Gauging interest in group (formal or informal) for “mid career” archivists

Hey, all. Just a quick note from the SAA Annual Meeting. There has been some informal talk for a while about the need for some kind of group–maybe formal, maybe informal–for “mid-career” archivists to share information and network (and possibly also serve as a resource for others). Since there are quite a few of us here in New Orleans, we’re going to just have an impromptu meeting to start the discussion

If you’re here at #saa13 and can make it, please join us on Friday from 5:45 – 6:45 (drop in any time) in the Fountain Room on the third floor (this is the informal meeting room space). This is the same time slot as the Awards Ceremony, but it’s the best time I could find. We’ll be discussing what needs might be met by a group and how best to meet them.

If you cannot attend and you’re interested in the topic, please leave a comment on this Google doc, and share what topics you think are most relevant, etc:

(And, yes, we aren’t defining what “mid-career” means. If you feel like you’re mid-career, participate.)


Now available: Job search experiences and career satisfaction among recent archives program graduates

After posting so many links to surveys, it’s nice to be able to follow up and announce when people have survey results to share. This comes from Rebecca Goldman (aka DerangeDescribe):

Last year, Shannon Lausch and I conducted a survey to evaluate employment and career satisfaction among recent archives graduates. We received over 200 responses, and the data is now ready to share! If you go to , you’ll be able to download our survey questions, our presentations from SAA12, and our data.

You are free to use this data for your own research–just cite and link back to it.

Thanks so much to all of you who took the survey, and we hope you find our results useful. Please contact us if you have any questions or suggestions.

I only looked through Rebecca’s presentation, and found the results not as bad as I thought they might be. I do wonder though, regarding the issues of negative effects of career choices on finances, personal and family life and other aspects of life, how similar those results would be across the board for post-graduate programs. I suspect that those issues are not unique to graduates of archives programs (not that Rebecca said they were).

I’ll share here the questions she asked at the end of her SAA presentation:

  • If we repeat our survey of recent grads, how can we make it better?
  • Is there a better way to investigate the “too many grads” problem?
  • Besides offering better salaries, how else can we  improve the quality of life of recent grads?
  • If temp positions and relocation are inevitable, how can we better support new grads through temporary work and help them move into permanent employment?

Any thoughts on those questions or reactions to the data collected by the survey?

Today’s the last day for two things

First, today is the last day for SAA members to volunteer to serve on the new Communications Task Force. A significant part of this group’s work will be looking at how SAA uses social media so if you consider yourself knowledgeable in that area, or if you just have opinions about how SAA could communicate better with its members, please take a look at the description of the group and consider applying. But do it quickly, today’s your last day!

Second,  posted on behalf of Rebecca Goldman:

As part of an SAA12 panel on job search experiences and career satisfaction among recent archives grads, Rebecca Goldman and Shannon Lausch are conducting a survey. The survey closes TODAY, Monday July 9. You are eligible for this survey if you:

  • graduated from a graduate program in archives, library science, history, or a related field in 2007 or later; AND
  • graduated from a graduate program with an archival education component, such as an archives concentration or archives-specific coursework.

The survey is at

Please follow the survey link for more information about the survey and what we’ll will do with the data. Please feel free to contact the survey authors if you have any questions about the survey or your eligibility (our contact info is in the survey intro).

Unlike many archives surveys, we’re interested in hearing from people who ended up in positions outside of traditional archives jobs. We need your help to reach them! Please share this survey with friends and colleagues who are recent grads, as well as any grad school listservs or messageboards you may have access to.

Thanks for taking our survey!

Act now: you can particpiate in forming New Archivists Roundtable for SAA

As most of you know, some familiar names are working to form a new SAA roundtable to support the needs and interests of new archivists. Right now they are looking for comments on their draft proposal document and soon they will be asking people to email in “signatures” of support. If you’re interested in supporting this worthwhile effort, head over to the Planning a new SAA roundtable for new archivists blog and take a look at the draft proposal. They will also need virtual signatures from 50 SAA members endorsing the proposal. I don’t think there will be any trouble getting those, but be sure to look for the announcement over on their blog to see when it’s time to email those in.


Spontaneous Scholarships for SAA Annual Meeting: How to give, how to apply

With all this talk about how expensive the SAA Annual Meeting is and how hard it can be for many people to attend, I decided yesterday that those of us who are more fortunate should do what we can–however modest–to help. It started with my friends on Facebook and then spread to Twitter. I asked people to chip in what they could (recommended donation $20) to help fund one person’s registration. Well, as people started pledging it seemed like a good idea to try to expand it beyond helping one person. I think so far we have about 20 pledges and many people are sending more than $20, so that’s not bad for one day’s work on Facebook and Twitter.

