A Day in the Life: Maggie Hoffman, Archivist, Cambridge Historical Society

As a lone arranger at the Cambridge Historical Society in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Maggie manages every aspect of the Society’s collections. A single day can include donor relations, processing, reference, and outreach! Maggie has served as the CHS archivist since September 2017 and graduated from Simmons SLIS in May 2018. 

 

Thursday, July 18th, 2019

8:45 am – 9:00 am: I arrive at work, open the house up, and immediately head to our collections space to make sure that everything looks the same as when I left it. Working in a 17th-century mansion means always keeping a very close eye on facilities. This is how I start each day, but given that we had a thunderstorm in Cambridge last night, it’s more pressing. Luckily, everything looks just fine! 

9:00 am – 9:45 am: I dig into my inbox. I quickly respond to the most urgent and/or easy-to-answer emails and log my reference requests into a Trello board. I recently switched up my way of organizing reference inquiries to keep better tabs on ongoing threads. I’m still figuring out the new system, but I think it’s a keeper. 

9:45 am – 10:00 am: I add a researcher to the calendar for next week, and then outline the rest of my day. It looks like today will be quiet and very reference-heavy.  

10:00 am – 12:00 pm: Reference work. Some of these requests are straight forward, but two lead me down rabbit holes. One leads me to a “Harvard Square for Kids and by Kids” zine that I’ve never seen before. Works made by kids are some of my favorite things to find in our collections, so I take note of that one. At some point, I’m going to design an outreach program that makes use of these materials. 

12:00 pm – 12:10 pm: The Society’s bookkeeper arrives, so I let her in and help her get settled. 

12:10 pm – 12:35 pm: I head outside to check the mail, stretch my legs, and get a few minutes of fresh air! (Okay, fine, I also check Twitter.)

12:35 pm – 2:00 pm: More reference work! I return a phone call, put another researcher on the calendar, and respond to a few more emails. 

2:00 pm – 2:30 pm: Social media work. In addition to serving as the archivist at the Cambridge Historical Society, I also manage the Society’s social media. I generally do this work on a different day, but today I take half an hour to send and schedule a few posts, mostly promoting an upcoming event. 

2:30 pm – 3:30 pm: Preservation planning. We store a small number of collections items off-site, and after a recent visit and assessment, I determined that most of those items need reboxing. I go through some measurements and photos, make a list of materials we need to bring to the site, and generally organize my thoughts on how to move forward with this project.

3:30 pm – 4:00 pm: Supply shopping! We’re low on some archival supplies, so I select a handful of items that I’ll forward on to our Executive Director for purchasing. They should arrive while I’m in Austin for SAA, so I’ll return to boxes of fresh supplies. The dream. 

4:00 pm – 4:30 pm: I spend a bit of time tidying up. I’ve been slowly cleaning up following a recent event and exhibit change. So I do a bit of organizing, return some materials to their collections, and clean the space up a bit. This can feel like a Sisyphean task sometimes, but today I make decent headway.

4:30 pm – 4:45 pm: I set up a loose schedule for the next day I’m in. I’ll have a researcher in first thing, followed by a meeting and an event, so it’s important that I know what that day looks like in advance. 

4:45 pm: The day’s done! I do a walk-through, close the house down, and head out. 

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SNAP Round Table Discussion: Developing Professional Communities 

Welcome to our new feature, round table discussions! These are SNAP Roundtable round tables on various aspects of new archival careers. This month sees Isaac Fellman and Gayle Schechter discussing professional communities and networking with questions provided by Laura Bell. We had our conversation in May 2018 and talked about the different ways students and new professionals can get more involved in the archives community, grow professional communities, and network with less pressure! With the annual SAA conference in Austin, TX around the corner, this is a great time to think about ways you can get more involved and meet new friends. We hope you enjoy reading about our round table discussion!

. . .

Laura:

Hi Isaac and Gayle! Thanks for participating today! Developing professional communities and networking can be daunting for grad students and new professionals. It takes time to develop these skills. During this roundtable I’d like us to talk about ways you’ve learned to network and build professional communities over time. If you’re still working on it, even better! So, how would you define a professional community? What does that look like or mean to you?

