Steering Shares are an opportunity to find out more about the I&A Steering Committee. This Steering Share is from Steering Committee member Jeremy Brett.
How did you get involved in archives?
I’ve always been fascinated by history and the documents and objects that make up its record. When I entered library school, I originally was planning to work in public libraries; however, very quickly I realized (being a double major in history) how exciting it was to actually handle and work up close with primary documents, to be “touching history”, as it were. I switched over to concentrate on archives, because I wanted to be in a position to work with, protect, and make accessible those documents.
Why did you get involved with the Issues & Advocacy Roundtable?
I am a big believer in the idea that archivists can no longer be neutral custodians. We have a responsibility to understand how important the records we protect are in documenting the evolution of human culture and civilization and in preserving the documentary record of our rights, responsibilities and duties in a democratic society. I think more archivists need to be aware of this crucial responsibility of ours and to make their societal value more obvious to the general public. The Roundtable, as an instrument of encouraging awareness (and occasional necessary outrage), is a very important part of SAA for this reason, and I wanted to be a part of any group that would take on this vital professional duty.
What is an archives issue that means a lot to you?
I am quite concerned with the growing (and worrying) tendency of politicians and public officials to avoid documenting their activities, their tendency to stonewall FOIA requests, or their use of the increasingly threadbare excuse of ‘security’ to escape public scrutiny. One of the fundamental tenets of our society is and should be our right to know what our government is doing in our name, and one of our responsibilities is to hold our elected officials accountable for their actions. How can we accomplish the latter unless we have a full understanding of what they’ve been up to? As archivists, we need to stand together and push for as open a records environment as we can get (allowing, of course, for personal privacy).
How would you define advocacy?
To me, ‘advocacy’ is distinct from the concept of ‘outreach’, in that the latter refers to our attempts to publicize our institutions and our collections. Advocacy, rather, to me, is a more expansive set of behaviors that incorporates active agitation for logistical-based outcomes such as increased funding or more political influence for one’s institution, as well as proactive action concerning records-related issues as a whole (i.e. access, FOIA, fair use, etc, etc.)