Optimism Is the Only Practical Solution

This article originally appeared as the President’s Message in the November/December 2021 issue of Archival Outlook.

One of the SAA Council’s responsibilities is to develop and implement a strategic plan. As I write this, the Council is sched­uled to meet in November to refresh the strategic plan.

I’ll admit it: I love strategic planning. This is owed fully to Carolyn Hart, who headed strategic planning at one of my first professional jobs at the Atlanta University Center Woodruff Library. Carolyn knew how to make strategic planning fun, but she also knew how to appeal to people like myself: people who enjoy creating, but are tied to the reality of day-to-day work and finite resources. Dreams can be practical.

Although Carolyn’s method had a positive impact on me, I am less impressed by the roots of strategic planning—in the military. “The art of the general” refers to how one deploys their troops and remains a major criticism of the process. Too much strategic planning is done by senior leadership who do not care to understand the jobs/lives/fears/dreams/needs/pain of those at other levels in the hierarchy or the communities they intersect with on a daily basis. That lack of care is how we are crushed by hierarchy.

I’ve been made miserable by both the process and the result of poorly led strategic planning. I have sat through too many sessions where the goal was clearly to tack on new work that took away from day-to-day operations and existing commitments, to elevate shiny ideas still half-baked, and to ignore the truly powerful function of strategic planning: the diagnosis of—and treatment for— structural problems.

Also as I write this, a Council working group is collating and reviewing member feedback (gathered online through comment, via email, and in two online forums) on the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA) Work Plan. The results will be in the revised strategic plan. This is the culmination of a great deal of work, started by a report and recommendations prepared by the Diversity Committee, and informed by the “Black Lives and Archives” listening sessions held in July 2020.

DEIA is not a new strategic direction, but descriptive of one of our fractures. Over the years, many members diagnosed SAA with structural problems that make our organization exclusive rather than inclusive and that privilege the few over the many. The work plan is the Council’s method for addressing those structural problems by taking the recommendations of expert members, requesting wide feedback, and setting goals for ourselves via the new strategic plan. This is leadership addressing one of the dimensions of our problems. It does not excuse individual bad actors.

Addressing structural problems must be the work of senior leadership in any organization. I recently read a commentary by Amy Davidson Sorkin of The New Yorker noting that you can’t address structural problems if you are “trying to restock the pasta.” In my job, I am not paid to do the operational work that moves our programs forward; I am paid to lead and facilitate that work. As president of SAA, I was not elected to do the operational work of SAA staff or our members that move our programs forward. I was elected to lead and facilitate the improvement of our structural problems.

I’m a leader in my job, but I’m also a staff member. I’m a leader in SAA, but I am also a member of the Society. I will never be a part of a strategic plan that isn’t considerate of the work already being done, of our collective concerns, or of our pain. We will make decisions that take into account the resources of SAA, the voices of our members, and the flaws in the structure.

Grace and Futurism

This article originally appeared as the President’s Message in the September/October 2021 issue of Archival Outlook.

I am looking forward to a good year.

At this point in time, “good” has become a relative term. After eighteen months of great turmoil in our country, I sometimes struggle to articulate hopes and dreams beyond conducting my day-to-day life and work. My anxiety, depression, and impostor syndrome have had too much fodder lately for me to see much of the forest for the trees.

In the past few months, I have changed jobs, moved away from the South for the first time, and taken my seat as the 76th president of the Society of American Archivists. Rather than feeling overwhelmed by change, I feel refreshed. I suspect it’s because I am so desperate to see the forest again, in all of its great and mysterious complexity. I don’t want to move on or go back to “normal,” but I want something that works better and fits better and makes me feel more successful and adjusted.

After the SAA Annual Meeting in August, I had my first meeting with Jackie Price Osafo, SAA’s new executive director, and Terry Baxter, SAA vice president. In a joking moment, Terry said that the theme of my year as president should be “futurism” and Jackie suggested “grace and futurism!” (In this instance, “grace” is a reference to the remarks I offered at the annual SAA Membership Business Meeting on August 3. You can see my remarks on the SAA president’s blog, Off the Record.)

I do believe in a brighter future, but there is a cost to idealism. It requires a great deal of advocacy and critical thinking to believe our world can improve when faced with overwhelming evidence to the contrary. SAA must address the ongoing health, climate, and justice emergencies with an eye to how we build a more safe, sustainable, and equitable future.

