#snaprt Chats on Twitter: April 29th Chat on Records Management Month and COVID-19

This #snaprt Chat Recap was written by Louise LoBello, recent MLIS grad, SNAP Junior Social Media Coordinator, new archives professional.

I’m not sure if you folks are aware, but things are not normal right now. Time feels nonexistent, apparently it’s almost JUNE? Who knew?! I personally can’t remember the last time I wore pants with a zipper and I am almost positive my wallpaper said something to me the other day… 

Despite this strange sense of limbo right now (and I don’t mean the fun Limbo), here’s one thing that has remained constant: our #snaprt Twitter chats! These monthly discussions allow us to have a conversation about something in the Archives world right now for all students and new professionals. The best part is that it can all be done from the comfort of our homes. At a safe distance from our colleagues. No zippers required. Perfect!  

On April 29th, in partnership with the SAA Records Management Section, we hosted a Twitter discussion to talk all things records management, archives, and how the current health crisis has affected the professions. For many people in the field right now, our work is being questioned as essential, put on pause, or in many cases eliminated. Everywhere, we are dealing with new anxieties and it is a SNAP imperative that we discuss these issues and encourage self care first. The SAA Records Management Section came up with the following questions: 

  1. How has your work or status been personally affected by the pandemic?
  2. What is records management’s role in this undoubtedly new economy?
  3. Do you think records management is more important than ever in the time of Covid?
  4. Are people documenting this experience? What are you gathering?

For those now working from home, the majority of the responses discussed ways in which their projects have shifted. Some are focusing on archiving COVID-19 in their communities, others are finally finding time to process collections put on the backburner, and others are finding that this time is revealing implicit problems with their current workflows and communication strategies. 

This pause from normal is an experiment for everyone. For those lucky enough to continue working, it could mean a reorganization of existing workflows and for some, business as usual. There are no rules. We hope everyone out there is taking care of themselves and others. 

To view the entire conversation (and to check out all our previous discussions) follow the #snaprt hashtag and join us on Twitter @SNAP_Section!

“Not Just a Number: Negotiating Salary in Academic Archives and Special Collections” Webinar Recap

“Not Just a Number: Negotiating Salary in Academic Archives and Special Collections”, was a webinar presented by Beth Myers, Director of Special Collections at Smith College, for the Association of Southeastern Research Libraries on April 16, 2020. The recorded webinar can be found on ASERL’s vimeo. This webinar was coordinated by Ashelee Gerald Hill, a Processing Archivist at Wake Forest University and member of the SNAP Steering Committee.

Setting the Groundwork

With the diverse number of sub-fields within the archival profession, the presentation focuses on non-union/non-tenure academic institutions but is applicable to corporate or government environments.  Serving as an introduction, Myers provided a collection of resources on salary and the negotiating process from SAA, AAUW, CoSA, and AFL-CIO, among other organizations. She provided an overview of the state of the profession that echoed facts known to many of us: most archivists are full time, but 23% work in non-permanent positions. Archivists are predominantly female and white. In terms of debt and income respectively, the average salary is $61,303 while $53,347 is the average student loan amount. She also comments on a core issue facing our profession today—namely, that of being a female dominated profession that is underpaid as a result and the inherent systemic barriers to people of color within that system, though she comments that this issue is too expansive to cover in her presentation. She encouraged attendees to reach out to her if anyone wants to work together and present on this topic!

Within this framework, approximately 50% of archivists do not negotiate as part of the offer process. Negotiation has been seen as an adversarial process—Myers believes we need to move from confrontation to conversation. This process involves understanding your own needs, finding and using data to make your case, and knowing when to walk away.

Negotiation

So, you get a call offering you a position: what now? Myers suggests you immediately ask if the person offering the position can share any information about salary, benefits, and the subsequent hiring process. You’ll then hear more about institutional structures and policies to help determine what is negotiable and what isn’t it. Before you respond to this initial offer, consider what your needs are—both financially and personally, and compare those needs to the offer. It’s important to consider the hierarchical level, geographic area, and affiliated cost of living in the context of the position to determine if meeting those needs in that particular job is possible. Do your research or work through your network to look at the history of pay for the position you’re applying for. Be realistic and don’t make a counteroffer that is starkly different to the initial offer. It might not be realistic for the institution and, as a result, that job might not be a good fit.

To be the most compelling candidate, Myers suggests that when you do make a counteroffer, don’t just parrot your credentials—point to the relevant salary data in the area and talk about what is necessary for you to make the move. Discuss how you will bring yourself and your skills to solve problems and do the work. Propose not just your past, but your future. Hold firm on your needs and know what those needs are—in this conversation, you are advocating for not only your current self, but your future self.

