Since 2003 SAA has periodically written letters or submitted testimony on behalf of the District of Columbia Archives. Another round of budget hearings are beginning in the D.C. Council, so we have taken the opportunity to reach out again to submit testimony in support of that very rich and important archival collection. The testimony submitted can be found at: http://www2.archivists.org/news/2015/roe-submits-testimony-on-district-of-columbia-archives
One of my Council colleagues, Tim Pyatt, puckishly suggested that perhaps instead of calling this the “Year of Living Dangerously for Archives” we ought to instead call it the “Year of Making Statements about Archives.” There are indeed a lot of things going on that raise archival issues of concern and challenge us as an organization, and those of us in leadership positions, to try and determine what we can say that draws attention to concerns and options or solutions in a productive but compelling, way.
Many of us in the membership have different views or different concerns that we feel SAA should be addressing. When you do, I encourage you to contact me, our executive director, Nancy Beaumont, or a member of Council to raise those concerns. Please help us to be better informed on issues you’d like considered by using the suggested format for sharing information on the issue located on the web at http://www2.archivists.org/groups/committee-on-advocacy-and-public-policy/procedures-for-suggesting-saa-advocacy-action
Will we always develop statements that make everyone satisfied/happy? Not likely given the diversity of opinion in our profession, but I can honestly assure you that we will give all requests serious consideration, and as elected leadership, will do our best to indeed be representative of SAA. (and here’s another good reason you need to vote by April 13 for SAA leadership–these will be the people to make future such decisions!)
The extent of “issues” in the past year are more evidence that we need to take a strong role in demonstrating the importance and value of archives and archivists. Archivists have much to offer, and we continue to seeks ways to effectively make contributions to national, state or even local discussions and debates.
Please contact me anytime you have issues to raise at: firstname.lastname@example.org
When we want to advocate for archives in Congress, it will certainly help if our members are aware of archives and why they are important. So here’s an opportunity to reach out to your member of Congress and ask him or her to join the Congressional History Caucus. This is not hard–you can do it! Don’t count on someone else writing—because they may be waiting for you to do it instead. So please, read the information on the SAA website at http://www2.archivists.org/living-dangerously/congressional-history-caucus and then contact your member of Congress.
I’ve done some time walking the halls and underground corridors of the various Congressional office buildings—and when we get time with staff or a member of Congress, it’s frustrating to spend the first part of that precious 10 or 15 minutes trying to explain what archives are and where archives and archivists exist in that member’s district. The more Congressional members hear from us, the more we become a “known” group of constituents.
The Congressional History Caucus is one way to get the name and idea of archives in front of our federal legislators, to raise their “awareness” of our value. Please use this opportunity to contact your Congressperson. It’s an easy ask—they don’t have to vote on money, challenging policies, or politically hot issues. They just have to sign on to become a member of the Caucus. Not hard at all for them, and if they know their constituents want it—well, even better.
But the bottom line is, as Wayne Gretsky used to say, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” You have to ask. And don’t assume someone else will take care of making the contacts—because they are probably waiting for you to make the contact instead. It is honestly amazing how many issues people feel passionately about—but don’t take that very simple first step of contacting their member. Getting Congress to understand the value and importance of archives begins with us—each of us speaking up every chance we have to let them know who we are, and why the records we manage matter. So please, celebrate the return of Spring by helping to grow Congressional awareness of archives. We can do this!
In response to several member requests for SAA to consider commenting on the recent incident relating to the release of records at the University at Oregon, I sought advice from several groups, the Council discussed options, and we reached agreement on a response. For background on the issue and the Council’s response see http://www2.archivists.org/news/2015/saa-response-to-member-request-re-university-of-oregon-records-release-incident
I’m gratified to hear from members when they think that SAA should make a statement or respond to a current situation, as well as their thoughts on what we do or don’t “say.” Each situation that emerges poses challenges when a response is requested on behalf of SAA rather than by individuals. In the two most recent cases—the acquisition by the University of Texas at Austin of the García Márquez papers and the University of Oregon records release incident—there has been considerable traffic via email, twitter, and Facebook. Members and other archival colleagues have written that “SAA ought to do something.” Continue reading