Category Archives: SAA Council

SAA Council Statement on Impact of COVID-19 Health Crisis on Archives Workers

The Society of American Archivists is committed to supporting archivists during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The SAA Council strongly recommends that leaders, boards and trustees, and administrators of archives close public-facing facilities until archives workers are significantly less likely to be exposed or contribute to the spread of the coronavirus. While this decision is made locally, we urge decision-makers to act swiftly and proactively to authorize closures and remote work to protect the health of archives workers.

Archives and their staff members serve a crucial role in preserving and providing access to the nation’s cultural heritage. The recommendation to close American archives is not taken lightly, especially as we see access to and use of archives as one of our professional Core Values. However, many members of SAA support or belong to communities that are at higher risk of becoming seriously ill from the virus, including older adults and people with compromised immunity. 

Archivists select, preserve, and make available primary sources that document the activities of institutions, communities, and individuals. This work is essential to our communities and our society. Nevertheless, the valued labor of archivists is not more important than the health of the people doing that work. 

The SAA Council encourages managers and employers to facilitate archives workers at all levels to perform remote work. We recognize that it can be challenging to develop remote work activities that support the material and unique preservation imperatives of archives. However, in this time of crisis, individual health and safety are of utmost importance.This includes the staff of SAA, who have the full endorsement of the SAA Council to work remotely (see this update on testing for preparedness) while continuing to support our members. SAA staff members are closely monitoring the pandemic for potential effects on other in-person activities of our members, including our education offerings and the 2020 Joint Annual Meeting in Chicago.

We have created a resources page on which we will provide links to tools for managerial advocacy, support for displaced archives workers, and other resources to help the archives community navigate this global health crisis. We invite members to submit additional ideas for resources to saahq@archivists.org

Council Statement on SAA 2020 Election

SAA’s 2020 election has presented some new and unique challenges for our organization.

SAA is uniquely democratic among professional organizations in that the Nominating Committee, as well as the governing Council and its officers, are elected by the general membership. In many organizations, candidates are slated by the executive committee or the board and/or individuals are elected to the board and officer positions by the board. We are gratified that our election process allows for greater input by the general membership.

The Nominating Committee members, who were elected by the general membership to develop a slate of candidates for this election, did just that. They followed all the guidance provided to them in the Nominating Committee Procedures, Calendar of Duties, and other documents that have been developed and refined over time. The slate was published on December 9, 2019.

A group of SAA members exercised their right to put forth a petition, per the SAA Bylaws (Section 5.C.), to add to the slate a candidate for Vice President/President-Elect. The SAA office received the petition, signed by 52 SAA members, on January 10, 2020. Although this avenue has not been used before, it has been a part of our bylaws since the 1970s. If you have questions about the motivation for the petition, we suggest that you contact those who filed the petition.

We affirm that this election is being conducted legitimately, according to established procedures and without tampering or intervention from elected members or the SAA staff.

We recognize that this situation has caused hurt and created tension among some of our members. It has led us to reflect on the election process, and particularly on the role of petitions in that process. We will be reviewing the bylaws this spring and may bring forward amended language. In addition, we are planning a listening session during the 2020 Joint Annual Meeting as one means of hearing your perspectives. In all our discussions, we will keep in mind SAA’s ongoing commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion; our respect for the democratic process; and the growth in our membership since the 1970s.

The SAA Council remains committed to a democratic and transparent election. We thank the Nominating Committee for their work and the candidates for their willingness to stand for election. And we encourage all SAA members to vote!

The SAA Council
February 5, 2020

Only Paid Internships to Be Posted to the SAA Career Center

During their discussion of SAA’s Strategic Plan at the November 2019 meeting, the SAA Council determined that the organization would no longer allow unpaid internships to be posted in the SAA Career Center’s Internship Directory. The following changes have been made to the website to make this decision clear to both internship seekers and posters: 

  • The tab listing internship opportunities in the Career Center is now labeled “Paid Internships;”
  • The language on that page now states: “SAA strongly encourages employers to value archival graduate students’ skills by providing monetary compensation for their work commensurate with the qualifications required for the position. If monetary compensation is not indicated in the internship description, the position will not be posted to this directory;”
  • The “Create a New Job” form now states, under the “Level” field: “All internship positions must be paid/offer a monetary stipend. If monetary compensation is not indicated, the position will not be posted to the directory;” and
  • SAA staff are now moderating all submissions to ensure that only paid internship opportunities are listed on the job board. 

The decision to allow only paid internships on the SAA Career Center aligns with SAA’s Strategic Plan and its goal to advocate for archives and archivists. Specifically, it addresses our stated desires to “provide leadership in promoting the value of archives and archivists to institutions, communities, and society” and to “educate and influence decisions makers in any setting about the importance of archives and archivists.”

Archival labor is valuable, and individuals performing this work should be compensated accordingly. Paid internships are important for diversifying our field and recognizing the value of our profession. We urge all prospective internship supervisors to advocate for funding to support the work of their interns. 

