End of Year Steering Share: Thoughts on the Archival Job Market

Steering Shares are an opportunity to find out more about the I&A Steering Committee. This end-of-the-year post is from Steering Committee member Samantha Brown, Assistant Archivist at the New-York Historical Society.

As this committee year comes to an end, I have begun thinking about the issues that our committee and SAA at large will be facing in the coming years. While questions of accessibility and preservation will still be looming far into the future, the biggest problem our profession will face in the years to come is retention. How does our field retain talented and enthusiastic young archivists when their career prospects are so uncertain?

While many of us enter the field with big hopes and dreams, we’re soon confronted with the reality of the limited positions available in our profession. Job applicants soon discover that jobs are hard to come by and the ones that are available are either part-time or contract gigs. Even though securing one these positions feels like a success the reality of the position soon becomes evident. You might have a job now but positions is temporary and you need to start applying for new positions immediately. Unless you’re lucky enough to find a permanent job, you’re constantly in a cycle of applying and reapplying for new positions. This situation begs the question of whether it’s ethical to have a field that largely consists of part-time and temporary positions. Is it right to allow people to enter a field that has such limited options?

When discussing this dilemma, people have suggested that universities should limit the amount of students allowed to enter archival studies tracks. As of right now, it’s unknown whether less students entering the archival field would fix the jobs problem. However, what we do know is that limiting entry into the field creates a whole new set of problems. When setting limits, universities must create a set of criteria that students must meet to enter a university’s program. Unless universities develop a way to do blind admissions, these criteria could very well reinforce biases that already exist within the profession and prevent underrepresented groups from being able to enter the profession.

Another issue with limiting entry into archival studies programs is that it just deals with the surface issue of our profession. While there will be less people fighting and competing for jobs, there is no guarantee that more permanent, full-time jobs will be created or that higher wages will be offered. While there is definitely a pool of people applying for archives positions, the issue isn’t the number of people searching or the number of jobs available but how institutions value archival labor. Since archival work isn’t seen as valuable to the institutions that employ us, our employers don’t see the need to provide decent compensations. Unless we can convince people that the work we do is important and contributes something positive to the world, no one will want to create jobs for us. In order for our profession to thrive and grow, we need others to see our value and desire to employ us so that archivists can stay in the field rather than having to leave and find other work to support themselves.


Steering Share: Reflections on the Archival Profession

Steering Shares  provide an opportunity to learn more about the I&A Steering Committee and the issues that the committee members care about. This post comes courtesy of committee member Steve Duckworth, University Archivist at Oregon Health & Science University.

It’s my last Steering Share! Until a week ago, I thought I had another year left in my term and now that I find I’m about to be off the team, my perspective on what to write today has changed. I’ve been asked to run for chair or vice-chair for the section to help keep the momentum going, but I’m now really looking forward to a year off (at least) from SAA service. I&A has focused a lot on issues around labor and equity within the profession. I think we’ve raised some good questions and hopefully we’ve helped get people thinking about these big issues.

But personally, I’m conflicted. We have a problem with diversity in the profession (admit it or not – it’s there and don’t come at me with your rebuttals to this claim). We’re underpaid. We’re frequently undervalued. There is a large focus on temporary and other project-based work. And, on the positive side, there is professional movement against all of this. However, I’m not sure where best to focus to help make meaningful change.

Should we try to “diversify” the profession? Should I really be encouraging more people to come into a profession with a fairly limited market for jobs that are also generally underpaid?

Should we try to tamp down on temporary jobs? Does that mean that – overall – even fewer people will be employed? Will it be even harder for recent graduates to get a foot in the door? Will more records go unprocessed and hidden?

Should we advocate for more visibility and better funding? If we are paid better for our work, where does that money come from? Budgets always have trade-offs. Do I get more money but less staff? Does higher pay necessitate higher workload and stress level? Given our high percentage of academic affiliation, as we push up our requirements, do we also raise qualifications? Will archivists eventually all need a PhD – raising the bar for entrance to the profession even higher?

These are some thoughts that go through my head when someone asks me to serve on a committee or a career panel or teach a course. I honestly really enjoy the work I do and I’d love to have more cool people in the profession, but I’m not sure the profession is one that I can squarely get behind and encourage people to enter. I don’t know.

So this is why I’m looking forward to a little bit of down time. I mean – I’ve been out of library school for just over 5 years and in that time, I’ve held 4 (or so) archival jobs in Philadelphia, PA; Anchorage, AK; Gainesville, FL; and Portland, OR (in that order – that’s a lot of moving). I’ve served on SAA’s Diversity Committee and the I&A Steering Committee (plus local and regional group work). I’ve published articles and written blog posts. I’ve presented at over 10 conferences. I’ve mentored 8 or so other budding archival professionals. And in two weeks I’ll begin teaching an introductory archives course (ironic, right?).

I’m tired! And we all need to take time to clear our heads now and then.

So, thank you to I&A for the chance to meet some amazing people, provide some service to this profession (which I do really enjoy despite what some may think after reading this), and open my eyes to a lot of things I wish I could change.

ICYMI: Society of California Archivists Annual General Meeting

Our ICYMI series provide summaries of presentations, publications, webinars, and other educational opportunities that are of interest to I&A members. If you have an issue you would like to write about for this blog series or a previous post that you would like to respond to, please email archivesissues@gmail.com. The following is from Rachel Mandell, I&A’s past-chair and Metadata Librarian at the USC Digital Library.



Last month I attended the Society of California Archivists Annual General Meeting, which was held in Long Beach, California from April 24-27, 2019. I found much of the program to be of interest to our Issues & Advocacy members as many of the presentations and events were focused on inclusivity and diversity. The reception for the event was held on the Queen Mary ocean liner, which was fun for archivists and ghosts alike.

