Introduction and Statement of Professional Philosophy

Introduction

The ePortfolio for the Master of Archives and Records Administration (MARA) Program at San Jose State University is defined as a requirement “to provide a program-based assessment to ensure that each student demonstrates mastery of all student learning outcomes (core competencies) for the degree before graduation”. The following ePortfolio is a true reflection that I, Desiree Wallen, have demonstrated the mastery of all core competencies to the satisfaction of the ePortfolio advisor. This is the culminating experience of the MARA program, as documented over the course of my enrollment from September 2013 to May 2015.

As shown with the headings above, the entire ePortfolio is contained within this website. The student’s Statement of Professional Philosophy is described below. The Competencies, A through I, have their own pages within the Competencies section. Each competency page contains the following elements: 1.) it shows the competency in question, 2.) followed by the student’s interpretation of the competency’s meaning, 3.) the evidence submitted to support the competency (accompanied by headings showing where the pieces of evidence were created and statements explaining why those pieces of evidence were chosen), 4.) an evaluation of what was learned from those pieces of evidence and how this evidence will help the student apply those lessons learned in the future, and 5.) references used in the fulfillment of the competency. The conclusion and affirmation are contained on their own page as well, as the conclusion represents the final reflections on the MARA program, a discussion of strengths, and a professional growth plan; the affirmation represents that this ePortfolio is a true reflection of the student’s experience and the security of identities and the content are properly assessed.

The blog structure was chosen to give a more professional look to the ePortfolio in the event I chose to share it (which I do). I had set the Competencies as pages in order to keep a static format that could be updated without time publication constraints. The pages were preset about two weeks to the start of the Spring 2015 semester, as it saved time and unnecessary work output over the course of the ePortfolio preparation.

In order to prepare this ePortfolio, I saved all of my assignments within folders organized by course over the duration of my program, knowing I would structure this for my final semester (Spring 2015), as well as backing them up on an external hard drive purchased exclusively for that purpose. Approximately ten weeks to the start of the Spring 2015 semester, once I had registered for the ePortfolio course (and opportunity for credit), I created folders for each competency and moved the assignments I felt fit the criteria to its appropriate folder. Once I had everything in place, I began to write up the statements as to why I had chosen the assignments I did for each competency. This process helped me to ponder what the competencies did mean to my experience and perspective. I researched contemporary, relevant scholarly articles to better articulate these meanings not only for reaffirmation on the ePortfolio, but for myself too. When I had all the materials and resources ready to complete a statement of competency, I would rename the folder “Competency [_} – Materials Gathered” in order to keep track of what was ready to be drafted. Once the draft was completed, submitted, reviewed, and approved, I renamed the folder “Competency [_] – Statement Completed”, and its status changed to serve the purpose of a backup in case this was destroyed for a potential plethora of reasons.

I take pride in how the ePortfolio turned out. It became a verification of all the hard work I had put in during the MARA program and all of the knowledge I had gotten out of it. I intend to use the skills I have learned and described here to use in my future careers. I am suited to be a professional, and for the first time in my life, I feel like it.

I hope you enjoy the knowledge I pass along here.

Desiree Wallen

 

Statement of Professional Philosophy

In my experience, the role of the archivist is not much different from the role of the records manager, and while I lean towards the preservation, organization, and management of culturally significant objects as a desired set of responsibilities, I personally feel I am able to complete most tasks related to the management of information across job functions. My professional development has focused on the streamlining and purveyance of information access, which includes the security, preservation, usability, and organization of information within a given scope.

Archives and recordkeeping can be summed up in the sentiment that the use of preserved records is not only “the retrieval of stored information, but the putting together of a claim about past states of affairs by means of a framework of shared cultural understanding” (Halbwachs 1992, 43). However, while we do have the philosophy of archival retention and its overall pragmatic necessity in the works of Maurice Halbwachs, Terry Cook, (naturally) T.R. Schellenberg and Sir Hilary Jenkinson, there is the sense of present and the influence of available tools to create retain, and preserve information. Logically, the more technologies that are developed with the ability to capture and create information, the more information is created, and the more types of information are created (and by extension, the more formats in which the information is retained are created as well). With that being the reality of the present as a state to be adapted to and seemingly a reality that will continue as normalcy through the future, the goals of archiving and recordkeeping are clearly going to differ at the functional/application level. That is not an invitation, I feel, to abandon the goals of archiving and recordkeeping at the theoretical level.

Referring to Eric Schmidt’s claim at the 2010 Techonomy conference, Robert Smallwood echoes the notion that “Estimates and projections vary, but it has been stated that 90 percent of the data existing worldwide today was created in the last two years and that every two days more information is generated than was from the dawn of civilization until 2003” (Smallwood, 2014, p. 3). This pits the aforementioned “framework of shared cultural understanding” against a new notion that we, as society, can formulate understanding from something never before available in history: the ability to create, retain, and preserve within an ever-increasing amount of storage capability and an ever-decreasing amount of time.

However, is there a framework in place when everything can be kept? What can be claimed about the past when all information is readily available? As a professional, I make the argument that the past would be seen as chaotic, because true access should also facilitate this formula of creation, retention, and preservation, in which it works within an ever-increasing amount of storage capability and an ever-decreasing amount of time. What good is preserving all created information if it will not lend to the same standards of archives and recordkeeping that are conducive to the overall usage of preserved records. In essence, there should still be reasons in place to keep information for any extended period of time, and policies constructed to guide those reasons.

