Guest Post: Matt Gorzalski and Michelle Sweetser, SAA Membership Committee

This Guest Post is authored by Chair Matt Gorzalski and Vice-Chair Michelle Sweetser of the SAA Membership Committee:

The SAA Membership Committee recently surveyed the society’s membership to gain insight into the condition of professional development support provided by employers.  The survey was a continuation of the Committee’s efforts to learn more about SAA’s membership.  It follows the Barriers to Participation survey conducted between February and March 2017, which highlighted lack of financial support for annual meeting and workshop attendance as a significant barrier to continuing education and greater participation in SAA.

The professional development survey was open from October 31 through November 22, 2017 and was disseminated via SAA’s website and social media accounts, In the Loop emails, and the SAA Leader email list.  The survey gathered 1,006 responses, or 18% of SAA’s total individual membership (using November 2017 figures).  This blog post highlights the findings.

The majority of respondents (66%) receive annual professional development support from their employers.  Others (25%) receive support in some years but not annually.  The remaining respondents receive no support (8%) or have no access to support because they are self-employed, a student, or retired (3%).

Graph 1
Figure 1: Support for professional development most frequently is offered in the $501-1000 and $1001-1500 ranges.

The Committee was also interested in temporal trends in professional development support.  Respondents were asked if they had been with their current employer for at least 5 years, of which 45% (452) stated “yes” and 55% (552) stated “no.”  The level of support for archivists who have been with their current employer for at least 5 years has largely stagnated or decreased.  Those who have been with their employer for less than 5 years are more likely to see increased professional development support (Figure 2).

Graph 2

Respondents were asked to name archival topics that they feel need greater emphasis among professional development offerings.  Archivists who have been with their current employer for 5 years or more identified the following topics (in no particular order): management/leadership; digital/electronic records; funds or fundraising, outreach; audiovisual materials, diversity; description/finding aids; and digitization.  Archivists who have been with their current employer less than 5 years identified (in no particular order): management/leadership; digital/electronic records; digitization; outreach; and lone arrangers.

A formal report on this survey is forthcoming.

Guest Post: Meg Phillips at the International Council on Archives (ICA) Meeting (Mexico City, Mexico)

Meg Phillips is the External Affairs Liaison for the National Archives and Records Administration and recently attended the ICA Meeting in Mexico City. This is a shortened version of the report she provided for her NARA colleagues:

The International Council on Archives held a joint meeting with the Association of Latin American Archivists (ALA) in Mexico City from November 27 to 29.  I attended for NARA.  I sit on the ICA’s Programme Commission (PCOM), support the ICA New Professionals program, and act as the Programme Commission’s liaison to the ICA Expert Group on Managing Digital and Physical Records.

Getting to attend ICA meetings for NARA is one of the highlights of my role as NARA’s External Affairs Liaison.  NARA is well-respected among the archives of the world and I feel that it is important that we are represented there.  There are always many questions and conversations about what NARA is doing, and opportunities to connect archivists from other countries to their counterparts at NARA.  And afterwards, I can bring back to NARA some highlights of the things I learned from our international peers.

In the interests of keeping this reasonably short, I’ll provide a top-ten list of tidbits that archivists might find interesting. 

Archives and Human Rights

1) As one of the PCOM members who supports the ICA New Professionals program, I got to talk to enthusiastic and interesting newcomers to archives from Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, Australia, and the United States.  (The representative from the US was Mexican-American and passionate about community archiving among Mexican immigrant farm workers in his native California.)  One of the most memorable conversations I had was with the new professional from Argentina, who shared how the focus on using records to support human rights there is in tension with professional archival practice.  Funding opportunities, jobs, and institutional priorities are all going to records that document human rights violations or could be used to support human rights.  She explained that it is difficult to run a balanced, professional archival program that preserves history in general and conforms to best practices (keeping human rights records within their fonds) in that environment.