        One of the highlights of the conference was Michelle Caswell’s plenary discussing a feminist standpoint appraisal of archival materials. She argued that instead of continuing to allow historically dominant perspectives of what should, and should not, be considered of significant archival value, we ought to adopt a new way of appraising archival materials. The historically dominant perspective– which favors white, English-speaking, straight, men—continues to dominate when archivists from oppressed communities are left out of appraisal discussions and policies. What is even more likely than archivists from the underrepresented or oppressed perspectives being left out of the conversation, is archivists’ attempt to achieve a “value neutral” view of archival materials. Professor Caswell completely dismantles this belief that neutrality can be achieved and adds that this goal of neutrality in fact reinforces the current, oppressive structure.  Boom! I am so inspired to read forthcoming publications and eventually put into practice a new set of questions that we need to ask ourselves when conducting archival appraisal.

        Another exciting event that I want to highlight was the Labor Brown Bag lunch! In the last year, Issues and Advocacy has been very focused on labor issues faced by archivists. SCA is also joining the conversation! This brown bag lunch was an informal discussion and brainstorming session about forming a new SCA working group to monitor and address ongoing labor issues.

        Other talks related to inclusivity and diversity included:

“Building Belonging: Strategies for Diverse and Inclusive Collection Development, Inreach, Outreach, and Instruction”     
Zayda Delgao, Sonoma County Library
Robin M. Katz, University of California, Riverside
Craig Simpson, Son Jose State University

“Putting it Out There: Engaging Communities and Enhancing Access to LGBT Collections”

“Campfire: Practicing Inclusive Archival Description”
Noah Geraci, University of California, Riverside
Cyndi Shein, University of Nevada, Las Vegas

“Empowering Indigenous Communities through Inclusion”
Kelsey Martin
Stefani Baldivia, California State University, Chico
Celestina Castillo, Occidental College
Lylliam Posadas

“No Reprocessing Without Representation! Discovering Hidden Narratives During Routine Work”
Linh Gavin Do, Go For Broke National Education Center
Jamie Henricks, Japanese American National Museum
Lauren Longwell, Loyola Marymount University
Kate Wilson, Saint Mary’s College of California

Steering Share: A Reading List for Practicing Allyship in Archives

Steering Shares are an opportunity to find out more about the I&A Steering Committee. This post comes from I&A Chair Courtney Dean, Head of the Center for Primary Research and Training in UCLA Library Special Collections.


For the final Steering Share of my term as I&A Chair I was planning to provide an update on our section’s temporary labor survey which closed earlier this month. (We had 412 responses!) Instead, when I sat down to write last evening, I quickly found myself going down the wormhole of comments about a recent blog post that was shared via Library Journal’s Twitter account. I won’t go into too much detail (you can look it up yourself) but for those unfamiliar with the situation, a WOC librarian wrote a blog post about the whiteness of library collections, and as so often happens when POC speak truth about racism, the internet trolls came out en masse. (I encourage those of you on Twitter to go in and report them. It’s a quick and somewhat satisfying process.) Appalling enough as it is to have THOUSANDS of strangers leaving vitriolic, hateful, and blatantly racist comments, while also posting photos of the author and details about her workplace, it was especially reprehensible to see other librarians attacking her.

As archivists we’re sometimes inclined to think we don’t have a similar whiteness problem in our field, however one only needs to look at the numbers, or recall the backlash to Dr. Michelle Caswell’s Dismantling White Supremacy session at SAA a few years ago. For all of our talk of diversity, equity, and inclusion, we still struggle to recruit and retain archivists of color, and to acknowledge bias in our collecting practices. To this day I have colleagues who refuse to recognize that archives are not neutral.

Instead of continuing to rely on the on the intellectual and emotional labor of POC colleagues to tirelessly critique and challenge this problematic myth of neutrality, I encourage my fellow white archivists to check out the reading list below and start practicing allyship. We can all be doing better.

Below is a brief reading list in no particular order:

Issues and Advocacy: Archivists On The Issues: Answering The Call For Inclusivity, Summer Espinoza https://issuesandadvocacy.wordpress.com/2018/07/18/archivists-on-the-issues-answering-the-call-for-inclusivity/

Issues and Advocacy: Archivists on the Issues: Reflections on Privilege in the Archives, Summer Espinoza https://issuesandadvocacy.wordpress.com/2018/02/09/archivists-on-the-issues-reflections-on-privilege-in-the-archives/

Issues and Advocacy: #ARCHIVESSOWHITE In The Words Of Jarrett Drake  https://issuesandadvocacy.wordpress.com/2016/04/19/archivessowhite-in-the-words-of-jarrett-drake/

Honma, T. (2005). Trippin’ Over the Color Line: The Invisibility of Race in Library and Information Studies. InterActions: UCLA Journal of Education and Information Studies, 1(2). Retrieved from https://escholarship.org/uc/item/4nj0w1mp

Joan M. Schwartz and Terry Cook, “Archives, records, and power: The making of modern memory” Archival Science (2002) 2: 1, https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02435628.