Salary is where you start, but it’s not where you end. You are a human with a variety of needs beyond money. Myers refers to the process of advocating for salary in conjunction with other needs as “whole package” negotiation. If salary isn’t negotiable, there are other options for negotiation, including: start date, relocation assistance, housing, technology package, professional development, trailing partner assistance, flex schedule, work from home, title or grade change, or a one-time hire bonus. Non-payment benefits like health insurance, sick time, vacation time, retirement benefits, and tuition subsidies are often fixed but super important to examine if an offer meets your needs.

But what if you’re in a job already, especially in one where ranks or opportunities for upward mobility aren’t defined? For the most part, substantial increases are achieved through moving positions. Don’t put much stock in merit raises—they’re usually just cost of living raises. A title change or additional professional funds can be one option if you’ve had a substantive change in duties.

Managing and Current Developments

For all of the managers out there: Do your best to improve unit compensation by studying the hiring culture at your institution as well as the demographics of your area. Do a salary survey and look at the history of salaries of the position. Leverage archivist’s skills in areas such as technology to HR to bargain for additional compensation. Myers believes strongly that managers should confront inequities—your ability and desire to advocate directly impacts people’s lives. Consider increasing salaries even if that means fewer positions. The A*CENSUS II will focus on salary and contribute to better outlooks for archivist pay and quality of life in conjunction with existing work done by sections within SAA, such as SNAP, to foster a more transparent profession.

Myers also commented on the recent situation of COVID-19 and its impact on archives. She notes that everything is currently in flux and it’s hard to say at this point how things will unfold. Many institutions will have hiring freezes or hire for key positions only. Furloughs or salary decreases may occur, but it’s important for managers to check back in at pre-determined points to ensure those situations do not become permanent. She also notes that, regardless of the situation, she recommends that you do not accept a position with an inadequate salary and continue to advocate for yourself as you would during any other time.

Beth Myers can be reached at emyers@smith.edu. She is open to talking about any or all of these issues.

This recap was written by Elizabeth James, Archivist and Digital Preservation Librarian and Junior Blog Editor for SNAP.

[Ask An Archivist] Q: Does it matter where I go to school?

Ask An Archivist is a series in which anonymous questions are answered by anonymous archivists.

Have a SNAP-related question you’d like answered? Check out our anonymous submission form here.

Ask An Archivist Anonymous Question:

Does it really matter where one gets their archival training? In other words, do employers value an MLIS with a concentration in archival management from Simmons over one from San Jose State?

Anonymous Answer 1: Based on my prior experience serving on a hiring committee for an archivist position, none of the discussions during the hiring process focused on what school the applicant attended beyond whether the institution provided the applicant with an ALA accredited degree. Our primary focus as a committee was the applicant’s experience, including volunteer work, internships, and jobs. Your ability to excel or get those kinds of experience can depend on what knowledge you already have, and this can come from course work. I would recommend focusing on the courses and curriculum an institution offers as it relates to your personal interests and career goals rather than an institution name. I would also recommend ensuring that you have practical experiences to put that course work into practice to demonstrate your skills. It’s also critical to consider the financial ramifications of getting a degree at one institution versus another–the archives field is not known for a high rate of pay, and minimizing loans can reduce future financial burdens.

 

Archivists at the Movies: Reviewing the Film “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”

Review by Burkely Hermann

On October 19, 2018, the film, Can You Ever Forgive Me? premiered in theaters across the United States. It serves as a more relevant depiction of archivists in popular media than the National Treasure franchise or the 2005 film, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, which has archival themes as an important part of the story.

In Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Lee Israel (played by Melissa McCarthy), a writer whose popularity is slipping, forges letters of famed writers in a failed attempt to boost her self-confidence. In the process, she visits archives, libraries, and other cultural institutions to examine the original letters, create forgeries, and then steal the originals. In one scene, she travels to the Yale University Library which combines elements of archives and libraries into one institution: interacting with a librarian and wearing white gloves to examine the original letters. Later in the film, Lee expresses remorse for her actions, including stealing archival items, and asks the court (and the audience) to forgive her.

