SAA 2015 Candidate Interview: Sasha Griffin

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.

Sasha Griffin
University Archivist and Special Collections Librarian, Denison University
Candidate for Nominating Committee
Read her bio and response to questions posed by the Nominating Committee here.

What role should SNAP Roundtable play in SAA?

Back in 2012, shortly after the roundtable was born, I served as the liaison coordinator for SNAP.  It was my role to network between SNAP and the other component groups in order to both introduce ourselves as a roundtable to the rest of the Society and vice versa, to introduce SAA to the roundtable membership.  I think one of the biggest services that SNAP can provide to its members is an explanation how and the encouragement to get involved.  Many students and new professionals may feel intimidated to actively participate with roundtables, discussion lists, and sections that are well established with their own cultures and voices.  SNAP should help alleviate these concerns by encouraging its members to actively participate in the larger organization through vocalizing the issues and solutions that represent this important and growing demographic of entry level archives professionals.  In addition to helping SAA become more diverse in its representation, this will also help fledgling and emerging leaders to find their own voices and jump start their own careers.

How can SAA leaders, and your role in particular, better engage SNAP constituents?

I’m currently running for the 2015 Nomination Committee, which has the important task of reaching out to people in our profession to run for vice president/president-elect, SAA Council, and the 2016 Nominating Committee.  While it may seem a little self-referential to be elected to find others to become elected, it is actually incredibly important.  The leaders that you will elect will be the ones who will discuss and seek to solve some of our professional challenges while also advocating for our accomplishments.  Because of this, it is so important to get SNAP’s collective voice included both in the representation of and in the voting for the slate of candidates.

 How can SAA improve public understanding of the archives profession?

How many times have we read an article about dusty shelves that gets us thinking, “Why can’t the general public understand and value what we do?”  SAA President Kathleen Roe’s “A Year of Living Dangerously for Archives” has been an excellent way to spur conversations about who we are, what we do, and how our users engage with us.  Getting these stories out there is important to help us build a positive web reputation full of Top 10 search results that realistically convey what it is that we do and why it’s important.  As a member of the Nominating Committee, I intend to seek potential candidates who have a history of advocating for the profession and for their fellow archivists and who are willing to continue that work for both the public understanding of the profession and also our own internal understand of each other.

How can SAA improve archival education?

This is a tough question which can go in two directions: 1) SAA’s continuing education offerings and 2) the overarching educational norms that make up the career path into becoming an archivist.  My personal opinion on the former issue is that SAA does a great job in providing a variety of educational opportunities that appeal to a vast audience of practicing archivists.  While the discounted student and member rates help make attending workshops a bit more attainable, it may still feel steep when you dig into your own pockets.  One idea to improve could be for an SAA roundtable like SNAP to work on providing scholarship support for a handful of students/new professionals to attend workshops based on need and/or merit. As far as the second issue goes, graduate archival education has been an important discussion, as evidenced by the 2013 SAA Annual Meeting session “Archival Education from the Student Perspective” and subsequent open discussion forum at the 2014 Meeting.  This is an enormous topic, one that is difficult to grasp and discuss and solve and I think it requires a lot of patience, understanding, and empathy to further these conversations.  An idea could be to request communication between the SAA membership and the Committee on Education, perhaps in the form of a newsletter or blog.  If elected to the Nominating Committee, I would seek to find candidates who are interested in solving some of the big transitions that are facing the profession, which includes archival education.

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

Expand your network by building up connections with archivists whom you can bounce ideas off of, learn from, share your ideas with, talk shop, and meet for coffee at organizational meetings.  While the term “mentor” often means something formal, there are so many other ways to both find and be a mentor in the profession.  In my opinion, no matter what your generation or length of time in the field, there is always something for you to teach and there is always something for you to learn.

 Here are some ideas on how to start:

  • Sign up for SAA’s formal mentoring program.
  • Sign up for SAA’s navigator program for the Annual Meeting.
  • Contact your graduate or undergraduate career services program if they need any mentoring for prospective students or if they offer any alumni mentoring services for recent graduates.
  • See if there are regional, state, or local mentoring programs available.
  • Send an archivist you admire an email telling them that and then ask if they’d be able to just chat on the phone for a few minutes on a specific topic.
  • Engage in the professional conversations on listservs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.

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