Competency F Collection

MARA Competency F

Apply fundamental management theories and principles to the administration of records and recordkeeping organizations.

“Archives had their institutional origins in the ancient world as agents for legitimizing such power and for marginalizing those without power. This initial emphasis has continued. Medieval archives, scholars now find, were collected-and later often weeded and reconstructed-not only to keep evidence of legal and business transactions, …but only for those figures and events judged worthy of celebrating, or memorializing, within the context of their time. “

Cook, T. ( 1997). What is past is prologue: A history of archival ideas since 1898, and the future paradigm shift. Archivaria, (43). Retrieved from

What do you understand this competency to mean?

“The Information Age…has seen an unprecedented explosion in access to, and availability of, information” (Wilder & Ferris, 2006) that has challenged the notion of access to the digitized records of both archival and commercial institutions. While outreach is important for most archives to survive, it is not necessarily true for commercial industries. An organization acquires records or papers that are held for official business or regulatory purposes, and are managed in an effort to meet the needs of its target audience. Modern archives include public records, manuscript collections, and intellectual property from industry. Commercial organizations include records of transaction, fiscal, and regulatory requirements, as well as, intellectual property that may be retained for reuse and sharing.  The mission or reason for the archives or records system must drive their policies, with such diverse needs, there cannot possibly be only one policy that is right for every organization.

Archives and records administrator professionals have fundamental theories, management principles, and a body of theoretical knowledge that informs the methods and actual practices. The move from paper to digital-born assets is the greatest challenge our profession is facing as we attempt to integrate a hundred years of archival theory/processes with the yearly jumps in technological change. Things may be changing, but we are charged to protect and maintain the evidence, provenance, and the hierarchy of records, their context, and their descriptions. These will not change – but access and use will still be reliant of the institutional mission.

What course assignments or other work products are you submitting as evidence of your mastery of this competency?

I have chosen several works that present my views about the major management theories that apply to modern organizations. The first piece of evidence shows the application of a widely used, structural framework that is used in the planning phases in many organizations. The second piece of evidence outlines a five-year plan that could be included in a strategic plan.

Why did you select these particular work products as evidence for your mastery of this competency?

From MARA 204
The Minnesota Historical Society Library and Archives: Environmental Scan and SWOT Analysis
This report analyzes the Minnesota Historical Society’s Library and Archives center. Using the SWOT analysis technique, I have applied a structured framework that would be appropriate when in the planning stages of a new initiative. Identifying the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of an organization allows organizations to better capitalize their strengths and improve areas of weakness. This is evidence of application of a widely used administrative principle used by many organizations. This is evidence of my application of the “fundamental management theories and principles to the administration of records that are used by many organizations.”

From MARA 204
Oregon Historical Society: Educational Outreach Operating Plan
The Oregon Historical Society (OHS), the premiere steward of Oregon’s historical artifacts and documents, is emerging from several years of insufficient funding during which many elements of their strategic plan could not be carried out. However, with an infusion of new funding from a countywide levy and a large grant from The Library Service Technology Act, they are once again able to restore services to a pre-2004 level. OHS has begun restoring staff and services and is once again able to focus on educational services to residents of the Portland area and throughout the state. Education focusing the diverse history and people of Oregon is offered in the museum, in programs held in schools, through National History Day participation and statewide with a variety of programs and exhibits that travel to a variety of community and museum venues throughout Oregon. In addition, OHS has been able to institute an expanded cultural awareness program by inviting elders from the diverse cultural and ethnic communities of Oregon to create and present relevant cultural exhibits that will become available in the museum and online. This is evidence of my application of the “fundamental management theories and principles to the administration of records that are used by many organizations.”

