Author Archives: Nancy Beaumont

State of the Association, FY 2020

These remarks were presented at SAA’s Annual Membership (Business) Meeting, held virtually on Wednesday, August 5, 2020, 2:00 to 3:30 pm CDT.

Good afternoon, everyone.

Like all of you, I practice a profession that is not broadly understood. My profession is association management. My professional association, the American Society of Association Executives, has 46,000 members. My profession has a body of knowledge and best practices. It has areas of specialization – like Finance and Administration, Education, Publishing, Government Relations, and Governance. It has a certification process; I became a Certified Association Executive in 1993.

Like archives management, association management requires much more than standard operating procedures and manuals. It’s guided by principles and best practices, and it thrives with strategic thinking, understanding the marketplace, fostering engagement, bench-marking, knowledge-based decision-making balanced with creative thinking. As they say, it’s an art and a science.

Associations also differ from other types of organizations. They are made up of people who come together—voluntarily—to solve common problems, meet common needs, and accomplish common goals. What’s unique about associations is that their members are the owners, the customers, and the workforce of the organization.

Common sense tells us that associations thrive when many voices are heard. My experience—and that of many of my association management colleagues—tells me that the partnership between member-volunteers and paid professional staff is the secret sauce that makes or breaks associations. 

In my “State of the Association” remarks in past years, I’ve typically reviewed long lists of accomplishments. Today I will share a shorter list – along with a promise to provide a more detailed report in a future Archival Outlook column. (Treasurer Amy Fitch will give you a nice overview of our FY 2020 financials in a few minutes.)

For many years, SAA’s member-volunteers and staff have punched above our weight. Here are a few examples of that in the past year.

I know of no other professional association of our size, or even close to it, that produced seven new books in a year—books ranging from our first-ever consumer publication in Creating Family Archives, to three volumes in the Archival Fundamentals series, two books of essays in honor of thought leaders in the profession, to A Matter of Facts, our first venture in the new Archival Futures series published in collaboration with ALA.  

Publications Editor Chris Prom, with the Publications Board, our authors, and two staff members (Teresa and Abigail), made it happen. Chris’s 6-year tenure was remarkably productive for SAA.  And we were delighted to welcome Stacie Williams as SAA’s new Publications Editor as of April 1. She has a busy year ahead, as we have seven more books slated for publication!

In all, more than 280 members contributed content to SAA publications in FY 2020, including those books as well as articles in American Archivist and Archival Outlook, the Journal Reviews Portal, and cases in our seven open-access Case Studies series.

Another example of punching above our weight comes from our Education program. We started the year with an enthusiastic Committee on Education and DAS Subcommittee, some seasoned and some new instructors, an ambitious schedule of in-person courses, a dream to launch the much-needed and long-awaited Management Track, and three staff in our Education Department (Rana, Akila, and Taylor).

By December, several in-person courses were cancelled due to low registrations. But we had applied for grants from the SAA Foundation and the National Historical Publications and Records Commission for development of Management courses, and things were looking okay.

By March 16, we were down to 2.5 staff members and had to re-tool existing courses for online, AND launch several free webcasts to help members during the pandemic, AND continue with Management Track development (because both grant proposals came through!).  From April to June, we offered 11 online courses with 384 attendees. During the same period, 1,727 archivists attended a free or paid SAA webcast, including those on Best Practices for Team Management in a Crisis, Financial Planning in Uncertain Times, and Salary Negotiation 101.

We are now just 1.75 Education staff (Rana plus Akila in a consultant role), with no plans to fill Taylor’s position. And we are now fully committed to online education. I suppose that if there is a silver lining to this pandemic, it may be that we had to rip off the BandAid. Professional development at SAA will now be more affordable and accessible than ever before.

The Archival Workers Emergency Fund is a favorite example of the volunteer/staff partnership this year. You’ve heard the story:  A committed group of members brought to the SAA Foundation Board an idea to establish a fund to support archives workers who were unemployed or precariously employed due to the pandemic.  Amy, Peter, Felicia, and I worked with the group to develop a proposal for the Foundation Board’s consideration. The Board enthusiastically supported creating the fund and provided $15,000 in seed money to establish it.  The review group was established. Turns out that part was easy.