I do have specific hopes and dreams for my year in SAA, most of which center continuing work that is already in process: strengthening and implementing the work plan developed by the SAA Council Working Group on DEIA; evaluating the ongoing health of our sections; reconsidering our membership model; and participating in the Foundation Board’s strategic work with a development consultant. I also plan to work with the Council to refocus on SAA’s strategic plan, opening up the planning process to more members and groups within SAA and creating accountability measures for initiatives that we add.

A final concern for me is to ensure that Jackie Price Osafo’s first year as executive director is a resounding success. In just a few short months, Jackie has already proven to be a great asset to our organization and, as president, I want nothing more than to prove to her that SAA is a worthy choice for this step in her career.

On Grace

The below remarks were delivered by SAA President Courtney Chartier at the annual SAA Membership Business Meeting on August 3, 2021. Chartier was responding to an open letter to NARA published by the American Historical Association. You can read the letter here (scroll down); AHA has since published an apology to NARA available on the same webpage, and SAA has responded.

Thank you everybody for being here today. I actually rewrote my remarks for this afternoon in light of the American Historical Association’s (AHA) open letter to NARA, questioning NARA’s plans for reopening their reading rooms; the letter is available on AHA’s website or, if you’re an active Twitter user, there have been a lot of responses online from our community.

A nice way to characterize the letter is to say it is condescending and was not written with much compassion for the people who staff archival institutions. I actually saw a Tweet from another archivist, Emily Higgs Kopin, who summed it up perfectly, saying, “The effect . . . is not necessarily anger or frustration with being told how to do our jobs, it’s just despair.”

This resonates so strongly with me. I’ve felt so stretched the last 15 months, not just in my capacity to get my work done, but in my capacity to do it while also caring for my family, my friends, and my own physical and mental health. To see immediate criticisms of what I consider to be a practical plan for access from our National Archives is truly an exercise in despair.

I do recognize that this letter does not represent every member of AHA, and that AHA members are not all of our researchers. I’ve interacted with many researchers over the last 15 months who have shown nothing but care for archivists and true joy and appreciation for whatever access we were able to provide to them.

In a word, they showed great grace in their responses to me and to my colleagues and our work.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the word “grace” and what it actually means. I just started a new job and therefore I have to ask people a lot of questions to get anything done, and I try to remember to thank them especially for their grace in teaching me, in responding to me, and in the care they show in responding to what I need.

If you go to the dictionary, the definition of the word, the one we probably go to first, is about movement, physical grace. But people give me the gift of their behavioral grace, their spiritual grace, their goodwill and their kindness every single day. 

I imagine you are familiar with the word as a verb, too. “To grace” someone or something is to honor it, to be a credit to it. Showing compassion is an act of grace. Those researchers who have been so patient and kind throughout the pandemic are a credit to all of our researchers, and they truly grace us.

A lot of this has come up for me lately because of one person. That person who really got me thinking about grace more than anyone else is Simone Biles. I mean, she’s an incredibly graceful person; I’m a klutz so I’m always astonished by people who seem to know exactly where their bodies are in space at all times. But in the last few weeks she’s also given me a masterclass in that other kind of grace. Grace to her sport, grace to her teammates, and most impressively, grace to herself.

I care about researchers, but I care about my colleagues more. I care about other archivists and the joy of our profession a lot more. And even though the profession does some things poorly, it does some things with great grace. And even though SAA is an institution like any other, while it sometimes does things poorly, it also does some things with incredible grace. 

I do have some specific platform goals for my year as president that I had intended to share with you this afternoon, and I will [share these in a follow-up post on this blog and in forthcoming issues of Archival Outlook]. But in my fairly short time with you today, what I really wanted to say is that we all deserve grace. To be shown it, to show it in turn, and to fully give ourselves the grace we need as people to heal, and to process, and to rediscover the joy that does exist in our colleagues, and in our collections, and in our profession. 

I hope each of you has a wonderful meeting. You deserve grace, and I appreciate you. Thank you.

Celebrating Change

This article originally appeared as the President’s Message in the July/August 2021 issue of Archival Outlook.

