SAA 2016 Candidate Interview: Courtney Chartier

This post is part of the 2016 Candidate Interview series, presented in preparation for the 2016 SAA Election (March 14-April 3). Candidate statements will be posted daily through Friday, March 11. Read more statements from 2016 candidates here or check out our previous election series.

Courtney Chartier
Head of Research Services, Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives & Rare Book Library, Emory University
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?

I have strong feelings about the role of affinity groups in SAA. I’ve been on the Steering Committee of one and a Chair of another, and these groups function best when actively representing the needs of their base. Sometimes that is working within SAA to make changes or support initiatives, but other times it may be completely serving its own interests by determining achievable projects that are really valuable.

I won’t give a specific example of what SNAPs role should be, because that is SNAP’s business. The beauty of the roundtables is that they get to determine what aspects of the profession are essential for them to address.

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

I wouldn’t necessarily prioritize engaging SNAP constituents over all the other groups in SAA. I know that Council liaisons, at a bare minimum, attend meetings and work directly with Steering Committees. Outside of that, SNAP does a good job of communicating out, and that’s a good opportunity to engage. SNAP’s Twitter activities are fun and a useful contribution to the conversation about archives, and that’s an easy way to engage more with a specific group. More importantly to me is to pay attention to what each group is talking about (on their website, at their meetings, on Twitter) and engage on specific issues through the group’s elected leadership.

  1. What current policy issue do you feel is the most imperative to the archival profession?

Copyright. I’m on the public services end of the profession, and so much of what our users want to do, and even what we want to do, can be stopped by copyright laws. Archivists should continue to work for more exceptions for library and archives in the public sphere, and in our own sphere, reconsider how deeds of gift are written so as to grant more rights to institutions. There’s also an opportunity to improve archival education around the issue. Not so much that archivists don’t understand how copyright impacts their work, but some of the ins and outs of working with estates and living donors and General Consuls when it comes to these issues.

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

I think some of the recent groups that have been added to SAA (like COPA) are a step in the right direction. These kinds of groups allow members who are really interested in public understanding to self-identify and focus their talents and ideas toward realistic products.

Another important component is a commitment to education. Better educated archivists with better skills are going to raise public awareness just by the fact that they exist and are contributing to society.

  1. How can SAA improve archival education?

And I had not read all the way through the questions when I wrote my above answer! Education is an important topic for me, as the school I attended prepared me well for some activities in my work, and didn’t prepare me at all for others. I think that if it is not possible for archival programs to be standardized, SAA should be a major resource for training. We’ve made a great commitment to digital archives and now arrangement and description, but I’d love to see some offerings around those things that I was not prepared for by my MS program, specifically the realities of management (including budgets and personnel issues) and outreach skills (you can call that “awareness” too). Public speaking was offered as a workshop in the program, and has been invaluable to my career. There are plenty of important skills that get glossed over in the out of date image of an archivist as a technician.

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

You probably hear a lot that you need to be flexible when first looking for a job, and it’s true. I moved to a state that I never considered living in and considered myself lucky that I knew one other person in the city who was in the same profession. It was terrifying, but it was a good job that set me on a career path that I have been really happy with.

Another thing I have learned is to take job descriptions with a grain of salt. In many instances there will be hard skills that are required, but many position descriptions have loads of information about jobs tasks that can be learned. Hiring managers are prepared to some extent to train new employees and position descriptions are rarely going to be a 1:1 match on everything.

Also, this is the greatest profession in the world. Feel free to remind everyone.

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