By Melvin J. Collier
In the past decade, genealogy has become an increasingly popular hobby. Uncited reports in USA Today and in the Times have even ranked it as the second most popular hobby in the United States. Gardening is the most popular. Despite the absence of hard numbers to validate this claim, its popularity is unquestionable. The advent of the Internet in the 1990s has played a major role in this increase, as people can access many digitized records online. A number of genealogists have even built sustaining, full-time careers from its popularity.
Like never before, many people are on a quest to unearth and personalize American history with stories of their own ancestors. Even the young, and the not-so-young, desire to document their ancestors’ lives and find evidence of those anecdotal family stories. DNA testing with companies like Ancestry.com, 23andMe, Family Tree DNA, and MyHeritage, and television shows like Who Do You Think You Are or Finding My Roots have also amplified an interest in genealogy. Collectively, these ancestral stories enable us to learn more than what many historians have unearthed. Genealogy continues to add to the body of knowledge of what is known or unknown about our society and its history.
During their discussion of SAA’s Strategic Plan at the November 2019 meeting, the SAA Council determined that the organization would no longer allow unpaid internships to be posted in the SAA Career Center’s Internship Directory. The following changes have been made to the website to make this decision clear to both internship seekers and posters:
- The tab listing internship opportunities in the Career Center is now labeled “Paid Internships;”
- The language on that page now states: “SAA strongly encourages employers to value archival graduate students’ skills by providing monetary compensation for their work commensurate with the qualifications required for the position. If monetary compensation is not indicated in the internship description, the position will not be posted to this directory;”
- The “Create a New Job” form now states, under the “Level” field: “All internship positions must be paid/offer a monetary stipend. If monetary compensation is not indicated, the position will not be posted to the directory;” and
- SAA staff are now moderating all submissions to ensure that only paid internship opportunities are listed on the job board.
The decision to allow only paid internships on the SAA Career Center aligns with SAA’s Strategic Plan and its goal to advocate for archives and archivists. Specifically, it addresses our stated desires to “provide leadership in promoting the value of archives and archivists to institutions, communities, and society” and to “educate and influence decisions makers in any setting about the importance of archives and archivists.”
Archival labor is valuable, and individuals performing this work should be compensated accordingly. Paid internships are important for diversifying our field and recognizing the value of our profession. We urge all prospective internship supervisors to advocate for funding to support the work of their interns.
The Society of American Archivists is committed to advocacy on behalf of our members. In our Strategic Plan, the goal of “Enhancing Professional Growth” is focused on archivists having access to the professional community and resources they need to be successful and effective in their careers. Fair wages and equitable salaries are part of this work and we want to share the results of our ongoing discussions and future activities of SAA in support of this issue.
- Professional support at the Annual Meeting
- Salary Forum: hear a panel of experts participate in an open discussion about salaries in the archival profession and explore potential solutions, including those that place responsibility on institutions and administrations.
- Onsite Career Center: from mock interviews to tips on salary negotiation, seek out mentors who can help you navigate the job market and your professional growth.
- Mentoring Program
- Meet and connect with a mentor who will listen and provide guidance on negotiating and advocating for better pay.
- Job Postings in the SAA Online Career Center
- We strongly recommend salary information be included in all job ad postings.
- “Research Salaries” button on all job ads can help with regional salary range information, even if a job does not include a salary range.
- A*CENSUS II
- An updated data set will illustrate salary ranges per state and by region, helping archivists stay abreast of current salaries across the U.S.
For those attending the 2019 Annual Meeting, join the SAA Council on Sunday, August 4, 12:00 pm – 1:15 pm, in Austin for an Open Forum on Archivist Salaries. This forum will serve as a space for members to discuss the initiatives listed above as well as brainstorm additional ways that SAA can continue to advocate for archivist salaries. Mark your online schedule!