When I was asked to run for SAA president/vice president-elect in early 2019, I didn’t know exactly what to expect, but I certainly didn’t expect the year and a half that we’ve had! With a public health crisis, significant social and political unrest, extreme budget uncertainty, and oh, yes, a transition in our staff leadership. It has been a steep learning curve, but I’m very proud of how you—SAA’s members—have pivoted and supported our organization. I’m just sorry that we won’t be together in person in August to celebrate. But, we’ll do it next year in Boston!

With all these transitions and changes, I am excited for SAA’s next chapter. As we announced in June, the Council has appointed Jacqualine Price Osafo as SAA’s next executive director. As much as I like to say that we are the Society OF American Archivists, not FOR, the SAA staff is an absolutely critical element in our ability to support and advocate for our profession. The executive director provides not only critical leadership to staff, but also essential support and guidance for the SAA Council and its officers.

Beyond SAA, there are transitions happening in our work lives as well. Many of us are returning to work in our repositories, libraries, and offices. For some of us, that transition has meant pulling out old wardrobes; for others it has meant buying a new one. It also means seeing our customers and researchers for the first time, knowing that they are undergoing transitions as well. In early June, SAA hosted a forum on “Reopening Archives Safely” to share experiences and address questions and concerns that people may have. (Watch a recording of this event at https://www.pathlms.com/saa/events/1996/video_presentations/201293.) Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, SAA has focused on supporting the evolving needs of members as they adapt to change.

Finally, my thanks to the members of the SAA Executive Director Search Committee for their hard work in selecting a final candidate, to the Council and Executive Committee for their flexibility and good sense, to the SAA staff for being nimble and resilient, and to Nancy Beaumont for being a great mentor, friend, and fellow small dog lover. You have all made my time in this leadership role rewarding, and I’m grateful for your help in carrying some of the burden of leadership. I appreciate you all, SAA members, for your fellowship and for trusting me in this position. And I appreciate the Special Collections folks at the Denver Public Library for their patience and understanding each time I’ve said “and then I have an SAA meeting!” It has been my pleasure and my honor to serve. For now, you can reach me at president@archivists.org.

Meet Jacqualine Price Osafo—SAA’s New Executive Director

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2021 issue of Archival Outlook.

Jacqualine Price Osafo, a Certified Association Executive with a master of business administration in entrepreneurship and strategic innovation from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, brings thirty years of association management experience at multiple individual membership and trade company organizations in key areas such as membership, education programs, products, budget, and staffing. She starts July 15, 2021, and succeeds Nancy Beaumont, who retired after eighteen years as executive director.

Previously, Osafo served as vice president of membership for the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), director of membership and development for five years at the Water Quality Association, and director of membership services and customer care at the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy. She is a champion of diversity, equity, and inclusivity and currently serves as chair of the Black Indigenous People of Color Advisory Task Force for Association Forum (an association management professional organization). Among her honors, Osafo was selected in 2018 by the American Society of Association Executives as a Diversity Executive Leadership Scholar and in 2017 received the Association Forum’s Professional Achievement Award.

Recently, Archival Outlook Editor Abigail Christian talked with Osafo about past projects, favorite songs, and why she’s excited to join SAA.

AC: You have more than thirty years of association management experience! Tell us why you love the work of associations.

JPO: As a temporary employee for the Emergency Nurses Association, I was responsible for stuffing envelopes for various mailings. A naturally curious person, I read the mailings and continued my quest for understanding the power of associations. Since then, I have held many association positions, and my passion for association professionals can be summed up as this: Association professionals make the world a better place! Whether it is providing education courses, resources, or a network of like-minded peers, these benefits support member value. In addition, research and advocacy efforts, which impact legislation that trickles down to the public, continue to drive my passion as an association executive. It was research conducted by the Water Quality Association, where I served for five years as director of membership and development, that determined unacceptable lead levels in drinking water. In my opinion, association professionals are the “unsung heroes” who are quietly making the world a better place. For this, I am committed to remaining an association executive.

AC: What is one initiative that you’re proud to have been a part of?

JPO: During my recent position as the vice president of membership with AHIMA, shifting the online engagement experience was a significant undertaking, especially during a pandemic. Like the rest of the world, it was necessary to provide virtual experiences for members to engage based on their ever-changing needs. AHIMA’s new platform allows members to personalize their experiences by joining communities that interest them. The number of engaged members increased by 20%, and 74% of the users access the platform at least 28 days per month. The ability to meet members at their point of need is a must!

AC: Apart from the work of associations, what are your favorite things to do?