MARA 284
Interview with Monica Ralston, Archival Processing Manager
The Minnesota Historical Society collections include both records of evidential value, and manuscripts, or personal papers, and ephemera, created by Minnesotans, or having a relationship with Minnesota. The collections include official records from both state records and private organizations, and documents created by families and individuals (Ralston, 2013). There are two basement mezzanines that hold library stack materials. The first floor is all library books, the second level is a combination of volume storage, library materials classified under the Library of Congress call numbers and then it flows into the archival storage area. Some of the archival collections are arranged in an Item, Range, Shelf, Slot system, which is a four-part number. Some of the collections are arrange by a serial number system.  Another kind of numbering system was also used at MHS, the Cutter Number System, used during 1940-1970. MHS doesn’t do this. Currently, they use their own file system. A record group doesn’t get numbered, it just gets a name – “MN Governor’s Office, 2009-2011” and the folders are not numbered, which allows them, unlike other systems used at other American repositories, to interfile into actual papers or they can do an intellectual sort in the detailed description. This is evidence of my understanding of the “fundamental management theories and principles to the administration of records and recordkeeping organizations.”

How do your selections show not simply learning but also application?

The academic work I have done has prepared me in many ways to enter the records administration profession. Throughout the program I have created records retention schedules and polices, prepared organizational strategic plans and goals, prepared disaster planning policies, and most impressive, developed an information governance policy that  holistically encompassed all the previous policy documents.

I believe my smooth transition into my professional project, that entailed archival description, that followed the fundamental management theories and principles to the administration of records that I have been exposed to throughout this program of study. My internship shifted from a non-profit archival organization to a non-profit cooperative developing software in the cloud. Everything I learned from my professional project and throughout the MARA program prepared me for this challenge.

What have you learned?

Acquisitions Appraisal, Accessioning, Arrangement. Description, Preservation and Emergency Planning, and Disposition: these are the fundamental principles to the administration of records. Any organization that acquires records or papers for archival preservation does so in an effort to meet the needs of its target audience. It is the duty of the records manager or archivist to conform to the institutional collections policy. Hunter says, “Only in this way can the institution build a unified collection that serves a variety of constituencies” (2004, p. 87).

I am particularly interested in Communities of Practice [CoP] in relation to knowledge management [KM]. KM is a specialized field of records management that focuses on the capture and transfer of tacit knowledge. CoP enable individuals to share their knowledge – 80% of organizational knowledge is inside people’s heads (M. Hower, personal communication, June 6, 2013). Knowledge managers help CoP to socialize ideas, improve them, codify, then ensure the transformed tacit to explicit knowledge gets used by organizations to improve processes or gain a competitive advantage. Knowledge managers make sure that the ‘people that know’ transfer their knowledge to the ‘people who need to know’ to support organizational objectives.

I see a connection between the fundamental principles to the administration of records that comprise this competency. As archival and records management administrators SJSU cohort five is a CoP within a larger community of professionals. We are basically a “group of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly” (Agresti, 2000; Koenig, 2012). That is where professional management theories, principles, and practices are formed. Communities of Practice [CoPs] encourage knowledge sharing between individuals who share a common area of interest (Archives and Records). CoPs generally are informal groups engaged in voluntarily sharing experiences with the goal of learning ‘best practices’ or ‘lessons learned’ (Agresti, 2000; Koenig, 2012). 

Knowledge is specific to the context in which it is used. It is “difficult to reduce to a product that can be consumed without context” (Wenger, McDermott, & Snyder, 2002). Knowledge is different than information. Information can exist in a database, but is meaningless until a person makes connections and understands it.


Agresti, W.W. (2000). Knowledge management. Advances in Computers, 53, 171-283.

Hunter, G.S. (2004). Developing and maintaining practical archives, 2nd ed. Neal-Schuman Publishers, Inc., New York/London.

Ralston, M. (2013). Interview at Minnesota Historical Society. Collections Processing Manager

Wenger, E., McDermott, R.A., Snyder, W. (2002). Communities of practice and their value to organizations. Cultivating communities of practice: A guide to managing knowledge. (pp. 1-20). Boston, MA: Harvard Business School.

Wilder, H. & Ferris, S.P. (2006). Communication Technology and the Evolution of Knowledge. The Journal of Electronic Publishing, (9/2). DOI: