Dr. Franks and MARA Career Paths

Career Blog

Published: June 6, 2017 by Kate M. Spaulding

“We have seen a rise in the number of positions available using the term ‘Information Governance’ in the title,” says Dr. Franks.

I’m in the MLIS program, and I am the first to admit that I don’t know a lot about the archives world. So I did some research (like we do), and reached out for help. Dr. Pat Franks is the iSchool’s program coordinator for the Master’s degree in Archives and Records Administration (MARA). She kindly agreed to answer my questions about MARA career paths. Because she so thoroughly replied, I wanted to share her responses with you.

So, without any further ado, I present Dr. Pat Franks!

From your CV, it looks as though you’ve been in the archives world since completing your MA, but from a business perspective rather than a MARA/MLS perspective. What got you interested in records and archives?

My career trajectory has always revolved around 3 points of interest: business, education, and recordkeeping (comprised of archives and records management).

I’ve been fascinated by the business world since I was a child and would accompany my father (a partner in a medium-sized business) on some of his business trips. One of my favorite pastimes was talking to his accountant about the types of records produced, managed, and used; how long they were retained; and if and when they were disposed of.

At the same time, I loved sharing what I learned with others—hence the focus on both business (including recordkeeping) and education. While I continued to teach business courses, I also started a small business with a colleague to practice what I preached. Entrepreneurship provided a deep dive into the recordkeeping world, from a business plan, partnership agreement, lease and eventual purchase of a building to customer accounts, purchases, leasing agreements and more. All of these records had to be stored, managed, and used.

While I served as chairperson of a New York community college’s Business Information Technology Department, I had the opportunity to develop a two-year degree and certificate program in archives and records management; it was one of only five in the state. The research involved in developing a needs assessment and program proposal required that I meet with a number of individuals involved in recordkeeping throughout the state and joining professional associations to learn as much as possible about the profession and players. Because of this experience, I pursued a Certified Records Manager designation and consulted with a number of NY and NJ government agencies regarding records of both current and historical value.

In 2008, when the iSchool’s MARA Program was about to be launched, I was brought on both to teach and to serve as the coordinator. Because we stress core competencies in archives, records management, and now information governance, I also earned the designations of Certified Archivist and Information Governance Professional.

On the Career Blog, we often talk about the important LIS skills that iSchool grads bring to the interview table. What do you think are some of the most important or most-immediately-applicable-to-your-career skills the MARA program teaches?

The MARA program was developed upon the framework of professional core competencies in both archives and records and information management. Students are expected to master both theory and practice, and they are taught to manage records from planning and creation through disposition and permanent preservation. In addition to the domain-specific skills and knowledge, MARA students are expected to possess: excellent oral and written communication skill, interpersonal skills, organizational skills, and analytical skills.

They must be proficient in problem-solving and time management and exhibit creativity, independence, self-motivation, adaptability, and leadership skills. In addition, they are expected to demonstrate proficiency in project management, financial planning and budgeting, teamwork, and public speaking.

Digital preservation is a growing field (duh, right? this isn’t news at this point). But are there other emerging career paths that might not be so obvious?

Focusing on one aspect of the recordkeeping continuum might seem attractive to some; however, I believe students must understand the big picture as well. If you can do that, you can spot emerging trends and adapt to them to move along a career path related to your first love (e.g., business for me) but different and more fulfilling than you ever imagined.

The trend that is most exciting to me now is a return to a recognition of the ‘value of data’ to help organizations achieve their strategic goals. Rather than merely managing, storing, and preserving records and information, the recordkeeping profession is exploring new ways of using the information.

Each fall we conduct a Jobs Survey (slides), and we have seen a rise in the number of positions available using the term “Information Governance” in the title. This role involves understanding the records created from the view of the business units, information technology department, legal, risk management, and security. We’ve also noticed that MARA graduates assume related titles like Business Analyst, Knowledge Manager, and Director of Strategy and Operations for Global Information Management. 

Of course, as you stated, the need for digital archivists is growing. Preservation was once thought of as the domain of archivists to store documents for historical and research purposes, but it’s more necessary than ever since documents that were once produced on paper and retained in file cabinets, such as personal and health records, are now born digital and must be retained for the long term. Once, “long-term” was viewed as 50 years or more, today “long-term” means beyond obsolescence of everything involved – hardware, software, processes, format, and people – in a way that means the files can be both found and used.