Category Archives: Member Needs

Keeping Evidence & Memory: Archives Storytelling in the 21st Century (Presidential Address, SAA Annual Meeting), August 17, 2018 by Tanya Zanish-Belcher

A pre-recorded video version of this address is available here.

Good morning and welcome again to the annual meeting of the Society of American Archivists. I am honored to be speaking to you this morning as SAA’s 73rd President and would like to express my gratitude for having the opportunity to represent our organization this past year.

Three years ago, our SAA annual meeting theme was about Telling the Story of Archives as part of President Kathleen Roe’s Year of Living Dangerously. Recently the term storytelling just kept popping up everywhere for me. I subscribe to the Brain Pickings newsletter (edited by Maria Popova) which has the literary arts as a focal point. While I often delete the messages due to lack of time, I do save them if a subject catches my eye. And so, while I was reading what I had set aside, the word “Storytelling” appeared three times in conjunction with authors Iris Murdoch, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Susan Sontag. In the next day or so, the SAA Annual Meeting Program came out and I signed up to attend A Finding Aid to My Soul, an open-mic storytelling session tonight. In May, I was interviewed for a blog post on diversity in archives created by Pass It Down, which advertises itself as a digital storytelling company. And finally, just last week, I was standing at the elevator and saw a Wake Forest flyer advertising the MA in Sports Storytelling Program.

Beyond simply telling our own archives stories, though, I realized the term can also be used in how we consider the documentary record. Archives storytelling is, in every way, dependent on recorded evidence and memory. Researchers use the records we collect to make sense of the past, present, and future. Through archives and their use, there is a cycle of storytelling with multiple characters and perspectives, different endings, and even never endings.

As Murdoch observes “we are constantly employing language to make interesting forms out of experience which perhaps originally seemed dull or incoherent.” The making of sense belongs to the genealogists, researchers, scholars, and students who visit us or view our materials online. We can only hope that what we have acquired and collected can provide those interesting forms.

We need to remember that as Sontag points out “To tell a story is to say: this is the important story. It is to reduce the spread and simultaneity of everything to something linear, a path.” This is why we collect about inadequately represented communities, create a documentation strategy, or interview and capture the stories of those who have been left out of the historical record. Wherever archivists focus their attention and effort can expand the number of stories told.

Finally, Le Guin observed that One of the functions of archives is to give people the words to know their own experience… Storytelling is a tool for knowing who we are and what we want.”

However, how do we tell our story? The story of archivists? Who are we, and what do we want?

So, here is a short tale of what SAA (and when I say SAA, I mean all of us) has been working on over the past year. I’ll focus in particular on Advocacy, Diversity, the SAA Foundation, and Membership. There will be more to come in a forthcoming article in the American Archivist.

Advocacy
One of the primary ways we tell our story—for archivists, users, and the records, is through the practice of advocacy.  Nothing could have prepared me for the onslaught of historical record issues for this past year or two, especially at the federal record level. Public records, including local and state records, truly are essential to the functioning of American democracy. In my years as SAA President and Vice President, we have created numerous issue briefs and position statements, signed letters and petitions, and responded to external requests representing crucial national records concerns. The most recent relate to our support of the Presidential Records Act, concern over the illegal removal of Iraqi records from Iraq, and opposing the nomination of Gina Haspel as Director of the CIA (given her destruction of records documenting torture). We spoke about the importance of Net Neutrality, the Use of Private Email by all government officials, the need for Transparency in Public Records, the Value and Importance of the U.S. Census, and Police Mobile Camera Footage as a Public Record. For anyone interested in the labor-intensive and complex process by which these briefs and statements come to pass, please see my Off the Record blog post from July 16.

Why does SAA dedicate its time to advocacy and why is this important for us? Archivists play a special role in the preservation of the historical record and in many cases the preservation and access of these records are dependent on our local, state, and federal governments. Awareness building also allows us to share who we are with the public and why records are integral to their lives. Through these efforts we do our best to ensure that archival sources protect the rights of individuals and organizations, assure the continued accountability of governments and institutions based on evidence, and safeguard access to historical information and cultural heritage.

Diversity
Fostering diversity and inclusion within the profession continues to be a high priority for SAA. Fundraising for the MOSAIC Scholarship and the Brenda S. Banks Travel Award continues, and our key partnership with the Association of Research Libraries in the IMLS-funded Mosaic Fellows Program will last 2 and possibly 3 more years. I am also pleased to again announce that Council endorsed the Native American Protocols earlier this week.

