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.

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8 thoughts on “What should SAA’s Strategic Priorities be? Or, where should more money be spent?”

  1. I’m not sure how to phrase this in proper “strategic priority” language. I’ve never been in a position to think in that way. 🙂 But I would like to see SAA place a greater emphasis on collaboration across associational lines, both with other archival associations (state, regionals, and other national orgs) as with allied professional associations (other GLAM associations). The regionals summit at SAA 2012 was a start with outreach to other archival groups (although, I’m not sure what was discussed there or what the outcome was as I didn’t attend). But we’re increasingly seeing a blurring of lines between GLAM organizations in terms of function (and in the public’s eyes, there really *isn’t* a clear line). I think it would be wonderful if SAA could be a leader in uniting these groups in conversations about collaboration across boundaries. This would tie back to the issue of professional advocacy, of course.

  2. I’d love to see more groups such as SAA take on a greater role facilitating relationships between archives with materials to share and individuals or organizations with enthusiasm to digital projects or digital finding aids that allow more people to find and view those materials. Innovative projects absolutely require multiple partners. An excellent cocktail for collaboration might include one party with some resource or set of materials to share, one party with enthusiasm for those materials, and one party with expertise on making those materials accessible. SAA and groups like it strike me as an exciting conduit for all three.

  3. Here’s a wild idea:

    We all know that orgs dislike paying their young members. My experience is that even the best young archivists are leaving the profession, as there’s simply no future for them in it. Between the experience trap and lack of positions, it’s a non-starter.

    Why not offer early professional grants?

    Let’s say that, by raising efficiency and dropping archaic practices, SAA can save $100,000 a year (with AO, we’re halfway there). That could fund ten short-term projects for ambitious young archivists. Ideally, the projects would be something beyond the usual data entry or A&D work; make it something really awesome to have on your résumé. It could serve as a bridge between the low-skill internships offered and the obscenely high-demands positions offered, by giving young professionals a place to shine.

    This would go a long way towards keeping the best young people from leaving the profession, as well as giving orgs the chance to try something ambitious that they couldn’t otherwise fund.

  4. With 20% of the members being students, I’d like to see SAA focus more on archival education, particularly what is being taught in graduate programs and the amount of students being admitted vs. the job prospects. Part of this could involve SAA developing ethical internship guidelines, which is something I know the SNAP roundtable is working on.

  5. I would like to see more scholarships offered to attend SAA workshops or other workshops. I have a hard enough time trying to convince my organization to fund my trip to the annual meeting, let alone ask for money for a workshop. I know they aren’t expensive, but all the other costs add up and like all of us I don’t make enough money. Even if it was just the registration fee since then I could attend those within driving distance.

  6. Hey Kate, do I get points for being quoted in your new post? Schemes are just plans that someone disagrees with. Following on the last post, yes, an allocation plan for use of cost savings would be helpful. Specifically, an opt-in for print publications could be acceptable, and even paying more (just a little more please) for the option may be okay too. How’s that?
    On these priorities, I want to caution on one area – member benefit versus professional benefit. Much we do as part of the vanguard professional association in the field is for the benefit of the field as a whole – member and non-member. If that is all you do, then why be a member? If I can get everything from SAA – publications, presentations, advocacy, scholarships, mentorship, information, etc. as a free rider, then why shouldn’t I? There needs to be more than just good will, a pat on the back, and the “status” keeping folks as members. (I guess we could proliferate roundtables to the point that everyone is on a steering committee, so since they are “leaders” they will stay members. Probably not sustainable though.) Some are not SAA members because the dues are too high, others are not members because they feel they can get all or most of the SAA’s output without paying dues. Just be aware of this balance of what is done for the profession versus paying members.

  7. I fear I’d just be echoing previous comments about the importance of adapting archival education to reflect the actual needs of the job market and a need for scholarships/grants for students/new archivists.

    … but regarding Strategic Priority #2: Diversity, I have to say that along with expanding the Mosaic Scholarship, I’d like to see grants awarded to institutions for actively working with underrepresented communities and acquiring their collections. I hate to admit that I’ve felt a bit removed from the patron population, but it is always a good idea to reflect on the question “For whom are we processing these collections?”

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