SAA 2017 Candidate Interview: Steven Booth

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.

Editor’s note: Due to professional and personal obligations, Steven was unable to participate in our series this year. We’re running his response to the question posed by the Nominating Committee instead. Update 3/13/2017 10:04am EST: Steven was able to participate last minute after all! I’ve updated our post to reflect his answers to the SNAP questions.

Steven Booth
Archivist, Barack Obama Presidential Library, National Archives and Records Administration
Candidate for Council
Read his bio and response to questions posed by the Nominating Committee here.

1.     What role should SNAP Roundtable play in SAA?

SNAP is one of the most active and important member affinity groups within SAA. What I appreciate most about this Section are the opportunities it creates for students and professionals to learn about SAA, become involved, and engage with one another. This is an important role that is valuable and ought to be encouraged as it cultivates membership participation. In addition, SNAP offers a collegial space to share and process some of the joys and challenges of becoming and being an archivist. Through collaboration with other SAA Sections I believe SNAP can continue these efforts and expand their reach beyond the walls of SAA to educate and promote archives as a career choice.

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

Established forums like the #SNAPRT chats and SNAPSHOTS provide SAA leaders an opportunity to engage with SNAP members, and address issues concerning the organization, profession, and archivists. SAA leaders must show interests in the work of its members by meeting them where they are and providing them with the support and resources to effectively manage and achieve programmatic goals. Better engagement with SNAP constituents requires SAA leaders to be involved in SNAP initiatives and projects.

3.     How can SAA improve archival education?

SAA’s catalog of certificate programs and continuing education courses, while impressive, only extends the gamut of general and specialized archival knowledge. In order to compete in a highly competitive market, students and professionals are also in need of training that goes beyond traditional archival education. I’d like to see SAA’s Education Director and the Committee on Education work with groups like the Archives Management Section and Business Archives Section to expand and enhance the catalog by offering courses geared towards public speaking and conflict resolution as well as grant writing, fundraising, and user engagement. Providing archivists with opportunities to learn a mix of soft and hard skills would greatly increase our professional capacity and strengthen archival practices and processes at our institutions.

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

There are many pressing issues concerning the profession; however, as a public servant I am most concerned about records transparency and accountability. Public records laws facilitate access to records that document the operational and administrative workings of federal, state, and local government agencies. Now more than ever, the archival community should pursue partnerships with watchdog groups like CREW, the ACLU, and Sunlight Foundation to develop resources that strengthen awareness about public records laws, and track legislation that attempts to curtail access to public information.

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

Experience is experience. It doesn’t matter where or how you acquired certain skill sets. If it’s relevant to a position you’re interested in then use it to get the job. Too many times we talk ourselves out of opportunities because we feel as though we don’t have enough experience or possess the “right” skill sets. Never discredit what you’ve learned from your non-archive/library jobs, community service, church, extracurricular activities, and hobbies. In the words of my friend and colleague Stacie Williams, “Use what you have and try to live.”


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