SAA 2017 Candidate Interview: Meredith Evans

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.

Meredith Evans
Director, Jimmy Carter Presidential Library & Museum
Candidate for Vice-President/President Elect
Read her bio and response to questions posed by the Nominating Committee here.

1.     What role should SNAP Roundtable play in SAA?

I believe students and new archives professionals are often the people with the most zeal to learn new things and/or have been exposed to cutting edge technology or useful software earlier than those they work with. One of the greatest assets of this roundtable is that leadership and seasoned professionals can get an honest and fresh perspective of the profession and what it’s like to work in repositories that we built or influenced. It is helpful to not only support this group as they enter the profession but also hear and respond to your questions and concerns.

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

The best way for SAA leaders to engage SNAP participants is to make themselves accessible and to connect them with more seasoned members. While I expect to be pulled in many directions I think meeting with this group in person and or online periodically is important. Although, members of this group lack extensive job experience they are full of ideas and new ways to interpret and apply theory and its always beneficial to hear what you are expecting in your current and prospective jobs as archivists.

3.     How can SAA improve archival education?

While we are not an accrediting agency like ALA – we work closely with faculty and deans who are responsible for the curriculum of archival education programs at colleges and universities. I think many strides have been made to ‘improve’ archival education, but like librarianship much of our work requires hands on experience and can be very situational. It is hard to be exposed to all aspects of our profession when you don’t apply it regularly.  There are also task forces, roundtables, committees and curriculum recommendations that the association supports and promotes internally and externally. I would encourage the existing partnerships that have been made with professional associations and would add more that are related to digitization, research, subject expertise and cultural competence. Partnerships such as Educause, CNI or National Council of Public History, American Historical Association (AHA), Modern Language Association, ARMA International just to name a few. Archivists work with a variety of people and understanding how they conduct their work and how we can best serve our constituencies can be gained by partnerships and attending different types of conferences and developing relationships with faculty, journalists, activists and even politicians. An archivist doesn’t need to know how to do everything, but we do need to be able to identify the resources and people who can help us when in need.

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

I think our most pressing needs right now have to do with born digital content and particularly appraisal, donor relations, collection, preservation, and cost issues around that content. More specifically, one of those issues is considering ethics in the collection and long term preservation of born digital materials, especially social media and web archives. In addition archivists also need to be able to ensure authenticity and versions of born digital content as well as protect the creators of that content. We also need to be mindful of our donors and content creators; especially those who did not think or intend to have their content preserved.

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

I recommend a few things. Pay close attention to the culture and to how your supervisors or your library leadership operates. Then you can gauge a situation and know when and how to ask a question or share an idea. Network and find a sounding board or mentor. This doesn’t have to be someone or a group you speak with daily or develop a rapport with, it just needs to be a person or group that will give you honest feedback with no judgement. It’s always helpful to hear a different perspective or to get advice on how to approach a situation. Lastly, read – professional engagement involves reading – whether it is scholarly journals or blogs, try to take an hour a week to read (listen to a podcast) about what is happening in the field. It can be difficult to stay abreast of things but it will help you in the long run.


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