This depiction of archivists in the film is generally positive, differing from the muddled mess created by the Star Wars franchise, where creators couldn’t determine whether Madame Nu worked at a library or an archives, mixing the two together. In the film, the unnamed librarian/ archivist, follows a number of core values outlined by the SAA, providing access to original materials, consistent with access restrictions, promoting open use and access. This archivist also helps preserve the original letters as primary sources and acts professional to Lee, despite her bad attitude, at least at first. She also ensures responsible custody of the records and behaves in a professional manner. The depiction also squares with my experience working in archives, with the security guard checking her bag before she enters the facility.

At the same time, the portrayal of archives and archivists in this film is problematic. For instance, Lee’s use of white gloves runs afoul of existing standards. As Alexandra K. Alvis, a reference librarian for Smithsonian Libraries Special Collections points out, gloved hands have less manual dexterity than bare hands because gloves can accidentally tear pages or lift parts from pages like pigments. Furthermore, cotton gloves are relatively dirty and cause hands to sweat, with no evidence that handling paper with bare hands causes chemical damage. Even so, there are exceptions, especially when dealing with photographs or books with “lots of metal components,” where wearing such gloves is justified.

While this is only one film in the vast panoply of those created by Hollywood which feature either librarians or archivists, often more of the former than the latter, it is important for archivists to retain a critical eye so that we can help promote accurate portrayals of our profession in the future. This will involve pointing out inaccuracies in Hollywood films and other media in order to improve popular perception of the archives field so that individuals don’t have misguided views of what the profession is about. What form this critical eye takes is up to individual archivists and archival institutions.

Burkely Hermann received his MLIS degree from the University of Maryland in 2019. He is a writer, researcher, and amateur genealogist. He watches popular films and animated series in his free time, informing his fictional works.

#snaprt Chats on Twitter: March 27th Chat on Luck in the Archives

This #snaprt Chat Recap was written by Louise LoBello, recent MLIS grad, SNAP Junior Social Media Coordinator, new archives professional.


Greetings, All, from my couch to yours! I am reporting live from my sparsely furnished living room in my new apartment, staring at the “yule log” simulated fireplace on my TV, just to add a little interest to my work-from-home situation. Amidst this odd, Twilight Zoney reality we are all living in, the SNAP section monthly #snaprt Twitter chats shall endure!

On Wednesday, March 27th, SNAP held a #snaprt discussion on Luck in Archives in the belated spirit of St. Patrick’s Day. Although our current situation in the world might not seem too “lucky”, there’s no harm in spreading a little positivity! I wanted to talk about how the concept of luck plays into our work as archivists, both in the application/interview process as well as in daily activities on the job. Sometimes it feels like luck is really not on our side when it comes to things like job applications. And in many cases, when there are over 100 job applications from highly qualified people and only 3 interviews, perhaps luck (or other forces…) truly does play a role in who gets chosen. I wanted to hear other peoples’ thoughts.

  • How much do you think Luck plays into the job application process and career development in archives?
  • What are some examples of being In the Right Place at the Right time when it comes to job success?
  • Processing collections sometimes unearths unexpected surprises and discoveries. What is a lucky discovery you have made in a collection?
  • On the contrary, what is an unlucky discovery you have made in the archive that has been problematic or has otherwise affected your work flow?
  • Do you believe in creating your own luck? What are steps you can take in the workplace to set yourself up for success?

A lot of responders took up the perspective that success in archives is often a combination of luck (or rather, being in the right place at the right time), making good connections, and of course, the quality of work you offer. That is not to say that the fate of your career is completely up to the Universe. There are choices we make that place us in a position for success. Related to that point, a few folks brought up the point to not confuse luck with privilege. Sometimes to be “in the right place at the right time” means being able to accept unpaid positions or volunteer until a job is available. This is obviously not the case for many new professionals.

What can we do to “make our own luck”, then? How do we set ourselves up for success? Well, we have some ideas. Be kind. Be open. If you are able to, take chances and opportunities when they arise. If you are in a position of stability or power, open doors for others. And most importantly, be gentle and patient with yourself! Sometimes, luck isn’t on our side. And that’s okay!

To view the entire conversation (and to check out all our previous discussions) follow the #snaprt hashtag and join us on Twitter @SNAP_Section!

Documenting Your Community’s Experience of COVID-19: A Resource List

Globally important history is rarely apparent. It often develops quietly, one domino of effect hitting another in a chain until an event occurs with little awareness of what its eventual impact on the historical narrative might be. It’s rare that an event will be so glaringly influential that it demands attention. We’re at that rare point now with the global pandemic of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19. As archivists, we deal with history every day, struggling with gaps and silences in our collections. But with history unfolding around us, we have a chance to contribute to minimizing those silences and creating a documentary record that is aware of itself.  

