What’s going on with me …

Regular followers may have noticed I’ve been unusually quiet, both here and on Twitter. It’s been a hectic spring and once things calmed down a bit I have been taking a little break to rest and reflect. So here’s a quick recap of what’s been going on and what you can expect to see coming soonish in this space and others.

First, the books. Four of them, as you may have seen announced in this lovely glossy brochure mailed by the publisher:

R&L brochure

I think I’ve finished up reviewing all the final proofs and I don’t yet have confirmation of when they’ll actually be available, but before SAA certainly. R&L will be having a booth at the SAA annual meeting, so if you’ll be there you can check out the books in person. I have confirmed that SAA will not be carrying this series in their bookstore, so sorry, no option for an SAA member discount for these ones.

Second, the next books. In addition to these first four (Description, Management, Outreach, and Reference & Access), I’ve confirmed all the case studies for the next two books in the series. These will be on Appraisal & Acquisition and Educational Programs. So thanks to all the brave souls who signed on to contribute to those books, which should be available in Spring 2015.

Third, I’ve received very nice news from several organizations who like my work and want to recognize it. As soon as they make those announcements, I’ll share them here. And as you may have seen, this winter and spring I was asked to speak in Canada, Norway, Germany and the Czech Republic (although the Lufthansa pilots’ strike prevented me from actually making those last two). I’m not really accustomed to this kind of jet-set lifestyle, but as long as people want me to come and talk, I’ll happily oblige.

Fourth, yes, it’s that time of year again. Spontaneous Scholarships will be starting up next week. This is the also the fourth year of this campaign, and although I’m happy to organize it again, I have some trepidation about how it’s going to go. The overall number of donors was down last year (only 84 compared to 103 the previous year).  To be honest, it’s rather discouraging. I’ll do my best to drum up more support this year, so prepare to be inundated with cheerful messages from me asking for your money.

And what else?

Well, I want to try doing some new things. I’ve got three possible projects, all of which I think I’ll probably be trying to launch this year. (Well, maybe only two of them will get off the ground this year …) I’ve been writing this blog for a long time and I won’t be abandoning it, but it’s time for something  new, I think.

So, still no full-time day job for me, my friends. This is what I do. As always, thanks for everyone’s continuing support over the years, and I’ll keep you posted on what’s coming next.


Call for proposals for case studies for next books in innovation series: instruction & appraisal and acquisition

I hope you got so excited by seeing the contents of the first four books in this series in the previous posts that you’ll want to contribute to the next two!

In 2014 I will be editing two new books of case studies for the Rowman & Littlefield series “Innovative Practices in Archives & Special Collections.” The new volumes will focus on:

– Appraisal and Acquisition

– Instruction

If you have experience with an effective or innovative approach in these areas, or if you have encountered a challenging situation that you think would be useful for other practitioners to learn from, I encourage you to submit a proposal for a case study.

The book on instruction will cover working with K-12, undergraduate and graduate students, as well as any instances of providing instruction to the general public. The book on appraisal and acquisition is intended to cover a wide range of activities related to those functions, including de-accessioning and re-appraisal. If you want to propose a case study but are not sure your experience is appropriate, please contact me and we can discuss it.

Proposals should consist of a narrative of no more than 1,000 words with the following sections:

 Introduction: describing the problem, process that needed improvement or opportunity that sparked what you’re going to talk about.

Planning and Implementation: discussion of possible approaches considered, why one was selected, and how the project or effort was implemented.

Results: how the implemented project/effort was received by archives staff, management and users and how the archives assessed the success of the project.

Lessons learned: any changes to be incorporated into your own iterations of project, observations about anything you feel was very successful or not successful.

Conclusion: any reflections on your experiences and describe any planned next steps for your organization.

Proposals are due by Friday, February 28. Decisions regarding the proposals will be made in mid-March.  If you have any questions about the specifics of the case studies or the schedule, please contact me. Proposals and questions should be sent to kate.theimer at gmail.com.

The scope of these two new topics should allow for varied and exciting collections highlighting the diverse range of approaches being explored in the profession today. I’m happy to answer any questions about the series, and I look forward to working with many of you on these new projects.


Innovative Practices in Archives & Special Collections: Reference & Access – 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 Reference and Access:

1) Building Bridges: Closing the Divide between Minimally Processed Collections and Researchers
Emily Christopherson and Rachael Dreyer, American Heritage Center

2) Managing Risk with a Virtual Reading Room: Two Born-Digital Projects
Michelle Light, University of California, Irvine

3) Improvements on a Shoestring: Changing Reference Systems and Processes
Jackie Couture and Deborah Whalen, Eastern Kentucky University

4) Twenty-First Century Security in a Twentieth-Century Space: Reviewing, Revising and Implementing New Security Practices in the Reading Room
Elizabeth Chase, Gabrielle M. Dudley and Sara Logue, Emory University

5) Talking in the Night: Exploring Webchats to Serve New Audiences
Gary Brannan, West Yorkshire Archive Service

6) A Small Shop Meets a Big Challenge: Finding Creative Ways to Assist the Researchers of the Breath of Life Archival Institute for Indigenous Languages
Leanda Gahegan and Gina Rappaport, National Anthropological Archives,
Smithsonian Institution