Gayle: 

To me, it includes folks at all levels, from students to those in the field 10+ years. There are many in my professional community who I socialize with, and some I lean on to ask career and work related questions

Isaac: 

Friends with slightly higher and more formal boundaries, honestly. My archives connections and community consists of people who share some of my background and obsessions, who I’ve met at work and conferences, with whom I will readily grouse (you know, the process by which policy is eventually made).I am also a fantasy writer, and for me, networking is very similar across the two careers. All about the con scene.

Gayle:

I also include library professionals outside of archives in mine. A few friends of mine from library school have a Slack channel we use for resume/cover-letter proofreading, job questions, and just to vent

Laura:

That makes sense. So how did you go about building these communities? Many of us meet and make connections with people we’ve worked with or gone to school with. The archivists and librarians who taught and trained me at work and at school became my mentors and friends. Was it the same for you?

Gayle: 

I first started building my community from people I went to school with, and it’s branched out from there to meeting people at conferences, getting involved in my local professional organization and people I work with. Yes, I’d say most of my mentors have either been my professors and supervisors at work.

Isaac:

My classmates were the first ones! (We groused about school). Then came my first archives boss, and later friend. (We groused about the collections.) My first job found money in our grant to send me to a conference, where I cold-started a lot of conversations (with people who probably then groused about me, but it lowered my anxieties about putting myself out there as an archivist — plus, I helped them bond by giving them something to grouse about). A lot of folks since have just been co-workers and friends of friends. Early archival careers involve moving around a lot, so you collect ex-co-workers. Oh, and SNAP — and archives Twitter.

Laura: 

How did getting involved in a local organization work / help you? Were you able to attend regular meetings? 

Gayle:

When it comes to professional organizations, I just volunteered for committees. Some positions require voting, but a lot of committees you can just sign up to help with, which is a great, no-pressure way to get involved.

My current SGA (Society of GA Archivists) committee meets virtually since we’re spread out across the state.

Isaac:

I’m not really involved in local organizations! Just SAA. But I have been introduced to local archivists and librarians through existing archives friends – actually, both as an archivist and as a writer. Honestly, once you have a couple of friends in this field (and that will happen naturally if you bond with a few co-workers), you’ll suddenly know more people. I promise.

Isaac:

I knew nobody two years ago, and now I feel like I have a lot of connections and contacts. Oh — also, I never stopped doing informational interviews, if I had a professional question about someone’s area of expertise.

Laura: 

I can hardly keep up! This is great advice!

So what advice would you give lone arrangers or people working without co-archivists? There are a few out there, and it seems that being a lone arranger could be very isolating for new professionals.

Gayle:

Definitely try and join up with your state/regional archives professionals organization! In addition to our annual meeting SGA’s outreach committee holds social events throughout the year. The other week we went on a walking tour of Piedmont Park and it’s a nice way to get to know other professionals in a relaxed setting. Plus, they’re usually pretty inexpensive for membership.

Isaac:

Oh, my gosh, totally what Gayle said. I used to be a lone arranger in a town too small for local orgs and really too small for it to be safe for grousing. That’s when SNAP came in handy, and also I still made sure to meet all, like, three local archivists and talk about our work occasionally.

Laura:

That makes sense. Social events seem like a more relaxed way to meet people too.  Can you also tell me a bit more about how SAA SNAP and Twitter have helped you?

Gayle:

Getting involved with SNAP has been a great intro to the ins and outs of SAA leadership in addition to working with folks across the country on different ways to advocate for students and new professionals. I’m pretty active on Twitter and follow a lot of library/archives people, but I find it to be more casual. Although I’ve definitely met some folks IRL at conferences that I follow on Twitter which is always pretty great.

Isaac:

Twitter will get people on your radar and help you start conversations. I do think that for friendship to develop, you do have to meet or correspond less publicly, though. But it’s an engine for generating affection and interest in other people. SNAP wasn’t a huge part of my life when I was lone arranger, but I valued the monthly meetings just to hear people talk who shared my extremely weird job that I otherwise had to explain to people.

Laura:

So I know the stereotype is that we’re all a bunch of introverts. But I’ve always found archivists and librarians to be very warm people who want to help each other. Have you found your community to be similarly open or did it take some trial and error to find your people?

Gayle:

I consider myself to be more of an ambivert, so socializing does tend to come pretty easy to me, but it takes a lot out of me and I enjoy my alone time. I usually need a couple days away from people to recover after conferences! I’d say there are a range of folks I’ve encountered at conferences, some are very open and gregarious, others a bit more shy or reserved. For me, I haven’t had too many issues connecting with new people, but I realize that everyone is different in that regard.

