Hands-On MARA Opportunities Give Anna Maloney Tools to Succeed in Records Management

From the moment of her first internship, archiving original source material at a Kentucky community college library, Anna Maloney was hooked on the possibilities of a career in documents management. She was incredulous that “the school was going to throw it all away,” and was struck by the organization’s inattention to archiving significant records and artifacts. 

While Maloney found those first months of archiving to be captivating and compelling, she was feeling “really stressed about finding a job.” Her recent B.A. in English wasn’t opening doors into the business world. Working the records side of things seemed to offer a more promising and marketable future.

Maloney initially enrolled in an online master’s in library science close to home in Kentucky. The program’s offerings in records management, she soon discovered, were slim. Maloney’s web research pointed to the SJSU iSchool’s highly touted online MARA program. She applied and quickly found herself immersed in meaningful, purposeful coursework. “It opened up a range of opportunities,” from learning compliance standards to IT-based information auditing and risk assessment.

Managing Technology Content is Key

At the iSchool, Maloney jumped into a wealth of technical, relevant and useful tools and practices, which she now uses on a regular basis. Empowered by her hands-on experience in the MARA program, Maloney dove deep into the highly technical areas of information governance and electronic content management

These areas are particularly germane to businesses today, she reveals. “The field is moving from just records to managing all content. Internet and online communication has opened up all this liability. If someone writes a PostIt note, it is viewed and tossed away. With electronic systems today, any and all computer data and meta data are captured, recorded and stored.” Maloney points out that understanding and applying electronic compliance standards “makes it so you don’t have those weaknesses in your system.” Managing email content is a particular headache, she notes. “So much of it is irrelevant. It is challenging trying to siphon out the stuff that will have an impact or be meaningful.”

MARA Internships and Assistantships Provide Significant Insight into Records Management

Maloney says internships during her years at SJSU have contributed significant insights and important nuts-and-bolts experiences. Spanning the field from records management and archiving to overseeing special collections, Maloney’s done it all. She inventoried part of the 150-year accumulation of documents and artifacts at Reynolds and Reynolds - including making recommendations about what to retain and destroy, surveyed materials housed in a closet that no one had reviewed in more than a decade, and in another internship helped organize, sort and manage historic materials written in French. This last one presented a small, and provocative test for Maloney’s seven years of French language studies.

“In my internships, often I was left alone to figure things out,” Maloney discloses. “My supervisors had little-to-no knowledge of archives and records management. The most important thing people can do is get as much experience as possible."

Maloney says she finds great value in coursework that emphasizes real world learning through doing. Among her favorites at SJSU, MARA 210, Records Creation, Appraisal and Retention with Jason Kaltenbacher, required developing a pseudo corporation or working within the context of an existing organization. She chose to create one, which gave her more control over the structure, content and outcomes. “We got to do what a real records manager does through the hands-on assignments.” Maloney found information governance coursework rewarding as well, where students prepare risk assessments, technology alignments and write policies. 

Maloney also has an iSchool graduate assistantship, in which she writes the MARA blog. She recalls that one MARA graduate told her to keep "the information governance plan at her desk because there’s so much good information in it.”

Seeking opportunities to advance her academic and career prospects wherever they might occur, Maloney investigated and applied for a little-known scholarship through California-based Association of Records Managers and Administrators. “The process is really easy,” she says, “but not that many people apply. You submit an application and a resume. You also provide a short multimedia presentation, which is not that difficult.” Within days of uploading her application, Maloney received word she’d been selected as the Pacific region’s 2015 recipient. It didn’t matter that she lives and works in Kentucky, within the Cincinnati ARMA region. She tried again in 2016 and was granted both the Pacific region and the Silicon Valley chapter’s scholarships. 

Launching a Career in Records Management

With a diverse range of first-hand encounters in the field of records management, Maloney has landed a perfect spot at Western and Southern Financial Group. She is Records Specialist in the department of insurance operations, where she handles life insurance and annuities records. The 130-year-old enterprise still houses paper policies alongside newer electronic data. She works with 10 to 15 other associates who will image 450,000 of 800,000 existing insurance and annuity policies over the next two and a half years. “We’re eliminating the physical records storage, which takes up a whole floor of the building. I’m responsible for conversion, as well as for records that come in on a day-to-day basis. It is a really great entry-level position.” 

Maloney says her job gives her an opportunity “to see issues from school come to life, including how to achieve a paperless records system. I get to see how decisions are made daily,” and have an important part in the process. “The master’s degree in records and archives management has allowed me to pick a focus that’s right for me. Archiving is intentionally historically based; records management is fast-paced and immediate. I definitely don’t want to stray too far from the path [I’ve laid out]. I really enjoy corporate records management.”