Author Archives: tanyazanishbelcher

Some Archives Questions Need Answers

The Task Force on Research/Data and Evaluation will present its preliminary findings to the SAA Council at its upcoming May meeting. Some of their initial findings include the following needs: standardized tools for gathering and analyzing data; a centralized repository of data, tools, and other authoritative aids; training on gathering, analyzing, interpreting, and using data; up-to-date, basic facts and figures about archives and archivists; and a clearinghouse to support archival surveys and research.

These are all areas we need to explore but, for the moment, I’m most interested in the up-to-date, basic facts and figures about archives and archivists. Some of the questions I would like to see answered:

  • What is the current breakdown in percentage of degrees held by archivists? Thirty years ago, the predominant source of archives degrees were history programs. In A*CENSUS (2004), the breakdown was 39.4% for the MLS/MLIS vs 46.3% for the MA/MS/MFA. It now appears that most archivists entering the field are coming from library school programs—but it would be good to have those numbers confirmed. However, there are still many, many people working as archivists who chose another path to this profession. How can archivists coming from different backgrounds—and, in some cases, philosophies—communicate and collaborate most effectively?
  • As a profession, we also need more information about archivists’ salaries, organized by location, type of degree, type of repository, and geographic location. These data would give us important information that would enhance our programming and advocacy efforts. Increasingly, job ads with no salaries are the norm. As with the American Library Association, it would be good for SAA to provide an average salary by state in order to strengthen archivists’ negotiating power.
  • The SAA Foundation provided the financial support for Ben Goldman and Eira Tansey’s “Existence and Location of Originals: Gathering and Documenting Archival Repository Location Data,” a one-year project to identify, gather, standardize, and make publicly accessible United States archival repository location data. It’s difficult for me to believe this information didn’t already exist, but it’s true! Humanities groups have already expressed interest in these data, which could provide much-needed information for advocacy work. Once completed, the dataset will also be available for archivists and SAA, too, giving an opportunity for further research projects.
  • As the various digital, communities, historical, library, museum, and public history fields that overlap with the archives profession continue to expand and splinter, there is a distinct need to map our allied professions. The more we know about each other, the more we can connect and collaborate. Knowing more about the various subsets of SAA membership would also be helpful, as we try to collect more valid and useful data. What has happened to the Mosaic Scholarship participants and Mosaic Fellows? Are they still in the profession or have they moved to other careers? Why? How effective is our mentoring program? Does our partnering structure work? How can we improve this experience? What continuing education do we need to provide for archivists—throughout their careers—including those who are not trained professionally? And finally, what can we provide for those community and citizen archivists who have needs?
  • Following the lead of the museum profession, as archivists, we must fully explore the process of audience building. How can we find those who have never used archives before? How can we determine what resources they need from us? How can we be creative about bringing our resources to new generations and groups?

Brainstorming is the easy part. My hope is that the Task Force will propose a way forward to creation of a robust research agenda that will lead us into the future.


SAA’s Committee on Public Policy and Advocacy: Humanities Advocacy Day

Guest post by Samantha Winn (Virginia Tech), member of SAA’s Committee on Public Policy (COPP):

In 2018, the Society of American Archivists (SAA), Council of State Archivists (CoSA), and National Association of Government Archives & Records Administrators (NAGARA) will meet together in Washington, DC. This gathering represents a unique advocacy opportunity for archives and records workers. To learn more about advocating for archives on Capitol Hill, the Committee on Public Policy sent a small cohort to the National Humanities Alliance (NHA) Annual Meeting and Humanities Advocacy Day from March 11-13. Cohort members included SAA Executive Director Nancy Beaumont, CoSA Executive Director Barbara Teague, COPP chair Dennis Riley, and COPP members Kathleen Roe and Samantha Winn.

The Annual Meeting combined a traditional conference program with advocacy training sessions, briefings on the Congressional appropriations process, and strategy meetings. In anticipation of Humanities Advocacy Day (March 13), NHA staff sorted participants into state-based delegations, scheduled meetings on Capitol Hill with the appropriate representatives, and prepared folders of informational documents to leave with each Congressional office. The NHA prepared an extensive advocacy guide and training video for attendees to review ahead of time.