So, here’s the plan, which like this whole effort is pretty much being made up as we go. We’re giving money to people to fund their registration for the Annual Meeting. We’re not going to have enough to help pay for travel or lodging, which I know are probably much larger costs. But funding registrations seems like a manageable goal. So, if you want to give, you have several options:

  • Pay by check–send me an email at info [@] or leave a comment (for which you must supply an email). I will reply with a mailing address.
  • Pay via PayPal–click on the “Donate” button at top right of the sidebar.
  • Pay via credit card–send me an email at info [@] and I’ll send you an invoice using PayPal.

Give as much as feel comfortable with. Any money that’s left over will be saved for next year’s scholarships.

And now for the exciting part, how to get funded. If you need some help funding your SAA Annual Meeting registration, please send a message to info [@] providing your name, and whether you are a student or regular SAA member (note you must be an SAA member to be eligible). Please do so by midnight on Friday, July 8. On Saturday, July 9 I will draw names out of a hat and notify the lucky people. This will allow you to register by the (just extended) early-bird deadline of July 11.

I’m sorry if some of these rules seem arbitrary or this whole effort seems a bit thrown-together. I believe the whole thing started about 36 hours ago, so yes, at least for this year it’s not a very polished effort. But if we have any kind of success I’ll be working on putting together something similar for next year, with more lead time and a better process. Please let me know if you have any questions or suggestions, and give whatever you can afford. Every little bit helps.

UPDATE: As of 7/5, we now have over $750 raised through PayPal alone and we have 13 people who have thrown their names into the virtual hat. From the feedback I’ve gotten, part of what is making this meaningful to some of our colleagues is that it shows that people really do care. “Reminds me that archivists are a community.” Because so much of the early activity surrounding this took place on Twitter and Facebook (and via PayPal) maybe I shouldn’t be surprised that it looks like most of the donations are coming from “younger” archivists. By which I mean around my age or younger. Or maybe we just have fresher memories of what it’s like to be strapped for cash. So, keep giving, my “mid-career” friends, and maybe you can get some our colleagues with more gray their hair to chip in too. I’ll keep you updated as things start arriving in the mail.

What are your professional goals for 2011?

While I was traveling over the holidays, someone tweeted that she had just finished reviewing her professional goals for 2010 and writing her goals for 2011. Which got me thinking about what goals I might want to set for 2011. I’m not sure how well that kind of goal-setting would work for me, since lately opportunities have just been presenting themselves without my seeking them out. Although I do have a document on my desktop with the title “Master Plan.” Maybe I should take a look at that.

I asked the nice people on Twitter what kinds of goals they had, and got responses like:

  • Do something a little different.
  • Write, write, write, publish, publish, publish.
  • Stop procrastinating and write an article. Alternately, get institution to stop procrastinating and implement an ERMS already.
  • Doing my grad thesis and polishing off the backlog. Also establishing a web presence.
  • To better network. To make it to 3 conferences, not incl. #neaspring11. &perhaps importantly, find a full-time-job.
  • Become more involved with NEA and/or SAA.

Those all seem like great goals. And the great Beaver Archivist shared his goals too–which include writing. What about you? What do you want to do in 2011?

How can more members get involved with the SAA Annual Meeting – and involved in general?

Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that per the previous post the SAA Annual Meetings are held in locations that are affordable to the largest number of members possible. That still doesn’t mean that the meeting will be engaging for all the members who attend, and there will still be lots of members who can’t attend for one reason or another. [Oh, wait, disclaimer time: Please note that in this and all future blog posts, all the views represented are strictly my own and nothing I say should be interpreted in any way as representing the views of SAA or the SAA Council.]

Two recent conversations on Terry Baxter’s blog inspired this, so I’ll be stealing, I mean referencing ideas liberally from his posts (see here and here). Yes, as Terry points out, this is about diversity, in the broadest sense. The annual meeting is one of the premier products produced by the staff and members of SAA; countless hours of work go into making it as intellectually stimulating and professionally rewarding as possible. Given its importance, it seems odd that SAA has not put more emphasis on making meeting content available to those who cannot attend. Continue reading “How can more members get involved with the SAA Annual Meeting – and involved in general?”

Attention DC-area archivists, please help your cash-strapped colleagues

Now that the preliminary program for the SAA Annual Meeting in DC has been posted online, many people are trying to figure out how they can afford to attend. If you live in the DC-area, you’re lucky. SAA comes to your doorstep on a regular basis. How about sharing some of your luck with your colleagues by offering to share your guest room or rumpus room sofa?

