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

 

 

 

 

A year in review …

Wrapping up a year that has included many wonderful things and some challenges, I wanted to note a few highlights.

In case these slipped past, the SAA staff working with members of Council and other SAA groups accomplished some amazing things, including:

  • SAA website: A complete re-do of the SAA website, a vast resource for our Society that evolves and grows every day of the year. This was a huge and successful effort.
  • SAA Groups: An expansive reorganization of SAA’s groups with all of the associated documentation and other updates those changes required – this shift will enable SAA to more easily evolve and adapt as we move forward. (see Member Affinity Groups: Transition Work Plan)
  • American Archivist Editor: Filled the vacating position of Editor of The American Archivist – with thanks to outgoing Editor Greg Hunter and the 2017 search committee (Chris Prom, Erin Lawrimore, Jennifer Meehan Teresa Brinati, and Nancy Beaumont). We had a wonderful pool of candidates. Watch for opportunities to get involved with special issues of our journal. Congratulations to incoming Editor, Cal Lee!
  • Fundraising: As part of SAA’s efforts to grow and expand the effort of the SAA Foundation Board, consolidated SAA’s accounts to maximize the impact of our fundraising efforts – not a glitzy activity, but essential and beneficial as we ramp up to serve SAA members in known and new ways.

to name a few…

This year, as you’ve seen, I have focused on the connections among archives, history, and technology with a cross-cutting emphasis on diversity and inclusion. These are some of my favorite things, as you heard if you listen to my address, either in-person at the Annual Meeting or in the recorded version (available on the SAA website by the close of the Annual Meeting – look for it with Plenary 2 in the online program). Here are some examples:

Diversity and Inclusion

Professional Collaboration and inclusion: It was my pleasure to reach out to representatives from allied professional associations to attend our Annual Meeting this year (See: Inviting Other Organizations to the Annual Meeting and Archival Outlook May/June 2017). Nancy Beaumont, SAA’s Executive Director, and I contacted the executive directors and leaders of two dozen organizations – we shared our wish list with the SAA Council to ask for their ideas. The organizations that accepted our invitation and designated a representative from their leadership are:

  • Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) – Cheryl Middleton / Oregon State University
  • Association of Canadian Archivists (ACA) – Jordan Bass / University of Manitoba in Winnipeg
  • AMIA – Teague Schneiter / Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
  • Association of Research Libraries (ARL) – Mark Puente and Judy Ruttenberg
  • Australian Society of Archivists (ASA) – Cassie Findlay / San Francisco
  • CLIR – Pedro Gonzalez-Fernandez and Nicole Ferraiolo
  • Digital Library Federation (DLF) – Rachel Mattson / La MaMa Archives
  • International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives (IASA) – Tre Berney / Cornell University Library
  • Middle Eastern Librarians Association (MELA) – Sharon Smith / MIT
  • Open Repositories Steering Committee (OR) – Sarah Shreeves / University of Miami
  • Oral History Association – Doug Boyd / University of Kentucky
  • RBMS – Athena Jackson / Penn State University

Through the SAA leadership listserv, we encouraged SAA’s groups to connect with these representatives during the Annual Meeting and hopefully many attendees were able to connect with one or more of our guests.

One specific event we invited these representatives to attend was the SAA Leadership Town Hall on Thursday of the Annual Meeting. Having these representatives attend our annual meeting is an opportunity for SAA to discuss possible collaborations with other associations, with a particular focus on digital practice and diversity and inclusion. This is particularly timely as the SAA Council begins working on SAA’s next strategic plan beginning at the November 2017 SAA Council meeting.

SAA members should be aware that this is a one-time meeting for leaders of SAA and other professional associations to discuss opportunities and challenges. Nancy and I will follow up with representatives – all of whom expressed interest not only those who were able to attend – in a post-Annual Meeting call. We will share the results of the Town Hall and the follow up call and the SAA Council may decide to continue the discussion in some ways.

Watch for a special session at the 2018 SAA Research Forum – we will be inviting representatives from these, and possibly other, professional associations to participate.

Archives

SAA Digital Practice and Metadata Review: I was very pleased that Mark Matienzo agreed to complete, as approved by the SAA Council, a review of digital practice and metadata across SAA with an eye towards examples from other organizations that might inform SAA’s discussion about how to maximize our efforts in these areas. Mark presented an update at the 2017 Research Forum (his slides will be included in the online proceedings) and he attended SAA’s Leadership Town Hall.

Task Force on Research (Data) and Evaluation: You may recall that during last year’s Presidential address by Dennis Meissner, he called for the creation of a Committee on Research and Evaluation (CORE). Dennis worked with Council on a charge for a task force to provide recommendations about establishing such group. You will have seen the call for volunteers and the appointments to the task force will be announced soon. (see Proposal to Create Task Force on Research (Data) and Evaluation).

History

Milestones – 50 years for electronic records at NARA: This is just an example of the kind of milestone to embrace and celebrate. As a proud former member of the Electronic Records staff at NARA and given the sense many members have that digital practice is new, this was particularly significant for me to note. (see Archival Outlook Jan/Feb)

SAA Archives: I really enjoyed visiting and coordinating with Abbi Nye, our very able and amiable SAA Archivist and her team. We are very fortunate to have such a resource and one that has so many riches to be tapped for possible articles, exhibits, collaborations, and insights. Dive in! (see Archival Outlook Jan/Feb 2017)

Technology

Try 5: Just after our 2016 Annual Meeting, I launched #SAATry5, an initiative to encourage SAA members at all levels of experience to try 1) Try 5 technical thigs, 2) share your experience to encourage others, and 3) help someone else do something technical. I heard from many of you about your experiences and your local efforts (some organizations launched Try5 in parallel with our SAA efforts). Along the way I realized that lots of people were working on their 5 technical things (step 1) and helping someone do something technical (step 3), but sharing their experiences was harder for many people, understandably. The initiative isn’t officially ending – people are continuing to Try5 and help others. Please do continue and share your experiences if you have an opportunity!  (see Archival Outlook Sep/Oct)

It has been an amazing year. Best wishes from me to all SAA members and friends for your future adventures!