Delegation members received detailed profiles of each legislator and briefing documents on legislative priorities identified by the NHA. The NHA asked participants to speak on behalf of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), and international education programs under HEA-Title VI and Fulbright-Hays. To demonstrate the value of public funding for the humanities, participants were encouraged to share anecdotes from their own work and projects happening in each Congressional district. NHA staff also coordinated social media campaigns under #NEHforAll and #HAD18 to promote the campaign and publicly thank supportive legislators.

Hill visits took place from 9:00am to 5:00pm on March 13. SAA cohort members travelled with their state delegations to a series of meetings across the Capitol Complex, both on foot and via the Capitol’s exclusive subway system. Attendees recorded the highlights and outcomes of each meeting in a debrief worksheet which was collected by NHA staff at various way stations. NHA staff distributed sample communications for advocates to share with their respective legislators after each visit. Ultimately, the campaign was a great success. Although the Trump administration had proposed the elimination of the NEH, the National Endowment for the Arts, and IMLS, humanities advocates prevailed. Thanks in part to the NHA’s exceptional advocacy campaign, Congress ultimately voted to increase FY 2018 funding for NEH by $3 million and raise IMLS funding by $9 million. The bill also maintained FY 2017 levels of funding for the NHPRC.

COPP looks forward to bringing some of these strategies to SAA 2018. Stay tuned for more information!

Incerto Exitu Victoriae (Of Uncertain Victory), or The Successful Job Candidate’s Lament: Guest Post by Beth Myers

Tanya Zanish-Belcher: A key competency for any archivist starting out or moving up is the ability to negotiate a fair and equitable salary. Statistics show that accepting a smaller salary than you deserve can cost you thousands over the course of your career, so it is well worth investing the time to develop the skill of negotiating with a potential employer.

To that end, Beth Myers, Director of Special Collections at Smith College, agreed to write a guest post focusing on this issue. Beth and I taught a workshop on Career Planning for Archivists at the Midwest Archives Conference (MAC) Annual Meeting in Milwaukee (2016) and salary negotiation was a component of the curriculum. While we are taking a break from teaching this workshop for the year, it will be available as part of MAC’s Speakers’ Bureau (hosting fee only) in 2019:

Although there are many archivists who do not have an MLIS, the American Library Association’s Advocating for Better Salaries Toolkit (2017) provides additional information on this important topic:

The Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) recently published this research on the salary negotiation patterns between men and women in academic libraries. The American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) also provides resources.

Beth Myers, Smith College

If ever there was a reason to celebrate, a successful job search is at the top of the list. For most people there is a palpable relief that so much hard work is in the rearview mirror — mulling the posting and potential ramifications of getting a new job (good, bad, and unknown), crafting and submitting the application, the waiting, the interview(s), the reference calls, the waiting. But in other ways hard work still lies ahead and few other psychological roadblocks loom as large for so many people as the salary negotiation. The negotiation period places the job seeker and organization making the offer in a nebulous sociocultural-economic space loaded with assumptions, guess work, power dynamics, and awkwardness. Like an ABD distinction for PhDs, the salary negotiation period conveys the status of incomplete (or perhaps uncertain) success—a journey not yet finished.

Not all jobs come with a period of negotiation for salary and benefits, let alone so-called perks. Some first offers are also final offers due to internal constraints that are rarely visible to the job candidate. Term positions, hourly positions, and entry-level salaries are often, but not always, fixed. Some organizations don’t negotiate as part of a unique workplace culture or, more whimsically, the habit of a particular administrator. Some organizations are more transparent in the process than others, but none that I know of completely reveal the boundaries or wiggle room or define exactly what is on offer. In the absence of specifics, most job candidates are forced to guess at the limitations of the offer:  Where is the real ceiling and where is the real floor? All the while, a psychological ripple begins for the job candidate:  How much do they like me? Need me? What if I ask for too much? The reverse of this can also be true. Hiring managers often function under institutional pressure to keep labor costs low. If too low, the best candidates may well (and rightly) be out of reach.