JPO: Outside of work, you’ll find me enjoying time with family and friends. I am one of eight siblings, and I have more than twenty nieces and nephews. I enjoy spending time with young adults, as well as exploring the creative minds of my six- and eight-year-old nephews. And I love music—one of my favorite songs is “Stairway to Heaven” in both the Led Zeppelin and Mary J. Blige versions. I enjoy the exquisite sound created by the acoustic guitar, piano, flute arrangement, and other musical instruments. You will also find me dancing to many of my favorite tunes—a passion my mother inspired by allowing me to dance on the coffee table as a child!

AC: What excites you about working with archivists and SAA?

JPO: I am delighted to have been selected to serve as SAA’s executive director. As someone who values information and the art of maintaining, SAA’s mission to “empower archivists to achieve professional excellence and foster innovation to ensure the identification, preservation, understanding, and use of records of enduring value” inspires me. We use past information as one of the sources for making present-day decisions and future predictions, which is why I resonated with SAA’s commitment to integrity, transparency, and collaboration. I look forward to serving as your champion, fulfilling set strategies, and continuing to add value to the member experience. You can reach me at jpriceosafo@archivists.org.

What to Watch for at ARCHIVES*RECORDS 2021—Reflections from Ithaka S+R.

by Makala Skinner

Next month, archivists from across the country will convene virtually to discuss emerging and ongoing issues in the field at the Society of American Archivists (SAA) Annual Meeting, ARCHIVES*RECORDS 2021: Together/Apart. This year’s meeting will take place from August 4 to 6 (with some pre-conference activities earlier in the week) and will showcase 10 live sessions and 20 pre-recorded sessions with live Q&As. The conference will feature keynote speakers, general sessions, networking opportunities, poster sessions, and conversation lounges for informal discussion.

The SAA Annual Meeting takes place each summer, historically in-person at different locales across the US. The virtual format, necessitated in both 2020 and 2021 by the ongoing global health crisis, has offered some benefits distinct from in-person convenings. Along with expanding access by removing travel and lodging costs as a barrier to attendance, participants will have on-demand access to all sessions, providing attendees with the ability to view sessions at their convenience even after the conference has concluded.

As I look ahead to attending the 85th Annual Meeting, the schedule includes salient topics worth previewing.  Here I discuss two notable themes across sessions that are particularly important at this juncture in time.

The impact of the pandemic on archivists and archival work

The SAA Annual Meeting is showcasing a number of sessions that grapple with the impact of the pandemic on the archives profession. Session topics range from the implications and ethics of collecting items relating to the pandemic to how the shift to online work has affected project management and archival activities, including:

Critical approaches to collecting and describing collections

The conference also has several sessions highlighting reparative work in archival collections. Documented materials and histories have come under greater scrutiny in recent years, and addressing exclusionary narratives and racist language in archives is a prominent priority for the field. Here are just a few sessions on this topic:

Both of these themes are crucial to the current context. We’re a year and a half into a global pandemic that has had a dramatic impact on how archivists work and brings up questions of how to record such a consequential event. Likewise, the US is in the midst of a renewed reckoning with racism and unequal power structures. Archives and archivists are central to this work because of their role in how history is captured and relayed to future generations. I’m looking forward to attending sessions on these topics and hearing insights from practitioners in the field.

At the Annual Meeting, I will also be presenting with Beth Myers, Director of Special Collections at Smith College, on A*CENSUS II at two events: Research and Innovation @ SAA: A*CENSUS II (5:00 PM – 6:00 PM EDT on Thursday, August 5) and a Forum on A*CENSUS II (4:00 PM – 5:00 PM EDT on Friday, August 6). A*CENSUS II is a collaborative, large-scale survey initiative being conducted by SAA and Ithaka S+R, funded through the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The survey results will present an updated snapshot of the perspectives, practices, and needs of archivists and leaders of archival organizations across the country. This fall, we will launch a survey of every self-identified archivist/archives and community memory worker in the US to gather information about their demographics, educational background and needs, job placement and status, and salaries, as well as their perspectives on key issues in the field. This survey will represent the first large-scale census of the archives field in 17 years, building on the foundation of the first A*CENSUS initiative in 2004. A second survey of senior leaders and directors of archival organizations/institutions will be fielded subsequently in early 2022 to gather data about institutional characteristics, resources, strategic directions, and diversity, equity, inclusion, and access issues. I hope to see you at the conversation lounge, forum, or one of the other sessions planned for the SAA Annual Meeting!