Prior to the hyper-technological capabilities of managing records (which indicates the state of a piece of information or data object as having usage beyond immediacy), the application of preservation methods had characteristics that pointed to ongoing actions based on reactivity. In the shortly-distant past and present, though, we are having to change to a less reactive approach and focus on the phrase in anticipation of, due to the amount of information that is being created on a daily basis by any given entity, including, but not limited to, persons, educational organizations, government organizations, business organizations, law organizations, and humanities organizations. Therefore, the dictation of how to organize and manage records in anticipation of the functions, interactions, protections, and purposes of a given entity is becoming less of a good idea and more of a necessity. By establishing the parameters of how information is kept (or even erecting an “information governance” plan), that supposed “framework of shared cultural understanding” is monitored in anticipation of usage that is held to standards such as the Generally Accepted Recordkeeping Principles outlined by ARMA International, which are the Principles of Accountability, Integrity, Protection, Compliance, Availability, Retention, Disposition, and Transparency (2012).

Even so, Greene and Meissner’s “More Product, Less Process” has probably influenced me the most in that there are immense amounts of backlogs, some of which I have seen in cataloging for the Runnemede Library, processing for the National Archives at Philadelphia, and even on the at-distance scale of establishing a digital preservation policy for the Historical Society of Haddonfield when they barely had a physical preservation policy in place, but we can still establish policies that refer to the in anticipation of merit of recordkeeping. The quote that struck me the most from reading “More Product, Less Process” was the following: “While archivists have almost entirely given up on item level description, we continue to arrange and do multiple types of minor conservation work at the item level. While we almost uniformly create finding aids that include collection and series descriptions, administrative or biographical notes, and folder lists, barely half of us make our descriptive work accessible through OPACs or web-mounted documents. In both our proclivity for item-processing and our avoidance of on-line cataloging, we evince a dismaying lack of concern for user access to our holdings” (2005, 211). Having experienced this firsthand at the National Archives at Philadelphia already, it becomes baffling that the goal of recordkeeping to preserve information for future use has always been the goal, yet we struggle as recordkeepers to be capable of meeting every part of that goal despite the challenge of keeping an increasing amount of information always being a challenge. With the passage of time, the volume of information that needs to be preserved for future use was always going to be increased, and now that we have the capability to create, retain, and preserve more information than ever before, organizing that information and making it available for use is going to look like an endless, disastrous task.

Ultimately, then, my philosophy is this: that while our capabilities to create, retain, and preserve as much information as we want is in the process of becoming a very real possibility, we should not abandon the merits of recordkeeping sensibility and follow the traditions of managing true and accurate, validated and necessitated records so that we may continue to provide access and usability. We cannot allow the justification of increased space and lessened processing time to override the commitment of recordkeeping for the purpose of future use. The preservation of information was always going to be an endless task, as it needs to be done as long as there is information to be preserved. However, it does not need to be a disastrous task with an endless amount of backlogs making information inaccessible. Without the proactive approach and design to retain, preserve, and appropriately dispose, the volume of information will not be contained enough for organization, and this is the philosophy to pinpoint as having a lasting influence, even as the criteria and ability to gather “shared cultural understanding” changes as it already, drastically has.

Whether I preserve records that have significance to all of society or simply the organization I am managing records for, I have to (A) know my role as recordkeeper and communicate with other recordkeepers about the methodologies that relay the ethics and values we have created to guide us through past and future accountability; (B) continue to work within my environmental freedoms and limitations for recordkeeping and records usage such as making decisions on integrity and defining methodologies for any given recordkeeping project; (C) identify the physical, legal, and policy changes to information recordkeeping systems in light of technology; (D) be able to identify and make decisions on the identification, evaluation, selection, organization, maintaining, and the providing of access to records of current and enduring value, including the streamlining of processes from one decision to the other; (E) having a knowledge of the standards, strategies, and laws that guide unbroken territory in digital assets management, especially at the state, federal, and professional levels; (F) learning how to incorporate recordkeeping and record management principles into the overall management policies of an organization in order to make records management a priority with clear models of how those policies are to be applied; (G) being very aware of the aforementioned policy application and how it affects the organization on a functional, legal, and records accessibility scale; (H) be influenced by available technologies and best practices to keep records secure as defined by their information sensitivity and appropriate user accessible activity; and (I) know the methodologies and parameters as set forth by research tools, so changes can be applied as a response to trustworthy research of the recordkeeping fields.

My future goals are to take what I have learned in this program and be able to apply it to any given environment in the humanities, medical, financial, business or other fields. I feel this program has prepared me to manage records, be it on an extended project, operational, or organizational level. Ideally, my goals are consistent with what I am familiar with from my experiences with the National Archives at Philadelphia, which is to manage records in the humanities field, according to the mission of an institution that is historical in inclination; however, what has changed from my first classes in the MARA program is that recordkeeping is a universal profession, and it is not limited to archival preservation. Every organization in existence keeps records of what they do, and my ultimate goals are to apply recordkeeping practices as universally as needed, even with the changing variables that are records and records management, and to make the records within the environment I find myself in as accessible to as many people as it allows.

References

ARMA International. (2012). Generally Accepted Recordkeeping Principles. Retrieved from http://www.arma.org/r2/generally-accepted-br-recordkeeping-principles

Greene, M. A., & Meissner, D. (2005). More product, less process: Revamping traditional archival processing. American Archivist, 68(2), 208-263.

Halbwachs, M., & Coser, L. (1992). On collective memory. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Smallwood, R. (2014). Information governance: Concepts, strategies, and best practices. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

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