Ruth Kusionowicz

Ruth Kusionowicz

Last updated on 28 July 2022

Ruth Kusionowicz is the Digital Preservation Project Officer at East Sussex County Council.

I’ve worked in records and archive professions for the past 15 years, completing my Masters in Archive Administration 9 years ago. Throughout my career I’ve always had a keen interest in the challenge of managing and preserving digital records. I even wrote my dissertation on national approaches to web-archiving in the UK, US and Australia. With that interest also comes an acute awareness that things are always changing – whether it’s the technology, approaches, challenges or the teaching. So there’s a need to continuously update my learning and experience if I want to help tackle ‘the digital problem’.

My tips on how to develop, improve and stay in touch

There are many different ways to develop or enhance your knowledge, skills and experience. The first obvious one is training. For digital preservation I found the Novice to Know-How course invaluable. It built on my little existing (outdated) knowledge, gave me the detail where I needed it, and provided links to other resources where I didn’t. But its not just subject specific training that I’ve found helpful. Other courses, like the DPC’s Getting Started With Advocacy course, have developed me in areas that are key to being successful in my job. And completing a records management for M365 and SharePoint course highlighted important risks and issues I should be aware of, while giving me the confidence and language I need to raise concerns with IT about proposed implementations.

Another option for development is attending knowledge sharing events like webinars and conferences. I hear about upcoming events through the DPC Digest; notifications from the IRMS (as I am a member); and the DIGITAL-PRESERVATION, ARCHIVES-NRA and RECORDS-MANAGEMENT-UK mailing lists on JISCMail. Depending on your type of organisation, you may also have sector-specific groups you can use. I try to attend as many events as I can, including those that don’t directly relate to my work right now. You’d be surprised what you can learn from talks only loosely linked with what you do. I’ve gained ideas for engaging with staff or carrying out research, and useful projects or professionals to get in touch with.

Networking and connections are also an important part of my development. Having fellow professionals to learn from, hash out ideas with, or just share frustrations is useful as well as encouraging. I attend events and ask questions/make comments, join working groups and committees, and utilise my colleagues’ connections to build mine. I also recently completed TNA’s Digital Peer Mentoring Programme - as well as support and advice, my mentor provided connections to other knowledgeable professionals.

Don’t be put off from raising your hand or joining a group if you feel new to all this or like you don’t know enough. We all started somewhere! People who’ve been in the field for over a decade don’t have all the answers and are still learning. Getting some fresh thinking or being reminded of the basic issues can actually help develop and drive the sector too.

Me and my CPD

I’m lucky that digital preservation is the sole focus of my role. My knowledge and skills are key to the success of the project I lead on. This means I have the time and justification to take advantage of as many talks and courses as I can. It benefits me, the project and my organisation. The main restriction I have is the limited resources a local authority has to pay for individual training. So I tend to focus on the free options available to me. Using DPC, IRMS and ARA membership helps with this, and the financial support available via the DPC’s Career Development Fund is also brilliant.

I’ve always loved learning, but it’s important to remember to then apply it to my work. Its no good knowing a lot about many things if you don’t put it into practice. I’ve used new techniques to get more out of meetings or better engage with stakeholders. I’ve utilised my technical know-how to review solutions and share knowledge with colleagues. I try to refer to my notes occasionally and think about whether I’m fully using what I’ve learnt. The more you apply your new knowledge and skills, the more confident you will be in them.

For me, the digital preservation community is a friendly, open and supportive one. We’re all keen to further our knowledge and do things better. As well as get others to realise the value in what we do. The DPC’s Workforce Development Sub-committee is dedicated to this. I now sit on it, as I took the call for new members as a professional development and networking opportunity. And I’ve been pleasantly surprised that, although I still feel new to this specialist field, I’m able to meaningfully contribute at meetings. The DPC and its members in turn hopefully benefit from that.

Sharing our learning and experiences and building those connections is something that’s largely encouraged and embraced in this community. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or reach out. And take advantage of those development opportunities wherever you can!

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