Senior Director of Information Services, Soroptimist International of the Americas
Candidate for Council
Read her bio and response to questions posed by the Nominating Committee here.
How did you get your start in the archives field?
My archives career started when I returned to my hometown after completing all but my thesis for a M.A. in history. In need of a job, a position as an archives assistant was posted in the want ads for a national organization that women in my family had been involved with for decades at the local level. Since a masters in history or library science was preferred, and I had been a user of archives and manuscript collections in the course of my undergrad and graduate research, I thought the stars were aligning and I might have a chance. When I went for my interview, the archivist was wearing a very distinctive class ring from a women’s college that my mother had attended. Now I really felt like the job was calling to me. I was offered the position (with an $18,000 a year salary funded through an NHPRC grant), and had a wonderful experience working in a two-person shop for four years. Some of my favorite memories of those years is when the archivist and I would have very in-depth conversations about a processing or description problem, and we would start out on opposite sides of the issue. Usually one of us convinced the other that their approach was best. But several times we each did such a good job of convincing the other that we actually flip-flopped our support and at the end, we ended up where we started—on opposite sides of the issue. Those conversations were such an important and formative part of my early career, and I am very grateful I worked in an environment where my opinion was respected and where everyone was open to looking at problems or ideas from differing perspectives.
Should SAA focus its services more on archives professionals (archivists) or the archives profession as a whole?
I work in a membership organization, so my perspective is focused on the member experience and services. However, I think it is hard say you’re a professional archivist, and to advocate for those aspects that we think help define “professional” in our field, such as adequate salaries, if there are no standards or best practices that also help define the archives profession. Finding the proper balance between these two areas is a fine line and you can’t do either exclusively, but my background puts me squarely on the member services side of the spectrum.
How do you see the SNAP Roundtable within the larger picture of SAA?
One of the great things about SAA are the numerous communities that really help bring archivists together to engage with and learn from one another, and SNAP is one of those communities. I belong to the Lone Arrangers Roundtable, and I find it to be such a supportive environment. When I’m following a thread on our listserv, I almost always get some spark of a new idea from my colleagues. I think these communities are a vital part of the organization, and generate a great deal of the identity and feelings of belonging to SAA. Ultimately, it is the members of SNAP who will define, and determine the success of, the roundtable.
What do you feel is the responsibility of SAA leadership, and your leadership role in particular, to students and new archives professionals?
I feel it is an important responsibility of SAA leaders to help break down the barriers of engagement, to ensure there are opportunities where archivists can learn from and support each other, and to encourage innovation. I want personally to be as welcoming as possible, and to help students and new professionals find and create their own individual networks of colleagues, and friends. My repository and I regularly host archives interns, so I consider it a personal and professional responsibility to help people starting out in the profession. Breaking down these barriers of engagement with the organization and each other is something I am concerned about regardless of where an individual is on the career continuum or whether they work in an academic, government, business or non-profit repository.
What advice do you have for new professionals in our field?
Don’t burn any bridges! This is a relatively small community and you never know where your next job, or who your next supervisor, might be. Do be as open to new experiences and differing perspectives as you can be in the confines of your repository. Don’t be afraid to let something go (or to not start something) if the process doesn’t make sense or work for your repository. Don’t be afraid to grow out of the archives and into management. From the school of hard knocks, document everything. I didn’t do as much documentation 20 years ago on some of my processing decisions as I think I need now. And finally, find joy in the thrill of the hunt, in uncovering or making accessible a document that provides a “missing link”, in creating order out of collection chaos. For many of us, those moments are our best as archivists, and when you are having a bad day, being able to draw on those moments will keep you sane and professionally happy.