The hard part was developing a rubric for evaluating applications, promoting both the availability of the fund and donations to it, compiling applications, doing the emotionally challenging labor of evaluating them weekly, and then figuring out how to get funds into the hands of individuals experiencing precarity—all in the midst of a pandemic.

I logged the first message from lead organizers Jessica Chapel and Lydia Tang on Saturday, March 21. The fund launched on April 15. To date, some 840 donors have contributed more than $107,000 to assist 144 of their colleagues at a difficult time. That’s just plain awesome! 

It pretty much does take a village, in this case the ad hoc organizing group, the review group, Felicia and Peter—and, of course, our many generous donors.

To the extent possible, we made a lot of strategic decisions after the pandemic struck:

  • We temporarily lifted the embargo on the six most recent issues of American Archivist, through August 15.

  • We went green with American Archivist and Archival Outlook. We’ve been promoting online-only access as a conservation matter, but then made a business decision not to mail periodicals to addresses that were closed during the pandemic.  Archival Outlook will be digital-only through at least the September/October issue, and we will be phasing out print entirely by June 2021.

  • We’re eagerly awaiting a major upgrade to the journal’s online platform, and we’re looking at alternatives for a more interactive platform for Archival Outlook.
  • Speaking of the Journal, we also conducted a search for its next Editor while under quarantine.  An announcement will be forthcoming soon.  But I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Cal Lee for his work as American Archivist editor as he completes his three-year term this December. Two statistics of particular interest, I think, are that journal submissions have increased significantly during Cal’s tenure, and 138 additional people volunteered to serve as peer reviewers in response to Cal’s invitation in September.
  • The gorgeous new Dictionary of Archives Terminology went live in April and already is one of the most trafficked areas of the SAA website. You’ll be hearing a bit more about the Dictionary Working Group today.

  • On April 11 we submitted an IMLS grant proposal for conduct of A*CENSUS II—and on July 23 we learned that we got it! $249,500. Work begins on September 1—and that, too, will take a village! 
  • We appreciated your patience—and that of the 2020 Program and Host committees, some 350 speakers, and our industry partners—as we negotiated a release from our Hilton Hotel contract, issued an RFP for tech vendors, and retooled the Joint Annual Meeting for a virtual environment, with an eye to giving all accepted sessions an opportunity to participate and to meeting the needs of our 46 sections and 16 appointed groups. We were able to make the square peg fit in a round hole this time.  Going forward, however, we really must rethink the conference in light of the likelihood of a fully virtual or at least hybrid annual meeting.  But first – let’s get through this one!

We’re grateful to several industry partners and the SAA Foundation for making it possible to reduce conference registration fees significantly. Keep in mind that, although we might not be enjoying $130-a-gallon hotel coffee (thank goodness), virtual conference technology platforms are certainly not free. As of an hour ago, we have 2,470 registrants for this meeting, the second highest attendance in SAA’s history. There were 2,488 attendees at the 2018 Joint Annual Meeting in Washington, DC, but we’re likely to beat that number before this virtual conference is over.

Gosh, I promised you just a few examples of the member/staff partnership at work—and here I’ve gone on and on….and haven’t even mentioned the three Council listening forums that have been conducted since June (the Community Reflection on Black Lives and Archives, the Investing in Your Membership Forum, and the Diversity Committee-led Black Lives and Archives Listening/Strategy Session). Stay tuned for more of these opportunities in the coming year.

And now, I’d like to share a few reflections.

On display in a corner of my office are some artifacts that mean a lot to me. There’s the bottle of The Archivist wine, a gift from an archivist friend. (It’s getting a little long in the tooth at this point.)  There’s “We Believe in Miracles,” a gift from my journal editor at the American Physical Therapy Association.  I learned there that it’s not about the big, earth-shuddering miracles, but the small ones—those good things that come from thinking big, planning well, surrounding yourself with good people, working hard, and, yes, having some good luck and fun along the way. And there’s the print, which says “Most people don’t know that there are angels whose only job is to make sure you don’t get too comfortable… and fall asleep… and miss your life.”  That’s my reminder that, in this line of business, those angels are our members….

