Alumna Jean Marie Deken Honored for her Commitment to Electronic Records Preservation

Community Profile

Jean Marie Deken is the recipient of the 2010-2011 San José State University School of Information Distinguished Alumna Award, recognizing her many contributions to the archives field. Deken, a 2002 iSchool graduate, is dedicated to preserving all records of enduring value, including both paper-based and electronic records.

“Managing electronic records is a universal challenge,” said Deken, who recognizes that electronic records require particular consideration because they are created using computers, and must be collected, organized, and stored in ways that will preserve access even after their software programs and hardware become obsolete. “It’s not just about identifying the records that have value, it’s about what medium is used for storing them, and what systems are needed,” she added. “There is progress being made in the field, but it’s hard to find a solution that works on the ground in real time.”

Deken advocates for electronic records preservation as head of the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory’s Archives and History Office at Stanford University, a position she’s held since 1996. SLAC is a world-renown multipurpose laboratory for astrophysics, photon science, accelerator and particle physics research.

When Deken arrived, the Archives and History Office had been unstaffed for a year. She worked to add a second full-time archivist position, increase archival storage space, promote awareness and support of the archives in the larger organization, and secure additional funding from internal and external sources.

From 2003-2006 Deken led the Archives and History Office in the Persistent Archives Testbed Project, investigating an electronic records archiving system created by the San Diego Supercomputer Center and funded by the National Archives and Records Administration.

A second experiment, the Transcontinental Persistent Archives Prototype Project, was conducted in 2006, giving SLAC the means to permanently preserve some important digital records. “There are a lot of promising developments happening in electronic records archiving, and we’re thinking ahead in the right direction,” Deken said.

Deken shares her work at national and international conferences, including the Cooperation on the Archives of Science in Europe, the National Association of Government Archives and Records Administrators, the Society of American Archivists (SAA), and the National Archives of Brazil.

Deken’s published works include a case study in Many Happy Returns: Advocacy and the Development of Archives (2011) and the forthcoming Handbook for Archiving the Electronic Records of Science (International Council on Archives).

Deken’s first encounter with electronic records was as an appraisal archivist at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis during the mid-1990s. She realized that fewer payroll records were being archived because federal agencies were starting to keep their records in electronic systems. Deken knew that archivists would have to work with electronic records creators to ensure long-term preservation and access, and took the job at SLAC with that goal in mind.

Deken, an active leader in professional associations, has served as the President of the Association of St. Louis Area Archivists, on several SAA roundtables and committees, as webmaster for SAA’s Electronic Records Section, on committees for the California Society of Archivists, and as a faculty member of the Western Archives Institute. She is also a charter member of the Academy of Certified Archivists.

“It’s so important to be active professionally and find out what’s going on in the discipline,” Deken explained. “Information is more accessible when you can hear about it, interact with the speaker, share common problems, and be a support group for each other. It’s a great way to keep track of what’s going on and who’s doing good work in the field.”

Deken encourages iSchool students to volunteer with professional associations and to participate in internships. The SLAC Archives and History Office offers an internship each semester to the school’s MLIS students.

Deken’s commitment to electronic records archiving and her long history of professional service will be recognized at an awards ceremony during May 2011.