The Art of Gathering

Priya Parker, author of The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters (Riverhead Books, 2018) and founder of Thrive Labs, “helps activists, elected officials, corporate executives, educators, and philanthropists create transformative gatherings.” I’ve been making my way through her book for several months now, egged on by the notion of a “transformative gathering”—especially for a conference whose theme is “Transformative!”—and heartened that so much of what we’ve discussed and implemented aligns with her wisdom.

But she has also expanded my way of thinking about SAA conferences with her concept of generous authority:  “A gathering run on generous authority is run with a strong, confident hand, but it is run selflessly, for the sake of others…. When I tell you to host with generous authority, I’m not telling you to domineer. I’m saying to find the courage to be authoritative in the service of three goals”—protect your guests, equalize your guests, and connect your guests. 

See my column in the March/April issue of Archival Outlook (page 24) for many of the steps we’re taking to ensure that those goals are met at ARCHIVES*RECORDS 2019 in Austin. 

In addition, we’re plunging into live streaming in an attempt to connect with those who aren’t able to attend the Austin meeting, whether due to travel bans (as for California state employees) or other constraints (usually financial) that affect folks around the country. Our grand experiment this year is to live stream 18 education sessions and the two plenaries so that non-attendees may participate in real time with the conference. Why 18 sessions? Because live streaming is (still) really expensive (at $5,500 per room per day), and we decided to capture the two sessions across nine time slots that the Program Committee thinks will attract the most attendees. The sessions will not be interactive virtually; we encourage you to use Twitter to share thoughts and ask questions. (Use #SAA19 plus the session number, such as #101. We’ve asked the session chairs to designate someone in the live-streamed sessions who will follow Twitter and pose questions to the speakers.)

We’ll be packaging the live-stream option with on-demand (after-the-fact) access to the live-streamed videos plus audio recordings and dynamic screen (slide) capture of all education sessions and (for the first time) SAA section meetings. There are many technical details to be worked out, but watch the SAA and conference websites for announcements about the package. It will be available to non-attendee members for around $99—and to all conference registrants as part of their registration fee.

Never ones to let grass grow under our feet, watch the SAA website for the Call for Proposals for “Creating Our Future”—the next big gathering of CoSA and SAA at our 2020 Joint Annual Meeting in Chicago.

Only Paid Internships to Be Posted to the SAA Career Center

During their discussion of SAA’s Strategic Plan at the November 2019 meeting, the SAA Council determined that the organization would no longer allow unpaid internships to be posted in the SAA Career Center’s Internship Directory. The following changes have been made to the website to make this decision clear to both internship seekers and posters: 

  • The tab listing internship opportunities in the Career Center is now labeled “Paid Internships;”
  • The language on that page now states: “SAA strongly encourages employers to value archival graduate students’ skills by providing monetary compensation for their work commensurate with the qualifications required for the position. If monetary compensation is not indicated in the internship description, the position will not be posted to this directory;”
  • The “Create a New Job” form now states, under the “Level” field: “All internship positions must be paid/offer a monetary stipend. If monetary compensation is not indicated, the position will not be posted to the directory;” and
  • SAA staff are now moderating all submissions to ensure that only paid internship opportunities are listed on the job board. 

The decision to allow only paid internships on the SAA Career Center aligns with SAA’s Strategic Plan and its goal to advocate for archives and archivists. Specifically, it addresses our stated desires to “provide leadership in promoting the value of archives and archivists to institutions, communities, and society” and to “educate and influence decisions makers in any setting about the importance of archives and archivists.”

Archival labor is valuable, and individuals performing this work should be compensated accordingly. Paid internships are important for diversifying our field and recognizing the value of our profession. We urge all prospective internship supervisors to advocate for funding to support the work of their interns. 

SAA Update: Advocating for Archivist Pay

The Society of American Archivists is committed to advocacy on behalf of our members. In our Strategic Plan, the goal of “Enhancing Professional Growth” is focused on archivists having access to the professional community and resources they need to be successful and effective in their careers. Fair wages and equitable salaries are part of this work and we want to share the results of our ongoing discussions and future activities of SAA in support of this issue.

  • Professional support at the Annual Meeting
    • Salary Forum: hear a panel of experts participate in an open discussion about salaries in the archival profession and explore potential solutions, including those that place responsibility on institutions and administrations.
    • Onsite Career Center: from mock interviews to tips on salary negotiation, seek out mentors who can help you navigate the job market and your professional growth.
  • Mentoring Program
    • Meet and connect with a mentor who will listen and provide guidance on negotiating and advocating for better pay.
  • Job Postings in the SAA Online Career Center
    • We strongly recommend salary information be included in all job ad postings.
    • “Research Salaries” button on all job ads can help with regional salary range information, even if a job does not include a salary range.
  • A*CENSUS II
    • An updated data set will illustrate salary ranges per state and by region, helping archivists stay abreast of current salaries across the U.S.

