Category Archives: Transitions

Transitions: Aaisha Haykal, “Lifting as we Climb”

Manager of Archival Services, College of Charleston’s Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture
2017 SAA Nominating Committee Member

aaishahaykalWith transitions, there is always potential for both opportunity and failure. These sides of the same coin allow for growth and an understanding about how one sees oneself in the universe. I think that the transitions that I have made both personally and professionally have allowed me to grow not only as an archivist, but also as a person. Many people say that you learn on the job, which is definitely the case, and sometimes it may seem that you are making it up as you go, but I have to say that my graduate course work at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) helped to provide me with the theory that I am thankful for.

Although I have held only two “full-time” professional archival positions, I have worked in the profession for almost ten years as a student worker or as an intern. For four years, I was the University Archivist at Chicago State University in Chicago, IL, but I recently started working as the Manager of Archival Services at the College of Charleston’s Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture in Charleston, SC. Both of these positions have provided me the opportunity to expand my skills and abilities in the areas of supervisor, manager of budgets, developing and implementing public programming and archival policies, reference and instruction, donor management, and facility matters (i.e. space and environment issues).

This post will be a mix of lessons learned and advice for new professionals.

When you are a new professional transitioning to a new workplace or organization, it is best to study and learn the official organizational structure, but also the unofficial organizational structure. This refers to the fact that although on paper a person/position is responsible for doing a particular business function, in reality, it is usually the person below them that does the real work. This can be determined by observing and talking with other colleagues at the institution. Making this discovery early on will help to make your job easier in the future, as well as to make you a more effective employee and manager. Furthermore, depending on what area it is in, there is a potential for you to make a change in the operating procedure. Being the new employee within the institution allows you to see things that other employees have normalized.

However, I do have to caution new professionals that are straight from graduate school with limited workplace experience and that want to start new programs and processes that they may run up against administrative hurdles and obstacles. These may be due to fiscal constraints, new strategic plan, and personnel/personality issues. While all of these can be challenging, taking an iterative approach to your ultimate goal is great way to be successful, but also take time along the way and feel accomplished in each completion. Furthermore, if you feel depressed or unmotivated from the activities in your workplace, partake in professional organizations/associations/groups, so that you feel connected to the profession, help to make you feel less alone, and still obtain fulfillment in another area of your life. These networks and relationships that you develop will help you sustain yourself emotionally and professionally.

I cannot emphasize the importance of professional organizations/associations, and I was blessed to obtain a scholarship to attend an American Library Association (ALA) conference in undergrad, which allowed me a look into the profession early on. I have continued to participate in them (transitioning more to Society of American Archivists (SAA)) due to the people that I have met, the new ideas and concepts learned, and the sense of community that one gets at a conference or by an e-mail from a colleague.

The third piece of advice is really vital, especially if you are the only archivist at your institution: making those archival connections helps you stay grounded. Being involved in professional organizations (local, regional, or national) opens you up to mentoring opportunities, where you are either a mentee or a mentor. Often people look for mentors, who are “elder”, either in terms of professional experience or in age, but do not forget the importance of peer mentoring and support, which can develop from your classmates or from people that you meet at conferences. It is important to note that your engagement with professional associations will fluctuate depending on your priorities (i.e. family, school, work, health, etc.), and you should explore other associations besides SAA depending on your interest. Some of these other organizations include: Association for Moving Image Archivists (AMIA), Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), Association for State and Local History (AASLH), Association for American Historians (AHA), Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association (PCA/ACA), etc.

In my statement on this blog when I was running for nominating committee, I think that Student and New Professionals Section (SNAP) members can be great assets as SAA continues to grow and develop for the archives and archivists of the 21st century. Advocating within the larger SAA organizational structure can be difficult (as it too has a history), but that is why diverse voices are needed within the structure, so that it can change. Furthermore, I believe that the more progressive and diverse people there are in decision making process (whether in SAA or in our organizations/institutions) the better off we will be, leaning on the adage, “rising tides lifts all ships.” However, as the political and social climate will remind us (well some of us), that we either are not a part of the crew or not even on the ship and we have to resist this in our personal lives, as well as our professional ones, so that there are ships and life vests available for all. Therefore, we would be better served by using the motto of the National Association of Colored Women Clubs (NACW) “Lifting as We Climb.”

