This evening’s post is going to be a quickie so I can get it out there before launching my weekend (yay!). There has been some chat here and there today about how effective SAA’s orientation session for new attendees was this year, and I’d love to hear some specifics about how we could keep improving it. I’m getting a clear sense that the bottom line is … the more interactivity, the better.
Some great ideas are in this thread from a year ago on the blog where the fervor built for establishing SNAP, the Students and New Professionals Roundtable (which will have its first birthday in January–and what a great first year the group has had). Read it and leave a comment with more ideas, please. Or get in touch directly with the leaders of SAA’s Membership Committee, whose job includes making new members feel welcome, among much else.
Tell us what you need! We’re listening. Closely.
I’ll start with the caveat that I’m very much an introvert by nature and I have yet to attend an SAA annual meeting, so I can’t comment on how welcoming or not-welcoming they are. I think you’re very much correct about the “bottom line”. As a student on the cusp of graduating and still very much a newbie to the profession, I always value the opportunity to interact with more ‘senior’ professionals. I was fortunate enough to have a great faculty to interact with in library school, but outside of that context I’ve always found it a bit nerve-wracking to initiate conversations at seminars and conferences.
I’m still thinking about specific suggestions that could be made, but I would definitely appreciate more opportunities to have a dialog with working archivists. I imagine that sometimes it’s no easier for them to reach outside their comfort zones and talk to a brand-new archivist than it is for us to approach them. Something to break the ice and get that dialog started would be fantastic – I’m just not sure what that ‘something’ is!
Amanda, thanks for thinking about ways that we might link up new and experienced archivists. It’s really important–and us oldsters learn as much from you as vice versa. Remember, with your fresh education, you know a LOT that we don’t!
I am no longer a new grad – I graduated in December of 2010. But I am still new to the field, as I have yet to land a paid position. And I have yet to be able to attend an SAA conference but have attended a couple of SAA or SAA-sponsored workshops (Bloomington and NOLA). The workshops were great because they were smaller. I learned a lot and enjoyed the hands-on, face-to-face experience that I missed with my online MLIS degree.
As a mostly on-screen SAA member, I have found the best thing about it to be the fantastic periodical coming to me every so often with articles by Richard Cox (such as this quarter’s edition). However, I am actually considering NOT renewing my membership because that periodical should not be my sole reason for paying dues.
I had hoped for conferences – or at least workshops – to be closer to my region (Arkansas), and less expensive (there is no stipend or scholarship for unemployed, no-long-new-grads, regionally-priced workshops, etc). I had also hoped for the mentors I’ve signed up for to follow through better. I realize they have full time jobs and this is something they volunteer to do. But if they don’t have time I wish they wouldn’t volunteer. One or both forgot their names were on the mentor list at all.
I have been disappointed overall and really, since I haven’t known what to expect (as a newbie), have not known what to suggest. Two (2) years into it, however, I am seeing that being unemployed and paying membership dues just for a great publication are not working out for my bank account. I realize the recession is not in your favor right now, SAA, and my locale is not, either.
Do YOU have any ideas on how to help integrate the on-screen community of SAA members? Particularly the ones who are may not be considered “new” any longer yet technically still are b/c they have not been able to afford a conference due to not being able to find a job in the field yet?
Thank you for your time. I am sincerely interested in your reply. Especially since my membership expires this month (December).
One of the things that SNAP pioneered this year at the Annual Meeting (and I was very proud to see it executed so beautifully – I came up with the idea!) was the Lunch Buddy program. This was explicitly created so that newcomers could find a group to attend meals with, because there’s nothing worse than being at your conference and eating alone because everyone else has their conference buddies. I’d like to see the Lunch Buddy program continue, and get greater support from SAA, as well as having some “old-timers” lead some of the lunches.
Eira, congrats on the success of that! Definitely worth repeating–and enhancing.
I’ve been thinking about your post ever since you put it up on Monday but haven’t responded until now because I wanted to do justice to your questions. Not sure I can manage to do so in this space, but here are a few thoughts.
