And today’s guest blogger is … SAA Council member Bill Landis, writing about a terrific e-records initiative recently announced by the Manuscript Repositories Section. They encourage all SAA members to Jump In. You may win a valuable prize!
One of the most important duties of every SAA Council member is to serve as liaison to several sections, roundtables, and committees. One of my assignments is the Manuscript Repositories Section, and I’m blown away by the efforts the Section’s leaders have taken to launch their Jump In initiative. If you haven’t heard about it, take a look here. To join in, just send an email “pledge to participate” to Chris Burns , Section chair, by December 1st [Note: Changed to 15 January!].
I’m very interested in better understanding the variety of methods that leaders of SAA’s component groups use to meet their members’ needs, so I interviewed Chris by phone to get some background.
Manuscript Repositories covers such a wide variety of issues that the steering committee really liked the idea of emphasizing a specific issue this year. Chris noted that the Section has been discussing electronic records in manuscript collections for several years, and a survey of its members showed a desire for concrete activity in this area. To begin working with the committee to formulate a project, Chris decided to experiment with an online project management tool. Using the free one-project account offered by Basecamp, he invited each committee member to participate, and was impressed by the level of engagement that ensued.
The initiative builds on the Section’s program during the 2012 Annual Meeting, which began with a set of lightning talks on electronic records issues followed by a breakout session to discuss how to move forward. Jennifer Schaffner had mentioned Ricky Erway’s OCLC Research report You’ve Got to Walk Before You Can Run: First Steps for Managing Born Digital Content Received on Physical Media, and it was discussed during the breakouts—and from that, Jump In was born.
The committee then held a Google+ Hangout to plan next steps. They coalesced around a decision to take the leap, make the initiative a pragmatic one, and set a low bar for participation. They agreed that a simple, practical initiative was what really mattered. Chris talked with Ricky Erway, who was very encouraging and provided a draft list of e-resources that the committee then used. They proposed offering as a prize a free registration to a Digital Archives Specialist course, and Executive Director Nancy Beaumont readily arranged the details to make this possible.
The committee then “put the meat on the bones” of the initiative, as Chris states it, working out details such as an announcement and a timeline. They decided to open participation to any SAA member. He notes that “the more difficult you make it, the more difficult it is to pull off.” Simplicity made Jump In feasible. At next summer’s Section meeting in New Orleans he and his colleagues eagerly anticipate presentations by archivists who are perhaps “just a step ahead of where you are.” Their hope is that this will help “give others confidence to get their feet wet” and help the Section continue as “a space for members to move forward together.”
Chris also mentioned that his years as a member of the Congressional Papers Roundtable inspired him to want to do something active as chair of Manuscript Repositories. He has long “admired how CPR comes up with interesting projects and sees them through for the most part. CPR leaders and members set an example for each other and collectively raise expectations for what is going to come out of that roundtable.” (If you’re interested in reading more about CPR, check out “Roundtables as Incubators for Leadership: The Legacy of the Congressional Papers Roundtable,” by Connell B. Gallagher, Mark A. Greene, Leigh McWhite, Naomi L. Nelson, and Linda A. Whitaker. American Archivist Online, Supplement 1 (2012) ).
So, all you archivists out there looking for some good companionship for rolling up your sleeves and doing something about born-digital records on physical media, take a deep breath, join your Manuscript Repositories friends, and Jump In!