I have aimed to take the above approach in my career as a manager as well, because you are responsible for making sure that your employees remain current and have the skills that they need to complete their jobs, as well as to push them to the next level. This means different things for different classifications of staffing, depending on if they are in a union with promotion potential, or if they have bonuses associated with continuing education, or if they are faculty and if they are on a tenure or non-tenure track. All of these varied classifications can mean that work expectations can be disparate, specifically in terms of production outside of the “normal” business hours and what can be asked of a particular employee. Thus, if you are a manager with these types of employees, it is advisable to learn about the particulars as soon as possible by talking with them, your direct supervisor, or Human Resources so that you are covered and not surprised when you are not informed. Furthermore, as a manager, I had to get used to the fact that my employees’ work reflected upon me, so not only did I have do my job, but I may have to be the back-up employee to others if they could not complete their duties as their performance (good or bad) represented me. Consequently, before taking on a management position, one has to be ready for this occurrence.

I started this piece talking about transitions and lessons, and to sum it up, I have three takeaways for you:

  1. Do not be afraid to fail;
  2. Flexibility is your friend; and
  3. Make and keep connections

With these in your pocket, you will be equipped to not only be a leader in the archival/information profession, but also in life.

P.S. Recommend yourself or another candidate for SAA leadership positions here.



Transitions: Reflections from an Archivist in Flux

This post is part of our “Transitions” Series, which highlights the experiences of recent graduates and early career archivists. If you are an early career archivist (0-5 years in the field) who would like to participate in this series, please contact us.

Comments contributed by a new professional who chose to remain anonymous

As a student whose entire life is dictated by the frenetic grad school lifestyle it’s easy to think of an archives as someplace stable, but such a situation is rarely the reality. New software is developed, standards are replaced, and best practices change. Sometimes even the physical location of an archives will move.

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Transitions: Adam Minakowski

This post is part of our “Transitions” Series, which highlights the experiences of recent graduates and early career archivists. If you are an early career archivist (0-5 years in the field) who would like to participate in this series, please contact us.

Guest author: Adam Minakowski
Reference & Special Collections Librarian, U.S. Naval Academy
Formerly: Reference Archivist, National Anthropological Archives.”

This blog post comes at a good time for me as I feel I’ve reached a kind of milestone. Archives is a second career for me (well, third or fourth for those keeping score), and after reaching a certain level in terms of responsibility and salary in my prior marketing/communications career, I’ve achieved a goal by making it back to the equivalent level in my library/archives career. Looking back at the five years it took to get there from the time I entered the iSchool at University of Maryland, College Park in 2010 to joining the U.S. Naval Academy as Special Collections & Reference Librarian in 2015, I can see a lot of things I did right and some things I can do better in the years ahead.

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Transitions: Lindsay Schettler

This post is part of our “Transitions” Series, which highlights the experiences of recent graduates and early career archivists. If you are an early career archivist (0-5 years in the field) who would like to participate in this series, please contact us.

Guest author: Lindsay Schettler
Special Collections Librarian, De Paul Library, University of Saint Mary

lindsayschettlerI am the Special Collections Librarian at the University of Saint Mary, a non-profit, private Catholic liberal arts university in Leavenworth, KS. The De Paul Library has three full time librarians and two part-time library research assistants. We have a handful of student workers and a Graduate Assistant who works closely with me in Special Collections. I am the first Special Collections Librarian in over 20 years. De Paul Library has gone through such a transformation in the past 3 years, from a 1950 traditional-style library structure to a vibrant, student centered learning commons. My position includes collection care and management, digital curation and preservation, outreach and exhibits, instruction and program development, and special collections library administrative tasks.

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Transitions: Jane Thaler

This post is part of our “Transitions” Series, which highlights the experiences of recent graduates and early career archivists. If you are an early career archivist (0-5 years in the field) who would like to participate in this series, please contact us.

Guest author: Jane Thaler
Post-Holocaust American Judaism Project Archivist, University of Colorado Boulder Special Collections and Archives

img_2077I earned my MLIS from the University of Denver (DU) in Spring 2016 and am now the Project Archivist for the Post-Holocaust American Judaism Collections at the University of Colorado Boulder. Due to taking this position, I am also currently on leave of absence from the LIS PhD program at the University of Pittsburgh (they have been wonderfully supportive about me taking this opportunity).

