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Freshly Minted – Emily Hanlon

September 18, 2013

MI Student, Faculty of Information, University of Toronto

Which information studies program are you attending?

I am attending the University of Toronto’s iSchool where I am focusing on archives and records management. I also studied library and information studies at Ottawa U’s School of Information Studies.

What are your current classes like? Which is your favorite so far, and why?

My current classes are an excellent mix of theory and practice. In the archives and RM stream at the iSchool, you can take classes that teach the history of archives and records management and then we’re shown how to apply the theories practically.

I have three favourite classes. The first, Appraisal, was challenging theoretically. We discussed how to make decisions about what to keep. The second, Records Management, was a great overview of all of the different aspects of the management of records including information architecture, evaluating corporate climates, retention schedules etc. It was a great class. The third was Digital Preservation which dealt with all aspects of electronic documents. It was inspired and inspiring.

Is there one aspect of the profession that surprises you that you were not expecting when you started the program? What is it?

I had an idea of the fact that jobs would be difficult to come by, but the more I immerse myself in the culture of the profession – meeting people, reading blogs, working, the more I realize that it is the jobs with the straight-forward job titles “Archivist”, “Librarian” that are the most sought after. What I have realized though, is that the management of information is required in many more fields than I initially understood. Part of finding jobs for IM professionals will be discerning where our skills are needed and marketing our skills accordingly. Everywhere you look there are problems with the management of information.

What was it that initially drove you to archival studies?

I knew that I liked organizing “stuff” and I knew that I wanted a job in a field that was not going to be boring. Information management today is anything but boring. When you begin to understand the scope of this profession you realize how much learning there is to do.

If you could work anywhere, and do anything with information, what would your dream job look like?

My dream job would be managing records in an institution that is open to the management of their information. I know that that isn’t specific, but information management is the exciting part of this job for me and being in an environment where CEOs are demanding excellent hybrid format RM and IM and also supporting their demands financially would be a dream. By supporting financially, I mean that they are willing to put money towards getting great IT people together with the information managers, and then perform consultations with the staff so that RM would be an on-going process wherein everyone can work towards a more efficient and user-friendly IM process… THAT sounds exciting to me.

If someone were considering information studies, what would you advise them about?

I would say go for it! It’s pretty competitive to get into schools so do extra curriculars and volunteer in your area of interest, not necessarily in a library or archive, although that probably wouldn’t hurt. Part of this job, in my opinion, is passion and that has to do with figuring out where your personal interests lie and bringing that to the table.

After your first semester or two, make some coffee dates with practitioners and ask them about their jobs and their career paths. This will help you learn what is going on in the world, it will help you make connections and it is inspiring. Do your research before you talk to them. And if you get the chance to do a practicum, do it! On the job experience is as important as schoolwork.

What do you think is the most important aspect of being an information professional today?

An information professional should be someone who is interested. Find out what it is about information management that gets you going, even if it’s one little part, and nurture that.

IM professionals today are working in a time where everything is changing but there isn’t very much money. Professors are telling students that part of our jobs will need to be justifying why IM is important for a business. The best ways to make yourself essential to a business is to show how what you’re doing is helping the business fulfill its mandate and make money. So make yourself approachable, make yourself indispensible every day and show your work.

But I believe that IM is the basis for the future of all businesses, and that should be how we approach the boardroom. To be compliant and sustainable, businesses of all kinds –government, banks, schools, etc. need to start thinking about how to manage all of their assets including, or especially information. And that’s where we come in!

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