Steering Share: Vice Chair Courtney Dean

Steering Shares are an opportunity to find out more about the I&A Steering Committee. This kick-off post comes from I&A Vice Chair/Chair Elect Courtney Dean, a Project Archivist at the University of California at Los Angeles Library Special Collections.

I&A Vice Chair Courtney Dean
I&A Vice Chair Courtney Dean
1. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOUR JOB OR THE ARCHIVES PROFESSION?

In my current position at UCLA Library Special Collections, I oversee the day-to-day operations of the Center for Primary Research and Training (CFPRT), an innovative program which pairs graduate students from across campus with special collections projects in their field of expertise. I give the CFPRT scholars a crash course on archival theory, and train them in arrangement, description, and preservation best practices. Often times it’s the first interaction they’ve had with primary sources, and it’s thrilling to watch them realize their projects and hear how their experience in Special Collections directly affects their own research. Aside from the students, I love the strong community of practice among the archivists I work with. We hold informal study groups to expand our skillsets in things like RDA, XML, and born-digital archives. It’s exciting to be constantly learning and surrounded by such smart and passionate colleagues. Finally (last thing!) I’m inspired by the meaningful conversations about issues like transparency, ethics, and privilege that are happening within my unit.

2. WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO JOIN THE I&A STEERING COMMITTEE?

I’m heavily involved in a local professional organization in Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Archivists Collective (LAAC), which I co-founded with some friends of mine a few years ago, and I really enjoy directly interacting with local archivists, archives, and communities. After the recent presidential election though, I felt like I wanted to step up and do more in terms of national advocacy for things like IMLS, NEH, and NEA funding, and raising awareness about the importance of archives in general. I’ve also long admired I&A efforts to spotlight issues like neutrality, climate and environmental data, and #ArchivesSoWhite, which was another big motivating factor for my involvement. I served on one of the News Monitoring teams last year, but this is my first year on the Steering Committee.

3. WHAT IS AN ARCHIVAL ISSUE THAT MEANS A LOT TO YOU?

There are so many issues! As Rachel mentioned, a focus on digital preservation is absolutely essential. Not only does inaction put our existing collections at risk, but bigger issues of government accountability and an inclusive historical record are at stake. I come from a community-oriented service background (in my prior career I worked in community mental health) so issues of accessibility, inclusiveness, and historical silences are also of utmost importance to me. I’m heartened that the profession is finally beginning to acknowledge systemic oppressions and the implications for our collections, access and use, scholarship, collective memory, and the makeup of the field itself. Of course we still have a long, long way to go! Lastly, an issue near and dear to me is the (over)reliance on temp workers in our field. I’ll save that for another post though!

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