Alumna Beaudry Allen’s Passion for Digital Archives
“Whether it’s accessing images in our digital libraries that creates more equitable access, or when a researcher has what they think is a really difficult question and we have the material to help them – it’s really exciting to see your collection being used.”
Beaudry R. Allen, ‘15 MARA
Preservation and Digital Archivist Villanova University
Beaudry R. Allen graduated from San José State University’s iSchool in 2015 and went on to work as a digital archives metadata coordinator for UC Berkeley before joining Villanova University as their preservation and digital archivist in 2018. During her time in the Master of Archives and Records Administration (MARA) program, she learned many valuable skills that helped prepare her for an exciting role in digital archives.
History as a Starting Point
Beaudry has always had a passion and calling to explore the past, dig deeper and work toward understanding things. She started her higher education career with a Bachelor’s of Arts in European History, and then went on to get her Master’s of Arts in European History.
While pursuing her education, she discovered a passion for research and spending time in a library. After receiving her Master’s in History, Beaudry contemplated looking for work in the research field but was unsure where to start. She had always enjoyed her time in academic libraries but was unsure of the career options open to her.
“It took me getting my MARA degree,” she notes, “to understand what it meant to work with records and research. I learned about archives, libraries, subject librarians and reference librarians, etc. It took me a really long time to discover libraries, museums, archives, their structure and the roles people played in them.”
Skills Built in the MARA Program
Beaudry greatly enjoyed her time spent in the iSchool’s MARA program. “My favorite classes utilized real-world applications; for instance, I really enjoyed my INFO 284 Web Archiving course, as well as the Enterprise Content Management and Digital Preservation class where we got to use real tools, data processing and workflows.”
She further highlighted classes that aided in her professional development: “My course work for Information Assurance and Information Governance,” notes Beaudry, “prepared me to communicate my needs as well as the needs of the department I work in at the university.” Beaudry completed the program with many new skills and the readiness to start doing the work she loves.
Digital Archives are More Than Just Records
When thinking about her career in the archives field, Beaudry knew she wanted to continue with her previous study in history. “My passion has always been in history and primary sources, so it was a natural evolution to work in digital archives because the evidence and records of our time are now digital.”
Her favorite part about working in digital archives is the fact that every day offers unique opportunities, especially when meeting challenges associated with technological change. “I’m working with challenges such as physical degradation of formats, obsolescence of formats and normalizing formats. There are all these new formats and they’re always changing. Finding how to preserve them is a challenge; there’s not always one answer to solving those problems.”
Although the pandemic was an unforeseen challenge for Beaudry, she was still able to work on a new project. Working with Villanova’s Office of Intercultural Affairs, the Falvey Memorial Library is bringing archives up to date. “We are having students conduct oral histories via Zoom with faculty and staff about their experience of diversity, equity and inclusion on campus,” explains Beaudry. “That’s sort of an archival silence; it’s not a prominent history for Villanova. It’s really exciting to view the archives as a resource as well as an archive that is representative of the community we serve. In this collection, I’m most passionate about incorporating policies that ensure we collect material that represent all voices of Villanova.”
Advice for Students Considering a Career in Archives
Beaudry recommends that students not stress too much about their class choices but follow their interests. “So much of librarianship is on-the-job training. Continuing to read and have independent study outside your scope really builds your skillset.”
She further emphasizes the importance of constantly learning and staying up to date with trends in their field of interest. “Having a grounding in copyright, privacy and the legality of records management, in addition to keeping up to date with trends, really prepared me for understanding the relationship I needed to have with constituents and stakeholders.” That background, she says, “prepared me for the critical conversations necessary to build a digital archive that was not only secure, but also effective and sustainable.”
As outlined by Beaudry’s experience, learning and education never stop at the bounds of a classroom and can involve many factors and opportunities for gaining the skills and knowledge needed to perform the various work of information professionals today.