SAA 2017 Candidate Interview: Sharmila Bhatia

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.

Sharmila Bhatia
Archivist, National Archives and Records Administration
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 see multiple roles for the SNAP Roundtable: advocacy, networking, and training. SNAP gives a voice to a new members of our profession. It can gather and sift through issues that concern and impact students/new members and bring those concerns to the Council. SNAP can provide feedback to SAA’s proposals. SNAP serves as a bridge for those entering SAA as new professionals by offering networking and leadership opportunities. The Roundtable can mentor new members on navigating the annual meeting, volunteering for committee appointments, how get involved in the governance process, and being an active member of SAA.

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

All SAA sections are assigned an SAA Liaison who has the formal duty of communicating SAA’s activities and to convey SNAP’s recommendations to the Council. That is one avenue SAA engages with SNAP, but SAA leaders, not only the formal liaison, can participate in SNAP activities and be part of the conversations. We have many sources for facilitating such discussions: at the annual meetings, informal chats through social media or google hangouts, and virtual town halls. We can use low or high tech venues for these discussions, but these interactions will only have value if we all participate and are open to new ideas.

3.     How can SAA improve archival education?

Archivists need hands-experience with tools, applications, and systems in addition to the theory. In the last few years SAA has developed the DAS certificate, revamped the basic manual series, and launched the A&D certificate. SAA offers a range of workshops at the conference and off-conference. SAA’s workshops provide hands-on real world experiences and are taught by knowledgeable instructors. Additionally, SAA should partner with iSchools and SLIS programs to offer internship opportunities. Oftentimes, recent graduates, while well-grounded in theory and archival literature lack opportunities to develop hands-on skills in archival work which is needed to compete in the job market.

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

Economically, it is difficult time. There are more qualified archivists then there are jobs. I see archivists entering the profession with multiple graduate degrees landing technician or para-professional work. With budget cuts and archival repositories scaling back staffing there are very few job opportunities.

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

I recommend that new professionals become involved in professional activities. It doesn’t have to be through SAA, the regional and state organizations can be easier to navigate and more accessible financially and geographically.  By being active, new professionals will learn how to collaborate, advocate, gain leadership skills, and at the same time give back to the archival community. This is the best way meet other archivists from different institutions and backgrounds. I find the volunteering I’ve done for SAA, MARAC, and years ago with the South Carolina Archival Association, to be extremely rewarding and enriching. I am continuously learning new skills by taking on different roles and best of all, through SAA, MARAC, and SCAA, I’ve formed many friendships.


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