Interview with iSchool Professor Dr. Pat Franks


Published: May 17, 2021 by Dr. Pat Franks

[iSchool Professor Dr. Pat Franks will be retiring after spring 2021. CIRI had the great pleasure to have interviewed Dr. Franks about her research experience and reflections during all these years working at iSchool.]

Please tell us a bit about your role at iSchool. 

I was brought on board in 2008–even before becoming a full-time faculty member–to coordinate the Master of Archives and Records Administration (MARA) program. In 2009, I joined the faculty full-time and continued in the role of MARA program coordinator to this day. I have also taught a number of courses in both the MLIS and MARA programs, and I devoted a few years to coordinating the Internship program, where I promoted the concept of virtual internships for all iSchool students.

Can you share with us some of the research projects you have worked on over the years? What were they about? What were some interesting findings?

My focus has been to find ways to transform what I learn quickly into practical applications. I have, therefore, focused on publications more heavily than journal articles. Since coming to SJSU, I have written one book now in its second edition titled Records and Information Management.  This work is recommended by the Institute of Certified Records Managers (ICRM) to those seeking the designations of Certified Records Analyst  (CRA) and Certified Records Manager, as well by the Certified Information Governance Officers Association for those seeking to become a Certified Information Governance Professional (CIGO). In addition I have co-edited three works, The Encyclopedia of Archival Science and The Encyclopedia of Archival Writers, 1515-2015 with Dr. Luciana Duranti and The Directory of National Archives with Dr. Anthony Bernier. I am sole editor of The Handbook of Archival Practice, scheduled to be released this summer.

I have two driving passions:

The first is on the view of archival studies, records management, and information governance as fields that are converging due to our expanding digital universe.  This is reflected in the modifications that have been made to the MARA curriculum since its inception, which now includes courses in information governance, information assurance, blockchain technology, digital forensics, and virtual reality as well as the traditional archival studies and records management courses. 

My most recent project, The Handbook of Archival Practice, will share the expertise of 105 authors from the US, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, Jamaica, New Zealand and the Russian Federation through 111 entries. Those entries describe terms of import to archivists and their practical application in the workplace. The most exciting aspect of this project is that the terms included those relate to traditional archival practices such as appraisal and acquisition and arrangement and description but extend to terms related to information governance, digital forensics, cybersecurity, digital curation, cloud computing and blockchain distributed ledger technology. The job titles of the contributors are just as diverse. They include head of information and cyber security, head of knowledge and information management, archivist and department manager, software preservation analyst, digital initiatives librarian, global head of records and information management, and director of corporate archives.

My second passion is on the intersection of archives, records management, and information governance and emerging technologies. Several of my research projects related to the ways in which social media and cloud computing would impact those responsible for records and information within both the government and private sectors. My early studies showed a lack of awareness of and involvement in social media and cloud computing projects by those traditionally responsible for records—records managers and archivists. This motivated me to ensure that coursework within the MARA program ensured that the next generation of professionals would not only understand emerging technology and the impact on records and information management but also have the confidence in their abilities to engage with others within the organization to influence decisions made about the use and management of these technologies. Most recently my focus has been on blockchain distributed ledger technology. In order to motivate members of these professions to be more proactive in engaging with emerging technology, I have and will continue to write and present on these topics at local, state, national and international conferences and workshops.

Can you provide some suggestions for students to engage in research and to use research to improve professional practice?

There are many ways, but here are two:

Identify a faculty member that exhibits the passion for topics in which you are also interested. Volunteer to participate in their projects. For example, Dr. Bernier and I involved 46 iSchool students in our research into 198 National Archives. That book was published in 2018. I recently participated in a conference call with a hiring committee interviewing one of our graduates. It was a pleasure to explain the personal and research qualities he exhibited during the time he was involved with this project. I learned he was offered the position. His research skills will now have an impact on the library in which he will work.

Look for opportunities at work to apply your research skills to your current position. For example, one of our students conducted a study into the use of augmented and virtual reality in memory institutions. The results of the study will be shared with her own institution as they deliberate if and how they could incorporate this new technology into their activities. The research can also be shared with other memory institutions to better understand the potential applications of the technology as well as the implementation challenges they may face.

What is your most memorable experience at iSchool?

In spite of the fact that I embrace online learning, my most memorable experience was the opportunity to attend a faculty training institute held on campus before I had even taught a course for the iSchool. Dr. Ken Haycock, the Director at the time, had arranged for full- and part-time faculty to spend two days in San José during graduation week. It was my first visit to the city and the campus. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting the enthusiastic administrators and faculty members.  I came away from that meeting with the thought that “this is where I belong.”  When a permanent position was made available, I eagerly applied and have thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to work with  an incredibly innovative, supportive, and talented group of colleagues.

Do you mind sharing with us your plans after retirement? 

I am leaving SJSU but not “retiring” from the profession. I am incoming president of the National Association of Government Archivists and Records Administrators (NAGARA). And I will continue to serve as a Board member for several associations and as a committee member for others.

This will actually be my second official retirement. All it means is that I am ready to explore new, different, and exciting career opportunities. But, first, I look forward to enjoying the summer at our lake house with my husband and our family and (as much as possible) without my computer.  


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