7) The Right Tool at the Right Time: Implementing Responsive Reproduction Policies and Procedures
Melanie Griffin and Matthew Knight, University of South Florida

8) Going Mobile: Using iPads to Improve the Reading Room Experience
Cheryl Oestreicher, Julia Stringfellow and Jim Duran, Boise State University

9) Beyond “Trial by Fire”: Towards A More Active Approach to Training New Reference Staff
Marc Brodsky, Virginia Tech

10) Access for All: Making Your Archives Website Accessible for People with Disabilities
Lisa Snider

11) No Ship of Fools: A Digital Humanities Collaboration to Enhance Access to Special Collections
Jennie Levine Knies, University of Maryland

12) Websites as a Digital Extension of Reference: Creating a Reference and IT Partnership for Web Usability Studies
Sara Snyder and Elizabeth Botten, Archives of American Art

You can access more information on this book and the others in the series and read some enthusiastic early reviews from Sharon Thibodeau and Kathy Marquis on the Rowman & Littlefield site: https://rowman.com/ISBN/9780810890923.

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

Innovative Practices in Archives & Special Collections: Outreach – 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 Outreach:

1. The Oregon Archives Crawl: Engaging New Users and Advocates
Diana Banning, Mary B. Hansen, Anne LeVant Prahl, Portland Area Archivists

2. Moved by the Spirit: Opportunistic Promotion of the Hamilton Family Séance Collection
Shelley Sweeney, University of Manitoba

3. Working Within the Law: Public Programming and Continuing Education
Leigh McWhite, University of Mississippi

4. Staying Connected: Engaging Alumni and Students to Digitize the Carl “Pappy” Fehr Choral Music Collection
Amy C. Schindler, College of William & Mary

5. “Pin”pointing Success: Assessing the Value of Pinterest and Historypin for Special Collections Outreach
Mark Baggett, Rabia Gibbs, Alesha Shumar, University of Tennessee

6. Creating a New Learning Center: Designing a Space to Support Multiple Outreach Goals
Dorothy Dougherty, National Archives at New York City

7. “Wikipedia is made of people!”: Revelations from Collaborating with the World’s Most Popular Encyclopedia
Sara Snyder, Archives of American Art

8. 21 Revolutions: New Art from Old Objects
Laura Stevens, Glasgow Women’s Library

9. Happy Accidents and Unintended Consequences: How We Named Our Tribble
Rachael Dreyer, American Heritage Center

10. Navigating Nightingale: Creating an App Out of Archives
Geof Browell, King’s College London

11. DIY History: Redesigning a Platform for a Transcription Crowdsourcing Initiative
Jen Wolfe and Nicole Saylor, University of Iowa

12. Taking Preservation to the People: Educating the Public About Personal Digital Archiving
William LeFurgy, Library of Congress

You can access more information on this book and the others in the series and read some enthusiastic early reviews from Larry Hackman and Terry Baxter on the  Rowman & Littlefield site: https://rowman.com/ISBN/9780810890985.

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

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: https://rowman.com/ISBN/9780810890954.

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

Archives and innovation, or, how I’m spending my summer and (and early fall)

You may have noticed that things have been a bit quiet here (and on Twitter). So, here’s a update.

It can’t possibly have escaped your attention if you follow this blog that I’m editing a series of four books for Scarecrow press, each a compilation of case studies on an area of archival practice: outreach, reference and access, description, and management. Each book will contain ~12ish case studies, so what I am doing and have been doing is lining those up and reviewing drafts.

In addition to that, like the ambitious/crazy person that I am, I want to add something of value to each book that speaks to the meaning of “innovation” in archives and to the development of “innovation” in that area of practice. Will I actually be able to do that? Who knows. But it’s my goal. My tentative outline now for my introduction is:

  • What do we mean when we talk about innovation?
  • Is there a history of innovation in archives/spec coll in US?
  • What has the development of this area looked like? Have there been past periods of innovation? (Based on analysis of past 40 SAA annual meeting programs & literature review)
  • Overview of case studies and why they represent innovation.

As I said, this might not work out, and it certainly might not end up looking anything like that outline! But as you might imagine, if I really do try to explore the development of each of those four areas of practice in any depth, I’m going to have a pretty hectic summer ahead of me.  So if you see odd tweets about literature from the past or titles of sessions from SAA annual meetings of the ’70s, ’80’s, ’90’s, 00’s, and 10’s, that’s what that’s about.

Wish me luck! (Oh, and don’t forget to make your donation–applicants are flowing in but donations have slowed . . . )


If it’s Thursday, this must be Grand Rapids . ..

I know my travel schedule is nowhere near as hectic as many other people’s but this spring I’ve been on the road quite a bit. A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of giving a keynote address to the Society of North Carolina Archivists in Greensboro. I used the opportunity to expand on the blog post about trends facing archives, and I think it went very well. As I said on Twitter, given the relatively small size of the meeting, I was surprised (although I shouldn’t have been) by the overall high quality and diversity of the sessions. I’m happy to come back to SNCA anytime, y’all!