Makala Skinner is a senior analyst at Ithaka S+R on the Libraries, Scholarly Communication, and Museums team.

True Grit

This article originally appeared as the Executive Director’s Message in the May/June 2021 issue of Archival Outlook.

Too much screen time and eye strain in the past year has led me to Audible and, at long last, to Angela Duckworth’s narration of her 2016 book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. A teacher, psychologist, neuroscientist, researcher, mother, and general overachiever, she explores the predictability of success—graduating from West Point (when one in five cadets drops out) or from a Chicago public high school (when 12% of students don’t), selling vacation time-shares (can’t imagine anything less rewarding), or winning the National Spelling Bee. Talent and luck help, of course. But, she concludes: “In sum, no matter the domain, the highly successful had a kind of ferocious determination that played out in two ways. First, these exemplars were unusually resilient and hardworking. Second, they knew in a very, very deep way what it was they wanted. They not only had determination, they had direction. It was this combination of passion and perseverance that made high achievers special. In a word, they had grit.”

What has struck me, in the context of both the past year and my time at SAA, is the number of high achievers in my life and work who have had that extraordinary combination. None has attained celebrity or wealth, but each has had success in making a significant difference in the lives and work of others.

My father, the son of very poor Jewish immigrants and a Class of ’41 USMA graduate whose proudest achievement (on top of becoming a pilot at all) was leading a C-54 squadron in the Berlin Airlift. My mother, who made a home 47 times as the partner of an Army/Air Corps trainee and Air Force officer—including in a converted chicken coop in Pampa, Texas, in the summer of 1943, with an infant in cloth diapers. And my beloved big sister, P.K., who raised an amazing family, who completed her college degree at the age of 54—summa cum laude while working full time—and whose ten-year battle with Parkinson’s disease ended on August 19, 2018. My real-life heroes had grit.

I’ve never been one to consider SAA leaders or staff my “family” (as in “one big happy family”); “community” is how I prefer to view our relationships. But I can say that ours has been a very special community, born of a commitment shared by some really smart people and nurtured by countless hours of determination and teamwork.

Each year for the past eighteen years, I’ve had the opportunity to work closely with the individuals who put themselves forward to serve as SAA President. Their motivations differed: some had a passion for the profession writ large, some hoped to advance a particular agenda. Each brought talent to the job, and some were luckier than others. Every single one of them was called on, once or several times, to work through a crisis or calamity or challenge or opportunity that required them to dig deep to see it through. I thank you for your grit, Peter Hirtle, Tim Ericson, Rand Jimerson, Richard Pearce-Moses, Elizabeth Adkins, Mark Greene (may his memory be a blessing), Frank Boles, Peter Gottlieb, Helen Tibbo, Gregor Trinkaus-Randall (may he rest in peace), Jackie Dooley, Danna Bell, Kathleen Roe, Dennis Meissner, Nance McGovern, Tanya Zanish-Belcher, Meredith Evans, and Rachel Vagts.

On the SAA Foundation side: Founding President Fynnette Eaton set the tone with her ferocious passion for creating the SAA Foundation, and Presidents Scott Cline and Margery Sly have polished this gem over time with great skill and perseverance.

The SAA staff, whom I can’t help but name at every opportunity, have shown an unrivaled determination to serve SAA’s members and the archives profession well. My thanks and admiration to current staff members Matt Black, Teresa Brinati, Abigail Christian, Peter Carlson, Felicia Owens, Akila Ruffin, Carlos Salgado, Rana Salzmann, Michael Santiago, and Lakesha Thaddis. To former staff members Taylor Camara, Solveig DeSutter, Lee Gonzalez, Tom Jurczak, Rene Mueller, Patti O’Hara, and Jeanette Spears. To our conference team members Stacey Ogren, Allison Perrelli, and Paul Henning. To Paula Ashley.

And just because I can: I thank Paul, my love, my partner, and the best and grittiest association executive I know, for his unwavering support.

The SAA membership is rich with high achievers. I hope that you will match your talent with the power of passion and perseverance. Be gritty. Be kind. Have your value-of-archives-and-archivists elevator speech ready. And please take good care.