For those attending the 2019 Annual Meeting, join the SAA Council on Sunday, August 4, 12:00 pm – 1:15 pm, in Austin for an Open Forum on Archivist Salaries. This forum will serve as a space for members to discuss the initiatives listed above as well as brainstorm additional ways that SAA can continue to advocate for archivist salaries. Mark your online schedule!

A Difficult Decision

by Michelle Light, SAA Vice President / President-Elect

Dear Members of the Society of American Archivists,

Recently I accepted an incredible opportunity to serve as the Director of the Special Collections Directorate at the Library of Congress beginning May 28, 2019. I’ll lead seven organizational units responsible for the Library’s unparalleled collections of unique or rare, unpublished and published items: the Geography and Map Division, Manuscript Division, Music Division, Prints and Photographs Division, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, and the American Folklife Center, including the Veterans History Project. The Library’s most recent user-centered strategic plan for 2019-2023 lays out an exciting roadmap for engaging more users, and its digital strategy describes plans for growing its online collections, strengthening its digital stewardship, supporting evolving forms of research, and connecting with more users online. I look forward to helping the Library “throw open the treasure chest.”

To best serve the Library and the Society of American Archivists (SAA), however, I must unfortunately resign from serving as SAA Vice President / President-Elect on May 15. Holding prominent leadership roles at both the Library and SAA could create conflicts of interest and confusion as to the capacity in which I am acting at any given time. I especially would not want people to think that I might be using my position as SAA President to influence Congress. The Library is a legislative agency that includes the Copyright Office and the Congressional Research Service, which provides nonpartisan services to the Congress. As a high-level member of Library management, I could not participate in SAA’s growing advocacy on a variety of public policy or copyright matters. Frequent and high-profile recusals, even if effective, would weaken the role of SAA President.

Advocacy on behalf of archives and archivists is core to SAA’s mission. SAA’s public policy agenda and position statements reveal how SAA takes a stand on a variety of governmental issues. SAA advocates for public policies that ensure that archival records are preserved and made accessible as a foundation for our democracy and cultural heritage. As SAA’s public policy agenda explains, “SAA is committed to supporting policies that will ensure the protection of privacy and individual rights; ensure the transparency and accountability of government at all levels; guarantee the administrative continuity necessary for good governance; make accessible evidence of the diverse and complex elements of the human experience; and preserve historical documentation for future generations.” In the past few years, for example, SAA has advocated for funding for federal grant programs for archives, made statements about improving the transparency of government and strengthening federal records programs, and commented on several aspects of copyright law and the functions of the Copyright Office. I recently participated in the first Archives on the Hill event, co-sponsored by SAA, CoSA, NAGARA, and RAAC, during which we visited members of Congress to advocate for funding for NHPRC, IMLS, and NEH, and to educate them about the importance of electronic records preservation. I am proud of the work of SAA’s Committee on Public Policy and the Intellectual Property Working Group to surface issues of concern for SAA action, and I believe their ongoing efforts are important for the profession.

SAA deserves an engaged president who will lead the organization in accomplishing its mission and goals in all areas, especially in strengthening its role in advocacy for archives and archivists. As a member of the SAA Council, I have served with several federal employees who were very careful to recuse themselves from any action having to do with the federal government. They were models for how to navigate the sometimes muddy waters of conflict of interest. Nonetheless, their positions in their agencies were different than mine, and I am mindful of the weight of authority and responsibility of my new position. For those who know how much I value SAA and all the ways in which it has supported my professional growth and development during the past two decades, you might fathom how painful it is for me to relinquish this incredible honor to serve and lead this organization. I plan to remain active in SAA in other ways in the future; I am co-authoring the next edition of Selecting and Appraising Archives and Manuscripts with Margery Sly, and I hope to volunteer again to advance SAA’s research and educational missions.

In order to ensure a smooth transition, the SAA Council has appointed Meredith Evans to complete my full term.

Thank you for your understanding. In my future role at the Library, I will strive to make a transformative impact on the stewardship of our nation’s cultural heritage, an impact that I hope you may someday appreciate. I regret that I had to make this choice, but as archivists it is imperative that we behave ethically and transparently to maintain the public’s trust in our essential services to society. SAA has several initiatives in store for the next three years that will strengthen archivists’ abilities to advocate for their value to their institutions and communities, and I’m confident that through the dedication of SAA leadership, staff, and members, SAA will continue to support your professional needs and aspirations.