Lae’l Hughes-Watkins, “Moving Toward a Reparative Archive: A Roadmap for a Holistic Approach to Disrupting Homogenous Histories in Academic Repositories and Creating Inclusive Spaces for Marginalized Voices” Journal of Contemporary Archival Studies vol. 5, (2018) https://elischolar.library.yale.edu/jcas/vol5/iss1/6/

Nicole A. Cook Information Services to Diverse Populations: Developing Culturally Competent Library Professionals (California: ABC-CLIO, 2017)

Mario H. Ramirez (2015) Being Assumed Not to Be: A Critique of Whiteness as an Archival Imperative. The American Archivist: Fall/Winter 2015, Vol. 78, No. 2, pp. 339-356. https://doi.org/10.17723/0360-9081.78.2.339

Expanding #ArchivesForBlackLives to Traditional Archival Repositories, Jarrett Drake, June 27, 2016. https://medium.com/on-archivy/expanding-archivesforblacklives-to-traditional-archival-repositories-b88641e2daf6

Caswell, Michelle (2017).  Teaching to Dismantle White Supremacy in Archives.Library Quarterly: Information, Community, Policy, 87(3) 223-235. http://www.journals.uchicago.edu.libproxy.csudh.edu/doi/pdfplus/10.1086/692299

Caswell, Michelle & Brilmyer, Gracen (2016).  Identifying & Dismantling White Supremacy in Archives: An Incomplete List of White Privileges in Archives and Action Items for Dismantling Them.  http://www.gracenbrilmyer.com/dismantling_whiteSupremacy_archives3.pdf  

Taylor, Chris (2017). Getting Our House in Order: Moving from Diversity to Inclusion. The American Archivist, 80(1), 19-29. https://doi.org/10.17723/0360-9081.80.1.19

Archivists on the News: Desiring Tumblr, Porn, and the Archives

Archivists on the News is a series where archivists share their perspectives on current news topics. This post comes courtesy of  Dani Stuchel, a Tuscon-based archivist and artist. Dani has performed and exhibited video work internationally, including the Andy Warhol Museum, Mattress Factory (Pittsburgh, PA), Human Resources (Los Angeles), Whippersnapper Gallery (Toronto), University of Arizona Museum of Art, and Shot Tower Gallery (Columbus, OH). Dani’s writing has appeared in the Journal of Critual Library & Information Studies, Smithsonian Collections Blog, Cactus Heart, Steer Queer Art Zine, and Sundog Lit.  Alongside Dr. Time Haggerty and Harrison Apple, Dani serves as a volunteer archivist for the Pittsburgh Queer History Project, an oral history and media project focused on preserving the history of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania’s gay and lesbian after-hours nightlife from 1950 through 1990. To find out more about their work, you can find additional information at http://www.danistuchel.com


“Are archivists ready for porn?”

The above question came to me as I read about Jason Scott’s plan to save Tumblr blogs from the platform’s 2018 ‘porn ban.’ In December 2018, Tumblr announced it would use algorithms to seek out, “photos, videos, or GIFs that showed real-life human genitals or female-presenting nipples, and any content—including photos, videos, GIFs and illustrations—that depicts sex acts.” Algorithmically-marked content would then be hidden from everyone except the original poster. Tumblr had become something akin to storing your bookmarks in the cloud: effective, but dull. As porn studies scholar Brian M. Watson offers, “Their pornography ban [was] a betrayal to their entire fanbase,” and Tumblr users have subsequently exited the platform en masse.

Soon after Tumblr’s announcement, Archive Team – led by Jason Scott – shared a plan to make backup copies of various Tumblr accounts and add them to the Internet Archive. Archive Team’s goal was to circumvent Tumblr’s planned un-publishing of content by creating an uncensored copy elsewhere. However, it quickly became clear that individual users would not have control over what content was included in the backup. On one hand was Tumblr, threatening to suppress your content. On the other was Scott, promising to share your content but without giving you clear-cut control over it in the future.

Tumblr’s policy and Scott’s solution were both roundly critiqued by users, activists, and scholars, who noted that both tactics undermined the autonomy and free expression of sex workers, LGBT persons, women, fetishists, and every intersecting permutation. While Tumblr was denying users a highly-valued means of sharing positive depictions of bodies which diverge from ‘the norm,’ Scott’s approach threatened to divorce sensitive, personal, and complex exchanges from their context and put them on public display. If Tumblr was suppressing circulation, then Scott was threatening to make living relationships into a digital cabinet of curiosities.

Of course, these two oppositional approaches do not represent all possible engagements with porn. As curator of the Jean-Nickolaus Tretter Collection in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Studies at the University of Minnesota, Rachel Mattson teaches undergraduate and graduate students about histories of sexuality, film circulation, and homemade media — sometimes using analog porn found in the Tretter’s holdings to help students recognize that, “There is no timeless norm of sex,” and that all sex can be understood as historical. A historical, constructivist approach to sex was central to early gay & lesbian liberation movements and the development of LGBT studies as an academic field. This approach continues to influence contemporary queer & trans political organizing and scholarship. Mel Leverich, archivist for the Leather Archives & Museum in Chicago, adds that “By excluding sexually explicit material from the archives, we also deny that people’s private sexual identity and practices are an important part of lived experience, and replicate the stigmatization of non-normative sex.” Contextualized thoughtfully, porn is an invaluable educational resource.

When the term “pornography” was coined in the 19th century, it was a label for artifacts which historians feared would morally imperil, not educate, the general public[1]. Such panic was not new. Brian M. Watson offers that, “When [the printing press] was joined with increasing middle- and lower-class literacy, and book markets such as Holywell Street in London or the Grands-Boulevards area of Paris, it created a type of work that supposedly had an ‘undesirable’ effect upon the general population.”

In other words, the main charge against porn has not been that it is useless, but that its use should be feared. Centuries later, anti-pornography feminists of the 1970s and 1980s would claim porn led to child sex abuse, rape, and violence against women[2]. Tumblr echoed this line of thought when it explained its adult content ban as a means of ridding the platform of child pornography. (Very notably, Tumblr never attempted a similar algorithmic approach to white supremacy on the platform.)  While I cannot wade into these long debates within the space of this blog post, I would suggest that many scholars have come to see porn – like all media, genres, and forms – as neither inherently ‘good’ nor inherently ‘bad.’ Instead, power relationships, aesthetics, and desire unfold inside of porn to create complex documents meriting patient study and appreciation.

