Go ahead, let me have it!

My SAA presidential address, Feeding Our Young, has generated quite a firestorm on Twitter. My aim was to provoke discussion within the Society and the profession about these issues, and it looks like I succeeded! I also wanted to throw down the gauntlet to the SAA leadership (of which I’m no longer a formal member as of 3.5 hours ago, but that doesn’t mean I’ll be tuning out) to find a way to address the jobs issue, broadly raise the awareness of  members who may not know how tough things are out there, and various other things.

No doubt some of you out there have reactions but aren’t on Twitter. Or maybe you want to utter more than 140 characters’ worth of response. Anyway, if you’d like to say something to me, or to your colleagues, here’s a place to do it.

Fire away! — Jackie

P.S. I’ll be talking to the SAA office about getting the talk posted somewhere on the website.

13 responses to “Go ahead, let me have it!

  1. could you post a link to the speech

  2. Your message rang true, Jackie. I know first hand what a difference it makes to have solid leadership and a mentor that sends opportunities your way. When I was still in library school you pointed me toward scholarship applications for professional development, appointed me to library-wide committees, and sent me into the classroom to teach undergrads about primary sources– things I wouldn’t have known to do without guidance and that greatly enriched me professionally. I’ve done my best to follow your example, and I know I’m not the only one. I’m certain that the people you have mentored have likewise made every effort to enrich the professional lives of the newbies in their care, and your legacy goes even further than you know.

  3. Jackie,
    I heard your speech but only caught the twitter comments second hand, late, and only partially.

    I’ll respond here with a suggestion about your statement

    “I also wanted to throw down the gauntlet to the SAA leadership (of which I’m no longer a formal member as of 3.5 hours ago, but that doesn’t mean I’ll be tuning out) to find a way to address the jobs issue, broadly raise the awareness of members who may not know how tough things are out there, and various other things.”

    I think an evidence-based collaborative approach to taking effective actions by SAA and its members would a good next step. I’d like to see us address these issues by knowing what is happening, what we’d like to have happen instead, and what we can reasonably attempt to achieve.

    SAA could task a smallish group with a three year term and a diverse membership to analyze, report on, and make recommendations for action by SAA and others at each of the next three SAA meetings. Do the work in an iterative and rolling way so that we are not studying for years before recommending action, and that we are studying, talking together, and acting about the jobs situation repeatedly. In three years we can see where we are in terms of engagement, effectiveness, and efficacy.

    Actions would include
    –gathering, assembling, and reporting on the evidence we have on the job situation _per se_ for archivists: the unemployment rate, the under-employment rate for archivists, new, mid-career, late career, micro- and macro-views of the employment economy for archivists.
    –gathering, assembling, and reporting on the evidence we have on the bridge between professional education and jobs: the placement rate for iSchool programs. (Paul Conway talked about that for U. Mich. on Saturday at SAA)
    –gathering, assembling, and reporting on the evidence we have on hiring processes and practices by those who hire archivists: I’d be looking for best practices, an education effort for archivists who manage, etc.
    –gathering, assembling, and reporting on the evidence we have on internship and fellowship programs: again, I’d expect we’d develop best practices, and an education effort for archivists who manage, etc.

    Outcomes would include:
    –reports and recommendations for action at each of the next 3 SAA meetings: in addition to written report to SAA membership ahead of the meeting set aside time at the meeting by Council–invite membership attendance for this at Council–and hold a forum as a session to discuss the situation and the work of the group openly early in the meeting (Wednesday.)

    Subsequent outcomes may include:
    –since the recommendations could lead to other actions, we may reasonably expect this effort to lead to such outcomes as best practice guidelines for setting up internship and fellowship programs; joint efforts with administrators and professional groups (e.g., iSchool administrators, HR professionals, other allied professional groups like RBMS and ALISE to raise awareness, collaboratively develop best practices and share relevant information with the memberships, etc.

    All the best,


    • Matthew,

      What a comprehensive plan! I especially appreciate your iterative approach and emphasis on evidence-based action. One small step SAA could take at the beginning of this process (or whatever steps it ultimately takes with respect to archives labor issues): release a statement in writing which indicates SAA’s support for fair, equitable employment practices.

      The National Council on Public History put out an internship best practices guide in 2008 (http://ncph.org/cms/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/Internship-Best-Practice.pdf). One of its key recommendations states “Recognizing the value of public history work and the skills possessed by students, every effort should be made to see that interns receive compensation for their work commensurate with the qualifications required for a position”. Another one states “Work performed by interns should supplement the existing staff of an institution, or provide assistance to institutions that do not have paid staffs. Interns should not be used to replace work normally done by a paid staff member.”

      A cohesive statement from SAA on best practices in internships and entry-level employment would go a long way, and it could be published before any research begins. Much as a written acquisitions policy empowers an archivist to protect the interests of her institution and its resources, a written position from SAA would empower archivists in supervisory roles to offer more equitable internships and entry-level work. At its most basic level, a statement from SAA would serve as a point of leverage.

      This would support all four goals in SAA’s current Strategic plan: advocating for archivists and archives (by promoting and preserving the professionalization of our field), enhancing professional growth (by ensuring that new archivists have access to equitable employment and training opportunities), advancing the field (by promoting best practices and retaining the most passionate and energetic individuals), and meeting members’ needs (by protecting the professional interests of students and new professionals).

      • Such statements as you suggest are a good early step, but it’s clear we can’t stop at that. The structure supporting an ongoing effort should help us build toward shared understanding, concerted action, and an engaged community.

  4. Matthew, I agree with most of your suggestions. just a quick amendment for me from my perspective:

    Placement data for schools that are not iSchools would help, too, especially since their graduate numbers are collectively comparable. I think the privilege of iSchools is not the best attitude to take in this arena.

    Lori Lindberg
    San Jose State University

  5. I just want to:

    – First, thank you for your comments, Jackie.

    – Second, echo comments about the importance of mentorship in the crafting of/becoming a successful professional. As the senior Co-Chair of SAA’s Mentoring Program, I’m *very* eager to strengthen these opportunities – and the Program associated with it…..

    Alison Stankrauff
    Indiana University South Bend

  6. Pingback: Professional privilege: get uncomfortable | You Ought to be Ashamed

  7. Pingback: The Great Internship Debate: What’s Next? | Archivasaurus

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