Elizabeth James, Junior Blog Editor here at SNAP, has created an annotated resource list for various community archiving initiatives related to documenting experiences and responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. This list is divided into two sections: institutional responses and broad guidelines for documentation. If you find an organization or resource that is not on this list, please comment in the document or forward them to the author at jamese@marshall.edu.

Elizabeth James is the Archivist and Digital Preservation Librarian at Marshall University.

#snaprt Chats on Twitter: February 12th Chat on Project Archivist Positions

This #snaprt Chat Recap was written by Louise LoBello, recent MLIS grad, SNAP Junior Social Media Coordinator, new archives professional.


About twice a month, SNAP section holds a #snaprt chat event on Twitter where we have a dialogue about a topic we all face in the archival profession. SNAP has become more concerned with barriers facing new professionals and the idea of temporary work is something that has affected me personally as I have been applying for my first full-time archives position. 

On Wednesday, February 12th I facilitated a #snaprt on Project Archivist positions. With the archives arena concentrated with more and more gig-based Project Archivist positions, there are a lot of considerations when searching for positions. In my experience, I have seen how these positions, although abundant, can be exploitative due to lack of benefits, low salary, and the emotional stress it places on the archivist. So I opened up the conversation and asked what kind of challenges others have experienced. These were the questions I posed:

  • How many project archivist jobs have you applied to?
  • What are some ethical issues surrounding Project Archivist positions and does it affect your willingness to accept them?
  • What are some challenges you have experienced or observed as a Project Archivist in the workplace?
  • How can you advocate for yourself and your collection in a new environment? 

The responses were familiar and upsetting with many people quoting issues with a lack of transparency, high expectations without equal compensation, a lack of inclusion in the workplace, and above all, constant anxiety about job stability. With Project positions being generally contracted, lasting anywhere from a few months to a few years and often with a “possibility for extension”, the “ticking clock” is always on the back of the mind. Many people quoted having to start applying for a new position almost as soon as they start a project position. Despite the many frustrations associated with project positions, the SNAP community suggested looking at Project Archivist positions as a place-holder for something better, an opportunity to network, make connections, and build your resume. To end the chat, we shared some fun collections we have worked on and are particularly proud of! 

Our next #snaprt on Thursday, March 12th at 8PM EST will focus on Office/School Politics. It can be difficult to work with people both in an educational and an office environment. This chat will be all about how we can better navigate our professional relationships. Office and School Politics can refer to many different situations, please share as much as you feel comfortable sharing.”

Please join us on Twitter @SNAP_Section and follow the #snaprt hashtag to find all of our conversations! 

SNAP 2020 Candidate Forum: Election for SAA Vice President/President-Elect

SNAP is excited to provide a Candidate Forum this year as an additional election resource for students and new archives professionals. 

In recent years, SNAP has not put together its past Candidate Interviews series for the SNAP blog. Given the nature of voluntary SAA section work, this series has unfortunately fallen to the back burner as SNAP has focused its advocacy primarily on labor issues, including unpaid internships and salary transparency, as they affect our constituency on a day-to-day basis. The reaction to the recent controversy colloquially referred to as #thatdarnpetition has renewed the importance of the SNAP Section taking a more active role in providing information about candidates and SAA’s election process. The SNAP Candidate Forum focuses on issues directly related to students and new professionals.

Given time constraints, we chose to focus this year’s Candidate Forum on the candidates for SAA Vice President/President-Elect, with the charge to regularly provide a  full Candidate Forum for elections in the coming years. We encourage everyone to read the statements provided by the entire slate of this year’s candidates here and to make sure that you keep an eye on your inboxes for voting information from SAA between March 2-20, 2020.

Our sincerest gratitude goes out to all three candidates for VP/President-Elect for taking the time to provide their thoughtful responses to SNAP’s questions, which we have published unedited below.

The candidates for Vice President/President-Elect are:

Courtney Chartier

Head of Research Services, Rose Library, Emory University

Read their bio and response to questions posed by the Nominating Committee here

Joyce Gabiola

Unaffiliated  

Read their bio and response to questions posed by the Nominating Committee here

Kris Kiesling

Director of Archives and Special Collections, University of Minnesota

Read their bio and response to questions posed by the Nominating Committee here 

The SNAP 2020 Candidate Forum questionnaire:

1. What role should the SNAP section play in SAA?

Courtney Chartier: Two things come to mind immediately. One is community building. Community and connections are essential to professional success; I’m still very close to the same cohort of people that entered the profession when I did. They are folks I turn to for general advice, specific expertise, and fun when we happen to be in the same city at the same time. We can all do things alone, but it’s a lot harder; SNAP is an essential place for finding a community of people facing similar experiences, and one that will sustain you for your entire career.

