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!

Disaster Resources

Earthquakes, fires, flooding, hurricanes. Fall 2017 appears to be non-stop disasters, particularly here in the U.S., Mexico, and the Caribbean. While families and communities may now be focused on survival and obtaining power, water, and shelter, the time will come when people are ready to turn their attention to the care of their cultural resources. What kinds of resources are available to aid in recovery? Many sources and links have been shared over the past few months, and I thought it would be helpful to combine them all into one blog post.

Funding:

First, please consider giving to the SAA Foundation’s National Disaster Recovery Fund for Archives, which provides grants of up to $2,000 to archives in need. The NDRFA information page and application form have just been translated to Spanish (special thanks to Ana Rodriguez and María Isabel Molestina-Kurlat, co-chairs of LACCHA) to better reach all those who have been affected by recent natural disasters. As SAA President, I am a member of the Foundation Board, and we truly wish to encourage applications for these funds.

The Fund provides grants that support the recovery of archival collections from major disasters, regardless of region or repository type. Any repository that holds archival records or special collections is eligible to apply for a grant. The repository need not be a member of SAA. Grant monies may be used for the direct recovery of damaged or at-risk archival materials; such services as freeze drying, storage, transportation of materials, and rental facilities; supplies, including acid-free boxes and folders, storage cartons, cleaning materials, plastic milk crates, and protective gear; and to defray the costs for volunteers or other laborers who assist with the recovery. Access to these disaster funds as well as direct donations for Mexican and non-US Caribbean Islands archives are on the November agendas for both the Council and the SAA Foundation.

There are additional funding opportunities from federal and foundation sources for those in need. The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Chairman’s Emergency Grants can provide up to $30,000 in affected disaster areas.

The National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), the granting arm of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has funding available.

Mellon Foundation: In the Eye of the Storm: How Federal Funding Rescues Arts and Culture in Times of Disaster.

The American Library Association has disaster funds available for those affected by hurricanes in the continental U.S. and Caribbean, as well as for those in Mexico affected by the earthquake.

Northeast Document Conservation Center: After the Hurricane, Resources for Saving Collections

Finally, the Asociación civil Apoyo al Desarrollo de Archivos y Bibliotecas de México (ADABI de México, A.C.) provides support for Archives and Libraries in Mexico.

Resources for Preserving Our Cultural Heritage:

For immediate advice or assistance: See the Northeast Document Conservation Center’s Emergency Resources or contact NEDCC’s 24/7 Emergency Hotline at 855-245-8303, or Contact the National Heritage Responders at 202-661-8068.

FEMA and the Smithsonian Institution co-sponsor the Heritage Emergency National Task Force (HENTF), a partnership of more than 50 national service organizations and federal agencies created to protect cultural heritage from the damaging effects of natural disasters and other emergencies. To reach the administrator of the HENTF team, please email hentf@si.edu.

SAA provides a listing of Disaster Response and Relief Resources and also see May Day: Saving Our Archives Annotated Resources (SAA) as well as Hurricane Relief Resources (SAA).

Association for Library Collections & Technical Services, American Library Association, Disaster Preparedness Clearinghouse

American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works: Courses in Emergency Management
for Cultural Heritage Responders

International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property

Finally, it is critically important that we all plan for future disasters that are sure to come. dPlan is an Online Disaster-Planning Tool for Cultural and Civic Institutions developed by the Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC) and the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC). The development of the template was funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training (NCPTT).  As we look to the possibility of more disasters in the future, please keep in mind SAA’s Issue Brief on Archives and the Environment.

As always, if you have questions or suggestions, or ideas about how we can improve  disaster responsiveness for archives across the country, please let me know at president@archivists.org

 

 

Annual Meeting Remarks

Hello! Here is an expanded version of my remarks given at the 2017 Annual Meeting in Portland during the SAA Business Meeting, where I was given some brief time to share what I plan for us to work on together during the coming year. A year-long presidency is very short, but I believe we can achieve some tangible goals while also considering the future of the Society and of the archives profession. This post may be rather long, but I also think in the interest of transparency, it is important to share SAA’s current priorities.