Incorporating DEIA and Archival Compensation Recommendations in SAA

This article originally appeared as the President’s Message in the May/June 2021 issue of Archival Outlook.

At its March virtual meeting, much of the SAA Council’s agenda was related to the Society’s ongoing commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and access (DEIA). Addressing diversity issues and moving intentionally to a culture of inclu­sion has been a part of SAA’s Strategic Plan for many years, and in recent years we have moved this work to our highest priority.

Now embedded in SAA’s Strategic Plan “dashboard” (a detailed view of specific activities to address our goals) is a charge to the Council’s Internal Working Group on Diversity and Inclusion to draft a work plan for incorporating DEIA and cultural competency into all aspects of SAA’s work, taking into account SAA’s Strategic Plan 2020–2022 and informed by existing goals and strategies developed by component groups. The action-oriented plan will be comprehensive in considering the breadth of SAA’s programs, including membership, staffing, and governance and leadership structures. Due on May 31, the plan will outline a multiyear approach to expanding SAA’s resources with the use of external experts and facilitators; meeting the education and training needs of SAA leaders, members, and staff; and developing internal resources for future leaders. I am grateful to Council member Meg Tuomala for her willingness to chair this group and see its daunting task to completion so that we have a road map for the next several years.

Also during the Council’s March meeting, the Diversity Committee presented a fantastic report that compiled feedback and significant recommendations following last summer’s well-attended Black Lives and Archives forums. The report includes recommendations in four areas that have an impact on the people who work in our profession and the practice of archives:

  • recruitment and retention,
  • structural barriers within SAA,
  • DEI training and education for archives workers, and
  • archival practice.

I encourage you to read the full report and recommendations. This report arrived at just the right time to inform and influence the Council’s work plan.

The Diversity Committee’s recommenda­tions align with the work of SAA’s Archival Compensation Task Force, which seeks to require salary reporting in postings on the SAA job board and to propose recom­mendations regarding contingent labor. The complexity of issues surrounding fair compensation and the ongoing impact of the ever-increasing number of contingent labor positions remains a concern for the SAA Council, many SAA members, and me.

Determining how best to address the issues of salary transparency and equity is a challenging proposition in our profession. Many of us currently work or have worked for organizations that simply refuse to share salary information publicly. Some of our colleagues have had success in advocating with their employers to reverse that policy. Will requiring salary information on all job board postings hasten that organizational change or will it disenfranchise a segment of our profession from recruiting among our members? We don’t have the answer to that question yet, but please know that the Council has been engaging in a robust discussion and we welcome members’ input. As always, you can reach me at president@archivists.org.

Exhaustion / Exhilaration

This article originally appeared as the Executive Director’s Message in the March/April 2021 issue of Archival Outlook.

We’ve slipped into another March, and the “before times” seem so remote. I’m both exhausted and exhilarated by our transition to a new way of doing things. Our need to connect—and the relative ease of doing so virtually—has meant more frequent meetings of SAA’s volunteer groups and a resultant uptick in activity. The SAA Council and the Foundation Board now meet every other month, and many of our committees, working groups, and task forces meet monthly. It’s exhausting to do the research, prepare the reports, conduct the Zoom meetings, write the minutes and action lists, and do the follow-up work in time for reporting out at the next meeting. It’s made all of us—volunteers and staff alike—more accountable for keeping things moving. And it’s resulted in a lot of good things happening! To cite a few:

Following its recent review of the Strategic Plan, the SAA Council will commit the time and talents of its own Internal Working Group on DEI to the following task: “By May 31 . . . draft a work plan for incorporating diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility, and cultural competency into all aspects of SAA’s work.” SAA has most assuredly—and intentionally—become a more welcoming and accessible organization over the years. But this much-needed focus by the Council on creating an actionable plan provides the best chance for SAA’s success. I know that the next executive director will benefit from having a plan in place as a path forward.

The SAA Foundation Board hopes to broaden its membership with its recent call for volunteers to serve on the Board. Check out the FAQs for Board service and volunteer by April 15! And Foundation committees are currently selecting a development consultant to assist in setting a direction for sustainable growth, reviewing Strategic Growth Fund grant proposals, and making timely decisions on requests for Archival Workers Emergency Fund support.

