Steering Share: Wendy Hagenmaier


Wendy Steering ShareSteering Shares are an opportunity to find out more about the I&A Steering Committee. Our first Steering Share is with I&A Chair, Wendy Hagenmaier.

How did you get involved in archives?

I have always been fascinated by objects, stories, people, and places associated with the past–from family photo boxes and my first copy of Math Blaster to history class lectures and movie theaters that show classic films. It wasn’t until I heard former SAA President Dr. David Gracy speak during orientation at the University of Texas at Austin’s iSchool, however, that I knew archives were for me. “Records!” he exclaimed with his marvelous Texas accent. “Records are with you from the day you’re born!” I mean, really, who could resist? Pieces of the past had always seemed valuable to me–emotionally valuable, nostalgic, grounding me in a sense of context and purpose. But I began to see the “recordness” in everything around me, and the fundamental power of those records as evidence and indexes of lived experience. Working with digital archives is the most delicious challenge I could imagine. I love the constant change, the drive to learn new things every day, and the opportunity to exercise both sides of my brain.

Why did you get involved with the Issues & Advocacy Roundtable?

I moved to Georgia in 2012, when the Georgia Archives was threatened with closure. As a new archives professional and a new resident of Georgia, I found that experience profoundly transformative. It has shaped the way I view the archives profession and the importance of advocating for the value of our institutions, our work, our collections, and our users’ needs. I believe the Issues & Advocacy Roundtable can play crucial roles both in furthering SAA’s strategic goals for advocacy and in supporting the advocacy efforts of individual archivists and citizens.

What is an archives issue that means a lot to you?

I am concerned about the present and future of digital archives at the level of the individual. Every day, individuals all over the world agree to terms of service with giant corporations that are not in the business of being archives. We are granting these corporations perpetual, irrevocable licenses to our histories and identities. I want to advocate for digital archives at the level of the individual and partner with record creators to develop solutions that empower people to retain their rights to control, share, and preserve their stories and experiences. If you’re interested in this issue, too, tune in to an interview with University of British Columbia iSchool scholar Jessica Bushey on the Lost in the Stacks podcast episode that premiered on 12/4! Her research on these issues is amazing.

How would you define advocacy?

I like this definition of the verb “advocate” from the OED: “To defend or serve (a cause) through action.” That action piece seems integral to successful advocacy efforts. The action could be ongoing or brief, public or local or peer-to-peer. But no matter what, it’s an effort to make an impact–writing an op-ed, talking with a legislator, encouraging a friend over coffee, drafting a proposal for library administrators, researching the backstory behind an issue, marching in a demonstration, etc. And I think a crucial piece of that action is understanding your audience–getting into the mindset of the person or group you’re striving to impact and developing a strategy for action that has the greatest chance of resonating.


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