As I’ve informed the staff and the Council, I do not intend to seek a renewal or extension of my current employment contract, which ends on June 30, 2021. I want to make space for someone who will see SAA through its next phase of development. And I need to make space in my life for the many other things that I would like to do. And so this is my last opportunity to provide a “State of the Association.”

SAA punches above its weight. Its volunteers certainly do. I could give you many more examples—but I’ll use this opportunity to call out the 2017-2020 “class” of the SAA Council:  Steven Booth, Brenda Gunn, Audra Eagle Yun, and Meredith Evans. As a class they seemed to have a unique bond. As a class they were supremely creative, initiating work, doing work, taking on any project thrown their way and acing it. As individuals, they are simply remarkable.  And, of course, Meredith—as I’ve often said to her—is a force of nature. Thank you to these wonderful individuals for their many contributions to SAA and the archives profession.

SAA punches above its weight. And so does its staff:  Matt Black. Teresa Brinati. Peter Carlson. Abigail Christian. Felicia Owens. Akila Ruffin. Carlos Salgado. Rana Salzmann. Michael Santiago. Lakesha Thaddis.

To the SAA staff:  You’ve been a joy and an inspiration to me. The lessons I’ve learned from you have everything to do with intentionality, empathy, kindness, and grace….  I hope I get to see you in person sometime soon—we have a conference to celebrate!

It has been my privilege to serve as Executive Director of SAA. Be assured that I will always be an Archives Advocate. Please be safe; be well. Thank you, all.

Zooming

This article originally appeared as the Executive Director’s Message in the May/June 2020 issue of Archival Outlook, available soon.

Zoom is our new and ubiquitous reality. We use it daily—some days, hourly—to connect as a staff, to facilitate the work of SAA groups, and to provide free webcasts. But SAA has been “zooming” in more ways than one since our world and work changed in early March. To wit:

March 10: As COVID-19 interrupted the best-laid plans of SAA’s Committee on Education and staff, the team—and our super-hero instructors—pivoted quickly to convert nine in-person courses to online and craft three free webcasts in response to the pandemic: Suddenly Working at Home: Best Practices for Team Management in Crisis (March 30), Financial Planning in Uncertain Times (May 6), and Managing Your Career in Crisis (June 10). All online courses are available on demand.

March 18: The SAA Council created a “Pandemic Response Resources” page that compiles resources created by SAA groups, external groups, funding agencies, and others on coping with the pandemic. Submit your ideas for resources to saahq@ archivists.org.

April 1: We were delighted to welcome Stacie Williams (University of Chicago) to the position of Publications Editor. Stacie inherits a long list of works in progress, including six titles that are due out this summer. Watch for announcements about Advancing Preservation for Archives and Manuscripts, Reference and Access for Archives and Manuscripts, Engagement in the Digital Era, Making Tools Work For You, and more.

April 1: SAA’s “Go Green” initiative invites you to opt out of the print version of American Archivist and Archival Outlook to help SAA reduce both costs and climate impact. To make the switch, log in to your SAA profile, click “Edit My Profile,” scroll to “Communications and Mailing Preference,” and click “opt out” of the journal and/or magazine. You’ll enjoy the same great content—now a little greener and in the format you prefer.

April 12: We submitted a grant proposal to the Institute of Museum and Library Services for conduct of A*CENSUS II, a comprehensive survey of archivists and archival institutions that will enhance our understanding of the profession’s demographics, work patterns, and practices. Fingers crossed for an award letter in late July!

April 15: The SAA Foundation announced the Archival Workers Emergency Fund, an idea originating with an ad hoc working group led by Jessica Chapel and Lydia Tang that clearly resonated with the archives community. To date, the AWEF Review Committee has awarded 106 applicants a total of $92,300 from the donations of more than 580 individuals and $15,000 in SAAF seed funding. We are blown away by your generosity….  Read more, apply, or donate here.

April 23: The SAA Council’s Archival Compensation Task Force began its daunting two-year assignment under the leadership of SAA member Greta Pittenger (National Public Radio) to identify compensation-related issues, including benefits, salary negotiations, and working conditions; study compensation using existing and new data; survey SAA members; and explore creation of a standing body to advocate on behalf of archivists with O-Net, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and others. (See SAA’s Strategic Plan 2020–2022, Goal 2.1.H.)

