Steering Shares are an opportunity to find out more about the I&A Steering Committee. This post is from Steering Committee member Stephanie Bennett.
Hello, internet! I am a new member of the Issues & Advocacy Roundtable Steering Committee, so I’d like to introduce myself. As some of you know, I currently work as Collections Archivist at Wake Forest University Special Collections & Archives in Winston Salem, NC. Wake is my alma mater, though not the site of my first library or archives job.
What was your first job in a library, archive, or museum?
Prior to earning my Masters, I was a consultant in Washington, D.C.; as a lifelong library user, when I was looking around for volunteer opportunities, I was excited to take one shelving books at my local library. I loved the work environment and enjoyed working among the librarians and library workers, so I turned my love of research, organization, and library/archives/museum folks into an MLS.
What made you want to join the I&A Steering Committee?
I first learned about IART when my friend Jasmine Jones became active with the roundtable while we were in graduate school. I love that it provides a forum for people to advocate for their point of view on any manner of subjects as well as learn about advocacy in general. As archivists, we see and learn about and touch a wide swath of topics issues in our work—not to mention what we experience as humans—so let’s talk about them, conduct research, and share our knowledge with influencers in many walks of life. And of course I love being part of advocacy efforts for archivists and archives! After graduate school, I became curious about salaries in the field because very little salary or benefits information is transparently presented in job ads. Thus a survey (and a report) was born.
What is one major issue you see archives tackling in the next five to ten years?
I love the ongoing conversations about labor and archives and hope that we continue to work on improving and diversifying archivist labor as well as archival content. My survey gets at the ideas of compensation and, relatedly, compensation-related stress, and also presents thoughts from archives workers who see work-life support as an invaluable bonus to our labor. We lose folks in the field due to the stresses and sometimes the simple impracticality of pursuing work in the field, who I occasionally hear from due to my survey. Others have started writing and talking about archivist and archives labor as well. Stacie Williams has written poignantly about systemic inequalities in labor and how to disrupt those. Eira Tansey has published research on the topic in addition to writing here about labor as well. Just this week, folks again have been discussing prison labor on archives projects in the context of Ava DuVernay’s film for Netflix, 13th. Archivists are professionals but we are also laborers and it’s to our detriment if we forget that.
What archive issue means a lot to you? Describe and share an interesting archive you have come across over the years.
I care deeply about our field and those of us who move through it. I am always stopping by libraries and archives when I travel, looking at the ways in which people interact with their local history and heritage. I recently had the opportunity to attend a National Council on Public History Camping Conference (as cool as it sounds) and was thrilled to be among historians and even a fellow archivist all the way from Washington! We were able to talk about the history and the future of culture and the outdoors, archival resources and perspectives, diversity and inclusion particularly in outdoor spaces, and of course stars and s’mores construction (have you tried making s’more with peanut butter cups?!). The connections that we’re able to make with others and turn into benefits for our communities never fail to inspire me.
Please let me know if you have an issue (or issues!) that you would like to write about here on the blog or if there’s something on your mind that you hope IART will tackle in the coming years. I look forward to being part of the IART Steering Committee and am here to help y’all to the best of my abilities. Thank you for the opportunity to serve!