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.
Well, it seems that the heightened amount of researchers and research requests has waned this past month. It’s a shame because I was enjoying it so much, but there are other things I enjoy about archives just as well. Last month, I wrote about how things have begun to “click” for me and how I’ve become much more comfortable in my position. Those feelings have generally continued and I’m happy to report that I think they’re here to stay!
In the past couple months we have been operating on limited staff, particularly in the archives. My assistant has been out on leave, and another position that performs some archival duties has been vacant. In the past two weeks, this has changed for the better. Our new hire started, and the assistant returned from leave. Huzzah! In their absence, I have been doing work that they would normally do. It’s not strictly archives work, but it’s not not archives work. It straddles the line between archives and records management, really. Before our organization had a formally established archive, this work was the purview of the records management division. I think it’s a great example of the overlap of the two fields, which is particularly apparent in government organizations like mine.
Basically, I’ve been working with batches of documents that come in weekly and need to be scanned and described and uploaded to content management systems. They are documents that have permanent retention as soon as they’re created, so they definitely have enduring value. But, they are also very recently created documents, which means that they’re still administratively valuable as well. So, departments within our organization need to access and reference them much more frequently than older documents. I actually have really enjoyed performing this work because the workflow is so well established.
In addition to this work, I have been helping out quite a bit in another division of my department (in my building) that is heavily customer-service-oriented. This time of year is extremely busy for them, so I have been working at the front reception desk and answering the phone to help them out. I am happy to work more closely with my coworkers down the hall because they’re hardworking and they’re a great team. However, with my time divided between the two aforementioned areas, there has not been quite as much time for things like processing, collection management, metadata creation, grants research/writing, etc.
In the time that hasn’t been spent on these activities, I’ve been doing things like helping a few researchers with small requests via email and filling open records requests, and sitting in on a couple of email retention meetings (which I actually enjoyed). In filling open records requests, I often come across tidbits of history that make me smile. They’re not necessarily important to the fulfillment of the request, but instead are small details that reveal the historical context of the documents. Take, for example, this 6-cent FDR stamp from 1968. It’s unfortunately hole punched by some bygone employee, but I think it’s still really neat.
So far, I’m taking away two main things from these experiences:
- I really love working in archives. A lot. I miss it when I’m working in other areas. Seriously, I think about this when I go home at night!
- The well-established workflow of the RM-Archives hybrid work has reminded me of how wonderful it is to do work that is well planned out. Well-planned work is work that gets done (and is consistent to boot)! So, I have been making a deliberate effort to be more systematic in my work and planning ahead more. It helps that I’ve become more settled in my position. This really factors in with me becoming more at ease with making planning decisions and implementing workflows, and of course, documenting it all!
In other archives-related matters, I am in the throes of finishing up my MLIS (with archives concentration) through the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. I’m conducting a survey on digital preservation practices for my capstone and will be turning in my report and conference poster to my faculty advisor in less than two weeks! I’m also completing my course in Information Architecture, which along with my Metadata class last semester, has opened my eyes to the great wealth of opportunities for MLIS grads. I’ll be traveling to Milwaukee in May to walk the stage. UWM offers travel reimbursement for traveling SOIS grads, and I am fortunate to receive some funds for this. I love graduations, and this one may be my last. Getting my graduate degree is a dream come true and I can’t wait to wear the robe, walk the stage, and meet other classmates and instructors that I have heretofore only worked with online!
Since I’ll be graduating soon, I’m also starting to ramp up my efforts to get more involved in professional organizations. Writing this blog is one of those efforts! I’ve also signed up for SAA’s mentor program. I was lucky enough to be assigned to a mentor in my city, and we met in person for the first time this past weekend. I don’t know many archives professionals in my area, and it was so great to talk in person with an established archivist who could offer tips, advice, and general archives-geared conversation! I’m also attending my first ever professional conference, which will be for my regional archives organization. I do not currently receive funding for conferences, so I applied for a scholarship…and won! The scholarship makes it financially possible for me to attend. I am super excited for this conference! While I wish I could attend SAA this year as well, I’m also glad I get to attend a smaller conference before attending SAA to get a general feel for professional conferences and to network with people in my area. In the meantime, I’m going to draft a proposal for institutional funding for SAA 2015, start saving, and cross my fingers!