Archivists are in a perfect position to think about porn as complex documentation, and to devise strategies for working with porn in the archives. One question will prove critical in the coming decades: How do we tell ‘archive stories’ with porn, sex work, or sex as center – rather than as peripheral? One hypothetical example could be the papers of Colby Keller, a successful gay porn performer who reportedly voted for Donald Trump and who supported many of Trump’s political messages. Keller’s story as a political agent is noteworthy, and I would argue it is important to understanding the complexity of sexual-identities-as-political-identities, but it cannot be divorced from his ongoing work as a porn performer. Separating his politics from the specifics of his career is akin to telling the story of Steven Spielberg sans film. If we imagine a future wherein Keller donates his papers to an archives, many questions arise. How can archives tell stories which have sex work and porn as a center, not as a tangent? How can we think of porn context? How do we talk – with researchers, students, the public – through both the intellectual and erotic content of this work?

Alongside porn’s educational and research value, it is undeniable that porn is also a thing of desire. It is created in response to desires (those of the maker and/or the intended audience), consumed in desire (academic, artistic, sexual). If porn had no allure then its detractors would have nothing to fear. Linda Williams has written that part of watching porn is hoping to see what you don’t want to see, hoping to have your limits and boundaries pushed[3]. Porn is a desire for excess – very untidy, ‘unprofessional.’

“But archives are full of desire already,” Rachel Mattson redirects. Visitors enter all archives with a desire to see, to touch, to know. Not just the visitors – archivists, too. But desire is troublesome. It peregrinates through – but is not subsumed by – identity or selfhood. We desire things that go against our better judgement, that bring our identities into question. We have shameful desires. Desire disrupts the professional / personal boundary. As GVGK Tang puts it, in their discussion of arranging and describing porn, “To process porn, one must consume it and risk internalizing the notion that one is a pervert for doing so.”[4]

Facing sexual desire is a next step for archives which would engage with porn. In our discussion of LGBT archivists and archival collections, it is easy to elide sexual desire in favor of political organizing, creative aesthetics, or cultural traditions. This isn’t to say that sexual identities (including heterosexual identities) can be boiled down to sex acts, but it is to suggest that they can never be fully divorced. Though not an archives in the sense intended by most archivists, Tumblr was a valued space for producing, circulating, organizing, and keeping records of sexual practices. As a private platform, it had the unchecked power to shut out stories of desire despite public outcry. Their policies were unjust, but very telling. In the end, the platform lost the public’s confidence and investment. If we, as archivists, take seriously our mission (desire?) to tell complex stories, we cannot afford to do the same.



[1] David Squires, “Pornography in the Library,” in Porn Archives, eds. Tim Dean, Steven Ruszczycky, and David Squires (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2014), 83.

[2] For a description of the debates of this era, see Gayle S. Rubin, “Blood Under the Bridge: Reflections on ‘Thinking Sex,’” in Deviations: A Gayle Rubin Reader (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2011), 194-223.

[3] Linda Williams, “Pornography, Porno, Porn: Thoughts on a Weedy Field,” in Porn Archives, eds. Tim Dean, Steven Ruszczycky, and David Squires (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2014), 41.

[4] GVGK Tang, “Sex in the Archives: The Politics of Processing and Preserving Pornography in the Digital Age,” The American Archivist 80, no. 2 (2017): 444. http://doi.org/10.17723/0360-9081-80.2.439


Many thanks to Mel Leverich, Rachel Mattson, and Brian M. Watson for agreeing to be interviewed for this post and offering their thoughts on the topics discussed.

Archivists on the Issues: I’m sorry, can you repeat that? Navigating Archives while Hard-of-Hearing

Archivists on the Issues is a forum for archivists to discuss the issues we are facing today. Today’s post comes from Michelle Ganz, the Archives Director at McDonough Innovation,

Hard of Hearing (HoH) covers everything from not being able to hear certain vocal ranges or pitches to only being able to hear with the help of hearing aids or cochlear implants.

Every HoH person’s condition, and therefore experience, is different. Everyone has different coping techniques and strategies to navigate the world we live in and the environments we move through. I’d like to share my experience and how that has informed how I have navigated my professional life as a lone arranger.

I was born deaf in my left ear and have slightly diminished hearing in my right ear, especially in the higher tonal ranges. Until a few years ago I managed without a hearing aid but as I have gotten older the efforts to hear became exhausting and I decided it was time to get help. Before the hearing aid I spent a lot of time completely panicked that I was missing critical information at school, at work, and anywhere that wasn’t home. After the hearing aid everything is louder, but that doesn’t translate to easier to hear. If a room has a lot of white noise, electronics, or cross-talk all I hear is a cloud of indistinguishable sound. When I was first transitioning to the hearing aid I would often have to flee from group situations to sit in a dark room until I could calm down from the overstimulation coupled with even less understanding. Those moments have passed, but I still have problems every day with basic vocal interactions; even in seemingly quiet spaces. Having an invisible disability can make an already challenging situation feel insurmountable.