The Task Force on Accessibility is updating our 2010 Best Practices for Working with Archives Employees and Users with Physical Disabilities and is expanding them to include neuro-disabilities, temporary disabilities, and others that may be in scope. A draft was shared earlier this week with Council, and member review will take place shortly.

Our Tragedy Response Initiative Task Force was proposed by our Diverse Sexuality and Gender Section, who were motivated by the Pulse Night Club tragedy as well as far too many other incidents in the past few years. The TF will provide guidance regarding policies, procedures, and best practices for acquisition, deaccessioning, preservation, and access of memorial collections. An update was provided in the Off the Record blog post on July 30 and a final report will be submitted by 2020.

Finally, sharing our expertise should be a priority. In my first job at the Alabama Department of Archives and History, I learned to process and describe collections and to grapple with the enormity, complexity and, quite often, the awfulness of American history. As a transplanted Yankee, it didn’t take me long to figure out the reason for the Confederate flag above the Capitol, or why the state holidays list included Confederate Memorial Day and Martin Luther King, Jr./Robert E. Lee Day (still). I understood too well why the street on which I was fortunate to attend the dedication of the Civil Rights Memorial at the Southern Poverty Law Center also hosted a Ku Klux Klan march several years later. This is not isolated to Alabama, or even to one region of our country. The symbols of oppression and our violent past are all around us.

Last fall’s events in Charlottesville point to the need for archivists to use our skills and experience to assist our communities in researching and determining the history of the names, images, and monuments in our midst. The Council’s Diversity and Inclusion Working Group has begun the process of creating a series of Diversity Toolkits available online for archivists and anyone else who needs its resources. The resources currently include materials for facilitating discussions, helping communities in crisis, researching monuments, and how to teach hard history at the K-12 level. A Bibliography for Monuments and Symbols of Oppression is also available on the SAA web site via an Off the Record blog post. The goal is to provide a starting point to learn more about these issues.

All this work is good. But more needs to be done. Diversity and Inclusion is not simply the purview of the Diversity Committee or our Sections or Council but is a responsibility for all of us.

SAA Foundation
Too many archival stories this past year have involved natural disasters–hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, and the terrifying fires on the west coast. Fortunately, the SAA Foundation’s National Disaster Recovery Fund was expanded in 2017 to include eligibility for Mexico and non-US Caribbean Islands and to award up to $5,000 in grant funding. As you can imagine, Hurricane Maria and the Mexican earthquake damaged many archival repositories. To date, the Foundation has awarded nine grants to archivists and repositories in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Mexico. We are grateful to our Latin American & Caribbean Cultural Heritage Archives Section for translating the application materials. We have a growing role to play in the American hemisphere and it is important we take that responsibility seriously.

The Foundation also supported a new travel grants program for 2018 to provide grants of up to $1,000 each for travel to attend the SAA Annual Meeting. We received nearly 80 applications for 10 grants! Sustainable funding for professional development is an obvious problem for archivists and so as I transition to the position of Immediate Past President and remain on the SAA Foundation Board for (at least) one more year, one of my goals will be to explore how we can connect with external foundations and match their available funding and interests with our needs.  In the meantime, I am happy to report that SAA Foundation Board recently approved $10,000 in travel grants for Austin 2019.

Membership and Professional Development
Recently, SAA has undertaken two recent membership surveys, one focused on institutional support for professional development and the other for the needs and interests of mid-career archivists. The results provided key data about what our members need for their success. I mentioned exploring foundation support for professional development, but we also obtained good information about what continuing education archivists would like to see SAA provide—courses on career planning, management, and leadership, among others. Your feedback in these surveys provide a path for SAA to follow over the next several years.

SAA members have recently reviewed the updated Principles of the Annual Meeting, the Code of Ethics, Best Practices for Internships as a Component of a Graduate Archival Program, and Best Practices for Volunteers. Treat these as the opportunities they are for having your voice heard. And never feel hesitant to contact your elected officers and Council.

These are only some of the SAA stories from the past year.

Here are some Recommendations for SAA’s Future.

First and foremost, we need to refocus our energies for Diversity and Inclusion. How can we better document and share the unique diversity projects being undertaken in so many of our repositories?  Archivists need to create case studies, essays, and articles and make them available through the SAA  website–this can help us ensure our important collection development efforts inspire others to establish new programs. The Diversity Toolkits also need to be finalized and we need all our members to contribute ideas and sources. If everyone in this room submitted a 500-word annotated source, the Toolkits would be a tremendous crowd-based resource for all. There will be a call after the annual meeting, so please plan to send in your suggestions.

