MARA Student Amy Abadilla Applies Photographic Experience to Digital Records Management

Community Profile

As a photographer, Amy Abadilla appreciates the value of photographic prints and textual records. And as a member of the second cohort in San José State University School of Information’s Master of Archives and Records Administration (MARA) program, she’s learning the latest techniques in digital records management – including how to reach out to librarians and archivists who are reluctant to shift from a paper-based world.

“I love the tactile experience, and there’s nothing I would love more than to sit in a room full of negatives,” Abadilla said. “But I know that’s not the way it’s going to be for me, and in order to move forward you often have to walk backwards. You have to take those paper documents, VHS tapes, and photos and translate them into a more accessible format in order to keep them accessible and reach a wider audience.”

Abadilla, who earned her undergraduate degree in English with an emphasis in creative writing from the University of Washington, says her interest in archives was a natural extension of her work in black and white film photography. She initially wanted to work in a film archive setting, but as she’s learned more about archival work, she’s become interested in other types of archives as well.

Abadilla goes to graduate school on top of working full-time at the Seattle Public Library as a scheduler for the Reference Services Department, which consists of nearly two dozen librarians. Abadilla started working at the Seattle library six years ago to learn more about the inner workings of a library, and in the process she was intrigued by the work the library does with archival material. Her day job also gives Abadilla insight into leadership and management, dovetailing with what she’s learning in her MARA classes.

“One thing I’ve learned from working in the library is the digital divide is real,” she said. “You don’t think of the job of archivist as requiring leadership, but in this digital age it does. You need to lead people in slowly, and use what they know while adding a little bit at a time. I like to think of it as giving people an inner-tube to float rather than shoving them in the deep end.”

Abadilla, whose parents emigrated from the Philippines and is the first generation of her family born in the U.S., says she knows every time she talks to her father about her coursework that she’s made the right decision in pursuing her MARA degree. “I can tell by the look that comes across his face when I talk about school that this is the right fit,” she said.

Abadilla’s photos can be seen at