SAA 2017 Candidate Interview: Samantha Norling

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.

Samantha Norling
Archivist, Indianapolis Museum of Art
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 plays a very important role within SAA as a welcoming group for students and new professionals, many who have much to contribute and are eager to get involved with our largest professional organization. As a graduate student, it was the founding of SNAP that actually encouraged me to become a first time member of SAA in 2012. Through SNAP, I expected to meet people at the same or similar stage in their archival careers, and to have a forum to which I could follow and participate in conversations on issues the concerned me the most. What I did not expect was the way that SNAP encourages and enables its members to become active participants throughout the entire organization–facilitated by joint projects and sessions with other constituent groups, inviting SAA leaders and established professionals to participate in SNAP events and communications, and a myriad of other SNAP initiatives that have grown with each year. I hope to see SNAP continue strengthening its presence within SAA by amplifying the voices of its members on matters of vital importance to our profession to be sure that the student and new professional perspectives are not left out of the conversation.

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

SNAP’s many open communications and forums for conversations, like this blog, #snaprt chats, and the e-mail listserv, make it possible for SAA leaders to hear directly from students and new professionals on the issues that matter to them. I have been encouraged by the many ways that SAA leaders have engaged with these forums, and I hope to see that engagement with SNAP continue at all levels of SAA leadership.

In the short time since SNAP’s founding, there have been many archivists who started their active involvement in SAA by participating in SNAP initiatives. Some of those archivists have now gone on to serve in leadership roles throughout SAA’s constituent groups, and are having a big impact on the wider profession. As a member of the Nominating Committee, I would hope to reach out to SNAP’s current leaders to identify potential nominees for SAA leadership from among the current SNAP membership.

3.     How can SAA improve archival education?

While SAA has a very strong continuing education program for archivists at all stages in their careers, through which students can supplement their graduate work, SAA does not have much of an impact on the archival education that takes place in colleges and universities around the country. Aside from the Guidelines for a Graduate Program in Archival Studies, SAA has not taken an active role in accrediting or reviewing existing programs, such as is the case for the American Library Association and library schools. Though there are a number of practical reasons why SAA has not pursued this possibility, I do believe that there may be some missed opportunities for SAA to be more involved in ensuring that aspiring archivists do not find themselves in graduate programs that do not provide them with the knowledge, skills, and experience necessary to thrive in our profession and survive the tough job market–an unfortunate reality that I have witnessed firsthand. I hope that this topic will be considered by Council and the SAA office by exploring possible ways that they can ensure student members are receiving quality educations.  This cause can be furthered as more archivists who began their involvement with SAA through SNAP move into leadership positions.

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

In my opinion, the most pressing issue in the archival profession today is the devaluing of archival labor as the result of bad employment, internship, and volunteer practices. Low and slow growth in archivists’ salaries, coupled with a lack of true entry level positions and a proliferation of part time and/or temporary (often grant-funded) positions have a variety of negative impacts on the profession, not least of which is the additional challenges these realities place on diversifying the profession. The devaluation of archival labor also extends into the realm of internships and volunteer positions, and I think that there is still much work to be done within SAA to identify and actively discourage those practices which can have major implications outside of individual repositories.

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

Don’t be afraid to get involved! Within SAA, there are so many opportunities at all levels for students and new professionals to volunteer their time to further our profession. When you see the call for volunteers, you can add your name to be considered for a variety of positions ranging from very contained projects such as an individual award committee, to more demanding commitments such as working on the annual meeting Program Committee. Regardless of scale, all opportunities offer a great way to get involved and learn more about how the professional organization is run and can work for its members.

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