SAA 2013 Candidate Interviews: Jennifer Johnson

Jennifer Johnson
Associate Archivist, Cargill Incorporated
Candidate for Nominating Committee
Read her bio and response to questions posed by the Nominating Committee here.


How did you get your start in the archives field?

I started as an intern with the Minnesota State Archives while in college, then proceeded to work there after I graduated.  It was this experience and the people I met which lead me to attend graduate school and pursue a Masters of Library Science, with a specialization in Archives and Records Management at the University of Maryland.

Should SAA focus its services more on archives professionals (archivists) or the archives profession as a whole?

That’s really a chicken and the egg question.  How can you do one without the other?  I am a member of SAA because it’s a benefit to me.  I receive education, development opportunities, knowledge from colleagues, and ideas I can implement in the Cargill archives. I think the personal benefits are what bring members to the organization. Once you are here the focus gradually shifts to the profession. The profession is so small, if we don’t advocate for ourselves, no one is going to do it for us.

How do you see the SNAP Roundtable within the larger picture of SAA?

I think SNAP has already changed the shape of SAA.  SNAP is one of the most active and vocal roundtables.  I don’t think the Annual Meeting Task Force would exist without questions raised by SNAP. The members of SNAP are in a position to ask questions of archivists and the profession that are not immediately obvious to those of us who have been in the field for a while.  And, you should keep asking them, even if they make the rest of us uncomfortable and particularly if you don’t like the answers you receive.  And, you create a nice bridge between the professional organization and the student chapters.

What do you feel is the responsibility of SAA leadership, and your leadership role in particular, to students and new archives professionals?

I always try to meet with students and new professionals when asked.  Here in Minnesota, the Twin Cities Archives Round Table (TCART) has made annual panels with the library science program at St. Catherine’s University a priority.  Fellow archivists made my entry into the field easy and welcoming, and they encouraged me when I didn’t see the path before me quite as clearly.  I feel it’s only right to try and do the same for others.  Hopefully, within SAA we can encourage open and honest discussion with new professionals, and continue to develop opportunities so those new to the profession can get involved.  We should be as inclusive as possible.

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

Be willing to try new things, even if it doesn’t always appear to be archival.  One of my early supervisors encouraged me to learn HTML and how to make web sites, which lead to a graduate assistantship while at Maryland, which lead to my first job after grad school.  Find a mentor or supervisor who will push you out of your comfort zone.

Volunteer for tasks that interest you:  committees, task forces, roles within a roundtable or section. It’s a resume builder and a great way to meet other archivists.  Knowing people from a variety of institutions gives you more opportunities and resources, and makes conferences more fun.

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This entry was posted in Candidate Interviews 2013 and tagged , on by .

About Lisa H

Lisa is the archivist/librarian at the Swenson Swedish Immigration Research Center at Augustana College. She stumbled into archival work by way of the museum world and is always seeking ways to break down the silos of these professions. Lisa has worked in museums, libraries, and archives in Illinois, New York, and Alaska. While not at work, Lisa spends her free time biking, working on art projects, and putting her useless knowledge to good use on bar trivia teams. You can find her on Twitter @lisahuntsha.

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