Innovative Practices in Archives & Special Collections: Management – Table of Contents now available

As many of you may know, I’m editing a series of books on “Innovative Practices in Archives & Special Collections” for Rowman & Littlefield. The first four books are scheduled to be available this May, and I’m pleased to be able to share the list of case studies and contributors for the book on Management:

1) “We’ll Never Let You Retire!”: Creating a Culture of Knowledge Transfer
Maija Anderson, Oregon Health & Science University Library

2) Raising Cash and Building Connections: Using Kickstarter to Fund and Promote a Cultural Heritage Project
Thomas Smith, Project Gado

3) A Winning Combination: Internships and High-Impact Learning in Archives
Lisa M. Sjoberg, Concordia College

4) A Thief in Our Midst: Special Collections, Archives and Insider Theft
Christopher J. Anderson, Drew University

5) Tackling the Backlog: Conducting a Collections Assessment on a Shoestring
Joanne Archer and Caitlin Wells, University of Maryland Libraries

6) A Platform for Innovation: Creating the Labs Environment at the National Archives of Australia
Zoё D’Arcy, National Archives of Australia

7) Setting Our Own Agenda: Managing the Merger of Archives and Special Collections
Caroline Daniels, Delinda Stephens Buie, Rachel I. Howard, and Elizabeth E. Reilly, University of Louisville

8) Taking Control: Managing Organizational Change in Archives
Fynnette Eaton, Independent Consultant

9) Implementing Pre-Custodial Processing: Engaging Organizations to Invest Resources in their Records
Rob Fisher, Library and Archives Canada

10) Building Effective Leaders: Redesigning the Archives Leadership Institute
Rachel Vagts and Sasha Griffin, Luther College

11) From Evaluation to Implementation: Selecting Archival Management Software
Kira A. Dietz, Virginia Tech

12) More Bang for the Buck: Sharing Personnel and Resources Across Institutions
Erin Passehl-Stoddart and Jodi Allison-Bunnell

13) “Make a New Plan, Stan”: Useful and Painless Strategic Planning
Mark Greene, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming

You can access more information on this book and the others in the series and read some enthusiastic early reviews from Michael Kurtz and David Carmichael on the Rowman & Littlefield site:

Thanks to all the wonderful contributors and I’m looking forward to seeing all the books in print in May!

How you can help rev up SAA’s metabolism

On Sunday I was very fortunate to be part of a panel at a Computers in Libraries workshop on change. I’ll be incorporating some of the wisdom of the other speakers into future blog posts, but today I want to cross-pollinate an idea from the workshop with what might have been a standard reminder for people to comment on draft SAA policies.

My co-presenter Leo Mullen, a man with more experience dealing with organizational change than probably all the people who read this blog put together, observed: “You have to adjust the rate of change to meet the organization’s metabolism.”  Far be it from me to disagree with him, but let’s think about that another way. What can you do to speed up an organization’s metabolism? In many cases, that can’t be done, but if the organization in question is SAA, then I think it can.

I think SAA’s metabolism can be changed because in many ways it already has, and that change has been caused by members making it happen. Let’s say you think SAA doesn’t do enough to meet the needs of students and new archives professionals. You can drive that change by forming a new roundtable and then using it as a platform to fill those needs, as a group of SAA members did. Maybe you think the way the annual meeting works needs to be re-thought. That change can happen too, if you push for it (or at least you can get a task force formed; we’re still waiting to see the final results). Or maybe you’re a group of roundtable leaders who want to be able to communicate better with students. You can use commonly available tools to make that happen. My point is that none of those changes originated from “the top.” They came from members saying “we want more” and then making it happen.

And so I come to what you can do to continue that process. You can read and comment on two short documents now available for your feedback. First is the first draft of SAA’s new Strategic Plan, available here: It won’t take you long to read, as this is just the highest levels. I think there’s a lot of good in this document. Since this document is the result of a collaborative consensus of the SAA Council  it’s not exactly the way I would want it to be, and I think in some places it could be more ambitious. Please read it and share your comments via the channels described on the website. (Note that commenting here on this blog is not a formal comment to SAA.) What do you think? Does it go far enough? Do you like what’s there? Anything missing? Anything that sticks in your craw? Note that the deadline is Tuesday, April 23. (Also note that you do not need to be an SAA member in order to comment. If you’re not a member, is there anything in that document that might make you want to join? Anything that would change your impression of SAA?)

And second, please similarly read and comment on the preliminary recommendations of SAA’s Communications Task Force, available here: There are just nine recommendations and I predict most of you will have something to say about them. Again, your feedback is important, whether you don’t like some of the recommendations or whether you love them all. This group needs your support and participation. I’ve heard a lot of bitching and moaning (and God knows I’ve done enough of it myself) about these topics, so here’s your chance to either praise this group for moving SAA in the right direction or tell them what you don’t want them to do. The deadline for comments on this is May 4. (And again, you don’t need to be an SAA member to provide feedback.)

But if you are an SAA member, remember that the organization is supposed to be there to meet your needs. So in theory you should be what drives that metabolism. If you want something more or something different then speak up and help make it happen.