Barriers to Participation Survey Report

Contributed by Kate Dundon and Matthew Gorzalski, Membership Committee

The SAA Membership Committee recently surveyed members about the barriers hindering participation in SAA.  We wanted to identify the issues affecting members’ engagement with the organization, and propose strategies to foster greater participation. The report is available on the SAA Membership Committee microsite. The survey returned 1,279 responses, or 21% of total SAA individual membership.  This blog post highlights some of the findings.

Slightly over half (52%) of respondents indicated that they’d like to be more involved in SAA.  When asked to choose from a list of barriers, respondents are most hindered by lack of financial support (58%) and lack of time (47%), followed by feelings of inexperience (28%) and uncertainty on how to become involved (22%).  Others (12%) noted unsuccessful attempts at appointment or election to a leadership position.

Comments from the free text response question revealed an interesting dichotomy of members’ perspective concerning SAA as an insular organization versus its efforts to engage membership in recent years. Many members experience feelings of intimidation and unwelcomeness that contribute to their hesitation to participate in SAA. These include: perception of cliquish leadership and membership; first-time annual meeting attendees intimidated by the size of the conference; low proportion of people of color in SAA; perception that SAA is dominated by the interests of academic archives; and the perception that the organization is dominated by liberal political views. On the other hand, others remarked that SAA has become significantly more engaging over time, particularly to younger members. One respondent stated, “New members have never had such opportunities for service.”

This survey has given us a better understanding of the complex barriers faced by members in participating in the organization. The Membership Committee compiled a list of suggestions for addressing these obstacles in our report, many of which were presented to us by survey respondents. Below is a small selection of the actions that we think would be the most impactful:

  • Continue to create more opportunities to participate virtually in order to mitigate geographic and financial barriers to participation. Consider live streaming annual meeting sessions, plenaries, and section and committee meetings. When feasible, provide recorded professional development workshops online for a fee.
  • Create a “Get Involved” section on the SAA website that clearly articulates the various paths toward involvement in committees, sections, etc., and centralizes information about all leadership positions. Open elected positions and committee appointments, with with estimated time commitments, could be posted to this centralized location.
  • Produce regular profiles of current SAA leaders or volunteers with a description of their path of service that led them to their current positions, perhaps in In the Loop or Archival Outlook. A respondent commented, “I think I’d have a clearer picture of how to start my own service with SAA if I saw examples of how others have done it.”

Do you have ideas about how to support engagement with SAA? Leave them in the comment section below!

Portland in 2017: Confronting “The Whitest City in America”

Contributed by Maija Anderson, Host Committee Chair.

Just a few days after I finished writing a cheerful Host Committee greeting for SAA’s on-site conference program, I heard the devastating news that three men had been stabbed – two of them fatally – by a white supremacist who was hurling racist invective at two young women of color. It all took place on a MAX light rail train near a busy transit center in Portland. My initial reaction was both shock and a familiar sorrow. Portland has a reputation as a progressive, prosperous city with a low violent crime rate. However, like anyone with even a passing knowledge of local history, I also registered the event as a frightening recurrence of racist violence, which is as much a part of Portland’s legacy as its rose gardens, bridges, and breweries.

The following week, the Host Committee recognized that some archivists were questioning whether Portland was a safe place to visit for the Annual Meeting. We saw calls for archivists to protect each other, and for SAA to issue an official statement, which was forthcoming. Initially, I felt defensive. Portland isn’t perfect – for example, I anticipated that colleagues who expected an urban utopia would be shocked by our highly visible houseless population – but I still thought of Portland as a safe city. At the same time, I felt the Host Committee should respond. All of us on the committee were well aware of Oregon’s history of white supremacy, and Portland’s status as “the whitest city in America.” Most of us on the committee are white women, and are aware that we have the privilege of feeling safe, and experiencing racially charged violence as a freak occurrence. We recognize the reality that women of color encounter disproportionately high rates of violence. We wanted to provide a safe and welcoming environment, and we were not in a position to tell our colleagues, especially our colleagues of color, that they have nothing to worry about.

Taking into account the reactions from our peers on social media, email lists, and via personal contact, we explored opportunities to respond. For a variety of reasons, we chose not to issue our own “official” statement in response to SAA’s. We agreed it would be more effective to focus on peer-to-peer communication and support.

Several of us independently came up with the idea of promoting Portland’s many cultural resources led by historically marginalized communities. We felt that national news coverage had inadequately represented communities who have demonstrated resistance and resilience in the face of white supremacy. Follow #saa17 on Twitter to learn about community-based cultural projects, institutions, and businesses in Portland. Consider coming to open houses at the Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center and the Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education, where staff are generously opening their doors to attendees.

You can also expect the Host Committee to fully support SAA’s efforts, which will include “I’ll Walk With You” ribbons, active bystander resources, and more. Looking forward to the meeting, we welcome more feedback on how we, as your colleagues in Portland, can support you.