Another role is as a voice for advocacy for students and new professionals. Every member can make individual comments directly to the Council and the President (and I encourage you to do so!), but too often the sections are not bringing forward major issues/concerns, or proposing strategic moves for SAA as a whole.(The creation of SNAP is a great example: a member saw the need for this specific forum, and rallied people to create it.) The concerns of SNAP members can and should be channeled into initiatives for the Society.

Joyce Gabiola: [Before I respond to the forum questions, it would be helpful to first share that my approach to archival work, education, interpersonal engagement, and leadership are informed through my lens and experiences as a queer, nonbinary person of color navigating the oppressive systems of higher education and the archives field. I understand that neutrality is a myth and have learned that silence and inaction of dominant groups emerge out of willful decisions to remain silent and do nothing in the face of racism and other forms of trauma.

As a reminder, L’ael Hughes Watkins, the chair of the nominating committee, wrote in her own candidate statement:

“I think it will be critical to put a slate of candidates together that will have a strong portfolio of success in making room for historically underrepresented identities in leadership positions, who advocate for success of these communities and are willing to call out and address discriminatory practices within the profession and in spaces supposedly designed to nurture and support emerging leaders and change agents.”

The actions that L’ael refers to in her full candidate statement are actions that apply to all aspects and spaces of the archives field and should not be considered as options, but imperatives. With all this in mind, I respond to SNAP’s candidate forum questions.]

SNAP has been active in advocating for students and new archives workers and connecting them with resources, scholarships, employment opportunities, and ways to become involved with SAA. For some, SNAP is a first step towards joining and participating in SAA’s archives community. For students in particular, SNAP is a space to connect and build community with students from other schools. The role that the SNAP section should play in SAA is clearly already in action. However, I would be interested in learning from SNAP about the other role(s) that they think the section should or wants to play in SAA.

There is one role for SNAP that I’ve been pondering. Ever since I was a master’s student, I’ve been advocating for students of color (and their classmates) to have a platform from which they can be heard while developing relevant skills (e.g., DERAIL). [1] Through some challenging experiences, I’ve come to understand that students have some degree of power to affect change as well as unique perspectives on matters that impact the archives field and institutions of higher education. Therefore, I wonder if the SNAP section could assume an advisory role in SAA. To create a clearer picture of what this would entail requires a discussion with SNAP, the executive director, and the Council. The perspectives and concerns of students and new archives workers–especially those who are Black, Indigenous, people of color, disabled, transgender, nonbinary–inform the future (and present) of the archives field and are key to the sustainability of SAA.

[1] https://lisedforum.wordpress.com/registration/statement/

Kris Kiesling: Keeping younger members engaged in SAA is critically important.  SNAP is one of the more active sections in the Society and efforts such as the guides for new members for the annual meetings, and the Student Chapter Manual are tremendously useful, so you’re to be congratulated for those.  Advocating for individuals who are students and young professionals is the best role that SNAP can play. 

The annual report SNAP submitted to Council for 2018-19 (https://www2.archivists.org/sites/all/files/1219-VI-N-SectionAnnReports.pdf) indicated that there are difficulties in maintaining contact with student chapters and that SAA staff had been unresponsive to requests.  Maintaining contact with student chapters is difficult because the players keep changing, but there should be a hand-off mechanism when leadership changes (if there isn’t, one needs to be implemented).  As for contacting SAA staff, my advice is to tap into your Council liaison. That person is responsible for conveying your concerns and questions to SAA Council and staff. If you’re still not getting the support you need, contact the VP/President Elect.

I would want to fully understand the issues of SNAP and younger members of the profession, and I would expect you to work with me on crafting solutions.  Keep in mind, however, that the SAA president does not act alone. Council must approve any major changes to governance and budget.

2.  2019 saw SAA’s sharpest decline in membership in the organization’s history, particularly among part-time workers and members making below $50,000/year (source: https://www2.archivists.org/sites/all/files/1219-VI-D-2-Memb.pdf). How can SAA leaders, and your role in particular, better engage SNAP’s constituents, many of whom likely fall in these membership categories?