April 29: The Dictionary Working Group did it! With hundreds of new items, thousands of citations from more than 600 sources, and a brand-new online platform, the Dictionary of Archives Terminology  premiered. DAT is a work in progress; updates are made weekly as new terms are defined and existing terms are revised. Your feedback and suggestions for new terms will help shape the lexicon.

May 5: Weeks of soul-searching and hotel negotiations ended with our announcement that ARCHIVES*RECORDS 2020: Creating Our Future is going virtual! Program development and logistics for our annual three-ring circus are complicated, but pale in comparison to deconstructing and retooling for a different environment. We’re learning from others’ experiences (via many Zoom meetings) every day. Be assured that we hear your concerns about slashed professional development budgets and furloughs and we’re exploring ways to keep registration fees as low as possible while also providing a great conference experience for you.

May 13: Members of the Committee on Public Awareness researched and drafted “Archivists Rally to Document COVID-19,” a release that we issued nationwide via wire services. Watch for articles in your local media, and use every opportunity to reinforce that archives and archivists are essential!

By June 17: As every spring, we’re working on the budget. The FY21 Budget that the Council discusses will be very different— less detailed—than in past years as we ponder a few broad scenarios for the impact of COVID-19 on virtually all of SAA’s programs. I expect we’ll hope for the best but plan for something less. . . . Like you, SAA faces some challenging financial times ahead.

My apparently unshakeable habit of awakening to NPR reinforces the surreality of these times every morning. And so I look for something to calm me before sleep. My friend Abbi has introduced me to a whole new world of artists, writers, photographers, musicians, and (even) YouTubers via her lovely online weekly “Joy in the Time of Corona.” She reminds me that even though we all seem to be busier and more stressed than ever . . . there is time and space for joy

Be safe, be well, be kind.

The Art of Gathering

Priya Parker, author of The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters (Riverhead Books, 2018) and founder of Thrive Labs, “helps activists, elected officials, corporate executives, educators, and philanthropists create transformative gatherings.” I’ve been making my way through her book for several months now, egged on by the notion of a “transformative gathering”—especially for a conference whose theme is “Transformative!”—and heartened that so much of what we’ve discussed and implemented aligns with her wisdom.

But she has also expanded my way of thinking about SAA conferences with her concept of generous authority:  “A gathering run on generous authority is run with a strong, confident hand, but it is run selflessly, for the sake of others…. When I tell you to host with generous authority, I’m not telling you to domineer. I’m saying to find the courage to be authoritative in the service of three goals”—protect your guests, equalize your guests, and connect your guests. 

See my column in the March/April issue of Archival Outlook (page 24) for many of the steps we’re taking to ensure that those goals are met at ARCHIVES*RECORDS 2019 in Austin. 

In addition, we’re plunging into live streaming in an attempt to connect with those who aren’t able to attend the Austin meeting, whether due to travel bans (as for California state employees) or other constraints (usually financial) that affect folks around the country. Our grand experiment this year is to live stream 18 education sessions and the two plenaries so that non-attendees may participate in real time with the conference. Why 18 sessions? Because live streaming is (still) really expensive (at $5,500 per room per day), and we decided to capture the two sessions across nine time slots that the Program Committee thinks will attract the most attendees. The sessions will not be interactive virtually; we encourage you to use Twitter to share thoughts and ask questions. (Use #SAA19 plus the session number, such as #101. We’ve asked the session chairs to designate someone in the live-streamed sessions who will follow Twitter and pose questions to the speakers.)

We’ll be packaging the live-stream option with on-demand (after-the-fact) access to the live-streamed videos plus audio recordings and dynamic screen (slide) capture of all education sessions and (for the first time) SAA section meetings. There are many technical details to be worked out, but watch the SAA and conference websites for announcements about the package. It will be available to non-attendee members for around $99—and to all conference registrants as part of their registration fee.

Never ones to let grass grow under our feet, watch the SAA website for the Call for Proposals for “Creating Our Future”—the next big gathering of CoSA and SAA at our 2020 Joint Annual Meeting in Chicago.

Enforcing SAA’s Code of Conduct

By Nancy Beaumont, SAA Executive Director

Like many professional associations, SAA has a Code of Conduct that applies to all SAA-sponsored events, online spaces, and formal mentoring relationships.