2) Former NARA Deputy and Acting Archivist Trudy Peterson helped run a workshop on behalf of the Human Rights Working Group, which ran an exercise where participants took turns reading articles from the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, and then the next person provided examples of archives or records that might be relevant to protecting – or proving a violation of – that right.  I found this exercise very effective.  I’d never spent so much time with the Declaration before, and I understand it and the human rights relevance of archives better now.  (The workshop did this in a combination of Spanish and English, muddling through with great good will.)

3) There were several presentations from Canada related to the system of Indian residential schools, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission work with which Library and Archives Canada has been involved to try to address the damage done to native Canadian cultures.  I shared some of the information NARA staff had compiled on BIA and (in particular) the Carlisle Indian School (Dickinson College) with Director of Library and Archives of Canada, Guy Berthiaume, who was interested to learn about the parallels in the US.  Carlisle Indian School (Dickinson College) was in the news this past year as the Army disinterred and returned the bodies of several children who died there.

4) Dagmar Hovestadt from the Stasi Archives in the former East Germany gave a great presentation about the role of the records of surveillance.  She said that, in addition to providing authentic evidence of what happened in the former regime,

“The archive itself has become a monument of surveillance.  It embodies in itself REPRESSION, REAPPRAISAL, and REVOLUTION.”

Digital Archives – and Digital Archivists

5) The Director of the Archives in the United Arab Emirates, which is particularly digitally oriented under a mobile-enabled government policy, has a Master’s Degree in cybersecurity.

‘Nuff said.

6) Erick Cardoso, the Director of IT at the Archivo General de la Nacion (Mexico) and also in charge of digital preservation, has an IT background but is now pursuing an MA in archives from the University of North Texas.  One of my matchmaking missions was to find the people doing this work in Latin America, so I set up an email connection between him and our own Leslie Johnston.

7) I was a little starstruck to meet Bert de Vries, the Director of the Amsterdam City Archives, responsible for awesome map projects.

Disasters

8) The 2017 hurricane season revealed some unfortunate side-effects of ICA’s regional “branch” structure.  NARA is part of NAANICA – the North American Regional Branch of ICA – along with other US and Canadian archives.  In contrast to other regions of the world where there are many more countries and far fewer strong professional associations for archivists, NAANICA really only has two countries, and both of those countries are well-served by our own archives associations.

–  In contrast, CARBICA, which serves the countries of the Caribbean, is quite active.  CARBICA leapt into action after Hurricanes Irma and Maria tore through the region, reaching out to contact the archivists on the affected islands, organizing a survey of damage and needs, and negotiating with ICA for disaster recovery resources from the parent organization.

– Even though Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands are in the Caribbean, NARA has not traditionally been part of CARBICA.  Now I realize that communication about the status of the US islands would have been much easier if we had been plugged into that organization.  In fact, there is some discussion within ICA of finding ways of tying NAANICA, CARBICA, and the Association of Latin American Archivists (ALA) together more tightly so communication among all of us in the Americas could be smoother, especially in times of emergency.

9) Emilie Gagnet Leumas, the chair of the ICA Expert Group on Emergency Management Disaster Preparedness, who is from the Archdiocese of New Orleans and earned her disaster recovery chops during Katrina, was whisked away by UNESCO to assess earthquake damage to historic libraries and archives in Puebla, Mexico after the ICA meeting.  Emilie was a little nervous about this last minute arrangement and not sure what kind of damage the team would find.  In fact, she fell in love with the city (“stunningly beautiful”) and reported that scaffolding stabilizing buildings was the major evidence of the earthquake’s destruction.  I emailed to make sure she was ok once I got home, and she wrote back:

“Puebla was nothing of what I expected. We never saw “damage” and piles of rubble like I expected. Everything was cleared and clean. There was some scaffolding holding up buildings and scaffolding in the Cathedral while men fixed the dome. Puebla is a stunningly beautiful, old colonial Spanish town. We spent time at the library and Archives surveying rare books and giving advice…. Puebla is on my list to return for a long weekend vacation. It was that beautiful.”