Respectfully,

Michelle Light

Enforcing SAA’s Code of Conduct

By Nancy Beaumont, SAA Executive Director

Like many professional associations, SAA has a Code of Conduct that applies to all SAA-sponsored events, online spaces, and formal mentoring relationships.

Development of a Code was proposed by SAA members Rebecca Goldman and Mark Matienzo in January 2014. Council members Terry Baxter and Lisa Mangiafico were appointed to work with Goldman, Matienzo, and me to prepare a draft for Council discussion. From the May 2014 discussion document:

“The ability of SAA members to participate fully in the various events and forums that SAA hosts is a key component in the Society’s diversity and inclusion efforts. Members who feel unwelcome, unsafe, constrained, or silenced are not able to participate fully….

“The proposed policy is not intended to solve all problems nor will it guarantee a harassment-free environment…. What it does attempt to do is let our members know that SAA is creating a culture of concern, a place where members can participate freely in professional and social interaction knowing that harassment is not part of that culture and will be opposed by all members of the SAA community….”

Following a member comment period, the Council revised the document to address a major consideration:  Who would enforce it? The 477-word Code of Conduct that was approved in July 2014 refers to the Executive Director seven times. The rationale for this decision was simple:  The Executive Director, as the chief staff officer, provides continuity over time, has a broad reach to confer with others, and presumably has (i.e., had better have!) the administrative “chops” to be able and willing to enforce the Code:  To investigate, determine a course of action, and deliver a direct message to a Code violator.

The Code provides simple instructions for reaching me to report a Code violation—and it provides recourse if my action is deemed inappropriate:  “Persons who have been expelled or denied access may appeal to the SAA Executive Committee.”

Beyond my Council-directed assignment, it is critically important to me—professionally and personally—that SAA provides an environment that is welcoming to individuals and that does not “constrain scholarly or professional presentation, discourse, or debate, as long as these exchanges are conducted in a respectful manner.”

In my 15-year tenure with SAA, I have addressed inappropriate behaviors a handful of times.  In some cases, the right action was clear:

  • When an SAA staff member complained to me about improper comments made to her by an SAA leader, I addressed the complaint directly with the leader and was assured that there would be no further incidents. There weren’t.
  • When an anti-transgender and gender nonconforming flyer appeared in our registration area at the 2016 Annual Meeting, I worked with the hotel to review security videotapes and interview hotel staff to try to determine who had committed this despicable act. (Unfortunately we never learned who did it.) The Council took up the issue on site at the conference and soon thereafter issued a powerful statement about the incident.

In other cases—particularly those involving interaction on an SAA discussion list or during a conference session—the appropriate action has been less clear. Why? Because one important purpose of those tools is to provide a place for professional discourse and debate. The challenge comes with determining whether “these exchanges are conducted in a respectful manner.” This can be a gray area, and the process is made more challenging when I’m not told immediately so that I can gather perspectives on site.

At the 2018 Annual Meeting in Washington, DC, an audience member in an education session asked a question that at least several audience members thought was transphobic. I learned of the incident at the Saturday morning Council meeting, when a Council member brought it forward as something that she had heard about from others. SAA President Meredith Evans and I agreed to investigate.

During the following week:  I contacted the commenter by phone to discuss the incident and we subsequently had two email exchanges. Meredith spoke with both the session speaker and the commenter. I obtained the audio recording from our provider and Meredith and I listened to the session.  We agreed that the commenter had not intended to offend (although we understand that that is often the case!). And we agreed (as did the presenter) that beyond his attention-grabbing language, his question, in context, had merit. According to both, the presenter and commenter had an engaging professional exchange after the session ended.

Going forward, SAA will provide online training for conference speakers and course instructors about a host of issues, including slide design, time management, and how to handle challenging questions or disruptions during a session. The Code of Conduct will be even more visible throughout future conferences and events.

Please read SAA’s Code of Conduct.  If you experience or witness harassment in any SAA “space” and would prefer not to address it directly, please take your concerns and complaints not to Twitter, but to me. Reach me at nbeaumont@archivists.org or 866-722-7858, ext. 12.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] https://www2.archivists.org/statements/saa-code-of-conduct

[2] https://www2.archivists.org/sites/all/files/0514-VI-A-CodeofConduct.pdf

[3] https://www2.archivists.org/news/2016/message-from-the-saa-council-2016-annual-meeting-incident

Keeping Evidence & Memory: Archives Storytelling in the 21st Century (Presidential Address, SAA Annual Meeting), August 17, 2018 by Tanya Zanish-Belcher

A pre-recorded video version of this address is available here.