Development of a Code was proposed by SAA members Rebecca Goldman and Mark Matienzo in January 2014. Council members Terry Baxter and Lisa Mangiafico were appointed to work with Goldman, Matienzo, and me to prepare a draft for Council discussion. From the May 2014 discussion document:

“The ability of SAA members to participate fully in the various events and forums that SAA hosts is a key component in the Society’s diversity and inclusion efforts. Members who feel unwelcome, unsafe, constrained, or silenced are not able to participate fully….

“The proposed policy is not intended to solve all problems nor will it guarantee a harassment-free environment…. What it does attempt to do is let our members know that SAA is creating a culture of concern, a place where members can participate freely in professional and social interaction knowing that harassment is not part of that culture and will be opposed by all members of the SAA community….”

Following a member comment period, the Council revised the document to address a major consideration:  Who would enforce it? The 477-word Code of Conduct that was approved in July 2014 refers to the Executive Director seven times. The rationale for this decision was simple:  The Executive Director, as the chief staff officer, provides continuity over time, has a broad reach to confer with others, and presumably has (i.e., had better have!) the administrative “chops” to be able and willing to enforce the Code:  To investigate, determine a course of action, and deliver a direct message to a Code violator.

The Code provides simple instructions for reaching me to report a Code violation—and it provides recourse if my action is deemed inappropriate:  “Persons who have been expelled or denied access may appeal to the SAA Executive Committee.”

Beyond my Council-directed assignment, it is critically important to me—professionally and personally—that SAA provides an environment that is welcoming to individuals and that does not “constrain scholarly or professional presentation, discourse, or debate, as long as these exchanges are conducted in a respectful manner.”

In my 15-year tenure with SAA, I have addressed inappropriate behaviors a handful of times.  In some cases, the right action was clear:

  • When an SAA staff member complained to me about improper comments made to her by an SAA leader, I addressed the complaint directly with the leader and was assured that there would be no further incidents. There weren’t.
  • When an anti-transgender and gender nonconforming flyer appeared in our registration area at the 2016 Annual Meeting, I worked with the hotel to review security videotapes and interview hotel staff to try to determine who had committed this despicable act. (Unfortunately we never learned who did it.) The Council took up the issue on site at the conference and soon thereafter issued a powerful statement about the incident.

In other cases—particularly those involving interaction on an SAA discussion list or during a conference session—the appropriate action has been less clear. Why? Because one important purpose of those tools is to provide a place for professional discourse and debate. The challenge comes with determining whether “these exchanges are conducted in a respectful manner.” This can be a gray area, and the process is made more challenging when I’m not told immediately so that I can gather perspectives on site.

At the 2018 Annual Meeting in Washington, DC, an audience member in an education session asked a question that at least several audience members thought was transphobic. I learned of the incident at the Saturday morning Council meeting, when a Council member brought it forward as something that she had heard about from others. SAA President Meredith Evans and I agreed to investigate.

During the following week:  I contacted the commenter by phone to discuss the incident and we subsequently had two email exchanges. Meredith spoke with both the session speaker and the commenter. I obtained the audio recording from our provider and Meredith and I listened to the session.  We agreed that the commenter had not intended to offend (although we understand that that is often the case!). And we agreed (as did the presenter) that beyond his attention-grabbing language, his question, in context, had merit. According to both, the presenter and commenter had an engaging professional exchange after the session ended.

Going forward, SAA will provide online training for conference speakers and course instructors about a host of issues, including slide design, time management, and how to handle challenging questions or disruptions during a session. The Code of Conduct will be even more visible throughout future conferences and events.

Please read SAA’s Code of Conduct.  If you experience or witness harassment in any SAA “space” and would prefer not to address it directly, please take your concerns and complaints not to Twitter, but to me. Reach me at nbeaumont@archivists.org or 866-722-7858, ext. 12.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] https://www2.archivists.org/statements/saa-code-of-conduct

[2] https://www2.archivists.org/sites/all/files/0514-VI-A-CodeofConduct.pdf

[3] https://www2.archivists.org/news/2016/message-from-the-saa-council-2016-annual-meeting-incident