The type of active listening and hyper-awareness of my surroundings that I have to engage in every day is exhausting, stressful, and isolating.  Some days are better than others, but what really adds to the load is the constant reminders to others: of my disability, of the best ways to communicate with me, or the concessions that need to be made for me. At best this sets me apart from the rest of the team, and at worst I’m seen as a disruption to the normal flow of work. People require regular assertions that I am not making things up to take advantage of perceived ‘perks.’ I feel like I constantly have to apologize for being a ‘burden’ for requesting special accommodations or basic courtesies. This means that I don’t always tell people that I can’t understand them.  It means I spend a lot of time wondering if I misunderstood something or completely missed something I should have heard. It means when I ask people to repeat things sometimes I have to ask so many times they just give up and walk away. It means I’ve sat in meetings and wondered what the heck was going on because everyone mumbled and the pace was too fast for me to ask for everything to be repeated.

Wearing a hearing aid has helped tremendously, but it doesn’t fix all my problems. It is paired with my cell phone (which is awesome) so phone calls stream directly to my ear, but conventional phones are nearly impossible for me to use. Listening to webinars on my computer, participating in conference calls, and other routine uses of technology can be difficult or outright impossible. Regular interactions with my colleagues in our kitchen are always a struggle, especially when the coffee machine is doing its very loud fresh-grind thing. People get uncomfortable with being asked to repeat an offhand anecdote or comment so it’s just easier for me to smile and nod rather than try to figure out what they said. Meetings can be totally derailed by requests to repeat something, or even worse, having to have someone else repeat what was said.  My boss is quiet and often mumbles, and does not like to repeat himself. I have spent hours trying to figure out what I missed from one of our meetings. When I used to do teaching sessions questions from students were the most difficult part of the class. At my last archive I had to conduct a lot of reference interviews over the phone with researchers who were often elderly or had difficult-to-distinguish local accents. This was frustrating for the patrons, who just wanted quick answers, and frustrating for me since it often derailed outreach efforts.

I understand that the vast majority of people will go their whole lives without knowingly interacting with someone who is HoH. But hearing loss affects millions of people (many of whom don’t even realize they have issues) and hearing issues are going to become a more prevalent issue in archival spaces and in everyday life. Our world is filled with white noise; even reading rooms have a lot of ‘noise’ not noticeable to most people. If I deeply engrossed in my work and there’s a fan on I will not hear you unless you get my attention first.

I also understand that people can’t grow and change if they a) don’t realize they are doing something wrong and b) if they don’t know where to start. To that end here are some of the things that I would like everyone to know.

The recommendations I’m laying out here are ones that I believe you should adopt with everyone. I believe that if you use the same sort of approach with everyone you will move the onus of service back onto yourself. Take a look at the resources I’ve listed below like the diversity work group page as well as the access statement on disabilities currently being updated. But mostly, use common sense. None of the things I lay out here are complicated, costly, or even time consuming. They just take practice to become part of how you approach every interaction.

Make eye contact

It’s easier for me to know you are talking to me and not someone else in the room if you make eye contact before you start to speak. It’s also an important way for you to tell that I’m actually listening.

Don’t cover your mouth / Make it easy for your mouth to be seen

Lip reading doesn’t work like in the movies. You can only catch about 40% of what someone is saying and it’s really hard to figure out since your mouth makes the same motions for a lot of different words. BUT we do use lip reading to confirm that what we are hearing is matching what your mouth is doing.

Speak clearly / use a microphone

If you speak clearly and enunciate your words it will be much easier for me to understand you. If there is a microphone in the room please use it. See the great blog post by Jessie Ramey (link below) on this very topic. She addresses the issue of people who don’t use microphones.

Have an alternative method of communication via digital or physical notepad

There is nothing more frustrating than a communication barrier. Have an alternative method like the notepad on your phone or a piece of paper. For many hard of hearing people the higher registers and tones of a woman’s voice can be difficult to understand; don’t be insulted if we ask to speak with someone with a lower voice (and yes, this often means a male voice). And don’t assume that I know sign language. Most hard of hearing people do not.

Be understanding of involuntary noise or levels of loudness.

Hard of hearing people are loud. We usually don’t realize that we are making a ruckus or causing a disruption. I have no idea how loud I am, especially in a quiet room or if I’ve been intently working on something. I use outside stimuli to determine my own levels of noise; often I have grossly misjudged but don’t know until people around me react like a bomb went off. Be polite and we’ll do our best to keep it down.

Don’t assume, ask

I would rather you ask me a hundred times what I’d like you to do than you assume and get it wrong. Assumptions (or even worse, asking the person with me) are infantilizing and marginalizing.

I’ve spent my whole life dealing with being HoH, I spent my childhood hiding it, my college years learning how to advocate for myself, and my adult life working so that today’s and tomorrow’s kids don’t have to hide. But at the end of the day none of my efforts mean anything if able-bodied people don’t acknowledge invisible disabilities and take steps to ensure that they are treating everyone with respect.



Working Group on Accessibility resources

The group has completed its task but the microsite has a ton of great resources and links to additional information.

Guidelines for Access Archives for People with Disabilities

The Approved guidelines for access. This is great resource to help you develop policies and to provide support with administration.

A Note From Your Colleagues With Hearing Loss: Just Use a Microphone Already

A fantastic blog post about the importance of things like microphones to HoH people.


There are a number of deaf and hard of hearing people on YouTube who have a ton of really great videos about their experiences. They explain a lot of things that HoH people deal with and review things like assistive technologies. I’m a big fan of Jessica Kellgren-Fozard and Rikki Poynter.

Archivists on the Issues: Archivists: The Superheroes of Time Travel

Archivists on the Issues is a forum for archivists to discuss the issues we are facing today. Today’s post comes from Joanna Black, the Digital Archivist at the Sierra Club’s William E. Colby Memorial Library.


