ICYMI: I&A’s Temp Labor Survey

Our ICYMI series provide summaries of presentations, publications, webinars, and other educational opportunities that are of interest to I&A members. If you have an issue you would like to write about for this blog series or a previous post that you would like to respond to, please email archivesissues@gmail.com. The following is from Courtney Dean,  Head of the Center for Primary Research and Training in UCLA Library Special Collections. 

Some of you may remember that I&A launched a survey earlier this year to gather preliminary data about the state of temporary labor in archives. (A PDF of the questions can be found via our public facing survey documentation: https://tinyurl.com/TempArchives. We intended for this data to gird conversations about archival labor and to serve as one piece of a series of ongoing labor advocacy efforts across LAM professions. 

A subteam of the I&A Steering Committee- Sara DeCaro, Steve Duckworth, Rachel Mandell, and me, along with I&A member Angel Diaz, took a DIY approach to both developing and analyzing the survey. (Many thanks to Lana Munip, Analysis and Planning Consultant, Pennsylvania State University, for her assistance.) Major themes and takeaways were shared out at the joint I&A/SNAP section meeting at SAA’s Annual Meeting in Austin. Since two of us are from California, and one of us was getting married, Steve Duckworth kindly presented on the results, on his birthday. (Thanks again, Steve!) Those slides are available here: I-A-Survey-presentation

Not surprisingly, many of the results supported current assumptions- archivists in precarious positions are for the most part anxious, stressed, and actively looking for work, even while temporarily employed. Academic libraries create the most temp positions, and interestingly, funding for temp positions, over half of the time, comes from the institution itself, not grant funding. What this means is that that the widespread perception of temp labor being caused by overreliance on grant funding is patently false. (For the raw quantitative survey data see the full spreadsheet: https://tinyurl.com/TempArchives)

Angel Diaz and I also shared out the results of I&A’s survey during a panel on the state of temporary labor at the DLF Forum in Tampa, FL last month. I&A’s findings are congruent with the results of the Collective Responsibility project’s survey and white paper which focus on the experiences of grant-funded digital LAM workers. In other words, we’re all in this together. 

Many of us have been thinking a lot about how to move forward from data and information gathering into future advocacy phases. How do we leverage what we now know? 

In the immediate future, we can inspire and support others to do more in-depth research and amplify these conversations. Sheridan Sayles, a new member of the I&A Steering Committee, has been working with colleagues at the University of Delaware and NYU on a research project into the status of term-limited (project) archivists to help define the scope of project positions.

We can also collaborate. A lot of labor issues overlap. For example, some of us from I&A have joined recent salary advocacy efforts around SAA job board policies and salary transparency. You may have also seen the archives salary spreadsheet floating around. And recently several folks from the leadership of AMIA (Association of Moving Image Archivists) have plugged into these conversations. I’ll also mention that the Society of California Archivists (SCA) formed a labor issues task-force, and the next Western Archives Meeting (WAM), a joint meeting with several of the western regional archival orgs, has central theme of Labor, Power, and Privilege. In short, these conversations are happening in increasingly more places. Let’s not reinvent the wheel go at it alone. Check out some of the resources below, and let us know who else out there is engaging in similar work. 


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