We’ve long aspired to broadening accessibility to our Digital Archives Specialist and A&D certificate programs. SAA Education recently announced that core courses are now available online in a new on-demand format. Behind this announcement is significant revision and updating of courses on grant writing, copyright, and privacy and confidentiality (for starters), each taught by an expert practitioner and consisting of multiple video presentations, slides, exercises, and a course exam. Our thanks to the Committee on Education and Digital Archives Specialist Subcommittee and to Gina Minks and Joshua Kitchens, our instructors for these first-out-of-the-chute offerings.

The Membership Committee’s very active subcommittees on the Mentoring Program, Key Contacts, and Career Development have made great strides. Be sure to check out SAA’s new Career Services Commons, a permanent online space for SAA members to access and offer career advising sessions, mock interviews, and résumé review services. Now all members—including those who can’t attend the Annual Meeting and its onsite “Career Center”—will have access to these services year-round.

We’re delighted that Laura Millar, author of SAA/ALA’s acclaimed A Matter of Facts: The Value of Evidence in an Information Age, will participate in our fifth annual One Book, One Profession reading initiative. The Publications Board is sponsoring a free online event on March 25 featuring Millar and panelists Valencia Johnson, Geoffrey Yeo, Louis Jones, and SAA Publications Editor Stacie Williams. We hope you’ll join in this book discussion to consider why archives matter today and how we can—and must—convince the world of their value! Register here and, if you’d like to conduct your own book group, find a study guide and tips on facilitating a reading group here.

Beginning with the Spring/Summer 2021 issue, we will publish American Archivist in an entirely digital format. This tough decision by the SAA Council acknowledges the ever-increasing production expenses of print (e.g., paper costs, fuel surcharges) and the impact of the pandemic on distribution and budgets. The good news is that we migrated all journal content to a new, much friendlier digital platform late last year. I love print as much as anyone. (At one point, I wanted to be a pressman so that I could spend my days steeped in the fragrance of ink on paper.) But this is a necessary step in responsibly stewarding SAA’s resources.

I could go on and on—as I often do—about the excellent and exciting work of the Committee on Public Awareness (with its ArchivesAWARE! blog), the team producing the charming Archives in Context podcast, the Committee on Public Policy (which is continuously at work monitoring the public policy landscape and preparing issue briefs), the Committee on Research, Data, and Assessment (SAA Dataverse, anyone?), the 2021 Program Committee, the A*CENSUS II Working Group, and others. Instead, I’ll ask you to keep your eye on the SAA website, In the Loop, the Announcements List, and your section lists for updates on SAA’s many and varied activities labors of love.

The Search for SAA’s Next Executive Director Begins

This article originally appeared as the President’s Message in the March/April 2021 issue of Archival Outlook.

It’s with bittersweetness that I share that our long-serving executive director, Nancy Beaumont, will step down from her position once a successor has joined the association. During her eighteen-year tenure, Nancy has guided us through periods of both growth and challenge. She will be greatly missed, as she has become a friend to so many of us during her tenure.

We’re fortunate that Nancy is leaving us in a strong position to recruit a successor. The task won’t be easy, but we have a compelling and important story to tell as we seek candidates to fill the role.

The SAA Council has formed a search committee to oversee the process of selecting a new executive director and we have retained an executive search firm, Vetted Solutions, to coordinate the search.

The search committee comprises the following members:

  • Courtney Chartier (SAA vice president/president-elect and head of Research Services, Emory University)
  • Eric Chin (SAA Council member and senior archivist, NBCUniversal)
  • Stephen Curley (SAA Council member and digital archivist, National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition)
  • Derek Mosley (SAA Council member and archivist/division manager, Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture and History, Atlanta-Fulton Public Library)
  • Christopher Prom (associate dean and associate university librarian for Digital Strategies, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)
  • Rachel Vagts (Chair, SAA president and manager of Special Collections and Digital Archives, Denver Public Library)
  • JoyEllen Williams (SAA Foundation Board member and special collections curator, Kennesaw State University)

This is an incredible group of dedicated and passionate members who are committed to ensuring a thorough search process that will result in an experienced next executive director for SAA. The SAA Council recognizes the critical importance of this position to the long-term health of the organization, and we are well prepared for this transition.

Transparency is important to the Council and to the Search Committee—we will keep you updated on the progress of the search through announcements on the SAA website, In the Loop e-newsletter, Off the Record blog, and other online communications channels.

We hope to introduce members to the new executive director at SAA’s Annual Meeting in August!