Staff Profile: Erin Faulder

Who she is: Erin Faulder, digital archivist.

What she does: Essentially, I build infrastructure and capacity to manage the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections’ digital material. Digital content is everything that is created on a computer: word files and photographs, web pages and emails, databases and servers, social media. Everything is different and it’s constantly evolving. At a conference last week we were talking about mobile apps as the next thing we need to think about preserving. It gets really complicated really quickly.

A lot of what I do is create systems and set up policies and procedures to preserve digital content. But a lot of it is also education, and building relationships with other people in the Library. This is not a job you can do alone. When everything was paper-based, an archive would show up and we would take care of it. When it’s digital, it’s really important that we’re involved from the early stages so we can make recommendations.

This is a growing field – when I graduated from college, it didn’t even exist. And that wasn’t so long ago. Everything is new and it’s changing quickly, and I thoroughly enjoy that challenge. I love the problem solving and working with people to bring together limited resources and figure out best practices.

Why it’s important: If you want a record of what people were doing in the late 20th and 21st century, you have to keep digital material. And it’s not just a matter of keeping it, it’s also a matter of selecting it, because we can’t keep everything and we have to be really careful about our selections, making sure they’re representative and important and have historical value.

Where she’s from: I was raised in the mountain West – Colorado, Idaho and Oklahoma.

Education: My undergraduate degree is in classical history and Latin from Bates College, and then I got degrees in library science and history from Simmons College.

Background: As much as I loved Roman history and culture, I knew I didn’t want to go into a doctorate program – I wanted to be engaged in the modern world. So I spent a couple of years working for an oil and gas company, managing information, and I was really good at it. Eventually it came to me that I could blend my love of history and information management as an archivist.

I sort of fell into the digital component. I’ve always been very technically competent – I used to rebuild computers as a child – so when I got a job at Tufts, basically migrating data from one system into another system, I wound up becoming a digital specialist.

How long at Cornell: About 10 months

Best part of her job: Working with such a wide range of people with different expertise, bringing all those components together to build something that nobody can build in isolation, both within Cornell and within my profession. I work extensively with other people trying to solve the same problems.

In her spare time: I do a lot of reading and knitting and hiking and traveling.