Category Archives: Strategic priorities

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!

The Dues Referendum

Shortly, SAA will be conducting a referendum on a dues increase. Last May, the Council recognized a need for this increase, citing its support for maintaining a growth strategy for SAA as measured by the quality of its member services and the Society’s leadership role on behalf of archivists and the archives profession. The Society has set itself on a growth-oriented path with an ambitious five-year Strategic Plan, healthy but leveling membership numbers, a high-demand education program, a publications program that is working toward a successful e-publishing business model, and nascent advocacy and public awareness efforts. This growth strategy can be sustained only if SAA maintains an appropriate balance of revenues from both member dues and non-dues sources (i.e., product and service sales). Continue reading

A Few Words on Diversity

In a couple of hours I’ll be heading to Chicago for our next Council meeting. This time we will be spending part of the meeting focusing on the issue of Diversity. Diversity is a hard topic for us. We’ve been wrestling with it as long as I’ve been a member of SAA. It is also an extremely difficult issue for me both as an African American female member and as a leader of the Society. Continue reading

Selecting an Archival Education Program: Supporting our Prospective Colleagues

I was at MARAC last week (my compliments to the Host and Program Committee members for a great conference and to SAA Vice President Kathleen Roe for an outstanding plenary speech) and between sessions spent a lot of time talking to students, new professionals and some longer tenured archivists about issues relating to archival education programs. Continue reading

The Jobs Thing…

Special thanks to Nancy Beaumont and Kathleen Roe for their input on this post.

When I came back from Chicago after the SAA Council and Foundation Board meetings I had planned to write a brief post noting some of the highlights of both meetings. I was excited that we got our strategic plan actions finished and that we have a living document that will help guide us for the next few years.   We also reviewed six issue briefs created by the Committee on Advocacy and Public Policy that we hope to have available in May, did background work to inform SAA’s next budget and reviewed the annual reports of the sections, roundtables, committees and task forces of the Society.  The Foundation Board began discussing fund raising opportunities but also how the funds raised could support ongoing research projects and new educational programming.

But there is one issue that continues to be at the forefront for many of our members. It’s one we discussed several times during our Council meeting including spending one half day totally focused on this one issue. Before I could get unpacked and attack the massive piles on my desk, I felt it was important to share information on the topic of employment because it is of serious concern to our membership and to Council. Continue reading

Archivists, Archives and Adventure at the ARL Meeting

Many SAA members may know the Association of Research Libraries from its co-sponsorship of the new Mosaic Scholarship program. However there is much more going on within ARL. There are 125 member libraries in the association and their focus is to strengthen research libraries so that they can support the literary, educational and scientific needs of their institutions. It was very interesting to meet the leaders of these institutions as well as the participants in this year’s ARL Leadership Fellows Program, which looks to develop future leaders for research libraries. Continue reading

Internships, Privilege and SAA: A Council Member Responds

Michelle Light is the Director of Special Collections at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. She is also a second year member of SAA Council.  Though her comments in response to the discussion of Jackie Dooley’s presidential address are a bit long, they are thoughtful and detailed and compelling. I hope you will read and comment. Continue reading