Getting involved with SAA

In the past few weeks, my Council and leadership colleagues and I have had a number of conversations with members about how one goes about getting involved in SAA.   We’re delighted that people care and are willing to pose that question–thanks to all of you who did, and to all of you who share that interest.   The call for appointments by Vice President Dennis Meissner will go out in October, but that’s not the only way to be professionally engaged with SAA.    Council member Tanya Zanish-Belcher, who is both welcoming and great about getting people involved, has provided some thoughts on the subject.   And if you still or in the future have questions, please follow the suggestion on the button that Terry Baxter and the Membership Committee were passing out at the recent Joint Annual Meeting:  “Ask me.”

Now for Tanya’s good advice:

Tanya Z-BThis topic has certainly been discussed before (most notably on the SNAP blog: and, but I thought I would draft my own Top Five list, based on my own experiences over the past 15 or so years.

5. Show Up. Amazingly, time and time again, this has proved valuable in what I consider to be my professional “service” career. Especially in the very beginning, when I was first starting out, being at the table put me ahead of the game. I began by attending the Sections and Roundtables where I had an interest (specifically the Oral History Section, the Science, Technology & Healthcare Roundtable, and the Women’s Collections Roundtable). Simply by being in the room, I met others interested in the same things I was, and when the opportunity came to volunteer, I spoke up. I ended up serving as co-chair and on steering committees, and it is a really good way to network with other archivists and learn about how SAA works. And once you are a leader, I would highly recommend attending the Leadership Forum at the annual meeting—another opportunity for networking and connecting.
4. And what if you are not able to be at the table? Then my number 4 piece of advice: Ask. Ask to be on a task force. Ask to serve on a working group. Ask to facilitate a panel. Ask to be included on a session. Submit your name to the incoming SAA Vice President for appointment consideration. Ask. Ask. Ask. Yes, the rejections may come, but the opportunities will, too. Also, never forget the volunteer opportunities at the regional, state and city levels—we are a small profession and there is a lot of overlap. Connections you make there will also feed into your national connections.
3. Help others out. Someone had a panelist drop out? Someone needs a last-minute reviewer? Someone needs a blog post? SAA needs documents reviewed? This happens all the time—if you help someone out, believe me, they will remember you.
2. Connect others together. One of my favorite SAA activities is helping with sessions on which I am not even a participant—I like talking with people and if several mention the same problem or issues, then my job is to put them in touch with each other to have lunch and maybe develop that session. Or collaborate on a grant. Big achievements come out of little connections and moments.
1. Service to the profession. Volunteer to help on the annual meeting service project. Serve as a Mentor or Navigator. Schedule a shift at the Career Center. Donate to the SAA Foundation and Spontaneous Scholarships. Host a chat or reading group. Explore ways to give back to others and the profession.
A final suggestion:  When I first started out, I obtained an annual meeting attendee list and highlighted people I thought I should meet over the course of the meeting. In short, be proactive about developing your connections and your career. Yes, there will be times when you may be rebuffed or things will not go your way, but that happens to every one of us. Persevere and all of your consistent and small efforts will result in a larger contribution to the greater good—both yours and SAA’s!

Tanya Zanish-Belcher

2 responses to “Getting involved with SAA

  1. Reblogged this on SNAP roundtable and commented:
    Here’s a great post from SAA council member Tanya Zanish-Belcher on how to get involved in SAA. It’s never too early to start serving and developing your leadership skills! Do you have any burning questions about the work of SAA staff and leadership, or how to find volunteer opportunities? Post them in the comments to help us develop future blog series.

  2. Pingback: SAA Candidate Interview: Tanya Zanish-Belcher | SNAP roundtable

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