Courtney Chartier: I’d love to see SAA’s leadership get in touch with those who have left the Society and find out why they left. Is it for financial reasons? Or is it because they don’t feel that SAA is representing them? I love data for a reason: we need to find out what the dissatisfaction is, then address it head on, either through rethinking dues for people who have precarious employment, or reconsidering how our programs support members in those categories. All of these activities are in the charge for SAA’s Membership Committee and the VP/President Elect appoints the members. There’s an opportunity for the VP to bring forward this appalling change to the Council, request that the Membership Committee assist with the work and recommendations, and appoint a member of SNAP to the Committee specifically to ensure that these voices are heard as a part of the planning and execution of any data collecting, analysis, and recommendations for action.  

Joyce Gabiola: Engagement in and contributing to the archives field on a national level is, for some, an element for tenure while for others, it is listed as a required or preferred qualification for job opportunities. Low-income workers are at a disadvantage if they are unable to afford the cost for membership in an organization that will give them access to participate and therefore opportunities to advance their careers and the field. This is underlined for workers whose social locations are underrepresented in the field.

Although SAA leadership could easily assume what low-income archives workers want, it is still important to provide a no-hassle line of communication for workers to inform leadership of their concerns. Leaders should consider the extent to which SAA is relevant and intentionally affordable for archives workers with low incomes, and ask: in what ways is SAA equitable?

Some questions we could ask: Has SAA considered sliding scale models for membership and for other aspects such as continuing education, webinars, annual meeting registration, and pre-conference sessions? Can SAA coordinate with graduate programs to take on bulk membership rates for their students and new graduates? Has SAA considered offering complimentary membership for first-year students, as they figure out if the archives field is indeed the direction they want to pursue? For folx who cannot present at the annual meeting due to financial constraints, could SAA proactively, technologically prepare for remote presentations? Are there other types of venues that SAA could consider for the annual meeting? SAA is certainly not the end-all for participating in the field on a national level, but it is important for some in the field.

Kris Kiesling: This membership decline is alarming, and SAA leadership is devoting attention to the issue.  We need to find out why members are not renewing. With a high percentage of non-renewals at the <$50,000 salary levels, what might those reasons be?  Dues too high? SAA not seen as delivering value for the money? Disagreement with the directions SAA is taking? Job loss? The last time a dues increase was proposed, Eira Tansey correctly and appropriately pointed out that the increases were regressive (i.e., the percentage of increase relative to salary was higher at lower salary levels than at higher salary levels) and Council took steps to adjust those percentages.  SAA is looking at another dues increase, and I would hope that further examination of the percentages would take place.

As president, I would meet with SNAP to hear member concerns and work to craft solutions to barriers.  A monthly conference call with SNAP leadership would be a place to start. Perhaps we could try some novel approaches to encourage retention of younger members in addition to the mentorship program and the student scholarships, such as piloting a program where senior members (those in the ID7 and ID8 dues categories and perhaps some of the retirees) pay dues for a student or young professional for a year as a way to pay it forward.  I would consider any feasible suggestion for addressing non-renewals.

3.  How can SAA improve outreach and engagement with current students?

Courtney Chartier: I was VP of my SAA student chapter, and as far as I can recall, we had no contact with SAA. I’d be curious to know if that has changed.

Sadly, my answer is going to be similar to the above. Collect data and make decisions, but only with the involvement of representatives of either student chapters or SNAP representatives (recognizing that graduate students often have even less time than anyone else).  We need some design thinking here: don’t ask student chapters how SAA can help them/support them will get you nowhere. Instead, we need to be asking students what their biggest challenges are as students, what their biggest joys are, to find out what is the most important, and then extrapolate how SAA can better help. Having programs that meet people’s needs is the key to good outreach.

Joyce Gabiola: First, I’d like to encourage veteran and mid-career members to treat students as full members whose intellectual contributions are relevant and informative. Students are at the heart of change and progress for our field and we need to treat them as peers and value their contributions.

My response to the previous question also applies to improving outreach and engagement with students, but I’ll underline the importance of SAA leadership creating and maintaining a no-hassle line of communication for SNAP and perhaps more importantly, how the section can assume an advisory role. Above any other suggestions to improve outreach and engagement with students is the opportunity for students to engage directly with SAA leadership and impact decisions that move SAA forward in meaningful ways.

Kris Kiesling: Student chapters are a great way for students to begin their involvement with SAA (I wish there had been student chapters when I was in library school).  Each student chapter has a faculty advisor, but I wonder if there would be some benefit to have a practicing archivist advisor as well. Most student chapters are at institutions that also have at least one archival repository of some kind, so locating such advisors should be feasible.  The perspectives and experiences of faculty and practicing archivists are different enough that both would be valuable. SNAP comprises a great pool of potential interns for committees and sections—I would make sure that SNAP is tapped for those kinds of appointments. 