Isaac: 

I may have been lucky, but I did find that doors were open to me — although they opened a lot wider once I had a professional job. When I was presenting myself primarily as a student, I felt people didn’t take me seriously. Could be projecting there, though. I also didn’t take myself as seriously.

Gayle:

No, I think that’s pretty common actually, which can be pretty unfortunate. I’ve heard some real horror stories from folks but I like to think that snobbish behavior is rare among archivists. Or at least I hope it is!

Laura:

Yea, being a student at a conference or in a room full of people with professional positions can be intimidating enough without that. 

So I want to circle back to mentoring for a minute: Have you ever tried a formal mentorship program (like the one offered by SAA)?

Gayle:

Yes, I signed up for a mentor through SAA while I was still in school and she helped me out A TON with my resume, for which I’m very grateful. We sort of ended up losing touch, but I’m still glad I signed up.

Isaac:

I have, but not SAA’s. I did an ALA one and also a writing one through Science Fiction Writers of America (I keep stressing this to remind people that your skills and interests from other fields carry over and help).

Laura:

Cool! I’ve found mentors through formal programs and through school/work. I’ve had a great experience with the SAA Mentor program. I think it’s really great that SAA is trying to provide support to new graduates and students in that way.

Isaac:

Both were useful. One developed into a friendship, the other was helpful but did not, largely because our professional interests and life paths diverged and we were not local to each other. (She was about to retire; I went for archives instead of libraries.)

It’s not too soon for a lot of the more experienced SNAPpers to become mentors. If you have been in the field for a few years, you know so much more than you think you do.

Gayle:

Yes, I love being a resource for current students!

Laura:

Good point! And it seems like a great way to help others. (I know I’ve really benefited from having mentors, friends, and people to talk to). 

So in general, building a professional community can come from almost anywhere. Work, school, co-workers, supervisors, etc. Conferences seem like a good way to build relationships. And mentorship programs can allow you to learn a lot from another professional or allow you to help someone else navigate life as a student or new professional. 

In what other ways can you give back to your community?

Gayle:

I like to stay professionally active so this year I signed up for SGA’s (Society of Georgia Archivists) local arrangements committee which organizes our annual meeting in October. It’s definitely a pretty intense committee to be involved with (and will only become more so as we get closer to fall), but there are usually a wide range of committees in professional orgs that don’t require too much of your time monthly.

Isaac:

Seeing students and interns in the archives as someone we owe care and work to, not someone who’s here to help us. I will always appreciate my mentor for doing that for me.

Gayle:

I also follow several people on Twitter who like to blog about the profession, which I think is another great way to contribute to the community.

Laura:

That’s a good point, blogs can be especially helpful for students. Do you ever try to reach out to people in the profession who do specific kinds of work or work at a place you’re interested in through social media or blog posts? I’m thinking of informational interviews or informal conversations online (Twitter, Facebook, etc).

Gayle:

Personally I’ve never reached out to anyone I wasn’t working on a committee with or didn’t meet previously, but I know a few people who have cold-emailed people to find out more about their job, workplace, or to schedule an informational interview. I think most folks did it while we were in school

Isaac:

I’d rather see networking as making friends who might be involved in my professional life later, instead of aiming to befriend specific people who I know can concretely help me now. The latter makes me feel mercenary, and then, like I said, if I feel bad about what I’m doing, I won’t represent well or make a friend at all. I don’t think that’s even inherently mercenary, but it’s enough to make me anxious.

Laura:

That really speaks to how different people handle the whole process of being a student/new professional and learning about the field. I’ve heard informational interviews can be a great resource, but it also makes sense that it might be uncomfortable for folks too. Everyone has to find the best steps for themselves.

As we’re finishing up, I want to ask: do you have any last advice you want to add for any students or professionals reading?

Isaac:

Mine is to remember that archivists are just people, and you’re as smart as them and they’re as nerdy as you. I was very intimidated when I started attending archives events, and then I realized I was looking at 50 mirrors.

Gayle:

I’d reiterate to definitely show up and put yourself out there, but don’t sign up for committees, etc. just to do it. Make sure you find something that sparks your interest and that you’ll be able to sustain that interest in over a year or two (which is how long assignments usually last). It’s always disappointing when someone is a no-show to meetings constantly.

