SAA 2016: New Member Coffee Break and Plenary I, Getting Our House in Order: Moving from Diversity to Inclusion

In advance of the 2016 Annual Meeting, we invited SNAP members to contribute summaries of panels, roundtable and section meetings, forums, and pop-up sessions. Summaries represent the opinions of their individual authors; they are not necessarily endorsed by SNAP, members of the SNAP Steering Committee, or SAA.

Guest Author: Blake Relle, Archives Specialist at the Louisiana State Archives

New Member/Coffee Break

On Thursday morning, I attended the New Member/First Time Coffee Break. I know this will surprise you, but I had Green Tea instead of coffee. Unlike at my last SAA conference, I walked around the room and introduced myself to several people. One person I spoke with was Erin Lawrimore. She is the council liaison for the SNAP Roundtable and she is writing a blog regards to her experience on the SAA Council. You can read her blog here. The topic of her blog is a great idea. The blog will give SAA members insight into the workings of the council as well as inspire people to take on leadership role in either SAA or another archival organization. I ran into Myles Crowley, who I met in Pittsburgh as well as came to the REPS meet up at Max Lagers.

Plenary I

After the coffee (more like tea) break, it was off to hear the Plenary Speeches. They were two speeches.  The first speech was made by David Ferriero, who is the Archivist for the United States. He spoke about diversity and inclusion. He reminded us that we need to foster a culture promotes inclusion and diversity. He reminded us the our nation derives its strength from being open to diversity and including everyone. We need to educate our workforce about the importance of having a workplace that values inclusion. He also reminded us to interview candidates for job openings through an inclusive lens. Continue reading

SAA 2016: SNAP Roundtable Meeting

In advance of the 2016 Annual Meeting, we invited SNAP members to contribute summaries of panels, roundtable and section meetings, forums, and pop-up sessions. Summaries represent the opinions of their individual authors; they are not necessarily endorsed by SNAP, members of the SNAP Steering Committee, or SAA.

Guest Author: Michael Barera, Archivist at Texas A&M University-Commerce


After a brief welcome and chair report by Samantha Winn, the Students and New Archives Professionals (SNAP) Roundtable session began in earnest with a short speech followed by a question and answer session with Society of American Archivists (SAA) President Dennis Meissner. He began by stating: “All of us in Council and across the leadership of SAA really value SNAP…there is more innovation, energy, and good ideas in SNAP than in many other parts of the organization.” He also explained the transformation away from the current sections and roundtables into the “affinity group” structure “with equal weight and identity”: they will all be called sections, will be unlimited in terms of participation for SAA members, formal bylaws and annual reports will be required for all sections, and non-SAA members will be allowed to belong to up to 3 of the online discussion lists for these new “sections”. He also noted that the new direction on this change has largely been informed by member feedback, including that of SNAPers. Furthermore, Meissner stressed that SAA is “doubling down in the area of diversity and inclusion…in the next few years”, that “diversity is an important goal of the organization”, and it is becoming an even more crucial goal that is “baked into the firmament of the organization”. In his conception, cultural competence will be the starting point, and SNAP will play a crucial role in increasing SAA’s diversity: “I think this is really going to be something that consumes us.”

After his speech, Meissner answered a couple of questions from SNAP members. Firstly, when asked what would be a successful version of SNAP for all of SAA, he responded: “SNAP is recognized by the rest of SAA leadership as almost a ‘skunk works’ within the organization that pushes up new ideas…I think SNAP can be effective when it pushes on the organization…it can serve as a weather vane for the organization, showing where things ought to be going.” He also argued that not being “encumbered by legacy thinking” is a core attribute of SNAP, and that it helps SAA itself be a “more nimble and agile organization”. Secondly, he was asked about what are some of the ways that SAA at large addresses the issues that particularly affect members of SNAP, such as unpaid internships and unpaid loan debt. Meissner responded: “I don’t think that Council has any particular way to address them…we look to guidance from all the sections and associations for more innovative ways to do this…I certainly don’t have any answers in my back pocket, these are things that work themselves out in the workplace and archival education over time.” More optimistically, he noted that “good paid internships that mean something…are a good starting place.” Continue reading

Year in the Life: Lauren Gaylord, Pt. 10

The SAA Annual Meeting was a whirlwind, but one moment in particular has stuck with me. When Sam Winn asked everyone at the SNAP Roundtable Meeting who had experienced “imposter syndrome” to raise his or her hands, mine quickly shot up in the air. I had felt like an imposter just a few hours earlier at the Business Archives Colloquium. During the session the attendees had broken up into discussion groups to talk about the particular challenges of preserving unusual objects in our collections, such as cosmetics, food, textiles, and movie props. While every topic was fascinating, I chose the paintings/art group since I deal daily with the challenge of housing these items. I’ve previously written about the problem of preserving unfixed pastels, and I was eager to hear if my colleagues had any solutions or found themselves in a similar situation. I quickly discovered, however, that though I was there to learn, the group turned to me as an expert on how we at Pixar tackled artwork in our collection. I wasn’t a student—I was a teacher. All of the reasons that I wasn’t qualified to be talking about Pixar’s methods ran through my head—I’m young, I’m new(ish), I’m low in the hierarchy, I’m not trained in conservation—but ultimately I realized that I did have something to share. Pixar is in a fairly unique position with the volume of artwork we handle in an archival way, and as processing archivist I have a lot of experience with managing our materials both intellectually and physically. I might not have all the answers, but I had to accept that I do know a few things about art in archives.

