Great Advocates: Casey Davis

Back in March, we asked you to nominate “Great Advocates”–SAA members who inspire you with their advocacy efforts. Thanks to your nominations, we have a fantastic slate of Great Advocates.

You are cordially invited to join I&A’s gathering at SAA in Atlanta on Friday, August 5 from 7:30-9:00 am (it’s early, but there will be donuts and coffee!) for an engaging Q&A with leaders of advocacy efforts from SAA’s recent history, reflecting on their work and the future of advocacy within SAA.

To get everyone in the advocacy spirit in these weeks leading up to SAA, we’re publishing Q&As with each of our Great Advocates (including some who won’t be able to join us on August 5th).

To submit questions for the in-person session and follow the event, please tweet at @archivesissues using #GreatAdvocates or email archivesissues [at] gmail [dot] com.

Once they’ve all been posted, you’ll find all of the Q&As in the series here.

GreatAdvocates_1Great Advocates Q&A with Casey Davis

How would you define advocacy?

I would define advocacy as publicly supporting a political, economic, social or other cause and making recommendations for action or change.

What was the very first lesson you learned about advocacy–either how to do it or why it’s important?

The first lesson that I learned about advocacy was that finding allies to advocate for the cause with you is crucial. With allies, more perspectives are represented, and together you can work to refine your goals and objectives. With allies, there are more voices advocating for your cause. And with allies distributed across the country, your message can take root at the local level.

Describe your most memorable experiences with advocating for archivists and archives.

I’ve had so many memorable experiences over the past year working with the members of ProjectARCC, but I guess if I had to choose one experience, it would be my initial realization that it doesn’t have to be done alone and that alarm and fear about a problem can be turned into fuel for action.

In October 2014, I became alarmed about climate change after my boss awakened me to the urgency of the issue. After reading some of the recent scientific literature, I literally became paralyzed in fear for several months. It was all I could think about, but I had no idea how any effort I took could be of any help. The global and immense nature of the problem made me feel that there was nothing that I could do. I wasn’t a scientist and I wasn’t plugged in to any advocacy or activist groups. But after a few months, I had the idea to share my concern with my colleagues at a conference. I prepared a short talk explaining the issue, my concerns about its relevance to the archival profession, and some ideas regarding ways that archivists could take action on climate change. After giving this talk at the New England Archivists / MARAC 2015 conference, a flood of relief came over me. After voicing my concerns and realizing that others had the same concerns, and there were people who wanted to help and work together to take action, my fear, coupled with my new allies, became my fuel.

If you could encourage archivists to do just one thing to help advocate for the archival profession, what would that one thing be?

Use your collection to provide context and perspective to the problems our world faces today. Consider how archival collections can be used to educate and inspire our citizenry to make better decisions. Elevate materials in your collection that are relevant to today’s injustices and concerns. Archives can change perspectives and motivate collective action by helping ordinary people today understand how ordinary people in the past overcame society’s problems and injustices. In doing this, not only are you advocating for the archival profession by demonstrating its relevance, but you’re also advocating for societal progress.

What strategies and skills would you recommend archivists use when they are advocating for something in their local context (for example, for additional funding or personnel, policy changes, etc.)?

1) Build a community of support among your users.
2) Collect quantitative and qualitative evidence of the use and value of your collection.
3) Tailor your message when communicating value to various stakeholders.

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

Climate change. There is consensus among scientists that climate change is real, that it is human driven, and that significant steps need to be taken now to reduce and eliminate the greenhouse gas emissions that are causing climate change. Climate change is already underway, and it will have significant impacts on our ability to preserve archival collections for future generations. Acting on climate change should be a core issue of advocacy and professional responsibility among archivists. We have a responsibility to understand climate change and its impacts (current and future) on our regions, to advocate for necessary funding and resources for climate change adaptation and mitigation planning, to advocate for collectively reducing our greenhouse gas footprint, to elevate our collections that are relevant to the problem of climate change to help improve public awareness and understanding of climate change, and to actively pursue collections documenting climate change, including climate change activist groups, to ensure that this time of significant change is preserved and can be understood by future generations. ProjectARCC exists to motivate the archival profession to take action on climate change. I encourage you all to get involved! Contact me at casey[at]projectarcc[dot]org to learn more.

What motivates you to continue when the going gets rough?

Answer: Climate change can seem like a far away problem unlike other societal problems facing us today. I’ve found that if I don’t force myself to think about it often, it can fall out of my scope of current concern. Having colleagues and allies to hold me accountable has been the best form of motivation.

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