Last week I was in Cape May, New Jersey for the spring meeting of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference (MARAC). MARAC is my local regional association, so for me those meetings are as much about “fellowship”as attending the sessions. Although the lively Twitter discussion that took place during the session intended to discuss archives and the digital humanities was very useful, and I plan to return to the ideas it sparked as soon as things calm down a bit. It was also lovely to meet some new people, including students from Pitt and Maryland, as well as catch up with familiar faces.

But it’s Thursday, and now I’m in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where the adventurous Midwest Archives Conference has invited me to give a plenary address at their annual meeting. I don’t consider myself a “plenary speaker” kind of person, so I’m afraid I won’t bring the “wow factor” that I think a good plenary speaker achieves. But then, I have ridiculously high standards. I’m talking about participatory archives, so there is no doubt I will be enthusiastic and speak quickly. My goals will be for people to 1) laugh, 2) leave with some new ideas, and hopefully 3) leave thinking that this is not only something they should try, but which they could actually do. If I can mange that, I’ll be happy with my performance.

Looking forward to meeting more new people at MAC, but now I have to return to practicing this talk, as the clock rapidly ticks down to the appointed hour . . .

Why are effective use of social media and participatory technologies critical? Winners of the book giveaway contest

Last week I posted a small contest to give away some copies of the recently-published book I edited, A Different Kind of Web: New Connections Between Archives and Our Users. The challenge was to answer this question in a few sentences: “Why are effective use of social media and participatory technologies critical to the success of archives in the future?”

I said I would pick two winners, but there were so many great entries that I couldn’t resist picking three. And they are . . .

From Amanda Hill, currently residing in Canada:

Using the web effectively is just one strand in the outreach work of an archive. It’s a critical one because of its potential reach. Community initiatives (also highly important) reach a local audience but the online presence of an archive stretches beyond that to engage a much wider pool of potentially interested (and interesting) people. If that online presence encourages user participation in the work of the archives then the relevance of that work becomes more obvious and demonstrable to both the users and (crucially) the funders of the service. It breaks down the barriers between ‘expert’ and ‘user’ so that archivists are seen by their public as more ‘us’ than ‘them’. In a future of uncertain funding, an engaged and relevant archive service will be in a strong position when it comes to mobilizing support.

From Yvette Hoitink in The Netherlands:

Just like it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a crowd to understand an archive. Different people will value different aspects of documents. A genealogist may recognize a family member, a local historian a location and a journalist a good story. Similarly, all of them may have knowledge that can contribute to an understanding of the document. Tapping into that wealth of knowledge out there will make archives far more usable and relevant to the public. If we do it well, we can create a snowball effect by making the collections more accessible, thus attracting more people, a portion of whom will pitch in.

So that was the ideological answer, here’s the mundane one: because we have way too many records to ever be able to describe them on all on the level that answers our users’ questions. We simply lack the funding. We can only hope our visitors will help us, if we provide the tools.

At the Nationaal Archief, the National Archives of the Netherlands where I work, we’ve just put registration cards online of Japanese internment camps in the former Dutch East Indies during WWII. The feedback has been incredible, and some of the stories behind the ‘dry’ names on the cards just chilling. It shows the power of a simple new function like a reaction form on all our archival description pages.

And last, but not least, from Josh Zimmerman in our United States:

Social media and participatory technologies provide widely accessible spaces where the public can creatively and meaningfully engage with, use, translate, mashup, comment on, re-envision, manipulate, describe, and ultimately add context and value to our collections and repositories.  They offer room for inviting the public into discussions of the overall societal importance of archives, which will strengthen the archival profession internally, while improving the public perception of our profession.  It will allow archives and archivists to finally realize their role not as guardians or gatekeepers, but as facilitators of relevant and valuable information. They also offer opportunities to lay wide open our decision-making processes for all to see, thus educating users and promoting transparency, accountability, and democracy.

There were at least four people who gave these people a run for their money (or in this case free books), and I’ll be highlighting them as well next week. There were several interesting answers which also argued that, in fact, this was not critical, and I think we can have some interesting discussions about that. But, for now, from Chicago, congratulations to the winners and I hope their responses give you some inspiration. If you didn’t win and want a copy of the book, if you’re here at the SAA meeting I’m available to sign it for you Thursday night in the exhibit hall or any time you see me.

New contest: Win a copy of A Different Kind of Web

The lovely people at SAA have given me a generous supply of complementary copies of my new book A Different Kind of Web: New Connections Between Archives and Our Users, so I’m passing that generosity along to you. I will give away two copies of the new book, one each to the two people who in my opinion send in the best answer to this question:

Why are effective use of social media and participatory technologies critical to the success of archives in the future?

Please email your entry to info[@]archivesnext.com and keep your answer limited to a few sentences. You must submit your entry by 12 noon (Chicago time, because I will be at the SAA Annual Meeting) on Wednesday, August 24. I will notify the winners that afternoon and try to post their answers as soon as possible.

(Note that I also have a few copies of the issue of the American Archivist that has the Archives 2.0 article in it, so if you want to receive a copy of that article, you can email me about that as well.)

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)”