Category Archives: Member Needs

SAA Appointments

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 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!


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 ( and with other portals, such as the Sustainable Heritage Network ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 (, Princeton Computer Science for Windows, (, and Lifehacker for Mac OS ( 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 ( 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 (, 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:

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:
* Windows worksheet:
* Sample Files:

There are three activities that walk you through the various capabilities of Exiftool. We also have a tutorial series on Exiftool here: If you like how it works, take a look at 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 ( If you want to learn more after that the following groups provide useful information:

* Federal Agencies Digitization Guidelines Initiative (FADGI): (see the Part 5 Narrative for an introduction to target files for video digitization)
* Witness:
* Memoriav:
* 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:

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!


Getting involved with SAA

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

My Presidential Address

As I finish my term I wanted to let you know that you can view my presidential address here. I hope you enjoy it and perhaps get some ideas you can use now and in the future.

I have tried to do my best to support the Society, its members, leaders and staff. I hope I have done some things that will help us move forward.

Now I turn Off the Record to Kathleen Roe, who has some amazing ideas for her year of advocacy and living dangerously with archives. She will be a spectacular leader and I look forward to seeing what she does with her 525,600 minutes.

Improving SAA’s Affinity Groups: Your Chance to Contribute to the Change

This post was written by the members of the Task Force on Member Affinity Groups. I hope you will attend their forum during the conference or respond to this post in the comments.

Since last year’s SAA Annual Meeting, a task force has been working to determine how the Society’s member affinity groups (that is, its Sections and Roundtables) can better serve the membership as a whole. While nothing has been finalized, the task force has been exploring several recommendations largely based on a survey completed this spring. The task force would like to take this opportunity to share some of these findings and to ask for general feedback on preliminary recommendations. Continue reading

Planning for D.C.

It’s only two weeks to the joint CoSA/NAGARA/SAA meeting and we are thrilled to announce that this will be our largest meeting ever. My compliments to the Host and Program committees for creating excellent programs and activities for conference attendees.

Here are a couple of quick suggestions to insure that you have a great time in D.C. Continue reading