It’s been interesting reading the comments and ideas that have come out of the post I did on the employment situation for archivists. The comments have been thought provoking and I was glad to see that some of them were similar to ideas that SAA has been considering for a while.
Several of these ideas related to education programs. Several suggested the need for salary guidelines. Others have suggested the need for a checklist for those considering archival education programs. And a number also recommended that we need to explore accreditation of archival education programs.
All of these are interesting ideas. Some of them are being explored as we speak. But the comments left me with a number of questions, many of which center around one topic: are archivists more aligned with librarians or with historians?
Many of the commenters pointed toward resources especially in the areas of salary surveys and accreditation issues that had been developed by ALA or other library related associations. There are still a number of fine archival training programs within schools of history but I don’t remember seeing anyone point to resources from AASLH, AHA or OAH. Is this because more archivists are coming out of library and information science programs and are being employed within libraries and are more familiar with library resources? I also wondered how an accreditation program that was being overseen by ALA would judge an archival education programs where students don’t receive an MLS or MLIS but instead receive an MA or MS in history.
I also wondered how one would develop a checklist for determining the best archival educational programming. Do schools of library and information science and schools of history educate archivists in the same way or using the same techniques? Is the perception that schools housed in MLS or MLIS programs may provide more opportunities to learn about digital issues and working with digital collections? Or schools with a history focus provide more opportunities to do in depth research or gain skills in historiography? On a related topic is it more important for students to learn about digitizing collections and working within the digital humanities or to learn the basic skills of appraisal, arrangement, description and reference?
What’s a potential archivist to do? What should SAA do? What should archival education programs do? These are not easy questions.
What do you think? Should potential archivists lean toward library science or history programs? Should they aim for programs where they get both (there are a few institutions that offer joint MLS/MLIS/MA degrees)? Should they focus on developing skills in technology and on digital humanities instead of basic archival skills? What makes a good archival education program and how should we determine a good wage for an archivist? The floor is open for comments….