SAA Candidate Interview: Edward “Ted” Ryan

Ted Ryan
Director, Heritage Communications, The Coca-Cola Company
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?

I got my start in the field as an unpaid intern at the Southeast Branch of the National Archives when I was a college senior. From that point, I was able to get a job as a reference Archivist at the Atlanta History Center. I was fortunate that a position opened when it did. The Internship (and the recommendation of the National Archives Director) led directly to me being offered the position. Once I had my foot in the door, I continued my professional and academic training to advance in my field.

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

The SNAP Roundtable plays an important role in giving a voice to those who are transitioning from student to professional or have just entered the profession. This is a difficult time to enter the field. The rapid growth of graduate programs has created in influx of people trying to enter the field while the number of jobs has not increased enough to provide an entry. Additionally, the growth of contract positions is providing some entry-level training, but little possibility of long term employment. Groups like SNAP offer a forum to these new professional and provide a networking avenue.

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

SAA Leadership has to provide an avenue for the exchange of ideas and networking. As I answered above, this is a tough time to enter the profession and SAA supported Roundtables like SNAP play and important role. Personally, in my role as the Director of an archival program, I have stressed internships and have shown a history of hiring contractors who are new to the field to let them gain more experience.

Knowing I got my start because of an internship, The Coca-Cola Archives has had a strong Intern program where we try to select a first year Graduate student to give them an opportunity to learn on the job as they head back for their final year of study.

What steps can SAA take to improve the perception of the archives profession in a variety of settings (academics, business, government, etc.)?

SAA has a definite role in advocating for the archives profession and needs to speak with an “industry” or collective voice. As a business archivist, I am very aware of the fragile nature of archives in a business setting. The recent upheaval at Target is only the latest closure we have witnessed in the past decade. That being said, I have also seen several new programs established and believe the overall health of the profession is strong.

What role do you think SAA can play in ensuring MLS programs are producing the archivists employers need?

I think that SAA, and particularly some of the Roundtables and Sections related to Archival education should offer guidance and a forum for the exchange of ideas about the curricula of the MSL programs. The difficulty is that the profession is changing so rapidly with the increasing impact of digital repositories and the born digital content that many of the programs are struggling to keep up. At the same time, the employers are still in flux trying to determine the best way to structure their programs. The example we use is like training doctors before and after the discovery of antibiotics. Portions of the profession are changing more rapidly than our training can handle.

How do you plan to engage new and young professionals in SAA?
What advice do you have for new professionals in our field?

As noted above, The Coca-Cola Archives Intern program has been in place for years now and I have made sure our contractor positions offer the opportunity for recent graduates to get experience. As a former head of the Business Archives Section, our Section focus has always welcomed student participation to give them exposure to the 300+ business archives that are part of our section.

The only advice I can give is keep trying. I know this is a difficult time in our profession. While I believe the field is strong, it can be difficult to get a full time (non contractor) job. I currently have two contractors who graduated last year and hear the tales from their fellow students of unanswered applications.

Once you get a job, constantly focus on training and improving your skill sets. While some specialization is good, I always trained for where I wanted to be in five years. While still a reference assistant at the Atlanta History Center, I was already attending workshops on preserving photography, while the photo archivist, I was attending workshops on constructing exhibits. Now that I direct an Archive program, I am focusing on improving my advocacy skills and have joined the Bureau of the International Council on Archives. Never stop training.

This entry was posted in Candidate Interviews 2014 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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