This post is part of our “Transitions” Series, which highlights the experiences of recent graduates and early career archivists. If you are an early career archivist (0-5 years in the field) who would like to participate in this series, please contact us.
Guest author: Annie Tang
Processing Archivist, Johns Hopkins University
I am a nomadic archivist. At least for the moment.
I embrace that tongue-in-cheek caption wholeheartedly as a project archivist who has moved a few times. Currently, I am in my second professional position after library school and have experienced moving across a state for a job and, more dramatically, across the country for another. Here are a few observations I’ve learned from moving from job to job:
For my first post-MLIS position, I processed social activist materials, which highlighted the Native American, Asian American, and African American power movements from the 1960s onwards, and catered to my interests in developing diverse collections.
But to do that, I moved almost 400 miles away from my family and friends. Luckily, I relish starting a new adventure, meeting new friends, and seeing new places. This did not mean that being a transplant was without its challenges. Not only was I in a city where I did not know anyone, but also a work environment with different institutional standards from what I was used to. But I was willing to take that huge leap to get the hands-on experience I needed.
The first thing I told myself to do after starting my first archives job, was to simply “breathe.” As a recent library school graduate with her first archives gig, I stepped back, relaxed, and took a break from the craziness that was graduate school. (Working, interning, volunteering, studying, conference hustling, scholarship apps, job apps… Does this sound familiar?) After graduating, I took to only writing newsletter pieces, to stay still involved, but in a cursory way. I wanted to practice professional development and participation at an easier pace, particularly since I just moved. I thanked myself later for not burning out!
Also, a quick realization I made was that I was the youngest staff member in the whole department. This is often true of many new archivists, and at times there will be generational gaps (often large ones) between coworkers and yourself. I took advantage of this age difference and learned how to efficiently describe large collections from senior archivists with years of EAD experience!
Though I gained a lot of expertise from my colleagues, as a project archivist I sometimes felt a bit alienated from the rest of my department due to the narrow focus of my tasks. Since I was in a project-based position, I took initiative to participate in the community of my department, whether it was through shared duties such as reference, or simply swinging by someone’s office for a quick chat. These were useful ways to change the pace of my workday and ingratiate myself with my colleagues.
When I recently became a Processing Archivist on a 2-year appointment at Johns Hopkins University, I moved from California to Maryland. A 2800-mile move this time around was more challenging to be sure. I currently am much geographically further from my family and established friends.
Fortunately, I was able to count on the network of professionals I met in the field and already knew a few familiar faces in my new town. All that hustling I did at conferences and in my past workplaces paid off much more in the personal sense than in the professional, as I was able to have a small support system of colleagues (who I proudly call friends now) before my big move East.
As for my new job, I purposely chose a position which expanded upon my skills, while broadening into others. As a Processing Archivist, I still perform (and enjoy) the bread and butter of our profession, the physical and intellectual processing of materials. But I also possess more collection management responsibilities, which include: contributing to collection development and processing policies; assisting curators in appraisal, transfer, and description of manuscript acquisitions and donations; collaborating with the Cataloging department to edit and formalize Special Collections records; and helping manage the flow of archival holdings from the offsite repository to our campus library. It has been a treat to fill bigger shoes and jump from the microcosm of one project last year to the many dimensions of multiple projects this year.
Lastly, I took this second year to revamp my involvement in archives organizations. The Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference (MARAC) is seeking nominations for leadership positions, motivating me to take the plunge and nominate myself for a role. Even if I do not earn a spot, I hope to participate in other ways, regardless. Finally, I feel brave enough to propose all the presentation ideas I have had bouncing around my head for the last several years, regarding the archives profession. Though I may have felt obligated to participate more fully when I first started out, I did not want to step up until I was ready. And now’s the time.
Now, as my parting gift to you SNAPpers reading this blog post, I would like to leave you with some moving pro-tips:
- I recommend staying in temporary housing before moving to your long-term residence. I stayed a few weeks in an Airbnb in order to apartment hunt before starting my job at Johns Hopkins. It took 2 weeks and 15 apartment showings later, but it was worth it, and I love my place.
- If you are taking your car in the move, you can apply for a nonresident permit with the DMV, which exempts you from switching your car over to your new state (license, titles, registration, titles, etc.), if you can prove that your job is temporary. This is a boon to those project archivists out there!
- To ship my things cheaply, I used UPS and only transported boxes that each were 16×18 inches and 25 lbs. or under. These specifications were recommended by UPS to the best option for a fairly inexpensive scheduled pick-up and drop-off of my shipment. Also, considering that many housing situations don’t have elevators, 25 lbs. is not bad to carry up the stairs. (Which is what I indeed had to do!) The cost was about $50 per box. (You can estimate custom shipping here.) An even cheaper option is using Amtrak to ship your items, but you or someone else has to be there to pick it up as soon as it arrives, or else you incur fees.