I started my graduate studies by considering what I really enjoyed doing, and then I attempted to match jobs that fit those parameters, e.g., sitting alone, not being interrupted, working with files, and not being “in charge.” I found the San Jose State University MARA program through the Society of American Archivists. I was looking for an all-online program, so that I could continue to work, while pursuing a degree that would launch me out of my less suitable position as a teacher. Although, I do love teenagers because they are really just children in almost adult-looking bodies, the responsibilities of being a teacher were in direct opposition to the things that I really enjoy. So when I entered the MARA program, it was to become an Archivist, not a records manager. My journey through the last three years has been remarkably productive and eye opening.
As my professional interests have always surrounded variable data, and knowledge sharing, I am not surprised when I turned my interest from cultural collections focus, which was a remnant of my Art degree, to information gathering, processing, and analyzing. I started my learning from a different vantage point than my cohorts because I entered into the program with no connection to history or library science. I had been an immersive classroom teacher for a decade, so my approach has always buzzed around the edges of the learning goals. I sought to tailor my assignments and projects to my developing fascination of the roles, and methods used by information professionals.
In the ASSI&T Management series, Information and Information Science, Melanie Norton describes information as “anything and everything” (2010). My concept of information in education consisted of data that could be collected, studied and analyzed. In this sense, the information that I was concerned with was something quantifiable. As I gathered more knowledge through the MARA program, I was able to develop a larger, more holistic viewpoint of what the terms information and knowledge mean; and in order to fully express my professional philosophy, I must define them.
Information is facts or data that can be represented and conveyed in a symbolic representation (Apple, 2011). Knowledge refers to facts, information, or skills people gain from experience and learning. Knowledge can be practical or theoretical. It can be equated to understanding the context in which the facts, information or skills come into play (Apple, 2011). Knowledge is different than information. Information can exist in a database, but is meaningless until a person makes connections and understands it. Knowledge exists in people’s minds with contextualization of the data. Words like details, facts, and data describe information. Words like insight, expertise, and ideas describe knowledge. I could break knowledge down into three categories, explicit, implicit, and tacit, but that would be beyond the scope of this essay.
Through the study of both the traditional and the evolving role of the archivist I have come to see that there is no separation between archivist and records manager. The role of archivist has been evolving from “keeper of the inherent truth” to one of “selection and cataloging” or rather “selection and tagging” with the advent of the digital age. It is only through the comparison of the Life-Cycle model to the Records Continuum model, where I see the paths of archivist and records managers collide. I see that the adherents of the Life-Cycle model prefer to keep their archives and records in perfect order, in a hierarchical structure where items that are in close proximity have greater similarities than those that are found at the beginning and end. The Life-Cyclist carefully selects items (information) and gives them context (knowledge). “Archivists tell stories about stories, they tell stories with stories” (Lane & Hill, 2011).
On the other hand, the Records Continuum model takes full advantage of the versatility of the internet. On the Web, information comes to a user associatively; one can follow a path of greater complexity until new knowledge is created. Context and associations are the aim of the adherent of the Records Continuum, allowing the opportunity to organize information without the limits of a pre-determined file structure. There is no beginning, middle and end, as found in the Life-Cycle model, there is only tagging. It is like the “infinite probability drive” described in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: “it passes through every conceivable point in every conceivable universe almost simultaneously” (Adams 1979).
Digital records have no need to be structured in an order of context. Metadata (tagging) allows the data to be unbound – it allows the user to assemble their own contexts. Although modern archivists find context as important as the information itself (Lubar, 1999), I tend to disagree. The context is shift-able, a moving target. I believe that the information managers must consider all the uses that current and future users of the data will require making it possible for users to seek out and to make their own connections, ultimately creating new knowledge.
Information researchers Lane and Hill questioned ‘if post-modernism has blown away the traditional foundations of archives (impartiality, authenticity, naturalness, and interrelationship), then what’s the role of an archivist and record keeper today?’ (Lane & Hill, 2011). I would posit that with the advent of the digital age, records are no longer tied to the physical limits of file cabinet or archival container. Digital content exists in the infinite space of the web (Lane & Hill, 2011). As this ePortfolio attests, all of my research has been focused upon digital information, and its transference into knowledge. As an Information Professional, I believe I will be challenged to construct, control, and manage information in an unstructured environment.
Apple (2005-2011). Dictionary. Version 2.2.3
Adams, D. (1979). Hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy. Macmillan Publishers. London, UK.
Lane, V. & Hill, J. (2011). Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going? Situating the archive and archivist. In Hill, J. (Ed.), The future of archives and recordkeeping: a reader (pp. 3-22). London, U.K., Facet Publishing
Lubar, S. (1999). Information culture and the archival record. The American Archivist (62/1). 10-22.
Norton M. (2010). Information and information science. Introductory Concepts in Information Science (pp. 1-17). American Society for Information Science and Technology [ASIS&T]. Publisher Information Today, Inc. Medford, NJ