10) The Archivo General de la Nacion in Mexico CIty consists of a modern new building built inside an old panopticon prison.  Although they did not have major damage during the earthquake, apparently it did cause a crack in the walls of the left wing of the old part of the building, so they didn’t come out completely unscathed, either.  The old prison has been beautifully remodeled and the center of the “eye” in the panopticon is a dramatic vaulted exhibit space.  Mexico City is a great city, full of amazing food, history, art, music, parks, and friendly people.  (Also traffic.  Lots of traffic.)  It hadn’t been on my radar as a destination, but if I ever get a chance to go back, I will definitely go.

Finally….

the ICA’s New Professionals Programme just posted its invitation to apply for bursaries for the 2018 ICA meeting in Yaounde. This will be an archives adventure of the first order for a small group of new archivists, a guaranteed opportunity to meet the ICA leadership (which is extremely supportive of the New Professionals programme) and many other interesting archivists from all over the world, and also a chance to help the host archives, the National Archives of Cameroon, kick-start a new era of government support for archives and archives associations in Africa.

 

ALA President’s Response to USA Today

Dear all, here is a recent letter sent to USA Today by ALA President Jim Neal in response to libraries and archives being listed as a dying “industry.” As we enter 2018, please be reminded we are needed more than ever—to appraise, select, curate, and share our resources with those who need them. Happy New Year! Tanya

Tanya Zanish-Belcher
President, Society of American Archivists

Jim Neal ALA Letter

Guest Post from the ARCHIVES*RECORDS 2018 Program Committee

What We’re Doing: Proposal Evaluation and January Meeting

As you read this post, the thirteen members of the 2018 Program Committee are busy reviewing the 185 education sessions and 20 poster proposals (a record number!) received for consideration for ARCHIVES*RECORDS 2018.

From mid-November to January 2 each committee member is reading, making comments on, and ranking every single proposal that was submitted. If you estimate a committee member spending 15 minutes on each proposal, that’s more than 50 hours spent reviewing! No small task.

In early January we will meet at the the SAA offices in Chicago to discuss the proposals in person and come to decisions on the education sessions and posters that will make up the 2018 Joint Annual Meeting program.

In the spirit of the 2018 Joint Annual Meeting theme—Promoting Transparency—a more detailed overview of our process will be published in the January/February 2018 issue of Archival Outlook. We invite you to read that when it comes out in mid-January.

We are thoroughly enjoying reading all your proposals and know that ARCHIVES*RECORDS 2018 will be a fantastic conference!

 

From the November SAA Council Meeting

At its November meeting, the SAA Council made several decisions that will be of interest to all SAA members.

First, the Council made the difficult (although unanimous) decision to decommission the Archives and Archivists Listserv, agreeing that this seemed to be the best time to regroup and plan for the future. In 2018, the SAA staff will be working on implementing a new Association Management System, paying special attention to the online community forums with which it will interface. The Council will also be taking time to review what guidelines and procedures will be needed to govern a new and inclusive space for archivists. Please contact me with any ideas at president@archivists.org.

I would also like to call your attention to the following:

  • The Council approved the Committee on Public Policy’s proposed revisions of the SAA Public Policy Agenda and Procedures for Suggesting SAA Advocacy Action, as well as issue briefs on Federal Classified Information and Controlled Unclassified Information and Police Mobile Camera Footage as a Public Record.
  • Nearly 10 years ago, a working group of the Archives Management and Records Management roundtables created SAA’s “Best Practices for Working with Archives Employees with Physical Disabilities” and “Best Practices for Working with Archives Researchers with Physical Disabilities.” In November the Council approved creation of a Task Force on Accessibility to review, revise, and expand these Best Practices to include neuro-disability, temporary physical disabilities, and any other topics that should be considered within the scope of the document. I’m delighted that the following individuals have agreed to serve on the Task Force: Co-chairs Kathy Marquis and Sara White, as well as Krystal Appiah, Daria D’Arienzo, Alan Lefever, and Donna McCrea. Their final recommendations will be submitted by November 2018.
  • The Council has also approved creation of a Tragedy Response Initiative Task Force (proposed by the Diverse Sexuality and Gender Section) to 1) create and/or compile material for ready accessibility by archivists who are facing a sudden tragedy and 2) explore the feasibility of creating a standing body within SAA that would update documentation as needed and serve as a volunteer tragedy response team. Vice President Meredith Evans will be making these appointments soon, and the group’s work will be completed in two years.