There are steps a candidate can take to enter the negotiation period with confidence that, with some luck, will result in a quadam victoria — certain victory (or, more likely, certain compromise). First and most important is knowing what your red line is. The red line is the package that you need in order to live the quality of life that you require. The red line is so-called because it is non-negotiable, solid, and inflexible. The red line exists so that you know well in advance what it will take to complete the negotiation and at what point you are willing to walk away regardless of how tempting the job might be.

You will know your red line because you’ve done your homework to determine the amount of income and benefits that you, and often your family, need to flourish: 1) if relocating, cost-of-living changes from housing to commuting costs, gas, electric, insurance, and similar; 2) health insurance, including dental and eye care; and 3) long-term benefits, such as retirement package and employee support for dependents of any age. That includes school tuition discounts and family leave support not otherwise determined by the federal government. There are a bevy of tools out there to help you determine the economics of your job transition. One of the more oft-cited is the living wage calculator from MIT.

There are other ways to do your research a bit closer to the profession. Some of these sources are dated now, but can be instructive: SAA’s A*CENSUS (2004), SAA Salary Survey (2015), Association of American University Women (2016), Digital Asset Management Foundation (2014/2016), and Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Handbook (2014). Newer work, especially the 2017 WArS/SAA Salary Survey: Initial Results and Analysis by Robin H. Israel and Jodi Reeves Eyre of Eyre & Israel, LLC, is also very helpful.

It is also important to gather as much unofficial information as possible. Tap your professional networks and friends and, by extension, their networks and friends. Although there is a general reluctance in U.S. culture to talk about salaries, there absolutely should not be. Ask around — public academic and government job salaries and grades are typically posted publicly; academic and corporate jobs are as often obscured. Sometimes the only way to get a sense of the salary is to ask friends or former employees at that institution. If quality of home life is a main motivator to change jobs, talk to people who live in the area. The more you know, the better prepared you will be.

Once you have done the homework, determine your red line. Remember to consider the full package on offer, not just the pre-tax salary. The employer will be thinking in terms of salary + insurance + retirement + cost of employment over time, and so should you. The retirement package in particular is often overlooked, especially by new/newer professionals, but it has the greatest long-term impact on the employee.

Do some soul searching: How much do you really want the job? No job is perfect, no institution is perfect. Even self-employment has its drawbacks. What a new position offers is potential and hope. That hope can be for advancement.  How does the job fit in the longer professional trajectory? That hope can be for a better work environment and culture. How do people get along at work? How does the institution support its workers? That hope can be for a better living environment. Is it time to leave the city for the town or vice versa? Although it would be easier to reduce a prospective job to the salary, such an approach ignores the real impact and complexity of making a professional move.

A few more suggestions to keep in mind prior to starting your salary negotiations:

  • Know that everyone wants a positive outcome.
  • Odds are that no one is trying to deceive you, but it’s good to remember that there are systems and expectations at work that will not be visible to you.
  • While it is important and reasonable to have high expectations about the offer, be prepared to compromise.
  • It is likely that your initial salary number will be high and the first offer low. Respond professionally. This is a 5K, not a sprint.

There are also practical concerns when negotiating salary. Typically negotiations will take place over the phone. You will likely be negotiating with the person who will be your supervisor, but it might be a representative from human resources or another person in the organization who is authorized to negotiate. Typically the first offer comes from the employer. Keep notes on the conversation to reflect on later. Ask clarifying questions. If you feel pressure or are uncertain, ask for a little time to think about the offer. Twenty-four hours is common, but you can ask for more time. If the offer is truly too low and below your red line, tell the employer and provide a counter offer. If you think the negotiation is not moving forward productively, you can ask to speak to someone in human resources (although responses to that request will vary by institution).