4.  What do you feel is the most pressing issue for SAA today?

Courtney Chartier: There isn’t any one. A few stick out for me: salaries and labor practices, how we as archivists interact with communities, and what seems to be a philosophical divide along generational lines. 

I’ve been excited to see that our current Council is moving forward with an Archival Compensation Task Force. The charge for this group is excellent, and a huge first step in SAA having the evidence of what members have been saying for years: that archivists are often underpaid, underemployed, and when we enter the field, we have not been equipped to negotiate salaries, identify exclusionary or unfair practices, and how to confront poor working conditions and advocate for ourselves in the workplace. I’d love to see recommendations for graduate programs come out of the work of the Task Force: grad programs, and SAA student chapters, should have the knowledge they need to prepare students for entering the workforce. General education offerings should exist for all members on workplace issues as well.

Joyce Gabiola: While there are various reasons why folx are members of SAA, the organization provides opportunities for archives workers (and those who are archives-adjacent) to share their knowledge and cultivate skills while advancing the field and building community, intellectually, professionally and socially. What threatens the viability of SAA is the erosion of trust, which is key for any kind of relationship to be sustainable.

Due to the actions of SAA leaders and Fellows who signed a petition to add a 3rd candidate to the Vice President/President-Elect slate, it is even more clear now that a significant level of trust is severely lacking in SAA. The petition creators and signers did not trust the nominating committee’s decisions, disregarded the committee’s intentions and hard work, and assumed that the two nominated candidates are not qualified to lead. Why couldn’t (wouldn’t) the 52 petition signers trust that the two nominated candidates have different sets of qualifications and experience that make them viable candidates?

In addition, how can we trust the current editor of The American Archivist (also a petition signer and educator) to carry out his responsibilities in an ethical manner? [2]

I am always wary of “diversity and inclusion” talk by white folx because most of them do not also address white supremacy, so the level of trust I have for an organization that is predominantly white is understandably limited. That said, the recent actions of SAA leaders/Fellows who greatly impact the business and direction of SAA serves as a reminder that “diversity and inclusion” in our organization is welcome as long as it serves the interests of the majority.

I understand that building trust is a process and that it means being consistent and acting with integrity when it’s not easy or comfortable, so I wonder how SAA can remain viable and relevant for historically underrepresented folx if we cannot trust those who hold power. (I’m at least grateful that Council has become more representative and is mindful of power structures and organizational and societal inequities.)

[2] https://twitter.com/_cageorge/status/1219012838368382976

Kris Kiesling: Healing.  It seems that younger members of SAA feel their voices aren’t being heard, and older members feel they are being disrespected.  It is important for both sides to listen, really listen, to each other. Calling for change with strident, accusatory language isn’t going to have the desired effect, nor will digging in our heels and resisting change.  Keeping an open mind and conducting civil discourse will.     

5.  What advice do you have for new professionals in our field?

Courtney Chartier: You are entitled to ask questions. As a student and in my first position, I felt like I couldn’t ever ask. Not of my HR department, my Director about policies or executive decision-making, senior members of SAA; feeling like your age or position means you can’t ask is a kind of imposter syndrome. And the response you get to a question that is genuinely framed as curiosity will tell you a lot about your workplace or the person you are talking to. If they can’t take a question from someone who is trying to learn, then they either have poor ethics, or they have something to hide. Question everything.

Joyce Gabiola: BIPOC: Join We Here, a supportive community of workers, educators and students in LIS. Do not hesitate to connect with BIPOC in SAA. We want to see and help you thrive.

In general, I’m gonna go with advice that is rare in our field: develop an antiracist approach for your work. As new workers in the archives field, you don’t want to jeopardize your position (understandable), BUT it is an archival imperative to intervene white supremacist ideology. Silence protects the system that allows dominant groups to reproduce harms, without consequence.

As you work, serve on committees, and interact with colleagues, get in the habit of asking yourselves: if this [ action, article, policy, standard, etc. ] is not antiracist/anti-oppressive, what is it and does it matter? Lastly, #CiteBlackWomen #CiteIndigenousWomen

Kris Kiesling: If you are able to attend the SAA annual meeting, show up for section meetings that interest you and volunteer!  Even if you’re not able to attend SAA, join section listservs and contribute to the conversations. Write articles for newsletters.  The best thing you can do is make yourself known, show that you are contributing to the profession and want to get involved. As an introvert, I know how hard this can be, but the more you do it, the easier it gets. 