“They don’t call it technology; they call it life.”

Social media and digital technology is no longer news; it’s part of the way we live our lives, how we communicate, how business is conducted. Kids use technology to learn in school, to get their entertainment, to compete in the world. They don’t call it technology; they call it life. Saying “I don’t get it, so I will just skip this part of a global revolution” is like saying “I don’t know how to drive a car so I’ll keep riding my horse and buggy to work.” Technology is not something we can choose to ignore.

If this critique of the Today show, posted in an Op-Ed by Andrea Smith on, applies to to any organization or professional you know, try to make 2013 a year of change for them.

If you want the SAA Annual Meeting to be more socially responsible, speak up now

I think the title says it all. Actually, that’s not true. You should also speak up if you disagree with what is being defined as “socially responsible” or you think this shouldn’t be an important issue.

There is a new post on the blog of the SAA Annual Meeting Task Force, “The Challenges and Opportunities of Being Socially Responsible.” If this is something you care about, go and comment or send a message to one of the people listed in the post.

The group is looking for feedback in three areas: fair labor practices, environmental sustainability, and service projects.

If there is a deadline for giving feedback, could someone please post that in the comments? Thanks.


How about Education as a new Strategic Priority?

There’s has been some discussion on the SAA SNAP discussion list about the topic I threw open on a previous blog post: what should SAA’s updated strategic priorities be? I want to follow up on that in this forum and throw out a somewhat more specific question: should we replace “Technology” as a priority with “Education”? (Again, it may be helpful to refer to the Strategic Priorities document if you’re not familiar with it.)

We could talk about education in terms of:

  • providing new/expanded educational opportunities for members and the archival community
  • becoming more involved in commenting on (sorry, that’s not the right verb but Mr. Thesaurus is not helping me today) the ways that archivists are being prepared in graduate programs
  • educating and providing resources for non-professionals (sometimes called “accidental” or “citizen” archivists) who have responsibility for collections but no training
  • educating the public about what archives are and what archivists do (you could say that this is really advocacy/public awareness but I think it’s slightly different).

So I think “Education” covers a wide range of activities that are of interest in SAA’s members and support its mission.

But whither “Technology”? I’d be the last person to say it’s not important, but what specific activities can you suggest that might go under this objective in a new strategic plan? What do you think SAA should be doing in the area of Technology and Education?


What should SAA’s Strategic Priorities be? Or, where should more money be spent?

Someone asked in regard to yesterday’s post what I would want to spend the money on if there were to be cost savings available from a change in how Archival Outlook is distributed. Without having given it extensive thought, my short answer is advocacy and flexibility. Advocacy is, I think, a no-brainer. Archivists need jobs, and those of you with jobs need more resources to support your mission. SAA needs to be able to devote more time and resources to advocacy.

Here’s what I mean by “flexibility.” As I said in yesterday’s post, my sense is that the current budget has so little slack in it that SAA feels it can’t take risks that might result in decreased income in any of the key income categories. Let me discuss a specific example. I’m concerned that the Annual Meeting Task Force will be too influenced by the need not to disturb the revenue SAA gets from the annual meeting and so will be too timid in their recommendations. And if they do propose changes that are risky, I’m concerned SAA Council will decide not to implement them because there will be a sense that we can’t afford to run that risk. So when I talk about wanting to use a theoretical budget surplus to support flexibility, I mean it will allow the organization to try new things without worry that they will drive the budget into the red. It will allow the organization to invest in new ideas and to fund new initiatives.

Now that might sound a lot like the kinds of “schemes” that a commenter on the previous post was worried about. But I don’t mind being called a schemer. 😉

Now, it’s your turn. In January, SAA Council will begin the process of developing new Strategic Priorities for SAA. I’m sure you’re all familiar with the current Strategic Priorities document (what, you’re not? it’s here). The big three priorities in the current document are Technology, Diversity and Advocacy/Public Awareness. Those are good priorities, but maybe you have others you want to suggest? Do you have specific “Desired Outcomes” that you’d like to see? It’s my last year on Council. Are there specific changes that you’d like to see me try to pursue before I ride off into the sunset? I’m throwing it open. What do you want?

I should also say that the indefatigable and delightful Terry Baxter and I will have the pleasure of reading through and analyzing for Council’s edification all the comments that SAA members left in the two final open questions on the SAA Member Survey. (Although I think we will be throwing out the responses of people who said “no” when asked if they had anything else they wanted to say.) Terry and I have both done a quick skim through and there are a lot of great observations there. We’re looking forward to hearing what you had to say in those comments, and again, if you’ve got anything you want to share here about SAA’s strategic priorities or anything else that needs to be done, let me know.

Is change possible within SAA? Or, why I want to kill Archival Outlook

I am currently serving on SAA’s Nominating Committee, which means I am part of the group that selects who will run for elected office in SAA next year. Part of this process involves talking with potential candidates about the role they will play and, in many cases, encouraging them to run. Yesterday one potential candidate made this request:

 I’d like to talk generally about your experience on Council, things you think are issues, “improvement opportunities”, and the overall direction of SAA.  It’s not worth it to me to go through running for [office] if it doesn’t mean some potential for change and improvement as a result.