It probably comes as no surprise for anyone that advocacy and outreach as well as diversity and inclusion will remain a focus for the Council and the Society in the coming year. Certainly we have already dealt with a number of diversity-related issues, including the tenor of discussion on the Archives and Archivists Listserv, the problem of white supremacy and how archivists can assist communities, and challenges associated with placement of the 2019 Annual Meeting in Austin.

Our Advocacy and Outreach efforts will include an SAA-ACRL/RBMS Joint Task Force on Access, which will review the 2009 Joint Statement with a goal of adding guidelines for born-digital materials. SAA’s Committee on Public Policy will also be reviewing and suggesting revisions to SAA’s Public Policy Agenda, which guides our decision-making in regard to making position statements and creating issue briefs. And given that we will be meeting with CoSA and NAGARA in Washington, D.C., there are already preliminary plans for lobbying training, Hill visits to implement this new training, and a possible meeting with the Congressional History Caucus. Stay tuned.

Diversity and Inclusion continues to be a high priority for SAA. This year we will implement the new Brenda S. Banks Travel Award (proposed by the Archives and Archivists of Color Section), which recognizes and acknowledges individuals of color employed in archives who manifest an interest in becoming active members of SAA. This award, which will be given to one individual per year, provides full financial support for attending the annual meeting and a 1-year membership. Thanks to the following Awards Subcommittee members for getting things started: Kathryn Neal (Chair), Gerald Chaudron, Shanee Murrain, and Margarita Vargas-Betancourt. As noted in my last blog post, the Council’s Diversity and Inclusion Working Group will be creating and developing a toolkit that will be available to communities as they assess the historical value of the historical monuments in their midst.

Your Membership:  I want to explore ways to help every SAA member feel connected and valued. I would encourage every member to think about the value of SAA and why you are a member in the first place. What benefits does it provide that you need? Is it access to publications, the Annual Meeting, networking, opportunities for volunteering, leadership and skill development, standards, or continuing education?

And what should SAA provide that it currently doesn’t? What can we do to break down barriers to participation? The Council will be working on what we can do to make it easier for every member to achieve her or his true potential as a professional. For our November “Mega-Issue” discussion, Council members will review the most recent survey conducted by the SAA Membership Committee and consider ways in which to eliminate barriers to participation.

Archives and Archivists Listserv. When does a good thing become a liability? How do you balance free speech needs with professional development? Hard questions, indeed, and the SAA Council will be discussing the future role of the A & A Listserv at its November meeting. For those of you who may not know, the A & A Listserv was an independent entity for many years, with thousands of non-SAA members. SAA agreed to host the listserv as a service to the profession—both those in it and those considering joining it.  The Council has been down this road before, and I thought it would be helpful to share the report and minutes from that 2014 experience (see motions 5 and 6 on pages 12 and 13 of the minutes). Do you have comments you would like to share with me? Please let me know at president@archivists.org, and you are welcome to request anonymity. Unfortunately, whatever way Council decides to go, there will be people left unhappy. However, this also may provide us with new opportunities to discuss how we might better connect with each other, especially when we disagree.

Our Portland meeting was our second-best-attended conference ever, and I have no doubt that had a good deal to do with our excellent program. However, part of the Listserv discussion was more than a simple disagreement and may have put some of our members at risk, and that is completely unacceptable. These are dangerous times, and we must watch out for each other.

An important component of membership is assessing where we are. The recently appointed Task Force on Research/Data and Evaluation will be anticipating SAA’s future efforts to conduct, facilitate, and evaluate research that will be useful as we make decisions about the future. Task Force members are: Michelle Light (Chair), Sarah Buchanan, Mahnaz Ghaznavi, Dennis Meissner, Dan Noonan, and Stacie Williams.

Finally, one of the most important responsibilities of each Council member is to practice Fiscal Responsibility and Stewardship of SAA’s finances through these challenging times. While our decision-making process is certainly not always about the money, funding does mean SAA can provide much-needed member services and even expand those services as we hope to do in Austin 2019. The SAA Foundation is also establishing additional financial resources for SAA members to access when needed and the Foundation already has awarded three grants for special projects. This is in addition to our very important National Disaster Recovery Fund for Archives.

Of particular interest to me in the long term is my interest in expanding SAA’s financial support by collaborating and partnering with private foundations and other organizations that believe archives are important. We have long been reliant on federal funding agencies, but the time has come for us to find other resources that match our core values and give us more flexibility in decision-making.