Second, we need more information about the makeup of our profession so that SAA can work to meet the many needs of its members. In his 2016 President’s Address, Dennis Meissner called for the creation of a Task Force on Research/Data and Evaluation. The Task Force, created last fall, presented some preliminary findings at the May Council meeting. What questions would I like to see answered about us?

  • What is the current breakdown in percentage of degrees held by archivists? Thirty years ago, the predominant source of archives degrees was 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? How can our continuing education programs assist in fostering community among such a disparate group?
  • How can we better collaborate with the graduate programs which funnel students into the profession? I have heard comments about the number of graduates and the perception they are overwhelming a small job market. SAA has done many evaluations and reports which indicate we simply cannot afford the cost of an official accreditation process. So, it may be time to think creatively about what SAA CAN do.
    • We can collect better documentation of all archives graduate programs, no matter the discipline, and increase the understanding of their strengths
    • We could collaborate with archival educators and host an annual forum as an invited opportunity for all archives program representatives, educators, and practicing archivists to meet and discuss issues?
    • We can foster forums for the various degree programs to discuss curriculum and other issues impacting archives students
    • We can explore collaborative assessment projects for programs and highlight student projects from a variety of programs?
  • 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—how can we encourage more transparency for the profession? The National Council on Public History and the American Association for State and Local History recently introduced policies that any job ads shared on their site must have salaries posted. And 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.
  • Knowing more about the various subsets of SAA membership would also be helpful, as we try to collect more valid and useful data. As I mentioned previously, what has happened to the Mosaic Scholarship participants, Mosaic Fellows, and Harold J. Pinkett Scholars? Are they still in the profession or have they moved to other careers? Why? How can we truly assess and improve our recruiting and retention efforts to expand the diversity of the profession? How effective is our mentoring program? Does our partnering structure work? How can we improve this experience? It is time to explore the ways we can truly examine our hiring and organizational practices.
  • It is apparent that the archives profession has many economic issues. These range from how graduates find the programs they attend, the lack of underrepresented communities participating as archivists, the increasing number of students, the limited number of permanent positions, and the overwhelming prevalence of Part-Time and Temporary positions, among others. SAA members recently reviewed the Best Practices for Internships and Volunteers, with many good ideas for revisions. However, in addition to these Best Practices I would suggest we proactively develop solutions for institutions to consider.Some possible ideas:
  • Investigate grant possibilities for the support, either profession-wide, or a consortium of institutions, much like our MOSAIC program to provide financial support
  • Fundraising in your home institution to create endowments or expendable accounts to support interns, and SAA-developed guidelines on how to make that happen.
  • Provide best practices to guide archivists communicating with their local graduate archives programs (who require internships as part of their degree process) to discuss these concerns further and develop ways to either provide support for interns, tuition remission, or provide the credit hours without cost to the student.

Given that the Task Force will most likely recommend the creation of an SAA Committee dedicated to Research, I would therefore propose the consideration of a subcommittee answering to the larger group. This subcommittee would be specifically dedicated to economic equity and collect data about employment matters, including benefits, internships, salaries, how and when graduates enter entry-level positions, promotions, retirement, and broader work topics such as developing apprenticeship programs and how to make our labor visible.

Until we have the data and the ability to thoroughly analyze the results, it is difficult for SAA to respond in a substantive manner.

It will always be difficult for a large/complex organization to move nimbly and be flexible, given competing priorities and SAA’s commitment to building consensus. Does SAA always get it right? Of course not.

However, I would argue that SAA succeeds more often than it fails. And I would like to believe that we are an organization that learns from its mistakes to do things better the next time.

Much like democracy, SAA is us, after all.

Challenges for the Archives Profession

While SAA faces significant tests, the broader archives profession also faces challenges. Sometimes these intersect and overlap, but not always. By joining SAA, you have already chosen a leadership position for the profession, and it is important to 1) be knowledgeable about organizations and affiliated professions other than your own and 2) consider how decision-making and discussions can also affect non-SAA members.

  1. The Value of the Public Record

Over the past three decades, there have been increasing pressures on the very concept of public records, something so key to the functioning of our American democracy. Secrecy and efforts to hide corruption and wrongdoing and “fake news” have been present in our political life dating back to the earliest days of the Republic. As we now live in a digital world, many of our basic beliefs about what can be controlled in the creation or alteration of a record, its authenticity and very meaning are called into question. Preservation and access to the public record, whether you are a government records archivist or not, should be a concern to you as a citizen.

