Federal Advocacy for Archives: Pointers from a Former Hill Employee

Advocacy for archives. This is a hot issue in our field, and even though we believe without question that archives have value, this case has to be made to budget-conscious politicians, university administrators, and corporate boards. Many of us in the archives profession are not natural advocates, but we can learn to make our case for our institutions all the same – not just because we ought to do it, but rather because we have to do it.

If you follow the Hack Library School blog, you may have seen the well thought out post from Nicole Helregel entitled Reaching out to politicians about LIS issues, which she wrote in response to the House of Representatives passing a budget that stripped the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) of all funding. I highly recommend reading her post, as she did a great job of making the case for contacting elected officials.

Having worked on the Hill, I thought I would go a step further and give you some Dos and Don’ts for getting the best possible response from offices. Continue reading

Transitions Series: Sasha Griffin

This post is the second installment in our “Transitions” Series, which highlights the experiences of recent graduates and early career archivists. If you are an early career archivist (0-5 years in the field) who would like to participate in this series, please contact us

Guest author Sasha Griffin

My first five years as an archivist were pretty busy and intense. It would be easy for me to sit here and think of all of the things I could have done differently, identify all the hard choices I had to make, and brood about the times where things didn’t go my way.  But, for my contribution to the Transitions blog series, I thought I would talk about the lessons I learned in the hopes that it may benefit others starting out.

So, let me start with a quick overview of my first five years as an archivist. I graduated with my MLIS from Kent State University in December 2009.  I started working for the Byrd Polar Research Center Archival Program at The Ohio State University for a 9 month contract position that continued my work during my graduate internship I had been working on for 3 months.  After the end of my term, I moved from Columbus, Ohio to Decorah, Iowa in 2010 to become Luther College’s project cataloging archivist, a 2-year contract position.  While there, Rachel Vagts (then College Archivist) and I began conceptualizing the idea of hosting the Archives Leadership Institute at Luther and subsequently wrote a successful grant proposal that extended my employment at Luther for 3 additional years as the ALI program coordinator and as Luther’s newly-created digital archivist.  In early 2014, I became the interim College Archivist after Rachel left for a job at Berea College.  Ten months later, I moved back to Ohio to accept a job at Denison University as the University Archivist & Special Collections Librarian.

If I could encapsulate my transition from student to professional to three tips that may benefit others, it would be the following:

  1. Build your professional network:I have been fortunate to work with brilliant archivists who have greatly influenced my career through mentorship.  During my last semester of grad school and while at OSU, I had a supervisor that gave me insight into the technical and how-to world of archives, answered my countless questions, and encouraged me to try new projects and ideas.  Moving from my contract position at OSU to a grant-funded project archivist position at Luther College, I had a mentor that offered me the opportunity to learn a whole new side of archives: professional development, organizational service, and the benefits of building a network of colleagues. Each year, as my career grew, my network grew as well.  Now that I’m in a “lone arranger” position, I’ve realized that I actually have a whole cadre of colleagues, each with their own specializations and expertise, whom I can count on to ask for advice.  Of all of the things that I expected in the archives field, this immensely helpful group of colleagues was the most surprising, but also the most vital to my transition from student to professional.  And, I fully expect that I will continue asking these wonderful people questions as I continue to seek and find new experiences in my career.
  1. Contribute back to the profession:One of my favorite high school teachers once told me, “You only get out of it what you put into it” and it couldn’t be more true. I’ve found that the more engaged I got with the profession, the more the profession became engaged with me. For example, I started working with Archon in 2010 and realizing that I would benefit from meeting other Archon users, I slapped together a little Midwest region user group meeting at MAC one year.  Granted, I had a lot of help from my mentor (see point # 1 above), but it sort of provided a proof of concept that I had the self agency to act and do.  There are many ways that you can get involved with the field, whether it’s answering a question on a listserv, running for a steering committee opening in a roundtable, be a mentor to a current or prospective student, or learn a new skill and share your findings on a blog.  I think that everybody has something that they can contribute and by being engaged, we can all help make the profession become more participatory.
  2. Ask lots of questions and be humble enough to listen:A recent life lesson that I’ve learned is that there is more than one way to be right.  As a new professional, this has been one of the hardest things to internalize.  Confession: I am a Type-A perfectionist and this way of thinking does not come natural to me.  But, the longer that I’m in the profession and the more experience that I gather, I am realizing its truth.  Something I try to remind myself often is that while SAA is a professional organization of over 6,000 members, it is still limited by resources and available time that volunteer leaders can invest.  What is asked of our organization’s leadership is truly incredible and it’s easy to forget that our leaders do it out of love for the profession.  Kathleen Roe recently wrote a blog post in which she states, “We also recognize that, each time, the response may not be what some members might have wanted SAA to put forward.  But we are a professional association of 6,200 members. Perfect unanimity of thought is, well, you know the answer…”  Our profession is both large enough to incorporate many different voices and also small enough to know many of those voices personally. In my opinion, it’s very easy to build silos, publicly agree/disagree, expect immediate action, and feel misunderstood demographically and individually.  But in reality, we all have something to teach each other and we all have something to learn from each other and we must be as quick to listen as we are to speak.  There is more than one way to be right and understanding that in each other is one of the characteristics of what being “professional” means.