Laura: 

Thank you both for your time! I hope some readers find this advice useful!

. . .

Tldr:

Tips for Building Your Professional Community:

  • Attend local and national professional events! Put yourself out there
  • Find working groups or sections of SAA that interest you and get involved
  • Think of building a professional community or networking like making new friends — you might have many shared interests! And it may be less intimidating to think of it that way.
  • Try to find mentors at work, at school, or through a formal mentorship program! SAA has one as do other regional conferences.
  • If you’re interested in the type of work someone does or the type of archives they work at, consider informational interviews if you’re comfortable!
  • Stay connected to others in the field and to topics you find interesting by following others through blogs, Twitter, or other social media platforms
  • Growing your professional community is a process, it takes time!

Thank you for reading! We hope this round table and these tips might be useful to you!

Reflecting on SNAP’s Academic Internship Survey

This is a guest post by Gayle Schechter, SNAP Vice Chair.

This past spring, SNAP put out an informal survey to gather information from our community regarding their academic internship experiences. Though there is near-universal consensus that practical experience, often in the form of internships, is essential for students to build the necessary skills to enter the archival profession, in many cases, these internships are unpaid. In recent years, the subject of unpaid internships has become increasingly controversial across all professions. The conversation taking place on social media and across listservs often points out that unpaid internships are an enormous financial burden for many, and can serve as a gatekeeping practice for marginalized groups in our profession (1).

Last summer SAA Council put out a call for member comments to revise its publication, Best Practices for Internships as a Component of Graduate Archival Education (2). At the August 13th Council meeting, those comments were discussed. Council determined that the Best Practices document was “especially in need of revision” and assigned the task of reviewing and recommending revisions to the Graduate Archival Education Subcommittee of SAA’s Committee on Education (3). As we await the Subcommittee’s proposed revisions, SNAP’s recent survey can provide some context behind the controversy surrounding unpaid internships.

Overall, respondents tended to agree that their internships provided hands-on experiences that were essential to getting a paid job after graduation; however, many reported experiences where they were required to do busy work with little accountability from their educational institutions for internship supervisors. Others reported missing out on paid work, long commutes, and the financial burdens of unpaid internships (particularly having to pay high tuition fees for academic internships).

Some respondents noted that paying their schools the same tuition for an internship as they would for a standard academic course amounted to an undue burden. While the amount of administrative work schools put in to finding students required internships can vary from institution to institution, several respondents felt that schools should consider charging less per credit hour for an internship than they would for a standard course. This point of contention on course fees is indicative of a larger issue of academic institutions using tuition and fees from their graduate programs as a means to subsidize their undergraduate programs (4).

Though it is generally agreed upon that internships and related practical experiences are essential for students entering the archives field to build their knowledge, skills, and experience, we can’t ignore the fact that unpaid internships have continuously served as a barrier to our profession. We can’t ignore the fact that, for many, working for free in any capacity is not an option. We hope that SAA’s forthcoming revised Best Practices for Internships as a Component of Graduate Archival Education will reflect the need to reduce gatekeeping of the archives profession in the form of unpaid internships.

For those who will be attending this year’s Annual Meeting, SNAP and SAA’s Issues and Advocacy section are holding a joint business meeting on Saturday, August 3rd where we will be discussing creating and advocating for paid internships at our institutions.

Survey Results

We received 184 responses to our survey. Below is the summary of responses.

Q1. What kind of archives degree/certificate did you earn?

The majority of our respondents (131) earned some type of LIS-related Master’s degree (MS-LIS, MLIS, etc.), while 20 respondents earned a History Master’s, 14 earned an Information Systems Master’s, and 6 received either a History or LIS Certificate. 13 respondents chose “Other” to describe their degree or certification.

Q2. Did your program require an internship as part of your degree/certificate?

The majority of respondents were required to complete an internship as part of their formal archival education, with 125 responding “yes” and 59 responding “no”.

Q3. Did your program have a requirement that any internship done for academic credit must be unpaid?

The majority of respondents reported that no such requirement existed, with 61 respondents answering “yes”, 121 answering “no”, and 2 respondents abstaining from the question.

Q4. Regardless of whether your for-credit internship was financially compensated, did your program charge the same amount of tuition as they did for a standard course?