I would ask all SAA members to think, for a moment, of the many individuals who attended the Annual Meeting and those who were not able to do, a total of more than 6,100 members—the depth and breadth of the experiences, energy, and commitment of all of you. During my time with SAA, I have always been impressed with the level of volunteerism our members demonstrate in doing the work of the Society and the profession. It is my job, in this brief time as your leader, to collaborate with you to harness all of that for SAA and for each other. The work we do is hard. It is emotionally challenging and sometimes difficult, and we face many of society’s broader challenges as well. I cannot guarantee this year will be easy for archivists or SAA (in fact, I already know it is not!), but I can promise that I will be there for you. I will also promise to guide SAA as we make very difficult decisions about our future with the goal being to do the best we can. If you have an idea or concern that you think should be considered or discussed, please contact me using the president@archivist.org e-mail address. Our organization is only as successful as our willingness to listen to each other.

As I close, I look forward to seeing you at the 2018 Joint Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., where I will share a “State of SAA.” This address will compare and contrast today’s SAA to its past, review the results of the coming year, and provide some thoughts about where SAA’s future lies. In the meantime, let’s get to work!

 

Some Remarks on the SAA Council’s Recent Statement on White Supremacy

My very first job as a young archivist was at the Alabama Department of Archives and History, where I learned to process and describe collections and also to grapple with the enormity, complexity and, quite often, the awfulness of American history. As a transplanted Yankee, it did not take me long to figure out the reason for the Confederate flag above the Capitol, or why the state holidays list included Martin Luther King, Jr./Robert E. Lee Day (still) and Confederate Memorial Day. 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 the country. The symbols of oppression and our violent past are all around us, as indicated in this list compiled by The Guardian:
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jul/17/public-symbols-landmarks-racist-confederate-flag

SAA traditionally has not commented on issues or events not related to archives or records, but have reserved our judgments for areas in which our archival experience means something. The recent events in Charlottesville point to the need for archivists to use our expertise to assist communities in researching and determining the meaning and value of the names, images, and monuments in their midst, and whether what those symbols represent is historical truth or something else.

The Council’s Diversity and Inclusion Working Group was created in 2014 to provide the Council with greater focus and direction in achieving the Society‘s strategic goals in D&I, explore meaningful new initiatives in this area, and coordinate the work of appropriate component groups to leverage their contributions into broader cultural competency for the Council, staff, and members. Now led by Courtney Chartier, its members include Steven Booth, Amy Cooper Cary, Meredith Evans, and Audra Eagle Yun. The group‘s highest priority in the coming months is to create a toolkit for archivists to use with local community members when they are faced with these hard issues. A number of individuals and SAA groups have already volunteered to assist the working group as needed, which is greatly appreciated. Courtney‘s team will submit a concept to the broader Council for discussion at its November meeting, a draft for review on the Council’s January conference call, and a final version for approval in May. If you have ideas or resources you think should be considered, please send them to me at president@archivists.org and I will pass them on to the working group.

I have been reflecting on some eloquent words by a friend, Mary Foskett, on Charlottesville, which I pass along with her permission:

“Throughout my week in Berlin, and even more since returning home, I have been thinking about what a difference it could make if we had more memorials and monuments, not fewer, to make us pause, take stock of our history, and commit to becoming our best selves as a people. Specifically historical markers noting the spaces and places and lives brutalized by our nation’s history of racism, bigotry, and white supremacy, and the courageous men and women who stood up against it, markers urging us on, together, to remember and to do better. Berlin has challenged me to contemplate more deeply the power of facing ourselves in the hope of becoming our best selves. Charlottesville reminds me that we haven’t a moment to lose. ”

As always, if you have questions or concerns, please share them with me at president@archivists.org  My next post, in early September, will be an expanded version of my Incoming President remarks at SAA’s Business Meeting on Friday, July 28.

Statement from SAA Council

A recent post on the Campus Reform website has raised significant concerns among our members, our conference and discussion list participants, and the SAA Council. The piece references two presentations given at the 2017 Annual Meeting in Portland. Notwithstanding the author’s claim that she had “reached out to SAA, as well as the professors involved in the panels,” no member of the SAA Council or staff was contacted for comment.

