SAA 2016: New Member Coffee Break and Plenary I, Getting Our House in Order: Moving from Diversity to Inclusion

In advance of the 2016 Annual Meeting, we invited SNAP members to contribute summaries of panels, roundtable and section meetings, forums, and pop-up sessions. Summaries represent the opinions of their individual authors; they are not necessarily endorsed by SNAP, members of the SNAP Steering Committee, or SAA.

Guest Author: Blake Relle, Archives Specialist at the Louisiana State Archives

New Member/Coffee Break

On Thursday morning, I attended the New Member/First Time Coffee Break. I know this will surprise you, but I had Green Tea instead of coffee. Unlike at my last SAA conference, I walked around the room and introduced myself to several people. One person I spoke with was Erin Lawrimore. She is the council liaison for the SNAP Roundtable and she is writing a blog regards to her experience on the SAA Council. You can read her blog here. The topic of her blog is a great idea. The blog will give SAA members insight into the workings of the council as well as inspire people to take on leadership role in either SAA or another archival organization. I ran into Myles Crowley, who I met in Pittsburgh as well as came to the REPS meet up at Max Lagers.

Plenary I

After the coffee (more like tea) break, it was off to hear the Plenary Speeches. They were two speeches.  The first speech was made by David Ferriero, who is the Archivist for the United States. He spoke about diversity and inclusion. He reminded us that we need to foster a culture promotes inclusion and diversity. He reminded us the our nation derives its strength from being open to diversity and including everyone. We need to educate our workforce about the importance of having a workplace that values inclusion. He also reminded us to interview candidates for job openings through an inclusive lens.

The second speech was made by Chris Taylor, who is the Director, Inclusion & Community Engagement at the Minnesota Historical Society. He touched on a lot of different things in his speech. He reminded us that the word “diversity” is not only a charged word but has several different meanings. The word “diversity” can reflect things such as race, gender, mental state, and economic background. So, we need to be clear about what we are talking about when it comes to the word “diversity.” In his speech, Taylor said that in order to work on becoming a more diverse profession we need to ask ourselves questions such as: “What steps do we need to take to be more diverse?,”  ‘What does success look like?, and “How do we stay relevant?. In his speech, he pointed out that just because a repository has a diverse staff does not make it a repository that values diversity and inclusion if the minority has to assimilate into the “cultural norms.”

He also spoke about inclusion. In order to serve our communities we need to focus on inclusion. We as archival professionals need to make sure that people feel welcomed and comfortable coming to our repositories. We need to play an active role in making sure that our repositories reflect the entire community we serve and not just a part of the population. Our collection must represent all groups that make up our community. Everyone in our communities has something to offer.  If people do not feel comfortable coming to our repositories or donating material than we need to engage these people in order to see why there is resistance. He also reminded us that inclusion does not happen overnight, but it starts internal not external.

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