Year in the Life: Katie Rojas, Pt. 9

Katie Rojas is the newest participant in our Year in the Life series, which follows new archivists in their first professional position. We will be following Katie for a year. You can read the Katie’s previous posts here.

In a recent post I mentioned that I had experienced an uptick in demand from researchers. The past couple of months have really seen a continuation of that trend! The early portion of this year has brought in (and seen emails from) researchers from a myriad of paths: university professors, students, outside professionals, curious individuals, local news columnists, and internal employees.

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[Guest Post] Increasing Involvement in Student Chapters

Susan Floyd is a graduate student at the University of Texas at Austin where she was the president of the SAA Student Chapter for 2014. UT-Austin’s chapter made an effort during her administration to increase student involvement, and Susan has agreed to share the experience in her post. You can follow the UT-Austin’s SAA chapter on Facebook and Twitter.

The Society of American Archivists – University of Texas Student Chapter is a professional organization of students at UT’s iSchool. Our mission, as outlined by the national organization, is to introduce and integrate new archivists into the profession, provide additional focus for students to discuss archival issues, and promote archival interests within the University, academic departments, and the public at large. Throughout the academic year, we invite guest speakers, arrange archival education events, and organize trips to area repositories as a way of expanding our education beyond the classroom. Founded in 1993 as the beta chapter of the SAA student movement, we have remained among the most active groups of student archivists for 22 years.

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SAA 2015 Candidate Interview: Cheryl Stadel-Bevans

This post is part of the 2015 Candidate Interview series, presented in preparation for the 2015 SAA Election (March 13-April 13). Candidate statements will be posted daily through Friday, March 13. Read more statements from 2015 candidates here or check out our previous election series.

Cheryl Stadel-Bevans
Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Inspector General, Records Manager & FOIA Specialist
Candidate for Treasurer
Read her bio and response to questions posed by the Nominating Committee here.

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SAA 2015 Candidate Interview: Amy Cooper Cary

This post is part of the 2015 Candidate Interview series, presented in preparation for the 2015 SAA Election (March 13-April 13). Candidate statements will be posted daily through Friday, March 13. Read more statements from 2015 candidates here or check out our previous election series.

Amy Cooper Cary
Marquette University, Department Head, Special Collections and University Archives
Candidate for Council
Read her bio and response to questions posed by the Nominating Committee here.

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SAA 2015 Candidate Interview: J. Gordon Daines III

This post is part of the 2015 Candidate Interview series, presented in preparation for the 2015 SAA Election (March 13-April 13). Candidate statements will be posted daily through Friday, March 13. Read more statements from 2015 candidates here or check out our previous election series.

J. Gordon Daines III
Brigham Young University, Department Chair, L. Tom Perry Special Collections
Candidate for Treasurer
Read his bio and response to questions posed by the Nominating Committee here.

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