A resounding yes, with 172 respondents reporting they paid the same tuition for an internship as they did for a standard course, 10 responding “no”, and 2 abstaining.

Q5. If internships were optional in your program, did the financial burden of undertaking an unpaid internship prevent you from doing one?

19 respondents answered “yes”, the financial burden of an unpaid internship prevented them from taking one, 54 respondents answered “no”, but for the majority (111), this was non-applicable as internships were a requirement of their program.

Q6. Did you feel that your academic internship provided a comparative level of education compared to a standard graduate-level academic course?

The majority of respondents (87) reported that their internship experience provided an even higher level of education compared to their other courses, and 69 respondents reported that their internship experience provided a similar level of education to their other academic courses. 25 respondents felt their internship experience provided a lower level of education to their other courses, and 3 respondents abstained from the question.

Q7.Please use this area to elaborate on why you answered the way you did on any of these questions.

Notable comments from the survey:

“I think we need to talk about unpaid internships in the field generally, like, I’ve done more than 5 unpaid internships to get the experience I have, and that was a huge financial burden. Talk about how its almost required to take unpaid internships in order to build the experience required to get a paid internship even. Our field is exclusionary because only those who can afford to work for free can break into this field.”

“I completed 2 paid internships, which worked out to $13 per hour and $10.50 per hour respectively. I learned a lot, but wouldn’t have been able to partake if they were unpaid. Even at this low pay grade, it was a struggle and I had another part time job to supplement my income along with financial support from my husband. There were other internship opportunities with highly respected institutions available, but the fact that they were unpaid prevented me from accepting them.”

“I say my internship offered a higher level of education than any of my courses because it was a quality internship that let me learn through experience. I wasn’t stuck in a corner indexing newspapers or processing a low priority collection, I was able to partake in nearly every facet of archival practice. The internship was with a prominent performing arts organization in Pittsburgh. My peers who found paid internships at our school library system seemed to not be as satisfied with the work they were doing. Though unpaid, at 10 hours a week, it was worth it for me to commit to for a year.”

“My for-credit internship was a great hands-on learning and it also, more importantly, expanded my network in a way that is not possible in a traditional lecture-style course”

“My required (unpaid) internship during grad school emphasized rote technical work (scanning and tagging with LC subject headings) without questioning the underlying assumptions and structures guiding the approach. It seemed I was just doing busy work that other librarians/archivists were bored with.”

“While I was lucky that my internship provided more than some of my courses, not all are like that. Internships are largely self-regulated so there is no standard. Further, if an internship is required for a program and we are not allowed to be paid for the internship, the tuition should not be the same as a regular class, especially since many times contact with the professor is limited. Our professor is our internship, not the university. But, an internship needs to give the student something tangible in return (whether that be pay or course credit). I can’t tell my landlord he’s being paid in the experience of being my landlord so institutions should not be able to use that excuse. Unpaid internships that do not end in course credit or payment also limits the field to only the privileged. Poor people, disabled people, etc. don’t have the same ability to take an unpaid internship as someone who has more financial stability which limits the field as a whole. Libraries and archives should be leading in providing students with fair compensation for their work as we place so much emphasis on diversity and inclusion.”

“I was given a pile of photographs to sort. No original order, no intake form. I spent my internship sitting alone, putting the photos in manila folders based on theme or subject. I didn’t even make a finding aid. I had to use all of my sick and vacation time from work to take this internship, and it was a complete waste of my time. I didn’t learn anything about working in an archive.”

“There is no substitute for actual practice in the field and working side by side with a trained archivist. Working with actual collections also provided the opportunity to apply knowledge in diverse, real-world situations.”

“Though I do believe internships provide a wonderful space for learning *much* more practical (and arguably useful) practices in the profession, the added stress of commuting, communicating with internship supervisor(s), and coordinating around class schedules and the very necessary paid positions and jobs we need to get through grad school make unpaid internships less of a valuable learning experience in practice than they do in theory. For example, I had an internship that was a 2 hour commute (one way) twice a week. This was 8 hours a week I spent on buses and subways (plus the added 1+ hours of waiting for buses and subways all week), where it was often too crowded or bumpy to do homework or any of my other priorities. I had a great internship experience, but this commute made it very hard to justify the fact that I was paying tuition to my private university to have this experience (plus I was paying for commuting) while giving free labor to a well-off organization.”

“The hands-on experience was invaluable. My master’s classes were long-distance so I already felt very removed from the academic atmosphere – the internship was just what I needed to feel that the degree was worth the expenditures.”

“The internship definitely had the feeling of being cheap labor. There was very little mentoring or oversight. Often my supervisor was not even at the office. Furthermore, I never actually visited the site that holds the collections. Instead, I performed the processing work remotely. It wasn’t a good situation.”

“The hosting institution did not provide enough supervision and assigned projects that were too basic to provide rich learning opportunity”

“The internships I completed we’re great for gaining hands on experience, but coursework had the added benefit of explaining the theory and reasoning behind the work.”

“I believe, although in-class theory is important, that hands-on experience is superior to that learned in the classroom. It is completely unfortunate for students to pay an institution to work for free (as I had to for an internship / practicum) – for the same experience the student should be making time for outside the classroom in the first place.”

“I loved my internship site, but my supervisor was very hands-off. I don’t feel I learned anything from them directly. The work I did was self-directed.”

“The experience I gained during the internship was less than what I had already built through paid part-time jobs, and the on the job training I received at the internship was minimal.”

“In my field study I was able to get hands-on experience that none of my classes came close to providing.”

“I learned more in my internship than in most coursework. The skills and experience laid a solid foundation for further learning and helped get me a job with the institution after the degree was completed.”

“I really wish that the school had higher expectations of supervisors”

“I learned a lot about how the principles I had thought about in the classroom actually applied (or didn’t) in the real world.”

“For my master’s program, the department required an internship. My adviser and the graduate coordinator went out of their way to locate paid internships, but nothing was guaranteed. I was fortunate that I located a paid, part-time position, but some of my classmates were not so lucky. Even so, the internship did not pay for the cost of tuition for the course. I was literally paying to work this internship.”

“My program was a night, online-only program with a focus on Archival Studies. It had the option of work experience or a thesis in the final year, but I was able to use my job for this. Since most of us were working as para-pros in the program, it was important that we could use our work experience. Unpaid internships are theft.”

“being in an online program limited my access to hands on learning which my internship provided greatly.”

“I would just like to point out that the cost for internship was $4500 for a 3-credit 150 hour internship. Aid from the school did not apply over the summer term. To break even I would have had to be paid $30/hr.”

“Internships are IMPERATIVE in the archives field. Classroom learning isn’t enough. I completed 3 quarter-long internships. 2 were paid; I sacrificed forgoing pay on the third because it was at a prestigious museum where I desperately wanted experience. All of my internships helped inform my early career choices and were extremely beneficial to me. Now that I am an experienced supervisor, I refuse to supervise unpaid interns, even though people inquire about such opportunities regularly. I only take interns when my Library can afford to compensate them in some way.”

“Internship was not well-supervised or well-structured and was essentially data-entry. However, it did provide exposure to the field”

“My internship was honestly the most valuable part of my degree program, and it ultimately lead to a limited-term project position after I graduated. That said, it was galling to me that there was no tuition reduction: why did I have to pay my school when I was working on my own time, and not using any of the school’s resources?! An administrative fee, sure, fine, I would understand. But a full three-creditcourse worth of tuition just to have someone glance over a 2-page interim report and a 3-page final report?? It felt like a cash grab that I couldn’t escape, regardless of the positive outcome.”

“I am now a qualified archivist who regularly takes on unpaid interns. It is notable how little preparation they receive from their college. Some interns are outstandingly good because they have taken the time to prepare themselves. The college never checks in to see if they are getting good-quality instruction. Our institution gets no feedback from the college to say we should be offering different types of work, or more or less. The students pay the college over $1000 for the service we provide. There are no guarantees offered by the college that the experience will be worth the tuition.”

“During my internships I learned practical skills from professionals in the field, and had the opportunity to discuss with them how they applied archival theory to their daily work. None of this information was provided in my LIS coursework.”

“The internship experience is extremely valuable – how else are you going to get real world experience when just starting out and no job in the field? I assume that the time spent working during an internship is comparable or almost comparable to a full credit class. Mine was. There should not be a ton of homework on top of the internship. I was fortunate to be able to take an unpaid internship for class credit. I know not everyone can do that financially. If internships are required by schools, then perhaps tuition should not be charged (or decreased) for that particular class. This would place less of a burden and give students more opportunities who really don’t have the means to work in an unpaid capacity. I left a very competitive industry (entertainment) and chose libraries. Little did I know it would be just as hard to break in and with so little opportunity. The least library schools can do is make internships accessible to all – through stipends, relationship development with libraries, etc. Then perhaps the perceived value of paid staff will increase, rather than reliance on unpaid students. This will help organizations/the profession overall.”

