Resourceful Records Managers: Krista Oldham, University Archivist at Clemson University

The amazing Krista Oldham answers our records management focused questions!

Krista Oldham photo

What led you to choose your current career in Records Management?

I don’t want to say that I necessarily stumbled into records management as I think that archives and records management practice and theory are related and feed so much into each other, but I somewhat did. In my training as an archivist I had been exposed and knew records management theory, but records management was not part of my job responsibilities until I took the position at Haverford College as both the College Archivist and Records Manager. When I took the job I really was not expecting records management to appeal to me as much as it did. I was pleasantly surprised.

What is your educational background?

I earned both a B.A. and M.A. in History from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. I was enrolled in the Ph.D. program in History and after I wrapped up a good bit of my coursework, I came to the realization that I did not enjoy it anymore, that the career path to become a professor no longer interested me, and that I really loved working in the archives. At that point I think I had been working at the University of Arkansas Special Collections, first as a reading room assistant and then as an assistant archivist, for about six or seven years and decided that being an archivist was where my passion was and so I enrolled at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville where I got my M.I.S.

How did you first become interested in Records Management?

I first became truly interested in records management once I was thrown in to the deep-end of the process at Haverford. Having to develop and implement a institution-wide program forced me to become familiar with records management pretty quickly regardless if I was really truly interested or not. Through that process I began to really appreciate records management and realized that records management and archives are in many ways two sides of the same coin. Additionally, I discovered that there are structure and rules to records management that I really appreciate.

What is your role at your institution?

I am currently the University Archivist at Clemson University in South Carolina. In this role I provide leadership and expertise in the appraisal, acquisition, processing/descriptions, and the preservation of University records as well as supporting and promoting their use. I am also responsible for assisting in the development and administration of an institution-wide records management program.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I most enjoy the educational component that comes with being a records manager. I thrive on empowering people through knowledge dissemination, and the training component that is essential to the successful implementation of a records management program allows me to do that. As an educator at heart, I find it very satisfying when I see people in our workshops or consultations get excited and talk about how they are going to take what they learned back to their office or department and that they know we are a resource for them. It puts a smile on my face.

What would you consider to be your career highlight or greatest success?

I would say that my greatest career achievement to date has been developing and implementing a records management program at Haverford College. I was the college’s very first records manager and I had to do a lot of preliminary work on raising the profile of records management at the college. I created an advisory group, developed policy and procedure documentation, conducted training and outreach, and collaborated on building out a web presence for records management. I was very fortunate to have multiple collaborators who were incredibly supportive during that process. Without their help and support none of it would have been successful. I have to admit that the records management program was not as far along as I would have liked it to have been, but I feel accomplished in the progress that was made and I know it was in a good place for my successor to make it into a great program.

What type of institutional settings have you worked in? Corporate? Government? Higher education? If more than one, how do they differ?

I have always worked at higher ed institutions- two research universities and one liberal arts college. All three have had very different environments and cultures. What has been consistent is the strong curricular tie/role that my position has been able to play in support of the institutions’ mission.

What advice would you give to an individual considering Records Management as a career?

Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty. Having your practice rooted in theory is necessary, but all the theory in the world will not prepare you the same way that actual experience doing records management will. My other piece of advice is don’t be afraid or intimidated to ask questions. I am a strong believer in the premise that we as professionals do not have to know everything and we shouldn’t be expected to. The field changes so rapidly, and the environments/institutions and stakeholders so varied, it can be hard to keep up with, and be an expert on, everything. Just know that you are able to tap into networks of other professionals, and are able to draw on the breadth and depth of their collective knowledge. We are a collegial bunch and are here to help!

Do you belong to any professional organizations?

I do! Probably too many. I have been a member of the Society of American Archivists and ARMA the longest…years at this point. I am also a member of South Carolina Archival Association, Palmetto Archives, Libraries, & Museum Council on Preservation, and South Carolina Public Records Association (SCPRA). Additionally, I am a member representative for Clemson to the National Digital Stewardship Association.

Thoughts on the future of records management?

Opportunities abound! I think there is some really exciting things to come/continue to develop with artificial intelligence. Additionally, I think there opportunities for records managers to be able to assert their importance and elevate the role of records management at their instructions/organizations as more and more those places are reimagining what sorts of information (records, and data) are assets that have value that they want to capitalize on.

What do you perceive as the biggest challenges in the Records Management field?

I think the handling of born-digital records and digital preservation is and will continue to be a challenge for many records managers for some time. I also think that there will be some challenges that arise as more and more institutions embrace sustainable digital preservation practices.

Besides focusing on work, what are some of your other interests or hobbies?

I am an active shopper (mainly clothes and shoes), an avid consumer of reality TV, and a budding knitter.

Do you have a quote you live by?

“Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good” – Voltaire (I think…)




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