Our third Resourceful Records Manager! If you want to be included contact Jessika Drmacich at jgd1(at)williams(dot)edu!
Alex Toner, University of Pittsburgh, University Records Manager
1. What led you to choose your current career in Records Management?
I was serving as the archives and records manager in the Office of the University Registrar when my current position became available. It was an exciting opportunity to expand my records management interest while at the same time not straying further from my archival roots. At Pitt, the University Records Management Program is part of the University Library System, based out of the Archives Service Center. It’s been a good fit.
2. What is your educational background?
I earned my MLIS from the University of Pittsburgh in 2011. Prior to that I received a Bachelor’s in history and political science from Kent State University in 2008. I’ve been tiptoeing around professional certifications like the CRA or CRM, I just haven’t yet committed.
3. Do you or did you have a mentor who has helped you in the Records Management field?
There isn’t one particular person I can point to, however I would not be in the position I’m in now without the advice and support of many peers and colleagues along the way.
4. How did you first become interested in Records Management?
During my graduate work I thoroughly enjoyed the records management course offered within our MLIS track. I was drawn to the legal dynamic of records management, along with characteristics necessary for success such as relationship building, policy creation, project management, and direct collaboration with archives.
5. What is your role at your institution?
I am the University Records Manager, charged with managing our contractual services with the University’s storage vendor, as well as providing guidance, training, and consultations concerning records management best practices and relevant policies and regulations. I’m still able to don my archival hat from time-to-time and provide reference services, process materials, and explore the stacks!
6. What do you enjoy most about your job?
Records management has afforded me the opportunity to build relationships and partnerships across campus, which in turn as led to a wider understanding of the University and it’s mechanisms. This context is necessary for success in such a large institution. It’s these personal interactions that I find the most fulfilling.
7. What would you consider to be your career highlight or greatest success?
Last year I successfully navigated the University’s Records Management program through the international divestment and acquisition of our off-site storage vendor’s business operation. While there were scream-out-loud difficult periods, the URM program is in a stronger place after undergoing that process. My current priorities involve initiating a strategic overhaul of URM policy and procedures to strengthen the institution, which when completed, will be a definite highlight.
As a processing archivist in a prior position I processed over 100 collections during a two-year period. Exhausting, but a highlight nevertheless.
8. What type of institutional settings have you worked in? Corporate? Government? Higher education? If more than one, how do they differ?
Prior to moving into higher education, I worked for a regional, non-profit history museum.
9. What advice would you give to an individual considering Records Management as a career?
Don’t underestimate the skill set acquired through internships, graduate work, and even certification in traditional archival preparation, which can be leveraged into records management roles quite effectively. Conversely, don’t underestimate the value of working in a records management position as opposed to a archival setting. Skills honed as a records manager can only make you a more well-rounded records professional overall. The network you build is often more important than a single position. Plus, you get to meet scores of great people and explore offices and buildings otherwise inaccessible!
10. Do you belong to any professional organizations (SAA, ARMA…)?
I’m a member of SAA and MARAC. Similarly to professional certifications, I’ve been contemplating joining ARMA and attending their national conference, but it’s just so darn expensive! However, I have engaged with Pittsburgh’s ARMA chapter.
11. Thoughts on the future of records management?
At our core, records manager and archivists are information managers, or information curators. Some of that information may be primary, direct, and historically important and significant. Some of it may be actively used and functionally vital at present, only to be destroyed in several years. Regardless, information is ubiquitous in nearly all facets of professional and personal life. As records professionals we need to continue to leverage our experience and expertise as stakeholders in information management, beyond the confines of traditional roles. Records, and the information they contain, are everywhere, connecting everything. As records professional, we must advocate that we play a important role in managing information now and for the future, and remain connected ourselves as record management roles evolve.
12. What do you perceive as the biggest challenges in the Records Management field?
One of the biggest challenges that I encounter is one of perception. To me, there is a intangible difference between corporate-orientated records management positions, and those in higher education or non-profits. In order to attract younger professionals, we need to adjust what could be perceived as a starchy, compliance-oriented profession to that of a role of true records and information professional. We’re managing the information that makes organizations flow, businesses run, cities function, and people succeed. The field should strive to evoke a perception of engagement, dynamism, and fun! This isn’t your father’s records management. That, and the proliferation of electronic records and email. Big challenge.
13. Besides focusing on work, what are some of your other interests or hobbies?
My wife and I just bought our first home, so I’ve been totally consumed by a kitchen renovation of late. Otherwise, I enjoying running regularly and playing guitar, checking box scores, reading non-fiction, playing 18, keeping up with my friends and family, and traveling with my wife.
14. Do you have a quote you live by?
“Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt