Steering Share: 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 Chair Courtney Dean, Head of the Center for Primary Research and Training in UCLA Library Special Collections.

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I&A Chair, Courtney Dean, at the “Archives on the Hill” event

How did you first get involved in archives?

My undergraduate degree was in History but strangely enough I never visited my university’s Special Collections (where, incidentally, I now work!). After school I worked for a number of years in community mental health where I dealt a lot with documentation compliance, record retention schedules, and record requests- things I now know are fundamental to records management. At the time, I was considering pursuing a PhD in History but serendipitously kept meeting people who had gone through MLIS programs. Their jobs sounded so cool! This was also around the same time I learned about community archiving efforts such as the Queer Zine Archive Project (QZAP) and about nascent institutional efforts to document subcultures like Riot Grrrl. When I discovered that the UCLA Information Studies program had a strong social justice focus, I was completely sold.

What made you want to join the I&A Steering Committee?

Last year I served as Vice-Chair of the I&A Section and I’m really proud of the work we did, including serving as a platform to amplify discussions of inclusivity, barriers to access, and labor issues. Former Chair, Rachel Mandell, and I even got to take our advocacy efforts to D.C., where we participated in the “Archives on the Hill” initiative, sponsored by SAA-CoSA-NAGARA-RAAC. While I’m of the opinion that change can start close to home, I also strongly believe we can and should leverage our national professional organizations to engage in community and coalition building, and to provide a space to have the conversations we need to be having as a profession. I’m really looking forward to the work we have planned for the coming year, and all of our potential collaborations both inside and outside of SAA.

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

If you know me, you know that I’m currently devoting a lot of energy towards increasing the visibility of the proliferation of temporary and contract labor in GLAM organizations, and the resulting deleterious effects on individuals, institutions, donors, researchers, and the profession as a whole. It’s encouraging that conversations are becoming less siloed- there was a mention of temp labor in OCLC’s 2017 report entitled Research and Learning Agenda for Archives, Special, and Distinctive Collections in Research Libraries; in SAA President Tanya Zanish Belcher’s recent Off the Record blog post on invisible labor; and there were excellent discussions in several of the section meetings at SAA in August including Issues and Advocacy, the SNAP and Manuscripts Sections joint meeting, and the College and University Archives Section. Stay tuned for a forthcoming I&A survey that we hope will ground the conversation in current data.

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