And finally, two pieces of news from the SAA Foundation. First, the guidelines for our National Disaster Recovery Fund for Archives have been revised and expanded. The maximum grant award has been increased from $2,000 to $5,000 and, particularly in light of recent events, the Board will consider applications from Mexico and non-US Caribbean Islands. Second, the Foundation Board has agreed to explore the possibility of providing funding to assist archivists who need financial support to attend the 2018 Joint Annual Meeting. A subgroup of the Board will consider options for administering such a program on a one-time basis in 2018, including award amounts, eligibility, and criteria for vetting applications, and will report back to the Board by January 15, 2018. The cost of attending the Annual Meeting is often mentioned as a barrier to full participation in SAA. When I “retire” from my SAA presidency (but remain for one year on the Foundation Board), I will be exploring possible external funding sources for travel support. Stay tuned!

What We’re Looking For: Taking Your Session Proposal from Good to Excellent

A Guest Post from by the ARCHIVES*RECORDS 2018 Program Committee:

The theme for the 2018 Joint Annual Meeting of CoSA, NAGARA, and SAA is Promoting Transparency. This theme acknowledges that archivists and records administrators embrace principles that foster the transparency of our actions and inspire confidence in both the record and our professions. We value transparency in the record and records processes, the responsibility it gives to our work and actions, and how it allows us to be held accountable by our constituencies. The programming offered at ARCHIVES*RECORDS 2018 will use that recognition to clearly and openly address why and how we do our work.

In keeping with this theme, the Program Committee for ARCHIVES*RECORDS 2018 would like to share more on our process with the SAA membership. Over the course of the year we’ll be contributing to Off the Record to share more on different parts of our work. In this first post, we’ll share our thoughts on what we’re looking for in a proposal, posing the question: What takes a session proposal from good to excellent?

Program Committee members’ thoughts on what they’ll be looking for during proposal evaluation follow. We hope that proposers will use this to craft excellent proposals as the deadline for submission—Wednesday, November 15—approaches!

  • For me, a good proposal is free from ambiguities. Ideally, after reading the proposal I will have clearly understood the submitter’s target audience(s), topic and contents, presentation methodology, and intended take-away(s) for the audience. (Debbie Bahn, Washington State Archives)
  • An excellent proposal provides a hook that will grab your audience. Also remember a catchy title should show how your topic is relevant and useful, and deliver truth in advertising. (Dorothy Davis, Alabama Department of Archives and History)
  • To me, the best proposals have a clear focus and set of outcomes, regardless of topic. In other words, the submission addresses directly what information or experience they’re trying to convey and what they expect attendees to take away from the session. I’m more likely to approve a proposal with clear goals that doesn’t interest me than one in my area of focus that sort of meanders. (Brad Houston, City of Milwaukee)
  • A good proposal should have a direct and clear connection to the theme, not muddled or overly wordy. An excellent proposal would be direct but also communicate the enthusiasm the writer(s) have for the theme of the conference. Enthusiasm that would hopefully engage attendees if the proposal is chosen. (Christina Orozco)
  • Aside from being clear with why the proposal is important or has value to the profession, the types of sessions I find most rewarding are those that are framed to stimulate discussion and are less focused on simply recounting a case study. Proposals that demonstrate they are as much (if not more) for the audience to engage with or stimulate some new perspective, concept, or practice, and less for the panelists to hold forth on their niche project, would typically catch my eye for selection. (Dennis Riley, New York State Archives)
  • I like when archivists share “what really happened” with their work, both the successes and the failures. Presenting archival practice in all its complexity allows attendees to learn from speakers’ breadth of experience rather than sit back and wish their institution was equipped with the same resources and opportunities. (Sara Seltzer, J. Paul Getty Trust)
  • I place a high value on sessions that discuss real-world issues that archives and records management professionals face every day, and focus on practical ways in which we can overcome these challenges. Does the session invite discussion of solutions, or does it simply highlight problems? The former brings greater value to the participants and attendees alike, and will be given more weight in my mind. (Kris Stenson, Oregon State Archives)
  • Proposals that show creativity in thought and processes, but that are grounded in the practicalities of daily archival work, will be what I will be looking for in proposals. Submissions that demonstrate more than an idea of how things could/should work, but rather illustrate the actual archival work (successfully or unsuccessfully) will be given my top priority. Also anything that includes user studies/surveys would be a plus. (Mitch Toda, Smithsonian Institution Archives)
  • This year I’m looking for proposals that will bring something fresh and new to the program. Some examples include inclusion of panelists or commentators that aren’t in a traditional archivist or records manager role; alternative and interactive formats—such as performances, role-plays, or games; or sessions on emerging and radical topics that the profession is just starting to talk about. I want to see proposers challenge our assumptions on what a session at the Joint Annual Meeting can be! (Meg Tuomala, Gates Archive)

