Improving SAA’s Affinity Groups: Your Chance to Contribute to the Change

This post was written by the members of the Task Force on Member Affinity Groups. I hope you will attend their forum during the conference or respond to this post in the comments.

Since last year’s SAA Annual Meeting, a task force has been working to determine how the Society’s member affinity groups (that is, its Sections and Roundtables) can better serve the membership as a whole. While nothing has been finalized, the task force has been exploring several recommendations largely based on a survey completed this spring. The task force would like to take this opportunity to share some of these findings and to ask for general feedback on preliminary recommendations.

A large percentage of the costs to SAA to administer affinity groups go to providing meeting space and audiovisual support during annual meeting times. We wondered if rather than guarantee meeting space and technology for each group’s gathering at the annual meeting, could affinity groups be asked to demonstrate a need for physical space before each annual meeting? If groups are only holding elections and conducting a brief business meeting, perhaps those matters might be more efficiently resolved with online communications. Priority would then be given to groups planning official programs. Similarly, could priority for annual meeting space be given to groups that are collaborating with one another for a joint program? (We were delighted to see the Google Hangout event jointly held by the Records Management Roundtable and the Web Archiving Roundtable, and we wonder if SAA ought to explore ways to incentivize such collaboration.)

Another factor that emerged in the survey was what support can and should be provided to section and roundtable leaders. Overwhelmingly, members would like additional support for component group leaders; it was noted that groups are only as active as their leaders are engaged and activity can vary widely from year to year. Would additional leadership resources provide more consistency? Asking leaders themselves to help develop the training sessions at SAA is one idea under discussion, with the hope that by becoming more involved in the training, leaders can share their knowledge and strategies for effective leadership, as well as deepen their commitment to their respective component groups, enhancing the return on time and resource investment for all involved. Furthermore, remote training sessions, for those unable to attend SAA, are among the recommendations the task force’ is currently considering.

Initial ideas regarding the organization of sections and roundtables center on the idea that many members see little meaningful difference between sections and roundtables. Should groups be organized according to a common affinity—such as collection type, audience, or function? While many existing groups are already organized around specific purposes, feedback from surveys indicated that some groups are unclear about what work they should undertake. The task force is taking this feedback into account as it explores how important the section and roundtable distinctions remain.

While these ideas are preliminary, we hope that sharing them with you has allowed you a glimpse of what we think SAA’s member affinity groups can support the Society. Our involvement with SAA is often through the sections and roundtables. Member participation is often filtered through these smaller groups, making them a vital part of the organization and the primary way that SAA interacts with its members. Enhancing and enriching members’ experience within their affinity groups will result in a better membership experience for all. With that in mind, we welcome your comments about the ideas we’ve brought up and would like to hear any ideas you might have. Please post your feedback in the comments —we’d love to hear from you! We also invite you to share your thoughts in person with the task force during the SAA Annual Meeting. Pencil us in your calendar for Thursday, August 14th. We’ll be holding a discussion from 12PM-1:15PM in Suite 8228 of the conference hotel—hope to see you there!

-The Task Force on Member Affinity Groups

Shawn San Roman, Chair

Rachel Dreyer

Rebecca Goldman

Francine Snyder

Jordon Steele

Mark Duffy, ex-officio

William Landis, ex-officio

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