Woman Data entry clerk entering data for legitimate online jobs. Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication

I am incredibly honored to release my first blog post as a contributor to the SAA Issues and Advocacy Section Archivists on the Issues Blog Series. In joining a distinguished pool of past writers, I hope to build on existing perspectives and suggest topics that reflect some of the broader issues archivists confront within an incredibly diverse profession. Whether one is a cataloger, digital asset specialist, processing archivist, or somewhere in between, it is imperative that archival professionals align the job with their own core values. As I reflect on the ways the archival profession creates positive change in the world and how many other livelihoods simply don’t — specifically those that utilize cheating, harming, or killing to advance a “bottom-line” — I can’t help but ask, “How do I hold my values in one hand and perform hours of data entry with the other, without losing sight of the greater goal?


It is early afternoon toward the end of a long work week. A spreadsheet stretches wide across two oversized computer monitors. I am dizzy from scanning rows, columns, and boxes, inputting endless metadata. I pause, close my eyes to reset my vision, and gaze back at my sheet. Though at times I crave a good spreadsheet, I can only sit with one for so long until I think, “What am I doing with my life?” I have to step back and remind myself that although the spreadsheet may sometimes be a challenging part of my job, it has great significance. In preserving the “stuff” of the past — context, provenance, metadata, the nitty, gritty details that breathe life into collections — I can draw a direct connection between the duties of my nine-to-five job and the values that drive my life.


Time Travel by Randall Munroe

Without knowing it, time travel is what led me to a career in archives. While pursuing a creative writing degree at San Francisco State University and interning at the Poetry Center & American Poetry Archives, I became enthralled with archives and the notion ofaccessibility. In working with my first archival object — a 1967 recording of Allen Ginsberg chanting the “Wichita Vortex Sutra” — it became immediately clear to me that people need to know these materials from the past exist; otherwise, what’s the point of preserving them? At that moment, I knew working with archival materials had some kind of intrinsic positive power to connect people across time. By recognizing archivists’ ability to time travel through memory, my drive to correct the wrongs of the past by amplifying experiences of the historically silenced took on new momentum.


LGBT families for immigration reform, by Christopher Edwards

As an archivist today, I’ve built upon my roots in creative writing and pursue work that supports positive social and environmental justice reform. For three years, I served as the head archivist at the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society, an LGBTQ non-profit that “collects, preserves, exhibits and makes accessible to the public materials and knowledge to support and promote understanding of LGBTQ history, culture and arts in all their diversity.” Since summer 2018, I have been serving as the first staff archivist at the Sierra Club’s William E. Colby Memorial Library, a special collections library documenting the club’s 127 year history in environmental justice. In both positions, I have been able to merge my personal and professional passions to build a more equitable, inclusive, and just world by protecting and disseminating truth through the archival record. Whereas creative writing was an early mode for these intentions to manifest, archival work serves my passions even more broadly. Archivists, much like poets, are truth tellers; we share not just the loud truths, but the quiet truths whispered by those whom history often erases.


Photos taken at the 2017 DC Climate March on April 29, 2017, by Mark Dixon

At a Sierra Club staff meeting last month, the Executive Director of the organization spoke about some of the club’s most recent victories. At the conclusion of his speech he said, “Our job is to change what people think is possible.” For archivists — the superheroes of time travel, the truth tellers of the past — it is especially relevant. Our individual pasts, stories, and experiences have enriched an increasingly diverse profession strengthened by differences in perspective. And with these differences, we each come to the profession out of a personal desire to make the world a more equitable, honest place. When archivists uncover truths, they stitch a small thread into a massive cultural and historic fabric, changing the pattern of that fabric for centuries to come.


Any time the spreadsheet doldrums get me down, I take a moment to remind myself of why I got into the archives profession all those years ago. Being an archivist is more than just a job; it is a means of traveling through collective memory and defending truths. Knowing that the ramifications of archival work stretch across space and time, archival professionals can be secure in knowing that we are true time travelers fueled by a passion to spread truth and promote greater justice. This is our professional foundation. The spreadsheet is simply a brick.

Archivists on the News: “Hidden in Plain Sight”: Institutional Amnesia and the Archives

Archivists on the News is a series where archivists share their perspectives on current news topics. This post comes courtesy of Alex Bisio, Lead Processing Archivist and Assistant Librarian at the University of Oregon.

Late February’s news cycle was dominated by yet another political scandal. Rather than the now familiar chorus of collusion, corruption, and congressional gridlock, this state-level scandal turned the national conversation toward personal accountability and the pervasiveness of racism in American culture, particularly in the recent past. The governor of Virginia, Ralph Northam, was discovered having allegedly appeared in blackface with a classmate dressed as a member of the Ku Klux Klan at a medical school party, which was documented in a photograph that was later published in the school’s 1984 yearbook.  Northam first confirmed and then denied that he was the individual in the yearbook picture. It was later discovered that two other individuals in the Virginia government had their racist actions preserved in their own college yearbooks.

White America took yet another moment to be aghast at the “revelation” that even as recently as the 1980s blatant celebrations of racism have been, and still are, incredibly common on college campuses all over the country. In this case, it could be cynically said, white America may have been more aghast at the revelation that evidence of these celebrations can easily be found by anyone at any college library or archive.