The political spoils of our election system do have consequences for the historical record and have a direct impact on the efficacy of the archival enterprise. Current challenges for government archives sustainability include the overall shrinkage of governments and budget cuts for archives; the political appointments of individuals without archives experience or backgrounds; archives being subsumed by government bureaucracy and overwhelmed by unfunded mandates; and officials not understanding the role or importance of electronic records and digital preservation.

Citizens still have ways to challenge and question records restriction or destruction and protect open access, including FOIA requests, Sunshine laws, and calls for public comment on appraisal decisions. Just two weeks ago, CREW (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington) have brought Federal Records Act (FRA) lawsuits against the EPA, filed a FOIA request with the State Department, and after filing a complaint with NARA, an investigation is underway to determine if the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) violated the law by deleting records of immigrant families split at the border.

I would ask of you to serve as archives experts and responsible citizens to closely monitor your local archives, state archives and SHRABS, and NARA. Be an advocate and stay informed. Write letters to the local newspapers and talk with your legislators and representatives about the importance of archives. There are advocacy publications and affordable webinars forthcoming from SAA—use them. SAA and individual archivists have an important role to play as consistent and constant advocates.

  1. International Human Rights

I represented SAA at the International Council on Archives in Mexico City last fall and I came to some conclusions about the importance of SAA’s international activities. We have a major role to play in the American hemisphere and world, not only as a role model, but also sharing resources such as disaster funding, copyright discussions, and developing collaborative projects which can impact archivists in multiple countries. Given our meeting location in Austin next year, I would very much like to see a concerted effort to invite archivists from throughout the American hemisphere, especially Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and Southern America to join us and discuss both the questions and possibilities.

The documentation of human rights was also discussed. Past SAA President and former Interim Archivist of the United States Trudy Petersen reported on her work with Swisspeace, an effort (in collaboration with ICA) to preserve records in digital format in different geographic locations for protection purposes. They recently shared the draft Guiding Principles for Safe Havens for Archives at Risk for comment from the archives community. Amnesty International is also announcing a project for the preservation of digital records. According to their press release, “the new archive will accelerate investigations into human rights violations and protect digital records of significant historical importance to the global movement.” It is important we support this work and recognize that both activists and archivists play a role in ensuring the preservation and access to these records.

  1. Allied Memory Organizations and Professions

The various communities comprising digital humanities, digital libraries, history, 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 associated collection and memory professions and how our grants, projects, and research activities impact all of us.

Later today, we will be meeting with representatives of nearly 20 organizations, including the American Association for State and Local History, the Association for Moving Image Archivists, the Coalition for Networked Information, the Digital Library Federation, and RBMS, among others. We plan to discuss how we can more effectively collaborate and share information about data gathering, advocacy strategies, research methodologies, and user infrastructure, when we remain so incredibly siloed.

  1. Leadership and Service

I want to conclude this presentation with some brief points about your own leadership practice as I believe this is where SAA truly has so much to offer to each of you. Both SAA and the archives profession need you. It needs every one of you—your energy, your willingness to work hard, your perspective. Keep these things in mind as you write your own story.

Be strategic and mindful about your archives career and service. Dedicate yourself to what you truly care about and are willing to spend the time on.

Leaders are made, not born. Consider every experience you have as an important step on your path and as a part of your individual story.

Believe in yourself and share yourself with others. Smile and say hello to someone at this meeting you don’t know. Share a story from your archives. Find a mentor. Be a mentor. When a colleague calls on you for advice, answer.

Finally, I would also advise the following given how emotionally taxing our work can be at times.

Remember why you do what you do. Take time for reflection and introspection.

Take comfort in the friendship and support of your archives friends and colleagues.

Appreciate and feel the gratitude of your donors, no matter if they are individuals, offices, or agencies.

Remember the integral role you play in creating the historical record. Be creative and strategic on how you accomplish your vocation.

And here’s my final thought. While archivists are about records, what we really are about is people. The people who created and saved the records, present, past, and future and the people who want to use them to construct new narratives. Our mission is how can we best serve as thoughtful and dedicated intermediaries to ensure their stories and lives are not forgotten.

Thank you for sharing this time with me today.

Preliminary Results from Mid-Career Archivists Pop-Up Survey by Tanya Zanish-Belcher

In April, SAA fielded a pop-up survey focused on mid-career archivists. “Mid-career” was defined as more than five years in the profession and more than 10 years until retirement. The goal of the survey was not necessarily statistical, but to collect ideas and issues for education programming and to ensure that we are considering the concerns and needs of this group in SAA’s strategic planning. Here are some preliminary results.

How long have you been working in the archives field?

