Student Eileen Hansen Creates Archive for Records of Nonprofit’s Founder

Community Profile

Student Eileen Hansen used her records management skills to create an archive for decades’ worth of material at the nonprofit organization where she works.

Hansen, a student in the San José State University School of Information’s Master of Archives and Records Administration (MARA) program, first got involved with the Ruth Bancroft Garden in the San Francisco Bay Area town of Walnut Creek as a volunteer. The garden’s then–executive director learned that Hansen had archiving experience, and Hansen learned that the group had an unorganized collection of 40 years’ worth of founder Ruth Bancroft’s personal records related to the garden. The match was made.

“Ruth [Bancroft] was a meticulous documentarian and note-taker,” Hansen said, “and I ‘inherited’ more than 40 notebooks, 2,000 books, hundreds of press clippings, thousands of photos, and all other kinds of goodies to organize and which I ultimately turned into The Ruth Bancroft Garden Archive.” Hansen also has developed and implemented a records management program for the organization.

Now the garden’s administrative coordinator, Hansen is responsible for its daily business operations. “I supervise everything that doesn’t have to do with plants or anything ‘green,’” she said, including an education program and full events schedule.

“The aspect of records management that appeals to me is the need to be process oriented and well organized, both qualities which fortunately come pretty easily to me,” Hansen said. “While I absolutely love history and the potential of archives to share it, that environment is not for everyone. But almost everyone can relate to the need to be organized and be an active participant in history as it is happening now, whether it’s documenting your business’s activities or an organization’s creation and lifespan, or just being able to adequately provide information to your accountant when he or she is preparing your tax return.

“Records management is—or should be—an intrinsic part of everyone’s day-to-day life,” she added. “I like that relatability.”

When Hansen began the MARA program in spring 2013, she was returning to a love she’d discovered a few years earlier. She had earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Northern Illinois University in DeKalb and worked briefly as a classroom teacher. She then went to work for United Airlines and spent nine years there as a staff instructor and operations manager.

In 2008, Hansen’s desire to make a career change led her to enroll in a master’s program in public history at Loyola University in Chicago. She’d always had a passion for history, and she thought this field would fit well with her personality and experience. A course in archives and manuscripts management, along with an informal internship in special collections, helped to further refine her focus. According to Hansen, that course “opened the window to a wider view of what careers could be pursued considering my particular strengths and interests.”

Her studies were interrupted, though, when her family was transferred from Chicago to the Bay Area in 2010. The closest comparable master’s program in public history was in Sacramento, which would have required a long commute. After taking a few semesters off to get her family settled, she started looking at other options for continuing her education and found SJSU’s fully online MARA program. “While I still am an absolute history nut,” Hansen said, “I decided that it might be wiser to broaden my interests—and potential employment prospects—and utilize my hyperorganizational skills in a slightly different setting. MARA seemed a perfect hybridization of my interests.”

In May 2014, Hansen received an iSchool scholarship from ARMA International’s Golden Gate Chapter. With one son in college and another slated to start in fall 2015, “money is always an issue,” Hansen said, “so the scholarship opportunities that are available are fantastic and much appreciated.”

With a planned graduation date of May 2016, Hansen hasn’t yet decided in what setting she’ll pursue employment. Her short-term goals, however, include starting to network more with other archives and records management professionals, and exploring internship and research assistance opportunities.

Favorite Things About the MARA Program

“The MARA program is very action oriented—some theory and methodology, but the teachers strive to provide pertinent, hands-on activities that really help me understand how to do, not just what to do. The online aspect is awesomely convenient for busy adults who don’t have time to spend sitting in a classroom or commuting to a campus. Many times, my school day starts after my work and family responsibilities finish, which is most convenient for me. Plus, I was really impressed with the staff and instructors in the MARA program. They are all consummate professionals and have lots of practical experience as well as classroom experience, which I see as a real benefit.”

Influential Classes and Instructors

“I truly feel all of the classes at SJSU have been beneficial. While some may not be directly applicable to my interests and/or goals, they all have been excellent and well worth taking. Lisa Daulby and Jason Kaltenbacher have been very supportive and influential throughout my student career, and any MARA student is lucky to have them as an instructor or advisor.”

Tech Tip

“Any existing or emerging technology that you can get exposure to—take it! Learn as much as you can about everything you can. It will pay off.”

Professional Affiliations

Society of American Archivists (SAA); ARMA International

Favorite Websites

“I love to surf the Web and look at different things going on. I don’t necessarily have a favorite website, but I do love my issues of The American Archivist and Information Management. A lot of the stuff out there on YouTube and Facebook is fantastic. My only regret is that I don’t have more time to follow all of the links and suggestions.”