I often feel like an imposter in professional settings. I’ve been out of school for a little over a year and I feel (and look) fairly young in the workplace. I’ve had years of experience in archives, but so much of that was paraprofessional that I am quick to forget about it or discount it. I still need to remind myself that I have a voice and a valid opinion to share. As an introvert who dislikes confrontation, I’m happy to stay quiet in a meeting and let my more vocal and experienced coworkers duke it out and make the decisions. Needless to say, learning to contribute, rather than sit back and take in information, has been a tough lesson.

Recently I began supervising the day-to-day projects of two archives technicians and was a little unsure if I was really the best person for that job. They were in school or newly graduated, and as a recent grad myself, it felt a little like supervising my peers. While I loved the opportunity to have people help enact my vision and prepare the collection to move, I was worried about my qualifications and the power dynamic of the situation. I was constantly second-guessing myself—how I was doing, whether they liked me, if they despised listening to me, whether my directions were clear or rambling and inane, if this was a worthwhile experience for them, etc. And the truth is, sometimes I’m making it up while supervising. I’m pretty sure we all are, but archives and processing are about a million tiny decisions that you make based on context. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach because each collection is unique and needs to be dealt with in a way that makes sense to its situation.

Accepting that I was the best person for this job was a difficult task. But, given my experience in archives in general, and at Pixar specifically, I was. As we prepared the collection to move, I was the expert on what we had in the archives and what needed to be done. As we now process our backlog, I’m the expert on what’s left to do and how things are currently being done, even if I feel like there’s no set formula to follow. I want to have all the information and defer to someone with more knowledge, but in actuality I am that person. I lean heavily on my coworkers for their institutional knowledge, but I have something to contribute when it comes to our processing philosophy. That’s scary to me. I want to still be learning, and as a perfectionist and overachiever I want to have all possible information before I make a decision, even if that’s not feasible. But I can’t sit back. It’s imperative that I weigh in. One of the things I worked on with the archives technicians was encouraging them to give their opinion when we were deciding what to do with a certain processing conundrum. They were so eager to learn that they sometimes forgot that they knew things and could help shape the decision. They might be in school or newly graduated, but their opinions were valid and existing knowledge important. I also wanted to be clear with them that I did not have all the answers and we would have to figure it out together.

As I’m learning to trust my instincts and speak up, I hope you all are doing the same, whether you’re students or new to the profession. Your take on a situation is exactly the one that your institution needs and your role is important. Be confident in what you know. I’ll always be learning, but it doesn’t follow that I can’t contribute to the conversation while learning. We all need to make the shift at some point from passively taking to actively adding. Both we and our institutions will be better for it.

#snaprt Chat Flashback: Prepping for #SAA16

If you’re heading to Atlanta next week, you’ll want to check out the #snaprt Chat Flashback from Monday, July 25. There’s solid advice for new and old attendees alike. I’m getting really excited about next week and hope you are, too!

Year in the Life: Lauren Gaylord, Pt. 9

The dust from our move has mostly settled and our team has turned to new and old projects, from rehousing fragile Monsters, Inc. pastels to processing A Bug’s Life concept art. As I mentally prepare for the SAA Annual Meeting and craft my tentative schedule, I’ve been reflecting on why it is I chose to be a corporate archivist and some of the pros and cons of this particular brand of archives. During my last semester of grad school, I found myself in an archives class defending my interest in corporate archives. My path in the field led me through art galleries, public libraries, historical museums, non-profit community archives, and university archives, but I was especially drawn to corporate archives. Most of my peers were set on the more traditional university special collections route, and a few expressed interested in government archives, but I often felt like the lone representative of budding archivists for business settings.

As I’ve spent a little more time in the professional world, I’ve come to see that this is still true in organizations like SCA and SAA. Corporate archivists get a lot less airtime and publicity in our profession, whether it’s in the classroom or at a conference, partly due to the simple fact that there are less of us than there are of our university and government counterparts. Another factor is the inherent secrecy and confidentiality involved in working at a corporation. There is only so much an archivist can share about their work and the company’s history without treading into the dangerous territory of trade secrets and non-disclosure agreements. Continue reading

Help Us Cover SAA for Those Who are #SAALeftBehind

It’s that time of year, y’all – the time where we ask you to cover sessions of SAA so that we can recap them for those who are not going to this year’s conference. (See #SAALeftBehind.) We’re good people who love our fellow archivists, so let’s make them part of the process from afar!

We have identified sessions we feel are particularly interesting for SNAP members, but the blog team will happily accept summaries for any sessions, plenary events, roundtable and section meetings, and other formal conference events. Volunteer authors have 2-4 weeks after the conference to send in their summaries, depending on what kind of session you have signed up for. Feel free to partner up with another author to cover a session, too.

As in past years, we have a sign-up sheet. Please sign your full name and how we can contact you. It’s okay if you realize you’re not going to be able to cover a session, but try to take your name off the sheet at least a day prior to the session, pretty please, so that Lily, Anna, and I know we have a space to fill.

Here are links to 2014 summaries and 2015 summaries.

Thanks, everyone!

Making SAA in Atlanta Affordable

We’re cutting it a little close, but some of the SNAP Roundtable Committee members worked to put together a guide that will help make this year’s trip a little more affordable. Though many of you have probably already found roommates, we’ve still priced hotels and looked at some alternative options for you last minute shoppers. Further, there’s some good information about getting around the city and some ideas for eating on the cheap. Finally, if you’re still looking for a place to stay or someone to ride with, here is our Rideshare/Roomshare/Housing spreadsheet.

We’re excited to see all of you in Atlanta next week!