“The internship has been valuable but having a mandated unpaid internship is untenable for me. I’m missing out on a paid day of work every week which means I’m making less money which makes my life more stressful which has a negative impact on my academic performance. I’m only required to put in 60 hours at the internship, I don’t think it would be too difficult to pay students for their labor or at least to charge less for the course as mentioned above. This practice just further isolates students who are struggling financially and is an unfair burden on those of us who are already working (and need to be working) full time.”

________________________________________________________

 

  1. David Z. Morris, “Are Unpaid Internships Exploitation or Opportunity? Twitter Has Some Opinions.” Fortune. July 8, 2018. http://fortune.com/2018/07/08/unpaid-internships-twitter-debate/
  2. SAA Council, “Call for Member Comment: Best Practices for Internships & Best Practices for Volunteers in Archives.” Society of American Archivists. https://www2.archivists.org/news/2018/call-for-member-comment-best-practices-for-internships-best-practices-for-volunteers-in-ar
  3. SAA Council, “Council Meeting Minutes.” Society of American Archivists. August 13, 2018. https://www2.archivists.org/sites/all/files/0818-1CouncilMinutes_AsApproved100118_0.pdf
  4. Jon Marcus, “Graduate programs have become a cash cow for struggling colleges. What does that mean for students?” PBS. September 18, 2017. https://www.pbs.org/newshour/education/graduate-programs-become-cash-cow-struggling-colleges-mean-students  

 

#snaprt Chats on Twitter: Discussing Barriers to Entry into the Archives Profession

Every month the SNAP team holds #snaprt chats on Twitter to discuss notable topics relevant to the archives profession. The chats cover a wide variety of issues and provide space for participants to openly discuss important questions and have interesting conversations.

Check out the SNAP Twitter account for all of the #snaprt discussions!

Tiffany Cole recently facilitated a #snaprt chat on Twitter about barriers to entry into the archives profession. Not everyone is always able to follow the conversation on Twitter, so Tiffany kindly tells us about the #snaprt conversation in a guest post below!

The aim of #snaprt chats, held one to two times per month, is to provide a space for archivists and students in MLS programs to talk out some of the issues affecting our profession and to foster a dialogue. I usually find inspiration for #snaprt Twitter chats from discussions I see happening – no surprise here – on Twitter. On Tuesday, April 9, I facilitated a chat in which participants were encouraged to consider barriers to entry into the archives profession. The idea of barriers to entry surfaces frequently on Twitter and it seemed like an apropos topic. To be honest, I had just facilitated a chat concerning the Academy of Certified Archivists exam and I wanted to provide a balanced point of view for SNAPers, given that I’ve heard time and again that archival certifications, and the costs of obtaining and maintaining said certifications, are barriers to entry.

The chat started with an admittedly nebulous question – “How do you define a barrier to entry as it relates to the library and archives profession?” Answers ranged from “a real or perceived obstacle that prevents, repels, turns away potential archivists, job candidates” (@TiffanyWCole) to a particularly woke answer of “any expectation that cannot be met easily or reasonably except by a small minority who have traditionally had favorable status” (@HollyCroft)

Some common themes emerged from the next question: “What do you see as some of the most significant barriers to entry into the profession?”

  • Abundance of term and project positions
  • Normalizing un/underpaid labor (our passion for our work doesn’t actually pay the bills and not everyone can afford to work for free)
  • High cost of education
  • Few entry level positions and the expectation of needing to have experience in order to get experience
  • Unrealistic job expectations and exclusionary qualifications (likely a symptom of an over-saturated job market)
  • Lengthy hiring process for positions in academia

So how do these barriers affect would-be archivists and the profession at large? Spoiler alert: these barriers do have an effect and it’s not good. People within a certain socio-economic class and with access to generational wealth may be able to navigate barriers to entry with little to no trouble. As a result, the profession is predominantly white and cis. Project archivists may experience burnout or even leave the profession if they’re juggling one, two, or even more temp positions at a time.