Good morning and welcome again to the annual meeting of the Society of American Archivists. I am honored to be speaking to you this morning as SAA’s 73rd President and would like to express my gratitude for having the opportunity to represent our organization this past year.

Three years ago, our SAA annual meeting theme was about Telling the Story of Archives as part of President Kathleen Roe’s Year of Living Dangerously. Recently the term storytelling just kept popping up everywhere for me. I subscribe to the Brain Pickings newsletter (edited by Maria Popova) which has the literary arts as a focal point. While I often delete the messages due to lack of time, I do save them if a subject catches my eye. And so, while I was reading what I had set aside, the word “Storytelling” appeared three times in conjunction with authors Iris Murdoch, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Susan Sontag. In the next day or so, the SAA Annual Meeting Program came out and I signed up to attend A Finding Aid to My Soul, an open-mic storytelling session tonight. In May, I was interviewed for a blog post on diversity in archives created by Pass It Down, which advertises itself as a digital storytelling company. And finally, just last week, I was standing at the elevator and saw a Wake Forest flyer advertising the MA in Sports Storytelling Program.

Beyond simply telling our own archives stories, though, I realized the term can also be used in how we consider the documentary record. Archives storytelling is, in every way, dependent on recorded evidence and memory. Researchers use the records we collect to make sense of the past, present, and future. Through archives and their use, there is a cycle of storytelling with multiple characters and perspectives, different endings, and even never endings.

As Murdoch observes “we are constantly employing language to make interesting forms out of experience which perhaps originally seemed dull or incoherent.” The making of sense belongs to the genealogists, researchers, scholars, and students who visit us or view our materials online. We can only hope that what we have acquired and collected can provide those interesting forms.

We need to remember that as Sontag points out “To tell a story is to say: this is the important story. It is to reduce the spread and simultaneity of everything to something linear, a path.” This is why we collect about inadequately represented communities, create a documentation strategy, or interview and capture the stories of those who have been left out of the historical record. Wherever archivists focus their attention and effort can expand the number of stories told.

Finally, Le Guin observed that One of the functions of archives is to give people the words to know their own experience… Storytelling is a tool for knowing who we are and what we want.”

However, how do we tell our story? The story of archivists? Who are we, and what do we want?

So, here is a short tale of what SAA (and when I say SAA, I mean all of us) has been working on over the past year. I’ll focus in particular on Advocacy, Diversity, the SAA Foundation, and Membership. There will be more to come in a forthcoming article in the American Archivist.

Advocacy
One of the primary ways we tell our story—for archivists, users, and the records, is through the practice of advocacy.  Nothing could have prepared me for the onslaught of historical record issues for this past year or two, especially at the federal record level. Public records, including local and state records, truly are essential to the functioning of American democracy. In my years as SAA President and Vice President, we have created numerous issue briefs and position statements, signed letters and petitions, and responded to external requests representing crucial national records concerns. The most recent relate to our support of the Presidential Records Act, concern over the illegal removal of Iraqi records from Iraq, and opposing the nomination of Gina Haspel as Director of the CIA (given her destruction of records documenting torture). We spoke about the importance of Net Neutrality, the Use of Private Email by all government officials, the need for Transparency in Public Records, the Value and Importance of the U.S. Census, and Police Mobile Camera Footage as a Public Record. For anyone interested in the labor-intensive and complex process by which these briefs and statements come to pass, please see my Off the Record blog post from July 16.

Why does SAA dedicate its time to advocacy and why is this important for us? Archivists play a special role in the preservation of the historical record and in many cases the preservation and access of these records are dependent on our local, state, and federal governments. Awareness building also allows us to share who we are with the public and why records are integral to their lives. Through these efforts we do our best to ensure that archival sources protect the rights of individuals and organizations, assure the continued accountability of governments and institutions based on evidence, and safeguard access to historical information and cultural heritage.

Diversity
Fostering diversity and inclusion within the profession continues to be a high priority for SAA. Fundraising for the MOSAIC Scholarship and the Brenda S. Banks Travel Award continues, and our key partnership with the Association of Research Libraries in the IMLS-funded Mosaic Fellows Program will last 2 and possibly 3 more years. I am also pleased to again announce that Council endorsed the Native American Protocols earlier this week.

The Task Force on Accessibility is updating our 2010 Best Practices for Working with Archives Employees and Users with Physical Disabilities and is expanding them to include neuro-disabilities, temporary disabilities, and others that may be in scope. A draft was shared earlier this week with Council, and member review will take place shortly.