Indeed, this event in Virginia politics sent scores of student journalists to their own libraries and institutional archives, where many learned not only about past campus culture’s ties to racism, but about where that information could be located. “These documents are easily available,” wrote the editorial board of the Minnesota Daily, the student newspaper at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, “All yearbooks are available publically, free of charge, in the basement of the Anderson Library. Examples of racial bigotry are hidden in plain sight and no one really talks about them.” 1

Students weren’t the only ones who were prompted to start looking at how evidence of racism has been preserved in the historical record on college campuses. Administrators at several universities, possibly eager to “get out in front” of a potential scandal of their own, were quick to make statements condemning their institution’s racist past. A few universities have set up taskforces of administrators, faculty, and librarians to specifically examine yearbooks, both digitized and print, for what one university euphemistically termed “images of concern.” 2 It is unclear, however, what will be done with the images when the reviews are completed. Other institutions preemptively published statements regarding the potential for offensive content in their holdings while defending the practices of preserving their history. 3

Perhaps surprisingly, none of the institutions that reviewed yearbook content suggested removing historical student publications from the web or the stacks. On the contrary, many were vehemently opposed to doing so. “The offensive and racist images in our yearbooks cannot be erased any more than they can be forgotten. They are a permanent part of our record,” wrote Emory University President Claire E. Sterk in an email to her campus community, “Much as I despise what those images represent, I think it is important that Emory’s yearbooks continue to be accessible online.” 4

Certainly, it is encouraging to see college students and administrators working with librarians, archivists, and historians to confront the sins of the past rather than bury or deny them. However, the documents that reveal evidence of the often racist, sexist, and classist culture that has flourished in some of the most hallowed halls of higher education in America, were never hidden. College and university archives have been actively maintaining these kinds of documents and making them available to the concerned, or simply curious, for decades. Archivists are, furthermore, becoming more visible participants in these important conversations about the preservation and presentation of American history and culture. Is the specter of scandal, and the desire to control the media narrative surrounding that scandal, really the only time stakeholders will highlight the value of archival resources and demonstrate how institutional archives inform, and sometimes complicate, the place of campus culture in broader conversations about race, sex, and class in American history?

While it seems as if little has truly resulted from February’s media frenzy, (Ralph Northam, for example, has refused to resign from office) we can hope that white Americans will not settle back into a kind of collective amnesia about racism’s fervent hold on American institutions, even the progressive intuitions that claim to know better. We must also hope that if and when this kind of scandal floods media outlets again, that people in higher education, particularly administrators, will not suffer from the same amnesia. If we are genuine about our commitment to confronting the history of prejudice and inequality on American college campuses and dealing with the legacy in a tangible way, we cannot act surprised that these problematic documents exist and attempt to deal with the fallout as a public relations crisis. We cannot distance ourselves from the past and forget about the pain we have inflicted, only to remember when it is politically convenient to do so.


“Editorial: Acknowledging Racial, Discriminatory Historical Practices on UMN Campus.” The Minnesota Daily. February 17, 2019. https://www.mndaily.com/article/2019/02/o-editorial-acknowledging-racial-discriminatory-historical-practices-on-umn-campus.

Samsel, Haley. “In Review of Yearbooks, American University Officials Uncover Fifteen Photos ‘of Concern.’” The Eagle. February 12, 2019. https://www.theeagleonline.com/article/2019/02/in-review-of-yearbooks-american-university-officials-uncover-fifteen-photos-of-concern.

“Offensive Content in Our Collections.” UMD Special Collections & University Archives (blog), February 26, 2019.   https://hornbakelibrary.wordpress.com/2019/02/26/offensive-content-in-our-collections/.

Stirgus, Eric. “Emory University to Create Commission to Review Racist Yearbook Photos.” Atlanta Journal-Constitution, February 20, 2019. https://www.ajc.com/news/local-education/emory-university-creates-commission-review-racist-yearbook-photos/fmIbZdVCMdt2jAhhpUsKtK/.

Steering Share: The Spousal Subsidy: Gender and Low Wages in the Archives Profession

Steering Shares are an opportunity to find out more about the I&A Steering Committee. This post comes courtesy of I&A committee member, Sara DeCaro, University Archivist and Old Castle Museum Director at Baker University Library.

One of the things I have enjoyed most about Issues and Advocacy Steering Committee meetings is the interest we all seem to have in labor and wage issues. I can attest from personal experience that this is something that needs to be addressed throughout our profession. I also wonder frequently why this is still an issue. Most archivist positions require at least one advanced degree and a very specific skill set, so why aren’t wages on par with education and abilities?

I don’t believe there is just one answer to the question above. There are a number of factors contributing to low wages in the archives profession. The Society of Southwest Archivist’s recently released an article that addresses the inequity in pay between directors and staff, which is certainly one explanation. I’m sure that the survey our section recently released will shed light on other factors, too, but in the meantime, I wanted to know if there was more information already out there. When I did some digging, I found out that low wages are, unsurprisingly, an issue among museum professionals as well. And although there are obvious differences between our professions, there is also some overlap, and one author mentioned something that rang true for archivists, museum workers, and librarians: the spousal subsidy.

The spousal subsidy is the idea that some jobs can have a lower salary because the person in that position is married to someone else in a higher-paying career. Most of the time, in the past, the man made a higher salary, so women could afford to take jobs with lower pay.

The spousal subsidy is a result of the perception that certain jobs are “women’s work.” The phrase “pink-collar” was coined to describe professions that have a large percentage of female workers. Sometimes, that term was applied because the job had a large caretaking component; nurses and teachers are the obvious examples. Caretaking and child-rearing were seen as something inherently female, so these jobs were feminized. Other jobs with large percentages of women workers fell victim to this mentality as well; libraries, which have had a majority of female workers for years, are the classic example, but since the 1980s, this has also been true of archives.

Marital status is obviously no reason to discriminate against anyone. As someone who is divorced and has had the experience of living in both two-income and one-income households, however, I can tell you that the second income makes a big difference. Many employers have taken advantage of gender gap in wages over the years, and the majority of women in archives jobs has undoubtedly contributed to low salaries. Positions that are perceived as being “women’s work” fall victim to the spousal subsidy mentality: women can be paid less, because they have the support of their husband’s income. This type of archaic thinking may be one factor that continues to drive down wages and keep new employees’ pay low.