A Difficult Decision

by Michelle Light, SAA Vice President / President-Elect

Dear Members of the Society of American Archivists,

Recently I accepted an incredible opportunity to serve as the Director of the Special Collections Directorate at the Library of Congress beginning May 28, 2019. I’ll lead seven organizational units responsible for the Library’s unparalleled collections of unique or rare, unpublished and published items: the Geography and Map Division, Manuscript Division, Music Division, Prints and Photographs Division, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, and the American Folklife Center, including the Veterans History Project. The Library’s most recent user-centered strategic plan for 2019-2023 lays out an exciting roadmap for engaging more users, and its digital strategy describes plans for growing its online collections, strengthening its digital stewardship, supporting evolving forms of research, and connecting with more users online. I look forward to helping the Library “throw open the treasure chest.”

To best serve the Library and the Society of American Archivists (SAA), however, I must unfortunately resign from serving as SAA Vice President / President-Elect on May 15. Holding prominent leadership roles at both the Library and SAA could create conflicts of interest and confusion as to the capacity in which I am acting at any given time. I especially would not want people to think that I might be using my position as SAA President to influence Congress. The Library is a legislative agency that includes the Copyright Office and the Congressional Research Service, which provides nonpartisan services to the Congress. As a high-level member of Library management, I could not participate in SAA’s growing advocacy on a variety of public policy or copyright matters. Frequent and high-profile recusals, even if effective, would weaken the role of SAA President.

Advocacy on behalf of archives and archivists is core to SAA’s mission. SAA’s public policy agenda and position statements reveal how SAA takes a stand on a variety of governmental issues. SAA advocates for public policies that ensure that archival records are preserved and made accessible as a foundation for our democracy and cultural heritage. As SAA’s public policy agenda explains, “SAA is committed to supporting policies that will ensure the protection of privacy and individual rights; ensure the transparency and accountability of government at all levels; guarantee the administrative continuity necessary for good governance; make accessible evidence of the diverse and complex elements of the human experience; and preserve historical documentation for future generations.” In the past few years, for example, SAA has advocated for funding for federal grant programs for archives, made statements about improving the transparency of government and strengthening federal records programs, and commented on several aspects of copyright law and the functions of the Copyright Office. I recently participated in the first Archives on the Hill event, co-sponsored by SAA, CoSA, NAGARA, and RAAC, during which we visited members of Congress to advocate for funding for NHPRC, IMLS, and NEH, and to educate them about the importance of electronic records preservation. I am proud of the work of SAA’s Committee on Public Policy and the Intellectual Property Working Group to surface issues of concern for SAA action, and I believe their ongoing efforts are important for the profession.

SAA deserves an engaged president who will lead the organization in accomplishing its mission and goals in all areas, especially in strengthening its role in advocacy for archives and archivists. As a member of the SAA Council, I have served with several federal employees who were very careful to recuse themselves from any action having to do with the federal government. They were models for how to navigate the sometimes muddy waters of conflict of interest. Nonetheless, their positions in their agencies were different than mine, and I am mindful of the weight of authority and responsibility of my new position. For those who know how much I value SAA and all the ways in which it has supported my professional growth and development during the past two decades, you might fathom how painful it is for me to relinquish this incredible honor to serve and lead this organization. I plan to remain active in SAA in other ways in the future; I am co-authoring the next edition of Selecting and Appraising Archives and Manuscripts with Margery Sly, and I hope to volunteer again to advance SAA’s research and educational missions.

In order to ensure a smooth transition, the SAA Council has appointed Meredith Evans to complete my full term.

Thank you for your understanding. In my future role at the Library, I will strive to make a transformative impact on the stewardship of our nation’s cultural heritage, an impact that I hope you may someday appreciate. I regret that I had to make this choice, but as archivists it is imperative that we behave ethically and transparently to maintain the public’s trust in our essential services to society. SAA has several initiatives in store for the next three years that will strengthen archivists’ abilities to advocate for their value to their institutions and communities, and I’m confident that through the dedication of SAA leadership, staff, and members, SAA will continue to support your professional needs and aspirations.

Respectfully,

Michelle Light

Statement from SAA Council

A recent post on the Campus Reform website has raised significant concerns among our members, our conference and discussion list participants, and the SAA Council. The piece references two presentations given at the 2017 Annual Meeting in Portland. Notwithstanding the author’s claim that she had “reached out to SAA, as well as the professors involved in the panels,” no member of the SAA Council or staff was contacted for comment.

SAA does not condone any acts of suppression, intimidation, or violence against its members and participants and stands with those who speak up about and work on inclusivity and diversity in archives, a core value that is valid and relevant to the archives profession. The SAA Council denounces those who have made or would make threats against our conference participants. SAA’s 2017 Annual Meeting program was created, developed, and presented by SAA members and local community leaders, and it is a program of which we are very proud.

The SAA Council also is concerned about a recent discussion on the Archives & Archivists Listserv in reaction to the Campus Reform post. SAA Executive Director Nancy Beaumont shut down the discussion thread on August 9 because several of the posters used unprofessional or intimidating language and the discussion was becoming redundant and circular. The purpose of the list is to foster discussion of archives and archives issues, including all aspects of the theory and practice of the archives profession. The Terms of Participation clearly prohibit personal attacks and inflammatory remarks of a personal nature. The SAA Council will be reviewing the role and future of the A&A List at its November 2017 meeting. In the meantime, posts will be moderated actively. If you have ideas about 1) how the List might be improved or 2) any new communication tools that we might consider as an enhancement to or substitute for the A&A List, please send your ideas to president@archivists.org.

We are seeking productive ways to continue the learning and important conversations that took place in Portland, and we welcome your ideas about how to do that.

Tanya