 

 

 

 

 

SAA Appointments

Even as SAA Vice President Meredith Evans is preparing her Call for Volunteers for release this fall, I’d like to share a bit more about the entire appointments process. Having now been through the entire procedure, I think that selecting appointees is one of the most important duties of the Vice President/President-Elect, and it’s important that we are transparent in reporting on and documenting all we do. One of the greatest challenges is that we simply don’t have enough volunteer slots to accommodate the large number of applicants each year. Please consider leadership opportunities within SAA’s sections, which often do not have a lot of volunteers and often offer rich opportunities for involvement.

I would like to sincerely thank my Appointments Committee: Jelain Chubb and Bill Landis (co-chairs) and members Andrea Jackson, Elena Colón-Marrero, Sammie Morris, and Helen Wong Smith. The Appointments Committee does the important work of reviewing all applications and sorting them into easily reviewable spreadsheets with prioritized recommendations for the Vice President to consider. Special thanks also to Felicia Owens, SAA’s governance coordinator, who manages these spreadsheets and organizes them by committee, subcommittee, task force, and working group. The process is aided, too, by input from committee chairs who indicate their preferences for membership based on a particular need for a skill set.  When all is said and done, the buck stops with the Vice President. I spent a lot of time reviewing all the recommendations, keeping in mind the need to involve new members of the profession and new volunteers, as well as the critical importance of diversity in background, geographic representation, and repository type in broadening our understanding and perspective.

So, here are some basic numbers from the 2016-2017 appointments process. Please note I used the term diverse to apply primarily to archivists of color and LGBTQ archivists.

Number of volunteer positions available:  96

Number of archivists who applied:  180

Number of archivists appointed who have never held a position in SAA:  41  (42%)

Number of diverse archivists appointed:   34 (35%)

Number of interns appointed:  16 (out of 50 applications)

Overall, how many people participate in SAA leadership? Although my unscientific count via the SAA website could include some duplication, the total appears to be approximately 631 archivists who are participating in SAA leadership activities.

When you see the Call for Volunteers in Archival Outlook, on the SAA website, and in your email box, Meredith and I hope that you’ll give serious thought to applying. Do read the guidelines carefully, as they will provide advice for submitting your best possible application. (And please be selective about the opportunities. Those who indicate an interest in every vacancy seldom are appointed.)

And a special reminder to those of you who are now serving as interns for a Committee or Section: please apply for a position and use everything you have learned for your next step.

It is in the interest of SAA that we are able to involve anyone who wishes to contribute to the organization. I know that professional associations can sometimes be intimidating, but my focus in the next year will be to find creative ways for SAA to be even more welcoming for all its members. For now, would you like to talk more about how you can contribute to SAA? Do you have an idea you would like to share? Please contact me directly at president@archivists.org and we’ll talk!