The spousal subsidy attitude hits emerging professionals particularly hard. Many recent graduates are young, single adults. Student loan debt is also a problem among this group, which has been saddled with this burden more than previous generations. On top of these issues, new professionals are facing outdated and sexist attitudes about salaries. When institutions have been able to get away with offering low wages for decades, convincing them to change is difficult.

I believe I have demonstrated that there is some deeply entrenched gender bias behind archivists’ low pay. I also think, from what I’ve observed on SAA listservs, that there are plenty of people within our profession that agree that these antiquated notions about wages need to go. I hope we can come together to affect positive change within our profession for everyone.


Archivists on the Issues: An Update on UCLA temporary librarians

Archivists on the Issues is a forum for archivists to discuss the issues we are facing today. Today’s post comes from current and former UCLA Temporary Librarians. While all the contributors to this post currently hold or held archivist positions at UCLA, the term “librarian” is used since that is way the institution classifies these positions.  At UCLA, the term librarian is used to refer to a variety of academic staff. All staff under this umbrella term are afforded the same protections. For these reasons, the terms archivist and librarian are used interchangeably throughout the text.


Since writing an open letter to UCLA Library administration in June 2018, we have received support from colleagues from all over the country. Thank you. Our situation at UCLA, and the grievance filed on our behalf by our union UC-AFT, are still unresolved and we wanted to post a brief update.

The Situation

2013 MTV Movie Awards - Red Carpet

As archivists who are classified as temporary librarians, we are well acquainted with the many reasons why the practice of hiring on temporary contracts is problematic. Over the past five years, and maybe more, our department Library Special Collections (LSC) has had more temporary archivists than permanent. This undermines the professionalism, expertise, and worth of archivists, it damages our personal lives, it diminishes institutional knowledge, it inhibits long-term decision making, and it disrespects our donors, users, and collections. These reasons and more are detailed further in the temporary archivists’ open letter to UCLA Library administrators.

LSC is continuing to capitalize on promises of “processing, preserving, and making [collections] accessible” to attract funding during UCLA’s Centennial Campaign. LSC’s funding and staffing priorities, however, tell a different story: one in which curatorial and collection development positions are given the lion’s share of endowments and funding, while archival work is addressed only once, through the creation of a relatively paltry general “fund to support the processing of high-priority collections.” (And let’s call that what it is: funding for more temporary hires to deal with processing that administration has promised to high-priority donors without regard for our staffing constraints and existing priorities.) The UCLA Library continues to respond to core and ongoing departmental needs by systematically under-staffing the Collection Management unit of LSC, which manages the work of archivists and catalogers, with precarious temporary positions, while ignoring and denying the effects of such a practice.

LSC continues to create and fill curatorial positions while its Collection Management staffing reaches critically low levels, as archivists’ contracts continue to expire. Administration has attempted to obscure this by blurring archival responsibilities in the department’s recent positions, in this way undermining professional boundaries and devaluing the work of processing archivists, as well as creating an undue burden for these positions and providing no roadmap for processing work in the long term. The concentrated effect of these decisions and hiring practices is to deprofessionalize our jobs as archivists- and, given UCLA’s size and status, is bound to have far-reaching effects on our profession as a whole.

Grievance process

Our union UC-AFT filed a grievance on our behalf in May 2018. The grievance alleges that UCLA Library is in violation of Article 18 of our contract, which details specific conditions for the hiring of temporary librarians. We have exhausted Steps 1-3 of the grievance process, as well as a preliminary “informal” meeting that occurs prior to Step 1. At each step of this process, we have reiterated the ongoing and permanent nature of our work and cited the widespread professional support that our case has garnered. At each step, Library Human Resources (LHR), UC Labor Relations, and, most recently, the UC Office of the President (UCOP) have denied our requests, citing a variety of ever-changing justifications. As of earlier this month, UC-AFT has voted to bring our grievance to arbitration.  

To date, we have not received any direct response or acknowledgment from library administration. This lack of response has been particularly disappointing.

UC-AFT includes abuse of temporary appointments in bargaining

UC-AFT Unit 17 Librarians have been engaged in bargaining with the University of California since April 2018. At its fourth bargaining session in July, UC-AFT proposed changes to Article 18 of our MOU, regarding Temporary Librarian appointments. Drawing on our experience, the Temporary Librarians helped draft the language changes and gave testimony on the necessity of the proposed changes.

The current contract language on Temporary Appointees addresses the issue by attempting to limit the scenarios in which temporary appointees are appropriate. However, UCLA continues to abuse and misapply this article by exploiting various loopholes, which we felt were necessary to close. The suggested changes include limiting the situations in which hiring temporary appointments are appropriate to three scenarios: filling in for a librarian on leave, filling in for a temporarily assigned librarian, and time-limited projects fully funded by extramural funding (i.e., grant funding) or external funding (e.g., donor-funded). They also seek to require UC to inform temporary appointees whether they will be re-appointed within a specific timeframe, as well as give more notice if they will be released early — the latter coming with the right for the employee to have an informal hearing before the release. We felt it was important for the UCOP team to hear firsthand from temporary librarians about the deleterious effects of exploiting the temporary provision and hope that the UCOP team values hearing directly from affected staff.

Future updates

If you would like to continue to get updates on the UCLA temporary archivists, please sign up here: https://tinyletter.com/UCLAtemps

Links to additional information/coverage

Daily Bruin articles:




Professional support:

Leadership of the DLF Working Group on Labor’s Statement on UCLA Archivists

SCA Statement in Support of Temporary Archivists at UCLA: https://ift.tt/2zpl4bR