University Archivist and Co-Director, University Digital Conservancy, University of Minnesota Archives
Candidate for Nominating Committee
Read his bio and response to questions posed by the Nominating Committee here.
How did you get your start in the archives field?
I was in my second semester of my first year in a PhD program when I landed a research assistant position in the Immigration History Research Center located at the University of Minnesota. The position was designed to help establish an internal scanning program to be better able to share archival resources online. As the semester came to a close, there was an opportunity to continue the work in a full-time capacity on a three year grant funded project. It didn’t take me long to decide to accept the position and put my PhD on permanent hiatus. While working full-time in the archives I completed a MLIS in the evenings & weekends to pair with my MA in history. But it wasn’t just the work that I found so interesting that made me turn the direction of my career, it was the mentoring I experienced and the professional community of archivists I was introduced to that helped me understand that this was the career choice for me.
How do you see the SNAP Roundtable within the larger picture of SAA?
SNAP represents the future of SAA in two distinct ways. First, members of SNAP are current and future leaders of our professional society. Second, our organization will continue to grow as long as students and new professionals continue to see value in developing the organization to serve them as professionals.
What do you feel is the responsibility of SAA leadership, and your leadership role in particular, to students and new archives professionals?
It is always the responsibility of SAA leadership to be open and to communicate with all groups represented by the society. This means taking the time to be available and to respond to questions so that the communication is both ways and not just one. SNAP already does a superb job at making sure this type of communication happens by inviting leaders to contribute to the blog and join the SNAP Twitter hangouts. But, it should also be SAA’s job to bring SNAP to the forefront as well. SNAP should be invited to share perspectives via the Off the Record blog and perhaps provide a regular column in Archival Outlook.
What steps can SAA take to improve the perception of the archives profession in a variety of settings (academics, business, government, etc.)?
I think SAA does a fantastic job at advocating for archives especially when the voice of the profession needs to send a collective message at a time of need. It is always a proud moment for me to be part of the organization. In other areas, especially in job growth and employment stability, the role for SAA as an organization is harder to identify. SAA cannot force an employer to retain or hire a professionally trained archivist, but it can educate employers on what qualities a professional archivist job description should contain, it could create a salary study and provide it as a resource for employers who are unsure how to value the work of an archivist, and it can help students and new professionals understand how to identify and respond to job ads and job offers that are predatory.
What role do you think SAA can play in ensuring MLS programs are producing the archivists employers need?
I think we need to be sure that new professionals does not equal graduate degree plus a long list of certifications. Graduates should be able (and expected) to learn as many of us have – through mentoring and experience. Yet, specialization in certain areas, especially in systems & technology, is key to landing employment. My research assistantship, and thus my career changing opportunity, would not have been possible if I was not familiar with designing relational databases and basic html. These skills may not carry the same weight for a new professional today, but there are equivalents that should be part of every graduate student’s toolbox.
How do you plan to engage new and young professionals in SAA?
Engagement is very important to me especially in the area of mentoring. I would not be on the ballot today if I hadn’t had very strong mentors over the early part of my career. As a leader in SAA it is important to remember that mentoring is not just a responsibility of the students/new professionals. It requires active participation on the part of the mentor. SAA leadership needs to show up. Attend roundtable meetings. Sit in on the grad student presentations. Really read the student posters. Ask good questions that they do not know the answer to. And be willing to be participants while the new professionals lead. Leadership is not about age or years of experience, it is about engagement.
What advice do you have for new professionals in our field?
Seek out opportunities to participate. This may not always be through SAA, but through local & regional professional associations as well. Go to meetings if you can. This is the best way to feel a part of the larger community of archivists. The friendships you make will carry through the rest of your professional career. And finally, ask questions of those you respect or admire. They will answer. That is how mentoring begins.