Importantly, do not forget about so-called “periphery benefits”: What kind of tech package do you need to be successful on the job? What support is guaranteed for professional development and training and professional association memberships on an annual basis? What is the organization’s approach to short-term schedule flexibility? What support will the institution offer for a trailing partner or spouse? Is there a chance for a one-time signing bonus? Ask about raises: What’s the five-year average for merit-based raises or contractually mandated raises? Are funds for continuing education for advanced degrees and certifications available? Does the institution support paid leave for research and scholarship? Does the institution offer subsidized housing? Relocation support?

No matter how high the stress or emotions involved, avoid ultimatums and framing your needs in absolutes. (This is a poor negotiation tactic in any circumstance!) Instead, frame your needs from a practical point of view. The core language of a job search is that an organization has a need / opportunity and that you are the best possible answer to that need. Throughout the negotiation, restate your commitment to the job, the specific ways in which hiring you will benefit the organization, and the unique skills and abilities you will bring—all of which translates to how you are worth the investment.  Because you are.

Finally, no deal is final until you get the offer in writing from the institution, so hold off on making any public announcements or giving notice at your current position until that all-important letter arrives. Once it does, put on the party music because it’s time to celebrate a victory for all involved.


A Final Note from the ICA Meeting, Mexico City

One final comment on the ICA meeting in Mexico City. I had the opportunity to hear Trudy Huskamp Peterson, SAA past president and former Acting Archivist of the United States, speak about the work of swisspeace. Trudy is chair of ICA’s Human Rights Working Group and also served as archivist of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. She has worked with numerous governments, groups, and organizations on archives issues and was the advisor to the National Police Historical Archive of Guatemala (Archivo Histórico de la Policía Nacional (AHPN).

swisspeace is a practice-oriented peace research institute based at the University of Basel whose mission focuses on contributing to the improvement of conflict prevention and conflict transformation.  The institute is developing and applying new peacebuilding tools and methodologies through its Archives and Dealing with the Past Project. Of special interest is a proposed program for providing safe havens for archives at risk whereby the digital records will be stored elsewhere for permanent protection and retention.

swisspeace has been developing these tools focusing on four principles which are part of their Conceptual Framework:

  • The right to know
  • The right to justice
  • The right to reparations
  •  The guarantee of non-recurrence



Draft Guiding Principles for Safe Havens for Archives at Risk–final call for comments

While this draft of the Guiding Principles for Safe Havens for Archives at Risk has been shared previously, the final deadline for public comments is coming up. Please review and share your thoughts by February 28:

The draft Guiding Principles are a set of principles providing guidance on archival and ethical principles to be taken into account when planning the transfer of analogue or digital archives or copies thereof to another institution for safekeeping.

International Council on Archives Meeting, Mexico City 2017

I recently attended the International Council on Archives annual meeting in Mexico City, held jointly with the Asociación Latinoamericana de Archivos. The conference sessions were interesting (for the most part, conducted in English, Spanish, and French with translation), and Mexico City was a fascinating hubbub of 22 million people and their cars. The conference itself was held at Unidad de Congresos, the Centro Medico Nacional Siglo XXI and the theme was Archives, Citizenship, and Interculturalism. There were participants from 83 countries, including many from Latin America, Africa, and Asia. This was the first time the ICA conference has been held in Latin America.


Margarita Vargas-Betancourt has shared her conference experiences on the International Archival Affairs Section blog:

SAA Past President Gregor Trinkaus-Randall also shared his opinion on the value of attending ICA in Mexico City: “As to the conference, I always find it enlightening to talk to archivists from other countries. Now that I have been going for six years, I now have some colleagues with whom I connect each year. I thought that the sessions that I attended were interesting and informative and projected perspectives that we would not normally hear at SAA. Granted, the sessions that I attended were mostly preservation/disaster related, they were informative and wide-ranging.”

Meg Phillips from NARA shared her perspective in a previous guest blog post.

ICA is meeting next in Yaounde, Cameroon, in November 2018.