So how can library and archives professionals (and the professional organizations that represent us) combat and counteract barriers to entry? Chat participants called for advocating for living wages and benefits for all employees, students, interns, and project archivists; pursuing a position in administration or management if you care about counteracting barriers to entry; creating entry level jobs that are actually entry level; and institutional funding for professional development.

As with many #snaprt chats, the discussion continued well past the 9PM cut-off. Days later people were continuing to grapple with how to overcome barriers to entry. And while this chat didn’t solve all of the profession’s problems with equity, inclusion, and fair wages, it did provide a space for open conversation. So in that sense, mission accomplished.

Follow along with any of our past or future chats using the #snaprt hashtag!

Remember there is an up-coming Twitter #snaprt chat tentatively scheduled for May 29, 2019 focusing on erasure of archival labor!

This Summer 2019 we will be scaling back the frequency of the #snaprt chats and host one chat per month. The regular schedule will resume in September 2019.

A Day in the Life: Tiffany Cole, Special Collections Archivist, James Madison University

Thursday, May 16

7:45 AM: I usually get into the office by 8:30am, but the stars aligned today and I was able to make it in ahead of my normal arrival time. Praise be! It’s officially summer at my institution in that classes are over, commencement has come and gone and, as a result, it’s a much quieter campus. I cherish this time of year.

7:45 AM – 8:15 AM: Email. It’s primarily listserv stuff (exlibris, SAA) and other messages not requiring a response from me. Regarding listserv emails from SAA, I subscribe to a lot of sections’ digests. And I actually try to read the subject lines of most of them and then decide whether to trash or keep reading. As for exlibris, I mostly just delete.

8:15 AM – 10:00 AM: I finish up foldering and writing the finding aid for a very small collection of alumni/faculty papers. The Dorothy McKinley Spooner Garber Papers were transferred to JMU Special Collections several years ago by the JMU’s Office of the President. The collection then sat in the backlog, but was rushed to the front of the line after an inquiry from the donor and university administration. It’s a long story. My institution uses ArchivesSpace so I create the finding aid in ASpace and download the MARCXML file to send to our cataloger. I also add the finding aid to our HTML website. Eventually, after subject headings are applied, I’ll add the finding aid to Virginia Heritage, a consolidated database of finding aids for manuscript and archival materials housed in Virginia. I label the box and put it on the shelf. Done and done.

10:00 AM – 12:00 PM: My major project du jour is reprocessing the American Association of University Women Records, Harrisonburg Branch. The Dorothy Garber Papers provided a short interruption, but now I’m back at it. The AAUW Records comprise 30 boxes of administrative records documenting the activities of our local branch. Originally, the collection seemed to have been processed in a pseudo-MPLP manner. For example, in many cases, original folders were retained and there seemed to be no consideration for weeding duplicates which is fine, but the intellectual arrangement was not great and not really conducive to research. And there was a series titled “Miscellaneous” [insert blank archivist stare]. So there’s that. We’ve since received two accruals to the collection since our initial ingest. All this is to say, the collection needed a refresh and I’ve been working on it for about a week.

12:00 PM – 12:45 PM: Lunch. I run an errand and pick up a salad at our local food co-op.

12:45 PM – 1:00 PM: I gather my notes and thoughts for a scheduled Aeon conference call. We’re currently implementing Aeon, a request and workflow management software designed for special collections and archives, and hope to go live later this summer.

1:00 PM – 2:00 PM: Aeon conference call. We have regular conference calls with our implementation consultant Katie Gillespie. She’s amazing and amazingly patient with all of our questions. This implementation stuff is exciting and scary, but I’m ready for it.

2:00 PM – 4:00 PM: Back to AAUW. Most of my work this afternoon involved working through the “Publications” series, gaining intellectual control over the Harrisonburg branch’s newsletters, incorporating newsletters from recent accruals, weeding (and recycling) duplicates, and foldering/boxing appropriately. I can’t even describe how many overstuffed folders and underfilled boxes I came across. I was having a hard time dealing with it. But ultimately this is my happy place. I’ve been doing quite a bit of reprocessing in the past few months and I relish the opportunity to become acquainted with a collection that I never really knew before. I’m having that same experience with AAUW. For lack of a better phrase, I’m “discovering” the collection for the first time and it’s exciting. I look forward to unveiling the updated finding aid in the weeks to come.

4:00 PM: I pack up and leave for the day.