I graduated undergrad with a major in Art History and minors in Philosophy and Religious Studies. Had a year in between undergrad and graduate school to flesh out my personal and academic goals, then decided to get my MLIS. While in the program, I volunteered at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science Archives, interned in the Exhibitions Department at the Denver Botanic Gardens (DBG) as a collections management intern of non-living collections, helped rehouse and process several private archival collections, was a graduate assistant, was the SAA chapter president, and snagged a job as an archival assistant in the DU Special Collections and Archives. As soon as I graduated, I continued my position at DU and took a paid position at the DBG as an exhibitions project associate until I left for the PhD program at Pitt in August of 2016. I completed one term of the doctoral program and am planning on returning, but my current position was an offer that I simply could not refuse.

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Transitions: Nathalie Proulx

This post is part of our “Transitions” Series, which highlights the experiences of recent graduates and early career archivists. If you are an early career archivist (0-5 years in the field) who would like to participate in this series, please contact us.

Guest author: Nathalie Proulx
Reference Archivist, Carson Brierly Giffin Dance Library, University of Denver


Nathalie Proulx (far right) at the premiere of her 30-minute documentary: Rising Stars.

There are three forces that I believe are helpful in the job search: passion, persistence and selectiveness. I believe knowing what you are looking for in a career is as vital as persistence in finding a job after graduation; Finding that key interest or passion that leads you to filling out some applications while passing on others. For example, knowing you are interested in historical collections and museums rather than records management. The passion is what pushes you to continue applying. The rejection hurts at first but once you are hired for a job you would actually want and see for your future, it’s all forgotten.

My decision to become an archivist started once I entered graduate school. I chose to get a degree in Library and Information Science after working in a used bookstore the year after graduating with my Bachelors in History. I loved the organization, the sorting and handling of thousands of books. Like many, I had graduated without any ideas of how to move forward to a career other than teaching. I did not even know library sciences existed until researching graduate programs in Colorado. Once I found the program though, I knew it was my next step. Even further once I was accepted and started the on the Archives track of courses, I was certain I had found my place.

My transition from my formal education to my career differs from the traditional in that it all took place in the same Special Collections and Archives department. I graduated from the University of Denver (DU) in 2015 with my MLIS. During my education at DU, I had begun working at the Special Collections and Archives department at our library. This setting provided a constant while the transitional aspect was my position and in turn my confidence in that position. With the support of my wonderful supervisor, I obtained a temporary position within the department as Project Archivist for the Carson Brierly Giffin Dance Library, one of our collecting areas. The creation of the position was due to new funding to the collection. I was familiar with the collections, applying for jobs, and really just in the right place at the right time.


Nathalie’s dance exhibit at the University of Denver.

After obtaining this position is when my real transition took place. As a grad student, my position was at the front desk working with patrons and providing minimal processing of small collections. As project archivist (and the only employee) for one collecting area I now had more control and authority over these collections. Within that yearlong position, I was challenged but grew in my confidence and skills. I was not a dancer and in processing collections, my knowledge of the art grew every day. Through the encouragement of my supervisor, I pushed my boundaries and worked with new software creating a 30-minute documentary and assisted in creating an exhibit. It was absolutely wonderful.

One year later and that temporary position has now become a permanent position within the library. My work and confidence continues to grow with each project. I love my work and collections. I am very fortunate that my transition from graduate student to archivist was without the many variables that can occur in finding a job after graduating. I had applied for many positions and had a few interviews but eventually found the right one through luck.

Passion is the key; whether that be for the job, the environment, or the materials. Something keeps you engaged, ensuring you return day after day or filling out endless applications. Find what you love and work for it; it will pay off through luck or perseverance.

Transitions: Matt Strandmark

This post is part of our “Transitions” Series, which highlights the experiences of recent graduates and early career archivists. If you are an early career archivist (0-5 years in the field) who would like to participate in this series, please contact us.

Guest author: Matt Strandmark
Education Archivist, University of Kentucky

Matt Strandmark at work at the University of Kentucky

Matt Strandmark at work at the University of Kentucky

I am a spring 2014 graduate from the Indiana University School of Informatics and Computing (Department of Information and Library Science), and Indiana University Graduate School with a Master of Library Science and Master of Arts, History degrees. In July of 2014, I started my first professional position at Emory University’s Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library as their Outreach Archivist and Research Library Fellow. At Emory I worked on community outreach initiatives, both physical and digital, to increase involvement with library programs, provide valuable services to visiting researchers, and enhance access to collections. In November 2015 I accepted the position of Education Archivist at the University of Kentucky’s Special Collections Research Center, where I work with the university’s professors and students to incorporate special collections research into their courses. I am also responsible for managing the library’s exhibit program, serving on the Information Literacy committee, and providing research and reference services to visiting researchers. Continue reading