I was invited to meet with Dr. Mercedes de Vega, the current Archivist of Mexico and the President of the Asociación Latinoamericana de Archivos. A special thanks to translators and SAA members Margarita Vargas-Betancourt and Natalie Baur who also attended the meeting.  Dr. de Vega is interested in learning more about how SAA is organized and possible collaborations between our two organizations. We discussed recent disasters in both Puerto Rico and Mexico, and how to better connect funding resources with damaged archives. As a reminder, repositories in the U.S., Mexico, and Caribbean are welcome to apply for funding, and thanks to SAA’s Latin American and Caribbean Cultural Heritage Archives Section (LACCHA), this information is also available in Spanish. Please share with anyone whom you think may be interested or in need.

I gave a presentation focusing on the recent activities of the Society of American Archivists, focusing on advocacy, diversity and inclusion, and membership. I also spoke about what I see as current challenges to the archives profession. Here is a condensed version of my remarks related to the challenges that SAA and the archives profession face:

Transparency and Public Policy
The number of requests we receive from SAA members demonstrate the high level of interest in public policy in the U.S., particularly with the most recent election. The SAA public policy agenda is defined as any government policy—federal, state, or local—that directly affects the archival record, through legislation, executive orders, judicial decisions, funding priorities, and other regulatory measures. SAA is committed to monitoring and supporting policies that will ensure the protection of privacy and individual rights and ensure the transparency and accountability of government at all levels. However, in just the past 2 to 3 years, we have witnessed growing challenges to so many archives-related policies, so much so that it is difficult for a primarily volunteer organization to react to every one of them as we would like, but we must continue to try. There are also additional records access issues related to declassification, copyright, confidentiality, freedom of information laws, and surveillance that also require archivists to contribute their expertise and to ensure that we are heard by those in authority.

Digital Infrastructure
Recently the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) shared a final report and hosted a forum assessing how their funding distribution has propelled the development of a National Digital Platform. Among their goals were the inclusivity of diverse communities and sovereign tribal nations that make up the United States; radical and systemic collaboration to advance services through collaboration; decentralization and interoperability—a coordinated effort to develop cooperative tools and services; and supporting the continuing education of the professional librarians and archivists who develop, use, and maintain these tools, among others. As librarian David Lee King noted in his blog review: IMLS is funding an incredible number of projects (such as the Digital Public Library of America and the Digital Library Federation) and yet, “Also – there are a LOT of institutions doing a lot of great things – but sorta on their own. Yes, they might have a project partner or two. But some of these projects could be made better, and have better sustainability, if they connected more directly with other organizations doing similar work, and maybe even sharing what they do with each other to build something better and bigger than they could on their own.” Development and sustainability, and inclusivity of all (especially smaller repositories), remain issues in this area.

Professional Development
Professional development is making sure archivists have the resources to be fully effective in all they wish to accomplish. Developing the appropriate programming and ensuring its availability and affordability is not easy. Recruiting and retaining a diverse profession, collaborative continuing education training with allied professions, and opportunities for leadership, mentoring, and networking are necessary for the success of archivists in the 21st century.

A*CENSUS, the first truly comprehensive nationwide survey of the U.S. archives profession, was fielded in 2004 and included reports on Graduate Education, Continuing Education, Diversity, Leadership, and Certification. Think about that:  2004. We need current and quantifiable information about ourselves, both as a profession and as professionals, to better assess where we fit into a complicated economy, culture, and world. There are so many questions, yet so few resources to answer them. This is one of the reasons why the SAA Council created the Task Force on Research/Data and Evaluation, which is considering the research needs of archivists and SAA as an organization.

Finally, archivists have long expanded their professional practice beyond a passive acceptance of records brought to us, although that may still be part of our work. Being proactive about our collection development practices and, in many cases, assisting in the very creation of records, can expand what documentation exists. Collaborating with communities who are creating and preserving their own archives can challenge our traditional modes of operation. They require us to step out of our previously understood professional role and place other groups, and their archives work, first. Records do exist beyond our repositories, and our skills can assist others in preserving their own experience and diversifying our cultural heritage.

