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A Spotlight on Academic Archives with Siham Alaoui

2 May 2024 10:25 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

From municipal and federal government to universities, from religious congregations to community organizations, archivists work in a variety of settings. This year, the ACA blog, In the Field, is setting out to talk to archivists across Canada about the unique joys and challenges of their work environments. We will feature a different type of archives each month, with the objective of showcasing the rich spectrum of archival work.

This month we are featuring university archives. In today’s post, the In the Field blog chats with Siham Alaoui, a PhD candidate in archival and communication studies and a sessional lecturer in records management programs (undergraduate and graduate) at Université Laval, Québec. 

Q: Can you briefly tell us about your academic and professional path? 

Siham: I hold a masters degree in information science obtained in 2015 from the École de bibliothéconomie et des sciences de linformation (EBSI) at the Université de Montréal. I also have a bachelors degree in information science from the School of Information Sciences (Rabat, Morocco) in 2013. Before starting a PhD in archival science and public communication in 2018 at Université Laval, I worked as head of the library and archives department of a higher institute in translation studies in Rabat, Morocco. I also accumulated professional experience through internships during my undergraduate and graduate studies. This experience helped me specialize in records management, particularly in the current context of digital transformation of higher education institutions.  

Q: What brought you to the field of archival studies and practice? 

Siham: Ive always wanted to pursue an educational program that combines management, cultureand technology. This ambition naturally led me to choose the Bachelor of Information Sciences, with a specialization in archival science, asa major during my undergraduate studies. My final year project focused on the implementation of workflow management technology to stimulate collaboration between organizational actors to manage their business records. Since then, my interest in collaboration and horizontality has grown. It developed further during my graduate studies, as well as my work experience in both a library and archives environment. This enabled me to project a cross-sectional view of the two professions, which manage the information object indifferent waysActually, this is the subject of my doctoral research thesis.  

Q: Can you explain how digital technologies have changed your teaching experience in recent years? 

Siham: In recent years, particularly with the changes caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, it has become essential to review the archival teaching programs at Université Laval. As a specialist, a researcher and a lecturer in records management, I thought it was necessary to update my courses to incorporate the remote workaspect and all the emerging information management practices associated with it. Also, with the craze for artificial intelligence and its link to the phenomenon of information datafication, it was necessary to make students aware of the need to review their practices to take full advantage of the potential of automation, while respecting the ethical and professional standards recognized by the archival community.  

Q: What is your favourite thing about working as a lecturer of archival science curricula? 

Siham: First and foremost, it is the ongoing dialogue between theory and practice. This enables me to update the content of the undergraduate and graduate courses I teach. There is also the flexibility to adapt to students needs. This is particularly the case for graduate students who come with their own professional experiences. The interactions are very interesting because they enable us to reflect on certain things that are still little explored in practice, or aspects that emerge from practice but remain scientifically under-explored. 

Q: What do you wish the public understood better about university archives? What do you wish other archivists understood about university archives?  

Siham: University records and archives are diverse, because in the university’s environment, there is more than one activity: teaching, research, community service, administration, and community involvement. All these aspects are reflected in the records and archives acquired by university archivists. Some are described as institutional, others as non-institutional or private. To ensure a better representation of the university, its achievements, its influence, and its history, the archivist needs to get involved with an array of university actors (e.g. professors, lecturers, students, administrative staff, etc.) to build up the archival memory.  

Furthermore, in the age of information datafication and the development of open research data disclosure, which can be considered as records of the research activities of professors, students, postdoctoral fellows and research professionals, it is necessary to develop activities on the part of archivists. This seems challenging, since the latter's interventions are often limited to long-term preservation and archiving, whereas their expertise could very well be put to good use in contextualizing these data. To this end, a dialogue should be established between archivists and researchers to improve open research data governance. 

Q: Can you tell us about a project you’ve been working on lately?  

Siham: In fact, it is not a project per se. It is a research interest that my teaching experience has enabled me to explore. It is about research into the intersections between artificial intelligence (AI) and records management. Everyone is talking about AI these days. The results of my implication in various projects related to AI and my experience as a doctoral researcher have been an inspiration to publish my article entitled “Artificial intelligence and records management: What gains? What stakes? in the Canadian Journal of Information and Library Science in 2023. In this theoretical article, my aim was to explore the benefits and the challenges of integrating AI into records management practices. I also wanted to highlight the new roles that records managers would play in the automation era.  

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