There were 698 responses that broke down as follows:

5-10 years:         40.54% (283)
10-15 years:       28.80% (201)
16-20 years:       20.06% (140)
21+:                      10.60% (74)

What issues are of the greatest concern to you at this stage of your career?

The three issues at the highest level were burnout and stress; little opportunity for growth and promotion; and life balance. Although SAA may not be able to deal with these issues directly, it’s important that you can rely on your professional organization for support for your continued development, networking, and career progress.

What do you find most challenging at this stage of your career?

The answers (in priority order) were staying current, career planning, salary, workloads, networking, and internal advocacy. SAA’s education programming is there to help you with training needs. We’re already planning a webcast on salary negotiation (see this past post too) and are working on gathering other online resources on career planning and advocacy.

What do you think that SAA, as your professional organization, should do or provide to help you at this stage of your career?

Online courses: 57.48%
Courses and training: 48.59%
Annual meeting programming: 42.81%
Certificate program in leadership and/or management: 40.89%

Overall, the survey answers were both enlightening and worrying. One resource that I hope more members will consider is participating in the SAA Mentoring Program, either mentoring others or being mentored. SAA will continue to advocate for the needs of archivists and explore programming to answer some of the difficult questions raised by the survey participants, but it is also up to us to take care of each other as much as we can.

 

 

Guest Post: What about Denver? Or Minneapolis? by Nancy Beaumont, Executive Director-SAA

What About Denver? Or Minneapolis?

Discussion of SAA Annual Meeting sites is cyclical and generally heats up in the spring, just as we begin registration for the upcoming conference. Members begin thinking about whether they’ll attend this year—and, inevitably, where they’d rather be going.

In a recent Twitter exchange, tweeters calculated the number of times the Annual Meeting has been held in each region of the country, commented about a return to the Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel, and suggested that we consider Minneapolis/St. Paul, Cincinnati, Dallas, Vermont, British Columbia, Detroit, Milwaukee, Boulder, Fort Collins, or Denver.  I’ve been contacted directly about Salt Lake City, Raleigh/Durham, Charlotte, Miami, and a host of other cities.

So how do we go about selecting SAA’s Annual Meeting sites?

Every two to three years our meeting logistics firm, Conference & Logistics Consultants (C&LC), and I take on the resource-intensive task of site selection to ensure that we have sites booked at least three to four years in advance of a conference.

C&LC issues an RFP that is based on both SAA’s Principles and Priorities for Continuously Improving the Annual Meeting[1] and the realities of our conference as it has evolved. The Principles and Priorities stress affordability, accessibility, diversity and inclusion, technology, experimentation, fair labor practices, social responsibility, and “green” practices. And the realities? For starters:

  • Availability in July or August.
  • Regional rotation to ensure that all members can expect proximity at least every four to five years.
  • At least 600 sleeping rooms on two “peak” nights, and proximity to overflow hotels.
  • At least 60,000 square feet of meeting space to accommodate 8-11 concurrent education sessions + 46 section meetings + 30 appointed group meetings + various “affiliate” meetings + an 18,000-square-foot room for general sessions + additional space for an exhibit hall—all over the course of four days.
  • Free and reliable Internet access in sleeping and meeting rooms.
  • Inexpensive food options.
  • Access to cultural venues.
  • Reasonable weather.
  • Relatively easy and affordable access via air, train, or car.

C&LC’s continuously updated database includes details about convention centers and bureaus; hotels’ renovation schedules and room capacities; hotel chains’ announcements about new builds; and airlines’ services and hubs. To the extent possible without a government affairs staff, we maintain a list of states and cities whose laws and regulations may conflict with SAA’s Principles.

And so the matching game begins. I consult with the SAA Council all along the way—as we issue the RFP, receive responses, and narrow the list and craft a schedule.

In this last round the list was pretty narrow to begin with, particularly for western destinations. We hoped to consider Denver, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, or Seattle—each of which declined to bid. See Salt Lake City’s response: “Thank you for your consideration of Salt Lake. The SAA date range from early July to mid-August are some of our busiest weeks in Salt Lake. Unfortunately in reviewing the projected attendance, space and utilization on the convention center; Visit Salt Lake will not be able to offer a proposal utilizing the convention center and adjacent hotels. We asked the Grand America Hotel to review the RFP for possible opportunity to offer a proposal and they also declined.  While 2021/2022 did not provide opportunity for Salt Lake to offer proposals for SAA, we do look forward to future opportunity when perhaps SAA could be considered.” [Emphasis added.] We have been invited to reapply in July 2020 in case SLC has not yet sold the space.