Empowering these community organizations and groups can be a good reminder of why we are archivists in the first place and allow us to share our expertise for the greater good. Simultaneously, it can also remind us that history can be complicated, people may be uncomfortable with that complexity, and how we see the world as archivists is not necessarily how everyone else sees it.

Finally, a number of SAA members involved with LACCHA had lunch together to finish out the conference:

24131796_10155225259733224_1030783243851314283_oGeorge Apodaca (Past Chair), Margarita Vargas-Betancourt (Past Chair and current Steering Committee member), Tanya Zanish-Belcher (Council Liaison to LACCHA, 2012-2015), Natalie Baur (Past Chair) and Joel Blanco-Rivera (Past Chair)


Guest Post from the ARCHIVES*RECORDS 2018 Program Committee

2018 Program Committee Update: What Happens During the January Meeting?
Following our meeting earlier this month—and building on the ARCHIVES*RECORDS 2018 theme of “Promoting Transparency,” the Program Committee is happy to share more information on our session selection process.

Meg Tuomala, SAA Program Committee Co-chair

Purpose and Process
Every year in early January the program committee meets at the SAA offices in Chicago. This meeting is a three-day, in-person meeting where we make discuss proposals as a group and make decisions on the education sessions that will be offered at the annual meeting. More on how the committee approached the review process can be found in the January/February issue of Archival Outlook.

Committee Membership
Because SAA is meeting with CoSA and NAGARA this year, the committee is composed of 15 members from all three organizations. Additionally, there are three co-chairs, one representing each organization.

  • Debbie Bahn (NAGARA co-chair)
  • Lisa Speer (CoSA co-chair)
  • Meg Tuomala (SAA co-chair)
  • Barrye Brown (SAA)
  • Catherine Carmack (NAGARA)
  • Dorothy Davis (CoSA)
  • Kate Donovan (SAA)
  • Matthew Francis (SAA)
  • Brad Houston (SAA)
  • Christina Orozco (SAA)
  • Arian Ravanbakhsh (NAGARA)
  • Dennis Riley (CosA)
  • Sara Seltzer (SAA)
  • Kristopher Stenson (NAGARA)
  • Mitch Toda (SAA)
  • Joyce Gabiola (ex-officio, 2019 co-chair)
  • Rachel Winston (ex-officio, 2019 co-chair)

SAA Staff Support
This meeting would not be possible without SAA staff. Here are just a few examples of the expertise and support that they offer to the Program Committee during the meeting.

Felicia Owens, SAA’s Governance Coordinator, plans all meeting logistics and makes sure the committee is well fed and comfortable in Chicago. She takes notes during the meeting to help with follow-up communications and messaging.

Matt Black, SAA’s Web and Information Systems Administrator, runs the meeting technology. In addition to getting committee members all of the proposal rankings and documentation we need in advance of the meeting, he runs ad hoc reports on session topics, proposers, session types, and other numbers throughout the meeting. This is integral to ensuring that the program is balanced and that we’re staying on track and hitting our mark.

Carlos Salgado, Manager of SAA’s Service Center, is on hand to help wherever and whenever needed. He takes notes during the meeting to help with follow-up communications and messaging, and plays a major role in facilitating all of the notifications that are sent to session proposers and speakers post-meeting.

Nancy Beaumont, SAA’s Executive Director, keeps the meeting on track and provides expert advice and guidance when the committee can’t seem to come to consensus on the discussion at hand. Her years of experience planning SAA’s annual meetings are an invaluable asset to the Program Committee. Nancy ensures that the meeting is focused, that our discussions move the program forward, and that our main goal—leaving Chicago with the program drafted—is met.

Johnny Hadlock from NAGARA and Barbara Teague from CoSA were also on hand this year to ensure that the needs of their memberships were represented and met.

Outcomes and Highlights
During our three days together we selected 72 education sessions and a handful of alternate sessions for the Joint Annual Meeting. This year we will offer a dedicated records management track and, as in past years, we have reserved a handful of spots for pop-up sessions. Look for a call for pop-up proposals later this spring.

2018 Program Committee