SAA 2016 Candidate Interview: Bertram Lyons

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.

Bertram Lyons
Senior Consultant, AVPreserve
Candidate for Council
Read his bio and response to questions posed by the Nominating Committee here.

  1. What role should SNAP Roundtable play in SAA?

The Students and New Archives Professionals Roundtable is an important vehicle for emerging voices within the larger SAA membership. It also serves as a venue for dialogue and an opportunity for students and new archivists to build community, discuss professional development, share tips and pointers, identify areas for growth within SAA, and communicate concerns to the broader SAA community. During my time at SAA, I have seen SNAP come on to the scene and provide a new and exciting platform for the issues that are important to students and new archivists. I hope that the roundtable continues to play a central role in ensuring that SAA is a membership organization that takes into
account the voices of all members.

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

SAA leaders can spend more time participating in SNAP activities, including the #snaprt chats on Twitter. By being present for SNAP conversations, SAA leaders can engage openly with SNAP members to understand the issues that matter to SNAP and to be a part of the conversations while they are happening, in real time. All members have the opportunity to feed formal issues to Council through Sections and Roundtables, but SAA Council members could establish open question sessions for SAA members to provide informal opportunities for inquiry into the ongoing operations of the organization. For the past three years, I have been teaching at the UW-Madison SLIS and this has given me a unique opportunity to listen to and understand the concerns of current students entering the archives field. I value this opportunity and I have learned a great deal from the conversations I have been able to have with students.

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

Without a doubt, I feel that economic, ethnic, and gender disparities are the most serious issues faced in the archives profession today. Society’s memory will not be inclusive if archives cannot ensure inclusivity in the work place. Additionally, I think advocacy for the importance of archives in today’s world is yet another important — critical — issue. Not only must we ensure that all people have the opportunity to contribute to the archives profession, but we must come together as a whole to ensure that the larger society understands the value that archivists bring to social memory and accountability. We have to prove why it is imperative to fund archives and archivists and why it is crucial to include archivists in conversations about what information we will preserve for the future and how we will do it.

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

Advocacy is a difficult task. One that cannot be accomplished only on Twitter, or Facebook (although those do help). SAA can help improve public understanding of the archives profession by engaging the media, by communicating with city, state, and federal leadership, and by integrating SAA messages and activities into other streams of informational discourse. We can not only speak to ourselves about the value of archives. For example, when the New York Times covers a story on records and information, archivists need to be involved; if they are not, then archivists need to be adding comments to the story. Or, when NPR covers the digital dark age, archivists must be included in the conversation; if they are not, then archivists need to be responding to NPR everywhere possible to ensure that NPR knows they left us out. If we remain silent, we will remain misunderstood, or, worse, ignored.

  1. How can SAA improve archival education?

From what I have learned from my students at UW-Madison, one of the biggest absences in archival education today is hands-on technological training. Students want to understand the history and theory of archives, they want to understand methods for arrangement and description, they want experience with preservation techniques and descriptive standards, AND they want to have hands-on skills using archival information systems (e.g., ArchivesSpace, AdLib, Access to Memory), digital asset management systems (e.g., ContentDM, HydraDAM, Islandora), preservation environments (e.g., Preservica, Archivematica, Rosetta), processing tools (e.g., BitCurator, ExifTool, FITS), and file/storage technologies (e.g., File servers, FTP, rsync, BagIt, etc.). SAA has done a great deal to develop the DAS curriculum and to support workshops at the annual conference. I think the one thing SAA could do to improve archival education in the US, is to work with SLIS and LIS and iSchools around the country to encourage the importance of continued archival education (theory and practice) as well as improved hands-on training. Additionally, I think archives around the country should be willing to develop relationships with degree programs to offer more practicum and internship opportunities (paid when possible) to students.

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

In 2002, I first began my career as an archivist. I knew very little about the things I know now. Every step along the way, I have learned new facets about being an archivist from colleagues and other archivists, and by reading the words and experiences shared by SAA colleagues in books, journals, blogs, newsletters, tweets, emails, and texts. I learn from administrators, managers, co-workers, interns, students, and researchers. Today, 14 years working in archives, I have so much more to learn. And the things we learn outside of the archive are as important as those within. If I have any advice for new professionals, it is to always be learning and incorporating the changes we see outside of the archives into the work we do within the archives. The practice of archives is always evolving.

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