Each year I encourage the Program Committee to consider alternatives to 11 concurrent education sessions x 7 blocks.  Each year I alert the Council to the challenges of accommodating 46 section meetings. How might we innovate?  As long as certain traditions remain, we’re locked into venues that can handle them….

With Executive Committee approval, I have just signed contracts for the Boston Sheraton Back Bay in 2022 and the Washington Hilton in 2023. I depart for a site visit to Anaheim on June 19 to see if it’s a good fit for 2021. Wish us luck!

[1] https://www2.archivists.org/statements/principles-and-priorities-for-continuously-improving-the-saa-annual-meeting

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: http://www.midwestarchives.org/speakers-bureau

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:
http://ala-apa.org/files/2010/02/2017-ALA-APA-BETTER-SALARIES-TOOLKIT-6th-ed.pdf

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.

 

SAA Appointments by Tanya Zanish-Belcher

Even as SAA Vice President Meredith Evans is preparing her Call for Volunteers for release this fall, I’d like to share a bit more about the entire appointments process. Having now been through the entire procedure, I think that selecting appointees is one of the most important duties of the Vice President/President-Elect, and it’s important that we are transparent in reporting on and documenting all we do. One of the greatest challenges is that we simply don’t have enough volunteer slots to accommodate the large number of applicants each year. Please consider leadership opportunities within SAA’s sections, which often do not have a lot of volunteers and often offer rich opportunities for involvement.

I would like to sincerely thank my Appointments Committee: Jelain Chubb and Bill Landis (co-chairs) and members Andrea Jackson, Elena Colón-Marrero, Sammie Morris, and Helen Wong Smith. The Appointments Committee does the important work of reviewing all applications and sorting them into easily reviewable spreadsheets with prioritized recommendations for the Vice President to consider. Special thanks also to Felicia Owens, SAA’s governance coordinator, who manages these spreadsheets and organizes them by committee, subcommittee, task force, and working group. The process is aided, too, by input from committee chairs who indicate their preferences for membership based on a particular need for a skill set.  When all is said and done, the buck stops with the Vice President. I spent a lot of time reviewing all the recommendations, keeping in mind the need to involve new members of the profession and new volunteers, as well as the critical importance of diversity in background, geographic representation, and repository type in broadening our understanding and perspective.

So, here are some basic numbers from the 2016-2017 appointments process. Please note I used the term diverse to apply primarily to archivists of color and LGBTQ archivists.

Number of volunteer positions available:  96

Number of archivists who applied:  180

Number of archivists appointed who have never held a position in SAA:  41  (42%)

Number of diverse archivists appointed:   34 (35%)

Number of interns appointed:  16 (out of 50 applications)

Overall, how many people participate in SAA leadership? Although my unscientific count via the SAA website could include some duplication, the total appears to be approximately 631 archivists who are participating in SAA leadership activities.

When you see the Call for Volunteers in Archival Outlook, on the SAA website, and in your email box, Meredith and I hope that you’ll give serious thought to applying. Do read the guidelines carefully, as they will provide advice for submitting your best possible application. (And please be selective about the opportunities. Those who indicate an interest in every vacancy seldom are appointed.)

And a special reminder to those of you who are now serving as interns for a Committee or Section: please apply for a position and use everything you have learned for your next step.

It is in the interest of SAA that we are able to involve anyone who wishes to contribute to the organization. I know that professional associations can sometimes be intimidating, but my focus in the next year will be to find creative ways for SAA to be even more welcoming for all its members. For now, would you like to talk more about how you can contribute to SAA? Do you have an idea you would like to share? Please contact me directly at president@archivists.org and we’ll talk!

Barriers to Participation Survey Report

Contributed by Kate Dundon and Matthew Gorzalski, Membership Committee

The SAA Membership Committee recently surveyed members about the barriers hindering participation in SAA.  We wanted to identify the issues affecting members’ engagement with the organization, and propose strategies to foster greater participation. The report is available on the SAA Membership Committee microsite. The survey returned 1,279 responses, or 21% of total SAA individual membership.  This blog post highlights some of the findings.

Slightly over half (52%) of respondents indicated that they’d like to be more involved in SAA.  When asked to choose from a list of barriers, respondents are most hindered by lack of financial support (58%) and lack of time (47%), followed by feelings of inexperience (28%) and uncertainty on how to become involved (22%).  Others (12%) noted unsuccessful attempts at appointment or election to a leadership position.