A while back the industrious Rebecca Goldman (of Derangement and Description fame) created a tool to help match people who have available space with archivists looking for places to stay. Now hosted by Lance Stuchell and the crew at the New Archivist blog, it’s called Crash Space for Archivists . If you live in a city that has an event coming up (like RBMS in Philadelphia or one of the SAA workshops), please consider filling out an “Add Form” to volunteer to host someone.

A seeming consensus about a definition for “citizen archivist” and the continued need for a different term (also, a brief discussion of one of the next big challenges facing archives)

The previous post about the use of the term “citizen archivist” generated a lively discussion, and I think achieved some consensus–although we shall see if the comments on this post bear out that conclusion!

I think everyone more or less agreed that a valuable component of the archival community consists of what can accurately be called “citizen archivists”–that is:

people who take responsibility for carrying out archival functions for records or papers that are either their own personal property or which are currently not under the custodianship of an archives or archivist. [my phrasing]

people working _outside_ established institutions who are doing archival-quality work (not simply collecting), typically in an area that is neglected or inadequately addressed by established collections. Citizen archivists collect and add value to records of significance, many of which ultimately find their ways into institutions. [Rick Prelinger’s phrasing]

People may vary in their love for the term as used in that sense, but it seems to me that was the usage that most commenters agreed with. Certainly I think everyone agreed that the work these kinds of people do is a critical part of the archival community (writ large) and most of us would welcome their company under “the big tent.” (See previous discussions here and elsewhere about the professional identify of archivists and how big a tent we should have.)

I also believe that most of the participants in the discussion agreed that it was not appropriate to use “citizen archivists” to refer to what in the pre-digital world we would have called volunteers. While recognizing the value of people who work on transcribing records, photocopying or scanning materials, helping to identify or date photographs, writing supplementary materials for finding aids, or initiating and carrying out special project to make materials more accessible, we agree that it is not appropriate to refer to these people as “archivists” in any sense. Again, the work of these people is critical to success of the archival community, and to say that they are not archivists is not meant to devalue their contributions, it’s just a statement of fact. Some of this discussion referred to the continuing need to improve public understanding of the work of professional archivists, and indeed, the need to raise awareness of the need for professional archivists to exist. While stated or not, I think this conversation is linked to the heated discussions that have taken place in many venues about the need to increase the salaries being offered to archivists, and the associated issues of education, credentials, and professionalism.

As archives begin building new online communities around our collections and encourage the participation of volunteers in all kinds of activities–such as transcribing, tagging, adding descriptive or contextual information, creating mashups, and building new interfaces and tools for working with our information–we will encounter many challenges. I am certain that coming up with a suitable term to call our new kinds of volunteers will not be the most difficult! But it is representative of one of the central challenges, and that is the question of authority. I see this issue as being a particularly challenging one for many archivists–what is our role, as professionals and as custodians of the materials, in these new online communities? How can we encourage participation and appropriately value and respect the contributions of the public without devaluing our own knowledge and institutions? This is not an insolvable problem and it is not unique to archives; it faces many kinds of cultural and knowledge-based institutions as they engage in more sophisticated interactions with their user communities.

How to answer this question will be the subject of many future scholarly articles (and, as I said, a chapter in the book I’m editing for SAA) and the answer will not be the same for all archives. It is certainly too large to take on in a blog post.

However, the issue of what to call our valued online volunteers is not. If we accept that David Ferriero, perhaps along with other archival managers, needs to find a new, more appealing term to use instead of “volunteers,” what should that be?

– Archival collaborators?
– Citizen historians? (will that raise the hackles of historians, I wonder?)
– Citizen scholars? (the Smithsonian has used that one)
– Subject experts?

My creativity is flagging. Any suggestions? You may rightly ask why we need to have an umbrella term at all. My response is that Mr. Ferriero has a new blog post up, calling for “Cultivating Citizen Archivists.” I don’t want to drag this discussion over onto his post, since his purpose is to generate discussion about what kinds of projects people might want to pursue as . . . archival collaborators/citizen historians/subject experts and I don’t want to detract from that. I appreciate what he’s trying to do, and the kind of conversation he’s trying to generate with the public. Let’s help him out a bit by giving him a better way of making his pitch.

Want to get a job? Read this post

Over the past few weeks I’ve had a bunch of conversations with colleagues who have recently gone through the process of hiring a new staff member in their archives, and many were surprised at how many people were making basic mistakes. So I asked for input from my friends on Facebook and Twitter, and based on the comments of real-world archival managers, here are some things to keep in mind when you’re going through the process of applying for a job:
Continue reading “Want to get a job? Read this post”