Katie Rojas is the newest participant in our Year in the Life series, which follows new archivists in their first professional position. We will be following Katie for a year. You can read the Katie’s previous posts here.
This month I decided to do a “Day in the Life” approach for my blog entry. My duties revolve a lot and it’s rare that I’m focused on a single task or processing project. This is a detailed description of what I do on a typical day when I’m not processing a collection or don’t have any meetings etc. Sometimes my day is completely devoted to just one or two things, but that’s rare. I know there’s a lot of murkiness when it comes to the day-to-day of archival work, and I’ve often found myself not doing a lot of the things I thought I would do, and often grappling with how to apply what I’ve learned to the real world. Sometimes it’s a big leap between theory and practice. Hopefully this will present a realistic snapshot for what it’s like to be a newbie, lone arranger, local government archivist for a day!
A DAY IN THE LIFE OF KATIE ROJAS
8:00 Arrive at work. Open up my email, and check my calendar. I have a webinar later today. I write up a to-do list for the day while I eat my breakfast at my desk (not over archival materials, of course!). Drink coffee. Coffee is important.
8:20 Work on accession form for some subdivision plats donated by a surveyor yesterday. I didn’t know he was coming over yesterday (and I didn’t know who he was) but he’s given us plats before. Usually I’d have an accession form made up in advance, but better to make one now than not at all.
8:45 Phone call from a person at the state historical commission. He’s trying to figure out how & when one of the streets in our area got its name. He hasn’t had much luck with what he looked at in our digital collections, but I do have a really neat book from a local author that explains the stories behind place names in our area, and thankfully it contains what he’s looking for. I email him a quote from the book and citation information.
9:15 Get distracted by a website that has historic maps of our area. Try to print one out for a researcher who comes in regularly, but am not successful (image is locked in an old image viewer and can’t be downloaded).
9:30 Phone call from a coworker regarding an open records request. I head out to our warehouse to pull the requested document. While I’m there, I pull a property appraisal note card for a historic home that a realtor is researching. Spend the next several minutes scanning the requested document because it’s quite large. We typically fulfill open records requests with a “scan and deliver” procedure. This file is going to be too large to email as an attachment, so I’ll have to put it online and send the link instead.
10:20 A surveyor comes by to pick up a flash drive containing scans of a field survey book that I promised to him.
10:30 Log in to content management system to put the requested document online, and…
10:35 My boss comes to my desk and wants to show me some things that she has worked on. My assistant is out on maternity leave, so she and I are working together to cover her duties.
10:55 Return to my desk from talking to my boss. Enter the requested document in content management system to put it online. Call the requestor to let them know it’s ready, and send them an email with the link to the document.
11:15 Finalize the accession form that I started earlier for the subdivision plats. Enter info into the spreadsheet that I use to track our accession data. (I am hoping and waiting for approval to use ArchiveSpace. I don’t want to jump in with Archivists Toolkit at this point, but we are waiting for ArchiveSpace to develop a little further. I’m keeping the status quo in the meantime.)
11:30 Go back out to the warehouse to re-file the document I pulled earlier. Also spent some time putting away other miscellaneous documents that had been pulled from their parent collections.
12:10 Lunch! I eat at my desk while I read for my class look at my facebook feed, read cat articles on huffpo, and text my husband.
1:00 Webinar time. It’s part one of a two part series called “Project Management 101: Planning Your Project” put on by the Coalition to Advance Learning in Archives, Libraries and Museums. The presenters are from the IMLS. I found out about it on the A&A Listserv. Can’t beat a free webinar!
The webinar is only one hour long. In this time, I receive 5 emails, several text messages, and a telephone call. My researcher shows up. And my boss comes back from lunch and has stuff to tell me before she leaves again for a presentation she is giving.
2:00 Now that the webinar is over, everything is calm and quiet and nobody wants my attention any more. Irony is cruel. I read over the chat dialogue from the webinar to see what I missed and to mine for good web links.
2:20 I check the emails etc. from the webinar interruption frenzy.
2:30 Put the newly donated subdivision plats in a box and put them away in the warehouse.
2:40 Chat with my researcher about the resources he’s using and other history-related stuff. Tell him about the map I found this morning.
3:00 Scan the property appraisal note card I pulled earlier to send to the realtor.
3:10 Pull a roll of microfilm containing building permits (for the realtor) and fire up the reader. Eat an apple while the machine boots up. It’s a massive machine…from the late 80’s? It was fancy for its time and unfortunately doesn’t work too well now, but it’s the only one we have. It’s pretty rare that I use it.
3:25 Receive another open records request, plus an email from a donor who wants me to ask my boss a question for her.
3:30 Call my boss’ secretary to see if I can put her in touch with the donor, but she’s in a meeting. Make mental note to call back before the end of the day. Also, my researcher leaves.
3:35 Look at building permits on microfilm. There is no permit for the property I want. No big surprise…my building permits only go back to 1921 and there is an abundance of historic homes in the neighborhood where the house is located. I email the realtor to let her know what I found/didn’t find.
4:00 Go to the warehouse again and re-file the property appraisal card. Pull the document requested for the new open records request.
4:15 The document I just pulled looks like it’s going to be complicated to scan (weird tabs, varying paper sizes) so I’m going to save it for tomorrow morning. We have 7 days to fill open records requests, so it’s no biggie.
4:30 Call my department head’s secretary again with no luck. I send her an email asking her to call me if I don’t call her by 9 AM tomorrow.
4:40 My boss got back from her presentation several minutes ago, so I get her to sign the accession form for the subdivision plats. I scan it and link it to the excel spreadsheet with the accession data. Fancy.
4:50 What do I do with ten minutes?! I email a researcher about some stuff he wanted that I’m pretty sure we don’t have. It’s a needle in the haystack situation and he’ll need to come down to the archives to do more research on his own.
5:03 Hey, look at that! I can go home now! But the boss calls me about an 1889 street paving diagram that we’re sending to the History Columnist for the local newspaper. We’ve been hunting for this thing for a while and she finally found it. It’s pretty neat.
5:12 Leave for the day.
I know it might not seem like much, but one thing I’ve found is that this type of work takes a lot more time than I anticipate. I’ve gotten quicker at it, but I know some of these things are time consuming by nature.
In other general news, I went to a grant writing workshop recently which was really helpful in understanding the parts of a grant and what funders are looking for. I’ve hinted the past couple months about this workshop, because I’ve really been looking forward to it. I had a great instructor with a lot of relevant experience, so it was enjoyable and informative. I don’t have any grant applications lined up right now, but I feel much more secure and prepared to write when the opportunity arises.