Our Tragedy Response Initiative Task Force was proposed by our Diverse Sexuality and Gender Section, who were motivated by the Pulse Night Club tragedy as well as far too many other incidents in the past few years. The TF will provide guidance regarding policies, procedures, and best practices for acquisition, deaccessioning, preservation, and access of memorial collections. An update was provided in the Off the Record blog post on July 30 and a final report will be submitted by 2020.

Finally, sharing our expertise should be a priority. In my first job at the Alabama Department of Archives and History, I learned to process and describe collections and to grapple with the enormity, complexity and, quite often, the awfulness of American history. As a transplanted Yankee, it didn’t take me long to figure out the reason for the Confederate flag above the Capitol, or why the state holidays list included Confederate Memorial Day and Martin Luther King, Jr./Robert E. Lee Day (still). I understood too well why the street on which I was fortunate to attend the dedication of the Civil Rights Memorial at the Southern Poverty Law Center also hosted a Ku Klux Klan march several years later. This is not isolated to Alabama, or even to one region of our country. The symbols of oppression and our violent past are all around us.

Last fall’s events in Charlottesville point to the need for archivists to use our skills and experience to assist our communities in researching and determining the history of the names, images, and monuments in our midst. The Council’s Diversity and Inclusion Working Group has begun the process of creating a series of Diversity Toolkits available online for archivists and anyone else who needs its resources. The resources currently include materials for facilitating discussions, helping communities in crisis, researching monuments, and how to teach hard history at the K-12 level. A Bibliography for Monuments and Symbols of Oppression is also available on the SAA web site via an Off the Record blog post. The goal is to provide a starting point to learn more about these issues.

All this work is good. But more needs to be done. Diversity and Inclusion is not simply the purview of the Diversity Committee or our Sections or Council but is a responsibility for all of us.

SAA Foundation
Too many archival stories this past year have involved natural disasters–hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, and the terrifying fires on the west coast. Fortunately, the SAA Foundation’s National Disaster Recovery Fund was expanded in 2017 to include eligibility for Mexico and non-US Caribbean Islands and to award up to $5,000 in grant funding. As you can imagine, Hurricane Maria and the Mexican earthquake damaged many archival repositories. To date, the Foundation has awarded nine grants to archivists and repositories in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Mexico. We are grateful to our Latin American & Caribbean Cultural Heritage Archives Section for translating the application materials. We have a growing role to play in the American hemisphere and it is important we take that responsibility seriously.

The Foundation also supported a new travel grants program for 2018 to provide grants of up to $1,000 each for travel to attend the SAA Annual Meeting. We received nearly 80 applications for 10 grants! Sustainable funding for professional development is an obvious problem for archivists and so as I transition to the position of Immediate Past President and remain on the SAA Foundation Board for (at least) one more year, one of my goals will be to explore how we can connect with external foundations and match their available funding and interests with our needs.  In the meantime, I am happy to report that SAA Foundation Board recently approved $10,000 in travel grants for Austin 2019.

Membership and Professional Development
Recently, SAA has undertaken two recent membership surveys, one focused on institutional support for professional development and the other for the needs and interests of mid-career archivists. The results provided key data about what our members need for their success. I mentioned exploring foundation support for professional development, but we also obtained good information about what continuing education archivists would like to see SAA provide—courses on career planning, management, and leadership, among others. Your feedback in these surveys provide a path for SAA to follow over the next several years.

SAA members have recently reviewed the updated Principles of the Annual Meeting, the Code of Ethics, Best Practices for Internships as a Component of a Graduate Archival Program, and Best Practices for Volunteers. Treat these as the opportunities they are for having your voice heard. And never feel hesitant to contact your elected officers and Council.

These are only some of the SAA stories from the past year.

Here are some Recommendations for SAA’s Future.

First and foremost, we need to refocus our energies for Diversity and Inclusion. How can we better document and share the unique diversity projects being undertaken in so many of our repositories?  Archivists need to create case studies, essays, and articles and make them available through the SAA  website–this can help us ensure our important collection development efforts inspire others to establish new programs. The Diversity Toolkits also need to be finalized and we need all our members to contribute ideas and sources. If everyone in this room submitted a 500-word annotated source, the Toolkits would be a tremendous crowd-based resource for all. There will be a call after the annual meeting, so please plan to send in your suggestions.

Second, we need more information about the makeup of our profession so that SAA can work to meet the many needs of its members. In his 2016 President’s Address, Dennis Meissner called for the creation of a Task Force on Research/Data and Evaluation. The Task Force, created last fall, presented some preliminary findings at the May Council meeting. What questions would I like to see answered about us?

