The MARA program overall was beneficial to my understanding of recordkeeping and all that is managed within it. The term information specialist had no meaning to me prior to this program, and yet it is possibly one of the most important, progressive career paths out there, requiring the ability to utilize new technologies to my advantage while at the same time acknowledging that information is memory and deserves to be constructed in such a way that is neutral yet navigable. I was fortunate in this program to have such knowledgeable professors to break down the concept of archives and records management into sensible curricula, which allowed me to maximize my learning capability. There was so much to archives and records management that I had no idea was so vital to the field: the intricacies of wanting to provide access yet assuring the security of sensitive information, the seemingly infinite ways disaster could wipe out information, the effectiveness of records storage, the amount of preservation methods available for different record formats, and more. Granted, the information I have absorbed in the two years of this program is almost dizzying, but fortunately, the program allowed for a good pace.
When I was searching for a program to continue my education and use the skills I had obtained in my brief time as the assistant librarian in a small town library, it occurred to me that because of my passion for historical and cultural significance as well as the records organization I had already perpetuated at the library, maybe a degree in library and information science was not going to be enough for me. It would be relearning everything I had learned on the job. Truthfully, I may have been a bit ignorant at that point in my life when it came to the extensive wealth of information science, especially being in a place of stagnation and neurotic boredom with myself, but at the time, archives and records management sounded like the challenge I needed. It took until now to fully articulate it, after many a person asking so what made you pursue that?
I didn’t know about specializations and specific interests in the field, so when I went to the Hofstra University Archives as an eager-eyed undergraduate from a burgeoning state college in New Jersey with a pen in my hand and the independent study of a lifetime, it didn’t occur to me how hard the staff worked to organize, house, store, and describe the records of the poet Stephen Dunn I was assigned to research. Once I did, I knew I made the right decision to pursue archives and records management. The organization of information is something I am inherently good at and that I actually love doing, so why not expose myself to learning how to do it correctly? Why not hone that passion into something useful? This decision makes me feel as though I am contributing something important with this hard-earned set of skills.
I feel as though I’ve put in more effort into this than I have anything in my entire life. I continued my records management practices at the Runnemede Library, but with the practices I brought into the workplace from this program. I got the chance to learn further in an extended internship with the National Archives at Philadelphia, where I would apply every task I learned from the MARA program, sometimes with the dried rheum still in my eyes from reading and doing relevant assignments the night before. The best part of all of this was that I surprised myself with the skills I could do, naturally and learned: time management, multi-project management, instantaneous information analysis, coding XML, immediate understanding of guiding standards and practices, building workflows, disposition authority writing and checking, and so, so much more that would take an entire resume to properly list.
One of the most invaluable pieces of advice for myself that I took away from this program is that as long as there is information that is significant to a party, be it a payroll for a company, medical history for an individual, or an appeal by a newspaper successfully sued by Annie Oakley for defamation (a case I discovered in my time at the National Archives), then there will always be work to do to make that information safe, secure, accessible, and usable. Even though we as a technologically advanced group of beings have the ability to create thousands, possibly millions of records in a matter of seconds, I still want to dedicate my career to the organization of information based upon the theories and practices I have learned in the MARA program, as well as the theories and practices that have yet to be verified but will undoubtedly be bred out of necessity (as I stated in my professional philosophy, I want to help people make the distinctive switch to managing records in anticipation of the future ways to capture and access them). While I am planning on taking the Academy of Certified Archivists examination in August of 2015 because I have an inclination towards records that are kept for cultural and historical significance and use, I feel confident enough in my skills that I can apply them in all fields that keep records (read: all of them).
The next step for me is securing a full-time career in a cultural institution where I can thrive in one environment for an extended period of time, as that is the best step for me financially at this point. However, my ideal career would be being able to work on different projects for cultural institutions all over the world, because that would expose me to various environments and it would allow me to continue learning and applying what I have learned. I am grateful for the current resources I do have in my professors, internship supervisors, work supervisors, and fellow students to expand my network and reach out to someone who can make use of the skills and the degree I now have.
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Desiree L. Wallen