2/24: SNAP PRESENTS – SAA NOMINATING COMMITTEE AMA (ASK ME ANYTHING) EVENT

If you’re an SAA member, you will soon begin receiving emails reminding you to vote in this year’s election. This year’s election will also be highly unusual since a petition drive has resulted in the addition of a third candidate to the vice-chair/chair-elect position. What exactly is SAA’s annual election, what are the positions, and how are people nominated? How have past Nominating Committees approached their charge? Join former members of SAA’s Nominating Committee who will give a brief presentation on the work of Nominating Committee, and the importance of voting in SAA’s annual election.

SNAP is pleased to present the following panel to answer your questions over Zoom on Monday, February 24th at 8 PM (Eastern):

Eira Tansey, 2015 Nominating Committee member, she/hers
Krystal Appiah, 2016, Nominating Committee Chair, she/hers
Elvia Arroyo-Ramirez, 2017 Nominating Committee member, she/hers
Erin O’Meara, 2015 Nominating Committee Chair, she/hers

Zoom call-in information:
https://zoom.us/j/900633445

You can also dial in using your phone.
US: +1 929 436 2866, +1 669 900 6833
Meeting ID: 900-633-445

Find your local number: https://zoom.us/u/ac9gXnaBSR

[Ask an Archivist] Q: Storing Objects

Ask an Archivist Question: 

[Note this submitted question was edited for length]

I am hoping to get advice on how to store objects. I’m a graduate student in an MLIS program and right now I’m working on archiving a small collection that includes stuffed animals. I have worked in other collections dealing with textile objects, and I have learned to store them in acid-free archival quality boxes. However, there is some concern about how to support the stuffed animals once they are in the boxes. I have learned and researched that using acid-free tissue paper would be fine, but we are also considering sealing them in archival-quality bags to prevent pests. The collection is kept in a separate enclosed room off of the library and has not had problems with pests, but the connected library will occasionally get stink bugs and ladybugs. We’re also worried about moths. I have been told that good house-keeping practice will prevent pests. But, we are also worried about pests coming from the main/larger library. Has any archivist dealt with storing stuffed animals? If so, what are some suggestions?


Ask an Archivist Answers:

Answer 1:

For the most part, an acid free box that’s of an appropriate size with adequate cushioning of tissue or polyethylene, polypropylene/archival polyester should be appropriate. More fragile or valuable/rare materials would require additional caution. This website is by a vendor, but provides some pretty cool examples of toy storage, including stuffed animal storage: www.archivalmethods.com/blog/preserving-toys-old-new

 

Answer 2:

In a previous position, I worked with a vast array of physical objects, from clothing and shoes to food products and paint cans. I haven’t worked directly with stuffed animals, but I think my experiences with other textiles can help you.

The key to working with textiles is stabilization to keep them from (further) damage. In a climate-controlled storage environment, artifacts should stay fairly stable once housed. The bigger concern is housing them in such a way where the stuffed animals won’t get crushed or otherwise damaged while being stored or retrieved. With clothing and shoes, we used a combination of boxes, bags, and archival tissue to house textiles. Hollinger has great options for artifact storage, and I would check out their archival tissue, garment bags, and various archival storage boxes. I would wrap each stuffed animal individually in archival tissue and possibly a garment bag to prevent off-gassing. One animal per box is probably best, but as long as they are wrapped in garment bags, are not damaging one another, and fit comfortably, it is fine to have 2-3. Use archival tissue to pad the empty space around the toy so that it is not loose and moving around the box during retrieval. So long as you store the toys properly and keep them in a controlled environment, you should be fine.

One word of caution based on my experience with shoes: stuffing degrades. Stuffing naturally degrades over time and starts to get “sticky”. This is very unpredictable and once started cannot be stopped without the assistance of a conservator. I cannot guarantee that this deterioration will or will not happen in your toys. I’ve had artifacts from the same time period where one shoe was degrading and a different pair of shoes was perfectly intact. For “sticky” shoes, all we could do was stabilize using tissue paper, house individually, and limit handling because we did not have the budget for a conservator. Once the stuffing starts to degrade, these are naturally occurring chemical reactions that you cannot stop, and the best you can do is stabilize. 

Storing artifacts is a lot like a puzzle, but a fun puzzle! You are trying to minimize storage space while not damaging the items. Hollinger (and to a lesser extent Gaylord Archival) has a lot of options available, and in my experience will work with you to suggest what products may be best for your artifacts. Good luck!