  • What is the current breakdown in percentage of degrees held by archivists? Thirty years ago, the predominant source of archives degrees was history programs. In A*CENSUS (2004), the breakdown was 39.4% for the MLS/MLIS vs 46.3% for the MA/MS/MFA. It now appears that most archivists entering the field are coming from library school programs—but it would be good to have those numbers confirmed. However, there are still many, many people working as archivists who chose another path to this profession. How can archivists coming from different backgrounds—and, in some cases, philosophies—communicate and collaborate most effectively? How can our continuing education programs assist in fostering community among such a disparate group?
  • How can we better collaborate with the graduate programs which funnel students into the profession? I have heard comments about the number of graduates and the perception they are overwhelming a small job market. SAA has done many evaluations and reports which indicate we simply cannot afford the cost of an official accreditation process. So, it may be time to think creatively about what SAA CAN do.
    • We can collect better documentation of all archives graduate programs, no matter the discipline, and increase the understanding of their strengths
    • We could collaborate with archival educators and host an annual forum as an invited opportunity for all archives program representatives, educators, and practicing archivists to meet and discuss issues?
    • We can foster forums for the various degree programs to discuss curriculum and other issues impacting archives students
    • We can explore collaborative assessment projects for programs and highlight student projects from a variety of programs?
  • As a profession, we also need more information about archivists’ salaries, organized by location, type of degree, type of repository, and geographic location. These data would give us important information that would enhance our programming and advocacy efforts. Increasingly, job ads with no salaries are the norm—how can we encourage more transparency for the profession? The National Council on Public History and the American Association for State and Local History recently introduced policies that any job ads shared on their site must have salaries posted. And as with the American Library Association, it would be good for SAA to provide an average salary by state in order to strengthen archivists’ negotiating power.
  • Knowing more about the various subsets of SAA membership would also be helpful, as we try to collect more valid and useful data. As I mentioned previously, what has happened to the Mosaic Scholarship participants, Mosaic Fellows, and Harold J. Pinkett Scholars? Are they still in the profession or have they moved to other careers? Why? How can we truly assess and improve our recruiting and retention efforts to expand the diversity of the profession? How effective is our mentoring program? Does our partnering structure work? How can we improve this experience? It is time to explore the ways we can truly examine our hiring and organizational practices.
  • It is apparent that the archives profession has many economic issues. These range from how graduates find the programs they attend, the lack of underrepresented communities participating as archivists, the increasing number of students, the limited number of permanent positions, and the overwhelming prevalence of Part-Time and Temporary positions, among others. SAA members recently reviewed the Best Practices for Internships and Volunteers, with many good ideas for revisions. However, in addition to these Best Practices I would suggest we proactively develop solutions for institutions to consider.Some possible ideas:
  • Investigate grant possibilities for the support, either profession-wide, or a consortium of institutions, much like our MOSAIC program to provide financial support
  • Fundraising in your home institution to create endowments or expendable accounts to support interns, and SAA-developed guidelines on how to make that happen.
  • Provide best practices to guide archivists communicating with their local graduate archives programs (who require internships as part of their degree process) to discuss these concerns further and develop ways to either provide support for interns, tuition remission, or provide the credit hours without cost to the student.

Given that the Task Force will most likely recommend the creation of an SAA Committee dedicated to Research, I would therefore propose the consideration of a subcommittee answering to the larger group. This subcommittee would be specifically dedicated to economic equity and collect data about employment matters, including benefits, internships, salaries, how and when graduates enter entry-level positions, promotions, retirement, and broader work topics such as developing apprenticeship programs and how to make our labor visible.

Until we have the data and the ability to thoroughly analyze the results, it is difficult for SAA to respond in a substantive manner.

It will always be difficult for a large/complex organization to move nimbly and be flexible, given competing priorities and SAA’s commitment to building consensus. Does SAA always get it right? Of course not.

However, I would argue that SAA succeeds more often than it fails. And I would like to believe that we are an organization that learns from its mistakes to do things better the next time.

Much like democracy, SAA is us, after all.

Challenges for the Archives Profession

While SAA faces significant tests, the broader archives profession also faces challenges. Sometimes these intersect and overlap, but not always. By joining SAA, you have already chosen a leadership position for the profession, and it is important to 1) be knowledgeable about organizations and affiliated professions other than your own and 2) consider how decision-making and discussions can also affect non-SAA members.