SAA does not condone any acts of suppression, intimidation, or violence against its members and participants and stands with those who speak up about and work on inclusivity and diversity in archives, a core value that is valid and relevant to the archives profession. The SAA Council denounces those who have made or would make threats against our conference participants. SAA’s 2017 Annual Meeting program was created, developed, and presented by SAA members and local community leaders, and it is a program of which we are very proud.

The SAA Council also is concerned about a recent discussion on the Archives & Archivists Listserv in reaction to the Campus Reform post. SAA Executive Director Nancy Beaumont shut down the discussion thread on August 9 because several of the posters used unprofessional or intimidating language and the discussion was becoming redundant and circular. The purpose of the list is to foster discussion of archives and archives issues, including all aspects of the theory and practice of the archives profession. The Terms of Participation clearly prohibit personal attacks and inflammatory remarks of a personal nature. The SAA Council will be reviewing the role and future of the A&A List at its November 2017 meeting. In the meantime, posts will be moderated actively. If you have ideas about 1) how the List might be improved or 2) any new communication tools that we might consider as an enhancement to or substitute for the A&A List, please send your ideas to president@archivists.org.

We are seeking productive ways to continue the learning and important conversations that took place in Portland, and we welcome your ideas about how to do that.

Tanya

Bits, bobs, and bye!

It was wonderful to see so many of you in Portland OR for Archives 2017 – what a terrific meeting!

So glad to see all the tweets, Facebook updates, and highlights throughout the week for those of us who were there about sessions and events we couldn’t attend and for those who couldn’t be there in person.

Please do continue to share updates about what you’re doing throughout the year. We are working on more than we could possibly share in an Annual Meeting, no matter how chuck full of great updates and information it was. Here are a few resources to share that relate to my address and/or didn’t quite fit into a column.

One takeaway for me from the week and from portion of The Liberated Archive Forum I was able to attend was this:

If we refer to institutional policies that limit and discriminate as synonymous with archival practice, and then conclude that all archival practice is bad or ill-equipped for the hard work of social justice, we limit our tools and options, and do a disservice to the hard work of many archivists over many years. SAA and the broader archival community have developed tools and cumulative guidance – our code of ethics, our code of conduct, our principles and practice – that are essential for what we do. Institutional policies may discriminate or support systemic injustice – and many archivists are working to address them – but good archival practice does not. Good practice calls upon archivists to work to change unjust policies and to help communities and creators everywhere to preserve their history and memory.

Wonderful job Program Committee, Host Committee, SAA staff, and Event staff!

Thanks to all of you – see you next year, if not sooner!  Best-

Nance

Data rescue efforts and related resources:

Data Refuge https://www.datarefuge.org/

Environmental Data and Governance Initiative (EDGI) https://envirodatagov.org/

Endangered Data Week http://endangereddataweek.org/

Blog post by Alex Chassanoff about the data rescue event at MIT: https://drmaltman.wordpress.com/2017/03/02/guest-post-alex-chassanoff-on-datarescue-bostonmit-wrap-up/

Stronger together: the case for cross-sector collaboration in identifying and preserving at-risk data https://figshare.com/articles/Stronger_together_the_case_for_cross-sector_collaboration_in_identifying_and_preserving_at-risk_data/4816474/1

Data-related resources:

Interesting Smithsonian article: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/second-doomsday-vault-preserve-data-opening-svalbard-180962749/?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=socialmedia

Data in the mainstream press – hot topic: http://money.cnn.com/2017/04/11/technology/government-open-data-life-decisions/index.html

AA and other Archival resources:

rchives in Libraries: What Librarians and Archivists Need to Know to Work Together. Jeannette A. Bastian, Megan Sniffin-Marinoff, and Donna Webber  http://saa.archivists.org/store/archives-in-libraries-what-librarians-and-archivists-need-to-know-to-work-together/4700/

Article by Margaret Adams about punched cards, noting their addition in 1939 as a federal record format as an indicator that archivists have been involved with data for a long time:  http://dx.doi.org/10.17723/aarc.58.2.d61078182725616j

Archives timeline (wonderful resource!) to put the Federal Records Act into context: https://www.archives.gov/about/history/milestones.html