SAA 2015 Candidate Interview: Amy Cooper Cary

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.

Amy Cooper Cary
Marquette University, Department Head, Special Collections and University Archives
Candidate for Council
Read her bio and response to questions posed by the Nominating Committee here.


1. What role should SNAP Roundtable play in SAA?

SNAP came along well after I could have been considered a Student or a New Archives Professional! I think it’s great for the health of SAA as an organization to have a committed and vocal group of talented, interested professionals working in this Roundtable. SNAP also serves as a means to build professional networks – something that, in my work with SAA and with MAC, I see as a fundamental part of professional development.

Providing a communication resource for students and early-career professionals, SNAP focuses on participation and advocacy within SAA. SAA has a clear commitment to encouraging both students and new professionals, and I’ve seen that grow in the past 8 years or so. As SAA continues to draw student and new professional members, SNAP will continue to be a force in communicating issues pertinent to this group to Council, to other Sections and Roundtables, and to Committees and others within the organization. Roundtables, Sections and Committees are dynamic parts of SAA: they bring new ideas forward, they generate future leaders for the organization, and they are often a means to facilitate collaborative work. Because of this, I believe that a strong line of communication is the best means to engaging all members of SAA to work toward shared goals, and I see SNAP as filling a need in this arena.

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

In my candidate statement for SAA Council, I specifically noted that in order to be effective, leadership has to be committed to communication, advocacy, and support for members working on Sections, Roundtables, Committees, and Task Forces. As I noted above, better engagement equates to active and consistent communication. Roundtables form specifically to represent the common interests of their constituents. It’s incumbent on me as a potential Council member to learn about those interests and engage in an ongoing and dynamic conversation. This is an iterative process: ask questions, listen, discuss, set objectives, evaluate, and then start again…. So engaging SNAP constituents is not a one-time activity. Rather, it’s a long term process that I would look forward to doing throughout my term on Council.

3. How can SAA improve public understanding of the archives profession?

I believe that it’s the responsibility of every individual member of SAA to improve the public understanding of the archives profession.  As a potential member of SAA Council, I might be more “visible” in these efforts, but do I think that every member of SAA participates in this in some way.  Right now, this effort is starting at the top: President Kathleen Roe’s “A Year of Living Dangerously for Archives” is going a long way towards encouraging the entire membership to think about outreach, and I applaud her efforts in doing so. As a potential Council member, it will be my job to support this kind of action going forward. I can also say that I respect the efforts of everyone at SAA’s home office.  The team that supports us is small in number — but they are mighty and they are tireless advocates for our profession.  SAA and its leadership engage the “big stage” – collaborating with affiliated organizations, weighing in on important topics (such as the University of Oregon’s Records Release incident), supporting the development of the archival literature through publications, supporting scholarships and education – the public impact of all of SAA’s programming is significant.

So with SAA leadership focused on improving public understanding of the profession and with SAA backing us through multiple programs, what do archivists need to do?  Only everything.  We’re the “front lines” of representing the profession to the public.  Every interaction we have with our colleagues, patrons, donors, friends, family members – they all have the potential to increase understanding of the profession.  I’m deeply committed to my work.  I know that my professional colleagues who I’ve worked with in SAA, in MAC, and in other capacities are committed to their work, too.  The way to improve understanding is to demonstrate the value of archives, every day, in ways both big and small.

4. How can SAA improve archival education?

I liked Nancy McGovern’s response to this in her posting on this blog, because I too believe that archival education has multiple interpretations.  As a former educator, I appreciate SAA’s support of academic programs through its Directory of Archival Education and its Guidelines for Graduate Programs in Archival Studies.  These are valuable tools for both students and educators, and they have been instrumental in formation of the student experience. Archives is not a profession with a glut of positions, and students need support in the way of information, opportunities for professional development (poster sessions), professional development internships (committee service in SAA), and communication about opportunities (SAA’s Jobs Fair) to help them along the way.

Archives is also a profession that doesn’t allow professionals to remain stagnant.  SAA’s commitment to continuing development via its conference, workshops, webinars, and the DAS program speak to an organization that understands the need for its membership to learn new skills in a response to a changing environment.  SAA’s publications support continuing education as well as academic programming, and provide a forum for new ideas.

I believe that we can improve our educational experience by continuing to develop an understanding of fundamentals such as how archival education is addressing needs in the workplace, and how SAA’s programs contribute to the preparation and ongoing education of both students and professionals.  I’m always glad to see a wide representation of students and professionals in the educational events that I attend (webinars, conferences, workshops, etc).  Through continued communication about the changing nature of our profession and the effort SAA puts into monitoring the educational environment, we can continue to support the long term growth of archival professionals.

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

New students frequently come to me for advice, and I always tell them that this is a competitive profession, and because of that they have to commit to developing new skills and continuing professional development.  I constantly entreat my students to become professionally involved, even as a student (through SAA Student Chapters).  I also strongly encourage them to attend meetings!  This profession is gifted with an abundance of talented, creative, and thoughtful people.  Fortunately, they are also tremendously generous with their time and ideas! SAA, Regional archival organizations, local archival organizations, and affiliated organizations all provide networking opportunities for students and new professionals to enter into the discussion.

Developing your networks gives you the opportunity to develop relationships that will last your entire professional life, and friendships that will outlast even that.  I come back to this fact: connection and communication — listening, talking and collaborating — are probably among the most critical skills in your toolbox.  Nurture them.

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