This post is part of the 2015 Candidate Interview series, presented in preparation for the 2015 SAA Election (March 13-April 13). Candidate statements will be posted daily through Friday, March 13. Read more statements from 2015 candidates here or check out our previous election series.
Tufts University, Director of Digital Collections and Archives
Candidate for Council
Read his bio and response to questions posed by the Nominating Committee here.
1. What role should SNAP Roundtable play in SAA?
SNAP already serves important roles in SAA, by providing a support system for new archivists and also as a formal means to address issues important to SNAP members, who constitute a significant percentage of the organization. (As I mentioned in my candidate statement, nearly 40 percent of SAA members have been in the organization for three years or fewer and 20 percent are students.) SNAP has over 1,300 members and clearly fills a huge need within SAA and within the profession in general.
It seems clear to me that SNAP has had a large impact on SAA in its three years of existence. Its members have brought increased attention to challenges faced by students and new members, resulting in the creation of SAA’s volunteer and internship guidelines and in employment issues being raised for discussion at Council meetings. SNAP also plays an important role in providing leadership opportunities to students and new archivists. Though SAA is a volunteer organization and puts out a call for volunteers every year, the growth of the organization over the last decade sometimes means that leadership opportunities are not as prevalent as they once were. SNAP provides an excellent entry point for getting involved with the organization and can be a springboard to leadership opportunities with other groups in SAA.
The SNAP roundtable also provides for participation by people who may not be able to attend the annual meeting or other in person meetings that require travel with its activities throughout the year, in particular its listserv, SNAP chats on twitter, and blog. Other SAA leaders look to these venues as valuable sources for information on what is going on and what is of concern in the profession.
2. How can SAA leaders, and your role in particular, better engage SNAP constituents?
SAA has an obligation to ensure that SNAP constituents have clear and open communication channels to SAA leadership. SAA Council has formal liaisons with all roundtables and sections and this obviously is an important way for Council to engage with its component groups. The component groups I’ve been involved with, particularly the Standards Committee, have been lucky to have great Council Liaisons, who have been very good about proactively informing roundtable leaders about Council actions or other SAA happenings that affect the work of those groups. I would emulate these good models for the groups for which I am a liaison.
I do think, as I mentioned in my candidate statement, that effective engagement with constituents, particularly for a group as large and prominent as SNAP, needs to include efforts beyond formal channels. Participation in SNAP’s online forums in order to get a sense of the issues that matter to SNAPs constituents is an important part of this relationship – in many ways SNAP’s communication and outreach efforts make this easier than with some other component groups. As I mentioned in my candidate statement I also think we should look at ways to find ways to further include students, new professionals and individuals from the ARL/SAA Mosaic program in Council discussions.
I also think that SAA leaders can engage new archivists outside of SAA. This work can include serving as formal or informal mentors as well as working to ensure that students and new archivists work in positions that allow for engagement with and input into the work of their repository, enable them to develop professionally, and, generally, experience good working environments with reasonable expectations. Providing opportunities for and mentoring newer archivists has always been a role I take seriously, and one whose importance I especially appreciate.
3. How can SAA improve public understanding of the archives profession?
SAA has placed increased emphasis on formal public advocacy in recent years, especially this year under Kathleen Roe’s leadership, and has developed several programs to assist archivists with advocacy efforts.
In addition to these coordinated efforts, I also believe that improving public understanding of archives and the archives profession is the responsibility of every archivist. Often, one of the ways that archivists can improve public understanding is simply by demonstrating competence. Working with records creators proactively, reducing processing backlogs, making as much as we can available online, and creating welcoming online and in person user experiences are all things that most of our repositories could work on. Everyday, there is something that all us can do to make things better. Demonstrating this kind of competence can only benefit us and our users and increase understanding of what we do.
4. How can SAA improve archival education?
Archival education is important to me, as someone who has hired numerous early career archivists, and has served as both a SAA workshop instructor and an adjunct lecturer in a large MLS program. While this is a difficult issue I think SAA can and should find ways to get involved in archival graduate education. SAA last revised its guidelines for graduate education in 2011. Though formal accreditation of graduate education programs was rejected by SAA as recently as 2009, I think at minimum there is room to spend additional time reviewing and especially promoting these guidelines so that entering students know about their existence and can make informed choices about their educational options. Those entering the field should be able to feel confident that the course of training they choose is actually preparing them for the jobs that are available. More formal connection with archival educators would also be helpful in defining the relationship between archival graduate education and training opportunities available through SAA. One area to be considered is ensuring that the training opportunities offered by SAA do not undercut or duplicate what is offered through graduate programs or unnecessarily create additional credentialing barriers for new archivists.
5. What advice do you have for new professionals in our field?
- Engage with the profession and its intellectual aspects. The archives world has a rich intellectual history but in my experience many students and new professionals feel pressure to develop practical skills and compile hands on experiences in the hopes of making themselves more marketable. I’ve hired many archivists in my 15 years in this profession and the common trait among all archivists I’ve hired has been a shared sense of mission and a commitment to archival values rather than any specific skill, experience, or knowledge of any one tool or standard. If you’re a student or new professional spend some time with archival theory; it will be with you longer than any tool or skill.
- On a practical note, if at all possible, take advantage of work opportunities that allow you to spend significant time thinking about and developing your own values. If you can, working at a well-run repository for an extended period of time, beyond a three-month, ten-hour per week internship, can be an extremely valuable experience. The best early experiences in archives provide immersion in a community of people who are committed to archival work, who care deeply about the work they do and approach it with a sense of purpose, and who are willing and even eager to discuss their work and the issues they face. In my view this is more valuable than gathering up a large number of short-term experiences.
- Finally, developing a thoughtful and professional social media presence can be useful. Though it has grown tremendously in the last 15 years, ours is still a small profession and making a name for yourself as someone who thinks about professional issues can go a long way in opening doors and in simply allowing for increased interaction for people who can’t necessarily attend every in person meeting or event.