It will not shock regular readers of this blog to learn that I think change is needed within SAA. What kind of change and how that occurs is a different issue, but for now I want to focus on the potential candidate’s question about potential for change. And I’ll use as an example one thing I know I want to change: getting rid of SAA’s newsletter, Archival Outlook, which is printed and mailed to members six times a year.

Continue reading “Is change possible within SAA? Or, why I want to kill Archival Outlook”

Observations on remarks of Cecilia Muir, LAC Chief Operating Officer at #ACA2012

I’ve been behind in  posting information related to the ongoing situation for archives in Canada, but I hope to have some guest blog posts up for you in the next few days. In the meantime, after watching a firestorm of tweets about a talk at the Association of Canadian Archivists annual meeting in White Horse, I have finally listened to the audio for myself. The speaker in question was  Cecilia Muir, the Chief Operating Officer at Library and Archives Canada, who was filling in for Daniel Caron, the Librarian and Archivist of Canada who was unexpectedly unable to attend as scheduled.

Here is a link to the audio file: which, as you will hear immediately, was recorded by someone in the audience. The audio quality gets better when Ms. Muir starts speaking, so hang in there. I did not listen to the Q&A, which I understand from watching Twitter was quite heated. I will leave the discussion of the decision to eliminate NADP and other budgets cuts to my guest bloggers and future posts. What I wanted to discuss here were two smaller issues that I think may be of interest to the readers of this blog.

First, regarding digitization, on which LAC is relying heavily to improve access to collections, Muir declared that in the Digital Content Strategy LAC is developing they will be aligning content selection with the government’s commemorative events agenda (set by the prime minister and his cabinet). Those events include the War of 1812, World War I, the 200th anniversary of the birth of Sir John A MacDonald, and  Canada’s 150th Anniversary. As noted in Twitter conversations, this decision will have an effect on the ability of scholars and researchers to gain increased access to records that are not part of this nationally (and it has been argued, politically) driven agenda. What is your reaction to this approach to digitization?

Muir also praised LAC’s efforts  toward “simplifying and accelerating our descriptive practices” and made references to (I think, the audio was a little muffled at that point) implementing practices to capture essential descriptive information earlier in the lifecycle of the records. I am fully in support of the latter, but I will be curious to hear more about the former. I’m told what this means is going from 25 descriptive fields to 10, but it’s not clear which fields those will be or what this really means. Will archivists at LAC now only have 10 fields available to them for description, or does that just mean they only be required to complete 10 fields? What thought has been given to the impact will this have on researchers?

One reason I wanted to listen to the talk was to confirm what Muir had actually said about LAC’s use of social media and crowdsourcing. She devoted some time to highlighting LAC’s commitment to and progress in using social media to enhance access and in experimenting with crowdsourcing to supplement description (although I did not hear many specifics about this). While I did not hear Muir making a direct connection between the cuts LAC has made to archival staff and the increased use of social media, some attending the talk interpreted her  as drawing a connection between the two. I jokingly said on Twitter that the next topic for debate on this blog should be whether or not active outreach to the public via social media could be viewed as an adequate substitute for trained archivists. This I think was a genuine fear at one point–crowdsource description and fire the archivists. I don’t think that’s the point Muir was trying to make, but it is the way her remarks may have been interpreted by some listeners.

So, even aside from the more explosive issues related to the cuts to the NADP and the CCA, there was much of interest in Muir’s talk. What do you think about the road LAC seems to be taking with digitization and description? Does anyone have any specifics to share about these efforts?




Reminder: Monday is the deadline for volunteering for SAA Annual Meeting Task Force

Monday, September 26 is the deadline for volunteering to serve on the SAA Annual Meeting Task Force. Here’s the official information from SAA:

The results this group can achieve depend entirely on the creativity and energy of the people who serve on it. If you are interested and have the time to commit to it, please volunteer.

What is the Meaning of Archives 2.0? (Article available)

In case you missed it, I’ve taken all my musings about how I think Archives 2.0 should be defined and put them into a proper, formal, peer-reviewed article in the American Archivist. “What is the Meaning of Archives 2.0?” is available in the current issue (Volume 74, Number 1 / Spring/Summer 2011). If you’re an SAA member you should have it hand now and also be able to access it on the SAA website. Here’s the abstract:

At first glance the term “Archives 2.0” might refer to the use by archives of Web 2.0 applications, such as blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and Flickr. This article proposes a broader definition of Archives 2.0 that includes a comprehensive shift in archival thinking and practice that is related to, but not dependent on, the use of Web 2.0 tools. The article develops this interpretation and explains why this concept provides a useful starting point for conversations about future directions for the archival profession.

If anyone would like a copy of this issue, let me know. I was given a big stack of them and have no idea what I’m going to do with them, so I’m happy to give some out to deserving people. You can see the whole table of contents here. Continue reading “What is the Meaning of Archives 2.0? (Article available)”