SAA 2013 Candidate Interviews: Mark Myers

Mark Myers
Electronic Records Archivist, Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives
Candidate for Council
Read his bio and response to questions posed by the Nominating Committee here.

How did you get your start in the archives field?

In 1997 my wife and I moved to Auburn, AL, when she was accepted to Auburn’s College of Veterinary Medicine.  I was certified to be a high school teacher, but not finding any teaching jobs, I instead got a job working at the vet school.  After a year as an employee of the university, I was able to take a class a quarter (Auburn was on quarters instead of semesters at the time) for free, so I started working on a Masters degree in History.  Auburn had a 9 hour archives certification as part of the History program and I was deeply immersed in genealogy at that point, so I figured if I knew how archives worked it would benefit my hobby. 

Ultimately, I went full-time on my Masters getting a position as a graduate research assistant in the Auburn University Library, designing web pages and performing general reference duties, then working as a student intern at the Alabama Department of Archives and History (ADAH) emptying dehumidifiers and processing collections.  ADAH eventually had some full-time positions come open; one was for an “electronic records archivist.”  Having a personal interest in computers I applied and lucky for me, as I found out later, the other guy turned the job down.  The downside was that my full-time job basically killed my Masters degree, but I was building work experience and I got my job here in Kentucky (my home state) without it.

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

I think that they are one and the same.  Without an active membership the association wouldn’t function properly. The association has to meet the needs of its members, through training such as seminars, workshops, online courses and networking events like the annual meeting.

However, SAA should advocate for the profession by establishing and promoting best practices and standards through training, by providing a collective voice for the profession as a whole on issues of interest, and most of all by promoting the profession.  Part of this advocacy and promotion is the cultivation of new members through student organizations, mentoring programs, and other assistance.  Without new blood as it were, coming into the profession we risk stagnating and getting passed by.

The problem with any large organization is making sure that all the members have a voice, and making sure that the organization can change and evolve over time as the profession changes and evolves.

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

The roundtable is the advocate for its constituency. Just as I said before about the role of SAA for the profession, you serve as the voice for your members.  Continue to pound on the door of the organization and demand a place at the table.  You represent the future of the profession and you shouldn’t let the rest of the organization forget it.  These questions and interviews are great.  Bring the leadership in and let them interact with your members.  To a large degree your constituency is cutting edge of the profession and should be the place to try new things.  Continue to do that.

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

SAA is a big organization and it’s easy to get lost in it.  As leaders we need to be able to help people navigate through the organization and find what they need.  I remember going to my first SAA Annual Meeting in 2001 and seeing the people who I had been reading about in my archives classes and feeling a bit overwhelmed.  We, as leaders, need to remember how that felt and figure out how to alleviate that for new members.  All too often it’s assumed that folks know how to navigate and network in the meetings.  Veteran members have no problem talking to colleagues they may have known for years, but forget how hard it was to start or join conversations when they were new.  We need to get beyond the “student/professor” relationship and make it more collegial.

That’s one of our big secrets: for the most part the people in this profession are willing to help each other.  This is a great profession with great people and as I continued to go meetings and meet people, I realized that they were looking for the same things I was and were more than willing to help.  Leadership should be the model and leaders should serve as examples by bringing members together and getting them to interact and work together.

The organization needs new members, new ideas, and new ways of looking at the problems that we continue to face.  Leadership also needs to listen to the needs of the members and look for ways change the organization to meet those needs as best it can.  It’s a balancing act of not catering to only one group or interest, but being able to make all the pieces fit neatly together.

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

Practically:  Everything is created electronically today.  The records we file may just be paper printouts of the electronic file.  Don’t be afraid of computers and don’t dismiss them.  You don’t need to be programmer, but you need to have a working knowledge and general acceptance.  A lot of this is generational.  20-somethings have grown up with personal computers, the Internet, and cell phones.  But even if you are in a historic manuscript repository you still need to advertise and promote your collections- and that’s going to happen digitally.

Professionally:  “Be calm and carry on” as the phrase goes.  There is no great secret behind the curtain.  Veteran archivists aren’t any better or worse, just more experienced.  They have seen more.  Respect that, and learn from them.  But also realize that you have a valuable resource as well, a fresh new approach to things.

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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