  1. The Value of the Public Record

Over the past three decades, there have been increasing pressures on the very concept of public records, something so key to the functioning of our American democracy. Secrecy and efforts to hide corruption and wrongdoing and “fake news” have been present in our political life dating back to the earliest days of the Republic. As we now live in a digital world, many of our basic beliefs about what can be controlled in the creation or alteration of a record, its authenticity and very meaning are called into question. Preservation and access to the public record, whether you are a government records archivist or not, should be a concern to you as a citizen.

The political spoils of our election system do have consequences for the historical record and have a direct impact on the efficacy of the archival enterprise. Current challenges for government archives sustainability include the overall shrinkage of governments and budget cuts for archives; the political appointments of individuals without archives experience or backgrounds; archives being subsumed by government bureaucracy and overwhelmed by unfunded mandates; and officials not understanding the role or importance of electronic records and digital preservation.

Citizens still have ways to challenge and question records restriction or destruction and protect open access, including FOIA requests, Sunshine laws, and calls for public comment on appraisal decisions. Just two weeks ago, CREW (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington) have brought Federal Records Act (FRA) lawsuits against the EPA, filed a FOIA request with the State Department, and after filing a complaint with NARA, an investigation is underway to determine if the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) violated the law by deleting records of immigrant families split at the border.

I would ask of you to serve as archives experts and responsible citizens to closely monitor your local archives, state archives and SHRABS, and NARA. Be an advocate and stay informed. Write letters to the local newspapers and talk with your legislators and representatives about the importance of archives. There are advocacy publications and affordable webinars forthcoming from SAA—use them. SAA and individual archivists have an important role to play as consistent and constant advocates.

  1. International Human Rights

I represented SAA at the International Council on Archives in Mexico City last fall and I came to some conclusions about the importance of SAA’s international activities. We have a major role to play in the American hemisphere and world, not only as a role model, but also sharing resources such as disaster funding, copyright discussions, and developing collaborative projects which can impact archivists in multiple countries. Given our meeting location in Austin next year, I would very much like to see a concerted effort to invite archivists from throughout the American hemisphere, especially Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and Southern America to join us and discuss both the questions and possibilities.

The documentation of human rights was also discussed. Past SAA President and former Interim Archivist of the United States Trudy Petersen reported on her work with Swisspeace, an effort (in collaboration with ICA) to preserve records in digital format in different geographic locations for protection purposes. They recently shared the draft Guiding Principles for Safe Havens for Archives at Risk for comment from the archives community. Amnesty International is also announcing a project for the preservation of digital records. According to their press release, “the new archive will accelerate investigations into human rights violations and protect digital records of significant historical importance to the global movement.” It is important we support this work and recognize that both activists and archivists play a role in ensuring the preservation and access to these records.

  1. Allied Memory Organizations and Professions

The various communities comprising digital humanities, digital libraries, history, library, museum, and public history fields that overlap with the archives profession continue to expand and splinter. There is a distinct need to map our associated collection and memory professions and how our grants, projects, and research activities impact all of us.

Later today, we will be meeting with representatives of nearly 20 organizations, including the American Association for State and Local History, the Association for Moving Image Archivists, the Coalition for Networked Information, the Digital Library Federation, and RBMS, among others. We plan to discuss how we can more effectively collaborate and share information about data gathering, advocacy strategies, research methodologies, and user infrastructure, when we remain so incredibly siloed.

  1. Leadership and Service

I want to conclude this presentation with some brief points about your own leadership practice as I believe this is where SAA truly has so much to offer to each of you. Both SAA and the archives profession need you. It needs every one of you—your energy, your willingness to work hard, your perspective. Keep these things in mind as you write your own story.

Be strategic and mindful about your archives career and service. Dedicate yourself to what you truly care about and are willing to spend the time on.

Leaders are made, not born. Consider every experience you have as an important step on your path and as a part of your individual story.

Believe in yourself and share yourself with others. Smile and say hello to someone at this meeting you don’t know. Share a story from your archives. Find a mentor. Be a mentor. When a colleague calls on you for advice, answer.

Finally, I would also advise the following given how emotionally taxing our work can be at times.

Remember why you do what you do. Take time for reflection and introspection.

Take comfort in the friendship and support of your archives friends and colleagues.

Appreciate and feel the gratitude of your donors, no matter if they are individuals, offices, or agencies.

Remember the integral role you play in creating the historical record. Be creative and strategic on how you accomplish your vocation.

And here’s my final thought. While archivists are about records, what we really are about is people. The people who created and saved the records, present, past, and future and the people who want to use them to construct new narratives. Our mission is how can we best serve as thoughtful and dedicated intermediaries to ensure their stories and lives are not forgotten.

Thank you for sharing this time with me today.

