SAA 2016 Candidate Interview: T-Kay Sangwand

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 March 14. Read more statements from 2016 candidates here or check out our previous election series.

T-Kay Sangwand
Librarian for Digital Collection Development, UCLA Digital Library Program
Candidate for Nominating Committee
Read their bio and response to questions posed by the Nominating Committee here.

  1. What role should SNAP Roundtable play in SAA?

As one of the four largest roundtables, SNAP maintains a high level of visibility within the organization which has been and should be leveraged for influence within SAA in support of their constituents’ diverse concerns. While these concerns may be contradicting at times, SNAP can play an important role in opening a space for these concerns to emerge and be debated more widely within the profession. As with all SAA Roundtables, SNAP’s elected leaders should serve as liaisons between new students and professionals, other SAA leaders, and Council as well as advocates for their constituents.

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

In addition to formally soliciting feedback through established channels (i.e. official SAA listservs, Council liaisons), it’s also important for SAA leaders to listen to and dialog with SNAP constituents in spaces such as the #SNAPRT Twitter chats and SNAP’s blog (particularly the “Ask an Archivist” and “On the Job Training” series). As a member of the nominating committee, these would be the first places I look to in order to understand the most pressing issues to SNAP constituents in addition to getting to know other active members of the archival profession that would be interested and committed to serving as an SAA leader.

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

One of the archival profession’s greatest challenges is attracting future archivists that embody the diversity and complexity of the historical record that archivists are entrusted with preserving. If our profession is not diverse in terms of ethnicity, class, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, and ability, we will be able to effectively fulfill our responsibility “to ensure the identification, preservation, and use of the nation’s historical record” (SAA Position Statement on Diversity). In order to address this issue in concrete ways, the profession must adopt a multi­-pronged strategy that will address short ­term and long­term change. For more immediate impact, the profession should continue its efforts in recruitment and support of students and new professionals while also actively researching retention. For medium term impact, archival education should address how diversifying the archival record is the responsibility of all professionals and not just a concern of those who have been marginalized from the historical record. For longer term impact, the profession must increase its outreach efforts to students and educators at secondary and undergraduate levels who are often unaware of the archival profession as a career choice. Considering that members of marginalized groups are less likely to pursue graduate education for a myriad of structural reasons, the archival profession misses many opportunities to reach those folks if we only start recruiting when students reach graduate programs

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

The OpEd Project Public Voices Thought Leadership Fellowship Program, which aims to boost the influence of women and people of color thought leaders on public discourse by publishing their work outside academia, is a great example of the importance of breaking the insularity of one’s profession. As behind the scenes shapers of the historical record, archivists should participate visibly in public discourse to demystify the work we do and share our passion and expertise for the importance of archives for everyday people as well as those deemed to be important historical figures. SAA’s Storycorp effort at the 2015 annual meeting is a great example of how archivists can share their narratives with a broader public.

5. How can SAA improve archival education?

In order to comply with requirements for ALA accredited programs, library and information science programs incorporated a “diversity” class to address the competencies of “the concepts, principles, and techniques of reference and user services that provide access to relevant and accurate recorded knowledge and information to individuals of all ages and groups” and “the methods used to interact successfully with individuals of all ages and groups to provide consultation, mediation, and guidance in their use of recorded knowledge and information.” I would argue that education to address these competencies should be incorporated across the curriculum and not relegated to one core class or in optional elective courses. More specifically to archival education, archival studies would greatly benefit from adopting a critical theory framework that underlies how we approach the diversification of the archival record and how this responsibility implicates all professionals and not solely those who have been historically marginalized.

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

Find your intellectual cohort. They may not be in your program or place of employment, but they are out there. You can sometimes find them at conferences, on the Twittersphere or through other colleagues. Archival work can be isolating at times so it’s important to have a group of trusted colleagues with whom you can share ideas, ask for help, and challenge each other.

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