by contributing research in the field and on the topic.
Of all the courses I encountered in the MARA program Management of Records and Archival Institutions is the one that I was most easily able to relate to with my previous work experience. As I have previously mentioned, I have an extensive retail management background and one of my biggest concerns or fears coming into the MARA program was my lack of records or archival experience. There were times in the first semester that I felt out of place as I read discussion posts from other students who were already in the records and archival fields and they were very easily able to relate early coursework to their everyday professions. The Management of Records and Archival Institutions course made me feel at ease as I was instantly at home with all of the management topics. I was not sure how my management experience would relate to the RIM professional or archivist, but I soon realized that management is management whatever profession you are in. The theories and processes are the same. I was able to use this course to further strengthen my role as a then store manager and I was alternatively able to provide input, feedback, and guidance to other class members on my own management theories and practices.
I can honestly say that one of the most challenging yet rewarding courses that I have taken with MARA has been Information Governance (IG). Information governance is such a complex discipline as it covers nearly all aspects of an organization and must be routinely discussed and managed by multiple department managers and stakeholders and also requires the compliance of every other employee or third-party vendor. For this course we utilized one of the most comprehensive texts that I have ever been required to read—Robert Smallwood’s Information governance: Concepts, strategies and best practices. This text, along with my prior MARA accumulation of knowledge, allowed me to create a thorough IG program and gave me the confidence to know that if I was tasked with developing or assessing an IG program, I could. The skills that I refined creating this program helped me to realize a desire to develop IG programs for other organizations and I feel a career in this part of the recordkeeping field would be satisfying for me.
Similarly, the archival field has provided me with an excitement for preservation that I did not know I possessed. Even more so, I have gained a deep respect for the archival institutions and their power in the preservation and shaping of cultural and societal memory. In my first semester with MARA I took the course The Record and the Recordkeeping Professions. We covered a unique text Jennie Hill’s The Future of Archives and Recordkeeping that consisted of individually written accounts covering a gambit of archival and recordkeeping topics. A particular section Archons, aliens and angels: power and politics in the archive by Verne Harris had such a profound impact on me that I chose to write my final course paper on the topic titled The Archive as a Powerful Force in the Shaping of Societal Memories. It had never previously occurred to me that a government or position of power could use an archive to shape or even alter societal memory. I was so moved that I simply had to explore the idea further. To this day, three years later, I still refer back to that text and that paper that I wrote in consequence.
One of the phrases or statements that I continue to fall back on throughout my works submitted and my competencies is the pervasive nature of recordkeeping and the archives in our culture and the power that these institutions wield on societal memory. Without recordkeepers our memories are destined to pass only through oral histories and these stories can fade or warp with time as they pass generation to generation. It is preservation of these memories through diligent and tried processes that ensures that these culturally and societally significant objects are available for many generations to come. Without recordkeepers our businesses and organizations are doomed to rely on memory or inaccurate accounts to perform business functions. It is the effective management of records and information that ensure that these accounts are available, accurate, authentic, and disposed of when required. This further secures the longevity of a business or organization and minimizes the risks associated with doing business. The recordkeeping and archival fields are fundamental in the functions of a society, culture, nation, business, and literally every person.
When I entered the MARA program I did not have enough knowledge or information of the field of archives and records management to even begin to have a preference in my future employment. I believe that lack of preference has allowed me to maintain an open mind to both professions and the works and projects that I have submitted throughout have been of equal proportion to the fields. Additionally, one of my final courses, Digital Asset Management, has me intrigued and interested in a career path in that direction, as well. As far as my previous employment as a retail manager, I find myself missing the corporate culture. All of this is to say that I have not yet made up my mind in the direction that my career will lead after completion of the MARA program. I plan to apply for jobs in all relatable fields—Information/Data Governance, Information Assurance, Business Continuity Planning, Records and Information Management including. Records Retention Schedule Creation and Maintenance, Archive Management, Digital Preservation, Digital Asset Management, and Content Management. Until the time that I secure a positon in either field, I plan to keep my professional association with both ARMA International and Society of American Archivists.
Gatewood, B. (2012). The nuts and bolts of making BYOD work. Information Management Journal, 46(6), 26-30.
Harris, V. (2011). Archons, aliens and angels: power and politics in the archive. In J. Hill (Ed.). The Future of Archives and Recordkeeping: A Reader (pp. 103-122). London: Facet Publishing.
Hill, J. (2011). The Future of Archives and Recordkeeping: A Reader. London, UK: Facet Publishing.
Smallwood, R. F. (2014). Information governance: Concepts, strategies and best practices. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.