SAA 2017 Candidate Interview: Elvia Arroyo-Ramirez

This post is part of the 2017 Candidate Interview series, presented in preparation for the 2017 SAA Election (March 13-March 31). Candidate statements will be posted daily through March 13. Read more statements from 2017 candidates here or check out our previous election series.

Elvia Arroyo-Ramirez
Processing Archivist for Latin American Collections, Princeton University
Candidate for Nominating Committee
Read her bio and response to questions posed by the Nominating Committee here.

1.     What role should SNAP Roundtable play in SAA?

SNAP has tapped into something really important and that is the power of testimony and creating space to talk about personal growth and goals which crucial for professional community building and engagement. SNAP has been lauded by past SAA leadership for being a site of innovative and fresh ideas; though I think sustained innovation and effective change are not possible without first building an encouraging space to share and think out loud. I believe SNAP’s efforts to center personal stories of success within the profession is the reason why it is one of the most visible and effective roundtables, and SAA should learn from this model in attempt to better engage its membership, the profession, and society as a whole.

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

As part of the new cohort for Nominating Committee, I would like to push for sustaining a dynamic of exchange between the most seasoned and the newest members of the organization. SNAPpers are truly ahead of the curve with regards to investigating new developments within the profession and so there is true potential to engage the established membership with the new.  What can the next cohort of SAA leaders offer in ways of peer mentorship or other types of support to help new professionals feel oriented to the profession? Can the Nominating Committee ask to make “connecting with students and new professionals” a central platform issue for the incoming cohort of SAA leaders? Some ideas I have are hosting a #snaprt Twitter session with new SAA candidates and elected members year round and discussing what SAA’s governance is doing at the moment. This encourages transparency and live dialogue between new professionals and SAA leaders.

3.     How can SAA improve archival education?

In the past, there have been efforts for archivists to volunteer charitable service in the city where SAA’s annual conference is hosted. I think this is great and these type of service events should continue. But in order to broaden SAA’s role in improving archival education within society the focus of service should also broaden to an exchange beyond charity. How can SAA responsibly aid in coordinating outreach efforts to public schools or offer documentary services for local communities? A group of archivist volunteers attending the annual meeting can organize reaching out to local K-12 instructors and coordinate instruction aides and guides to bring from their home institution to share the day of their visit to the classroom. There have been service events happening outside of the SAA conference structure like the A People’s Archive of Police Violence and its collaboration with the local community group during the 2015 SAA conference in Cleveland. With this in mind, however, SAA must recognize and respect efforts of community engagement and collaboration should they wish to remain independent and free of institutional or organizational sponsorship. The opportunity is still there for SAA to provide some of kind of support and validation to those organizing such events without taking the agency away from these projects.

4.     What do you feel is the most pressing issue in the archival profession today?

What is weighing heavy on my mind at the current moment is the aggressive proposed policies set forth by the new POTUS that have direct ramifications in a number of issues related to the archival profession with regards to equitable access to (factual) information, right to privacy, and federal funding opportunities. There is a tremendous amount of project based hiring that is possible because of federal grant funding. Cuts to federal funds will not only limit resources to do much needed remediation and processing projects but will limit fundamentally valuable work experience opportunities for students and new career professionals in the field.

How will the new cohort of SAA leaders mobilize and respond to the current administration’s new policies? How will SAA have its members’ back? Unflinching advocacy from an organizational body as large as SAA is important and its leaders should be prepared to be vigilant of changes in the law and how they impact the profession, its practitioners, and their ability to conduct their work.

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

Networking is difficult for a lot of people, especially if you are an introvert like me. I remember feeling a lot of pressure to do it quickly and intensely at the beginning of my career while attending conferences. That mostly sucked because I spent whole conferences seeing waves of faces that I had already met but I felt badly because I couldn’t remember the genuinely awesome things that I talked about with them or I’d accidentally confound conversations which made things really awkward. The conference circuit can be a place for a lot of anxiety and stress, but you’ll find that if you keep going to the same conferences year after year, you’ll start to recognize the same faces, so it gets better. Happy hours at these things help, go to them. I am not encouraging you to be an alcoholic, but I am encouraging you to seek opportunities to connect with folks outside of the usual session, session break, lunch conference experience because that is usually the time when folks are more relaxed and accessible.

Find your people. Your people might not be your current co-workers or your graduate school cohort; and that can be a potentially alienating and painful experience to have as an early career professional. For me, I found and continue to find my people in all of these groups of folks but I do not, and cannot, take them at wholesale simply because they are card carrying members of these professional groups. Find the people that speak to your intersections or the ones you are curious about. If you are a marathon runner with a passion for growing your own food and making your own beer, talk about these things or anything that makes you passionate even if they are not archival related. Find the people that you admire and have respect for and see if you vibe with them personally. If you do, and if they are open to you, then you have a great opportunity to connect and learn from each other for years to come.


One thought on “SAA 2017 Candidate Interview: Elvia Arroyo-Ramirez

  1. Pingback: Archivist Spotlight: Elvia Arroyo-Ramírez, Processing Archivist for Latin American Manuscript Collections, Princeton University | Memoria

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