Comments from the free text response question revealed an interesting dichotomy of members’ perspective concerning SAA as an insular organization versus its efforts to engage membership in recent years. Many members experience feelings of intimidation and unwelcomeness that contribute to their hesitation to participate in SAA. These include: perception of cliquish leadership and membership; first-time annual meeting attendees intimidated by the size of the conference; low proportion of people of color in SAA; perception that SAA is dominated by the interests of academic archives; and the perception that the organization is dominated by liberal political views. On the other hand, others remarked that SAA has become significantly more engaging over time, particularly to younger members. One respondent stated, “New members have never had such opportunities for service.”

This survey has given us a better understanding of the complex barriers faced by members in participating in the organization. The Membership Committee compiled a list of suggestions for addressing these obstacles in our report, many of which were presented to us by survey respondents. Below is a small selection of the actions that we think would be the most impactful:

  • Continue to create more opportunities to participate virtually in order to mitigate geographic and financial barriers to participation. Consider live streaming annual meeting sessions, plenaries, and section and committee meetings. When feasible, provide recorded professional development workshops online for a fee.
  • Create a “Get Involved” section on the SAA website that clearly articulates the various paths toward involvement in committees, sections, etc., and centralizes information about all leadership positions. Open elected positions and committee appointments, with with estimated time commitments, could be posted to this centralized location.
  • Produce regular profiles of current SAA leaders or volunteers with a description of their path of service that led them to their current positions, perhaps in In the Loop or Archival Outlook. A respondent commented, “I think I’d have a clearer picture of how to start my own service with SAA if I saw examples of how others have done it.”

Do you have ideas about how to support engagement with SAA? Leave them in the comment section below!

Try5 – guest blogger: Bertram Lyons

I’m really pleased to welcome Bertram Lyons as the first of what I hope will be a sequence of guest bloggers on SAA’s Try5 initiative.  Bert is sharing some ideas for you in completing your Try5 as well as his own Try5 ideas – we can all try out new technical things and share our experiences together. Thanks Bert!

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In August, I had the honor of joining SAA Council and beginning a three-year term serving the SAA membership. At our first meeting, I was excited to hear about Nance McGovern’s plans for the Try5 SAA initiative over the course of this year. I volunteered immediately to participate any way I could to share skills with SAA colleagues and to spread the word about the initiative.

As a consultant at AVPreserve, I work as a partner with archives, libraries, museums, and other organizations who place value in the efficient management of collected information, whether the information is analog, digital, 2-D, 3-D, for forever or for now. For more than 15 years, I have been working with information technologies, analog and digital, as a core component of my day-to-day professional responsibilities. Yet, learning new skills is an indispensable necessity. In these days of insatiable technological change, each new project brings a slate of new challenges and, often, some concepts with which I am unfamiliar.

As a way to grow in knowledge, confidence, and abilities, I find the ethos of “try five” to be a guiding principle that I cannot do without.

At AVP, capacity development and technological independence are central goals that are at the heart of every project we take on with our partners. Just as we are always learning and growing, our mission is to ensure that our partners grow in capacity and confidence, especially when it comes to digital preservation and data management. It is an ethic of promoting independence for our partners, rather than one of dependence. This is why we share all of our tools freely, and provide access to all of our training materials and white papers publicly on our website (https://www.avpreserve.com) and with other portals, such as the Sustainable Heritage Network (http://www.sustainableheritagenetwork.org/community/avpreserve). And, this is why AVP staff members are active as trainers and workshop leaders at conferences and gatherings around the world. Because, as a community of information and material stewards, we can do more for our researchers and designated communities when we all have increased familiarity and confidence with technology.

To partake in the Try5 SAA initiative, AVP wants to share some resources that might help you as you look for new technologies to try. If we can be of any help or assistance as you try new skills, send an email to us (info@avpreserve.com) or tweet at us (@AVPreserve) and use the hashtag #try5saa.

Here are resources for 5 new technologies (or skills) that you could try out:

1) Command Line Interface: If you want to become more comfortable with the command line interface (CLI) of your computer, but need a kickstart (or, if you just could use a refresher), take a look at AVP’s CLI introductions for Windows and Mac OS (https://www.avpreserve.com/papers-and-presentations/an-introduction-to-using-the-command-line-interface-to-work-with-files-and-directories/). These documents provide an explanation of basic elements of the CLI, along with proposed activities to give you just enough experience to get started on your own. If you want more guidance, take a look at these other tutorials on CLI: CodeAcademy (https://codecademy.com/learn/learn-the-command-line), Princeton Computer Science for Windows, (http://www.cs.princeton.edu/courses/archive/spr05/cos126/cmd-prompt.html), and Lifehacker for Mac OS (http://lifehacker.com/5633909/who-needs-a-mouse-learn-to-use-the-command-line-for-almost-anything). Of course, there are many other great tutorials out there. These ought to get you started.