First, it’s great to hear you praise The American Archivist! IMHO it has gotten better and better in recent years, and current editor Greg Hunter is doing a fantastic job. Maybe send him a note and tell him personally?
The education conundrum is a tough one. It’s a matter of matching both location and topic to an individual’s needs, so even though SAA’s education staff schedules them all over the country, it can still be hard to make a match. Be sure to look into the array of webinar-based courses that are available, especially in the Digital Archives Specialist curriculum.
SAA also has an increasing number of e-publications that are available via the website. Granted, you can access those without being a member, but your membership helps keep SAA in business so we can keep doing those things for the archival community.
As for the gauntlet you’ve thrown my way … I really, really want to hear members’ thoughts on what would work for YOU instead of promulgating my own ideas at this juncture. We do a variety of things on a regular basis, such as the new member orientation and the ongoing mentor program, but we also know these programs aren’t perfect. Comments I’ve received make it clear that one thing the SAA leadership can do is strongly encourage more experienced members to be welcoming, including by being dedicated, meaningful, reliable mentors. “SAA” is far more a community of 6,100 archivists than it is a monolithic entity, but, as a colleague told me the other day, it’s the impression made by each of those members that adds up to how we all see SAA.
Finally, you used the phrase “integrate the on-screen community.” I’d really like to see more archivists “of a certain age” be active users of social media like blogs and Twitter so that more of these conversations can be two-way. This would help make debates balanced and offer possibilities for more information sharing. Most comments I’ve received on this blog have been from students and newish members. I want to hear from those in all demographic subsets!
I do hope you’ll stay with us while you weather the job search, Christina. It seems clear to me that you have a lot to offer to your colleagues and to SAA.
My thought: if you wait until make first-timers and new archivists get to the conference to make them feel welcome, you’re already too late.
My first SAA was in 2010, and the only reason I went was because I joined a session as a last-minute replacement. I didn’t plan to get to DC in time to attend the roundtable meetings because I wasn’t a member of any roundtables–not realizing, of course, that you don’t have to be a member to attend the meetings. I attended the first-timers breakfast, but I didn’t really get to meet anyone who wasn’t sitting at my table. I thought if I was attending on work time, it was my responsibility to attend every single education session, and I turned down a couple of lunch invitations so I wouldn’t get back to the conference after sessions started. In short, I felt like I didn’t do SAA right my first year, and when I went back the next year, I had a much better sense of how to plan my days and spend my time. And even though I wasn’t on a session, I still thought it was worth my time to attend.
Now, some of the misconceptions I could have been addressed at an orientation session. Other parts would have been tough. If I’d learned at my orientation that it was fine to attend meetings for groups I wasn’t a member of…well, I’d already missed the roundtable meetings anyway. And of course, for people on the fence about whether they should even go to SAA, an on-site orientation isn’t so helpful.
So, how do you reach potential first-timers before it’s too late? I have a few ideas:
* create a guide on the SAA website with advice for first-timers. (I think this has been discussed on the SNAP list before, and I still think it’s a great idea!)
* online information sessions with SAA staff and leaders prior to the conference, at least a few months before. Could be a presentation with time for questions at the end, or it could be a straight-up Q&A.
* more outreach to students through grad schools and SAA student chapters. Especially in schools that are geographically located near where the conference is being held. You could connect student chapters with local SAA leaders and local recent attendees to come talk to students. And since so many grad programs, especially in library schools, have an online component, they’re also well-equipped to host webinars and other online meetings.
Once you decide how you’re going to do your outreach, I think it will also be easier to get useful feedback because your questions will be more focused. “How can we make you feel welcome?” is a good way to start the discussion, but “What should go in an online guide for first-timers?” will generate more specific suggestions.
If information for first-timers is distributed before SAA, orientations can focus more on the kinds of things that can’t be done online ahead of time–things like networking, or small-group discussion.
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