What About Invisible Labor? by Tanya Zanish-Belcher

Invisible labor has been a hot topic in the archives profession over the last couple of years. The invisible labor of archivists, so often unseen and underappreciated, is a constant theme on Twitter and a source of real angst. It is difficult to do work you believe in when that work remains discounted. The increasing presence of temporary positions—full time, part time, project archivist, and unpaid internship—has resulted in a growing sense of frustration in the profession, as indicated by the recent letter from UCLA Temporary Faculty. I will discuss these issues briefly in my presidential address (Keeping Evidence and Memory: Archives Storytelling in the 21st Century) on Friday morning, August 17, at the Joint Annual Meeting.

A recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education described six stereotypes of archivists, none of them flattering. The author later tweeted that her “affectionate” article was simply misunderstood, that the Chronicle loved it, and that archivists were coming after her with “pitchforks.” One of the things I love most about our profession is that, although we may squabble and disagree with each other, when someone comes after our profession and our calling, our deep emotions about what we do kick in and are on full display. As SAA’s letter to the editor of the Chronicle noted, “…here’s something essential to know about archivists: We are passionate stewards of the collections we keep, and we are committed to providing access to the records in our care and assisting researchers in discovering records that are relevant to their projects. We are your allies in the stacks, and all of us—researchers and archivists alike—are on the same side.”

What might have been more relevant and helpful would be for the Chronicle to publish an article focused on an archivist and researcher, who could discuss the actual professional give and take of a collaborative relationship. How might we redirect our passion to make sure this is the kind of story told, as opposed to spending our energies on responding to a snarky and disrespectful one? It would reaffirm our efforts, both as individual archivists and as a professional association, to share more about who we are, what we do, and the impact we have. We need to connect and build alliances with our media partners to ensure that the deep complexity of our work is represented appropriately.

Finally, I also want to make the observation that we have invisible labor right in front of us, too, namely the SAA staff. We have 12 full-time staff. We employ people. They work for us. Our dues pay them and pay for the programs they run for us. They oversee the governance of our appointed groups and sections, develop workshops and organize the instructors to teach them, work with authors to write books. They build alliances with other organizations, plan the Annual Meeting, answer membership questions. Our dues feed back into financial support for the sections, the programming we do, our advocacy efforts, the workshops we teach, the publications we publish, and the support we provide for those who are willing to volunteer and serve. Many of the things that we worry about as archives professionals, such as burnout, life balance, and professional development, also apply to these individuals who work for our professional association.

Although I recognize the budgetary challenges that our small non-profit organization faces, I would be remiss if, at the end of my term, I didn’t share that I believe a lack of staff is holding SAA back in myriad ways. There are so many important chores done by volunteers, with a hardworking staff responding to fire after fire that we are often unable to focus our efforts where they would have the most impact. I would recommend the creation or reorganization of already existing staff to oversee the following (mind, these are only recommendations for consideration by the Executive Director):

First is the hiring of a Development Officer who would oversee grant solicitation and administration as well as fundraising for our Foundation. It’s time for SAA to examine how foundations can help us in our work, and while I do plan to spend some time on this issue next year, there is a distinct need for someone to permanently drive and supervise this work.

Second, given the impetus to conduct research about archives and archivists and the necessity for long-term permanent storage of these data, SAA has a distinct need for a Research and Standards Coordinator. The Coordinator would work directly with the Committee on Research (yet-to-be-created), the Research Forum, the Standards Committee, and others to develop long-term strategies.

Third, we have an Executive Director and a number of positions reporting directly to her. I would add a Deputy Executive Director, whose responsibility it is to respond to member requests and supervise the overall running of the SAA office. This would free the Executive Director’s time to focus on broader issues, including SAA’s mission and vision as well building alliances among our allies, the media, and external organizations.

I understand SAA’s budget does not necessarily support the addition of positions. However, there may come a time when we have no choice.

How do we make the invisible visible? By both documenting the important role of the archivist and the historical record, and demonstrating it constantly, consistently, and strategically. This is time-consuming and labor intensive, to be sure. However, as Tim Ericson points out in his article “Preoccupied with our Own Gardens: Outreach and Archivists” (Archivaria 31 (Winter 1990-1991), pp: 114-122) “Regarding our concern with image, awareness and education, it is important to keep our focus on the records we are preserving and the impact they have ( or may have) on the lives of people who would benefit from using them….As long as we stay in our reading rooms and avoid touching the lives of those whom we would serve, then all of our well-intentioned efforts to improve our image, and all our programs to explain what we do and why it is important will fall on deaf ears. We need to show people, not tell them. “