2) Checksums: Have you ever created a checksum? Would that help you understand what checksums are and how they are used? If you completed the CLI (#1 above) handout, you could now use this short handout (https://docs.google.com/document/d/13qOWYhErdtUXmtRgHHKMZfixbNL8g9BmVCrAmL57s9w/edit?usp=sharing) to try your hand at creating a checksum for a file on your computer. The handout explains how to do so on Windows and Mac OS. Try it out on a text file. Then open the text file and change a letter and then save the text file again. Then create another checksum for the file and see if it matches the first checksum you created.

3) Digital File Packaging: Have you heard of BagIt and wondered what it really is? AVP’s free tool, Exactly (https://www.avpreserve.com/tools/exactly/), has a friendly user interface that can help you create and send digital files using the BagIt specification. The Exactly user guide has a quick and easy explanation of BagIt. Additionally, this BagIt activity provides an example of how to use another BagIt tool, called Bagger, and talks through the elements and purposes of using BagIt to package files for sharing between donors and archives, or within archives: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1q9IeMw4S_yr0DvfmIqmmNHjtxCJLVs2SVXZTgeO9Xr4/edit?usp=sharing.

4) Embedded Metadata: You often hear about embedded metadata in some types of digital files, especially images, audio, video, and proprietary document formats. There are many tools out there that have been developed to extract this information from within specific file formats. One example is Exiftool, which is useful for a wide variety of formats, including TIFF, JPEG, PDF, WAV, MP3, AVI, MOV, etc. This worksheet (along with this set of sample files) will give you instructions on how to install Exiftool on your computer (for use in the CLI), and how to use it.

* Mac worksheet: https://docs.google.com/document/d/17sjzAdLYkrDSVtI5uqjtmGDI2OgMhfZkb1NcAEd1rpU/edit?usp=sharing
* Windows worksheet: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Oy34fL7eao0CWEAaqTti1qwxG7-NldYnH_POXc9dyik/edit?usp=sharing
* Sample Files: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B-FBppbZcJ2EYUJfb0NhVldFQWM/view?usp=sharing

There are three activities that walk you through the various capabilities of Exiftool. We also have a tutorial series on Exiftool here: https://www.avpreserve.com/papers-and-presentations/exiftool-tutorial-series/. If you like how it works, take a look at MediaInfo (https://mediaarea.net/en/MediaInfo), which provides similar functionalities as Exiftool does, but has better support for audiovisual files.

5) Digital Video: In a different realm altogether, if you would like an overview of the underlying principles behind digital video files, AVP put together an overview of digital video formats that provides a foundation for understanding the ins and outs of video in the digital world (https://www.avpreserve.com/papers-and-presentations/a-primer-on-codecs-for-moving-image-and-sound-archives/). If you want to learn more after that the following groups provide useful information:

* Federal Agencies Digitization Guidelines Initiative (FADGI): http://www.digitizationguidelines.gov/guidelines/video_reformatting_compare.html (see the Part 5 Narrative for an introduction to target files for video digitization)
* Witness: https://archiveguide.witness.org/
* Memoriav: http://memoriav.ch/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Empfehlungen_Digitale_-Archivierung_EN_Version1.0_Web.pdf
* International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives: Keep your eyes open for the upcoming release of IASA-TC 06 Guidelines on the Production and Preservation of Digital Video Objects, to be released in early 2017. The release will be found here: http://iasa-web.org/iasa-publications.

To participate myself, I will spend time with 5 new technologies that I intend to try over the next few months. I will tweet about my experiences with these new technologies and hopefully that will inspire you to try some of these, too, for a grand total of 10!

Over the course of the next few months, I will study the following technologies about which I hope to learn more: EBML (Extensible Binary Meta Language), nosql data warehousing, digital video codec design (e.g., h264 [lossy], ffv1 [lossless]), virtual computing, and the internet protocol suite (TCP/IP). I have interacted in some way with all of these technologies in the past, yet I continue to side step true competence in them. I will use the Try5 initiative to challenge myself to intentionally focus on these technologies. I will share my experiences via Twitter using the #try5saa hashtag. If you try any of these, or any of the five above, share your experiences with colleagues on Twitter using #try5saa. And, if you have other technologies you want to try, or want others to try, share those as well! Let’s keep the conversation going. This is no competition; there are no winners and losers. As a community we can all share and grow together!