Steering Share: Meet Sara DeCaro

Steering Shares are an opportunity to find out more about the I&A Steering Committee. This post comes courtesy of committee member Sara DeCaro, the university archivist at Baker University Library. 


Profile Pic Greece1) What was your first experience working with archives?

I was lucky enough receive the Mary Louise Meder Internship in the State Archives division of the Kansas Historical Society when I was working on my MLS. It was a great introduction to archives, and it was paid! I wrote finding aids for two collections of personal papers and did some work with Kansas Memory, the KSHS’ digital image website. I enjoyed every minute of it, too. It reaffirmed my decision to pursue a career in archives.


2) What do you hope to gain by being on the I&A Steering Committee?

I initially became a part of I&A because I had never served on a committee in any of the professional organizations I belong to, and I&A seemed to match my interests. This is my second year on the steering committee, and I already feel like I’ve gained a lot. Having the opportunity to work on our temporary labor survey was meaningful to me personally, as someone who has held temporary positions in the past, and although analyzing all that data was a bit challenging, I learned a great deal. One of my Steering Shares from last year also led to participation in a panel discussion at the Annual Meeting in July, which was also a very worthwhile experience.


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

Low wages in the archives profession is a very important issue, in my opinion, and one that I’ve been able to explore as a result of my involvement in this committee. That was the focus of the panel discussion I mentioned before. It’s a widespread problem in the archives world, for a number of reasons. I knew that after reading the responses to our survey, but listening to the other panelists and hearing their stories made the scope of the problem very clear. I like being able to contribute to a solution, even if it is in a small way.


4) What can we find you doing outside of the archival profession?

I’ve recently started volunteering with Kansas City Pet Project, my local animal shelter. I wasn’t ready for a new pet when my cat passed away, but I missed cats and wanted to be around them. Shelter environments can be stressful for cats, so I’m glad I can give them a little comfort.

Steering Share: Meet Courtney Dean

Steering Shares are an opportunity to find out more about the I&A Steering Committee. This post comes courtesy of the past-chair of the I&A committee, Courtney Dean, the head of the Center for Primary Research and Training in UCLA Library Special Collections.


1) What was your first experience working with archives?

As an undergrad I wrote a paper on the history of May Day in Boston using mircrofilm copies of old newspapers, but that’s as close I got to anything remotely archival for a long time. When I was thinking about grad school I came across the Queer Zine Archive Project (QZAP) and the Riot Grrrl collection at Fales and was disabused of the notion that archives are stuffy and elite. Then I found out “archivist” was an actual job and was completely sold. My grad school internships were at the Wende Museum of the Cold War, Pacifica Radio Archives, and LACMA. I worked with artifacts and artworks; ¼ inch audiotapes; and institutional records. While in grad school I also worked in the Center for Primary Research and Training in UCLA Library Special Collections, a program I now head. There I had the opportunity to work on collections from the June L. Mazer Lesbian Archives as part of their partnership with UCLA Library.  

2) What do you hope to gain by being on the I&A Steering Committee?

This is my third(!) and last year on the Steering Committee and I hope to contribute to both the continuity and sustainability of the section and its ongoing work. So much volunteer work is thankless and burnout-prone, but I’ve always appreciated how I&A’s charge is broad enough for folks to pursue issues of importance to them. The enthusiasm of my fellow steering committee members is infectious, and I look forward to pushing forward conversations around issues facing the profession. 

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

Fair and ethical archival labor has been something I’ve been passionate about for a long time- everything from paid internships to temp labor to salary transparency and barriers to entry in the profession. Aside from I&A, I participate in the Digital Library Federation’s (DLF) Labor Working group, co-chair the Society of California Archivists (SCA) Labor Issues Task Force, and am on the organizing and issues committees for the librarian unit of my union. Right now a lot of this work involves data collection, which can hopefully be leveraged to better advocate for change. Like others have mentioned, I’ve also started thinking more and more about the environmental impact of the profession- flying to conferences, digital storage, etc. 

4) What can we find you doing outside of the archival profession?

Way too much of my free time has been devoted to archives adjacent activities, but I’m trying to get better with boundaries and work life balance. I play guitar in a punk band called Red Rot, just joined a rad book club, and am obsessed with my cat, Walrus. (My other feline bff Potato just passed away last week which was really hard.) I’m also currently watching Deadwood for the first time.


Steering Share: Meet Genna Duplisea

Steering Shares are an opportunity to find out more about the I&A Steering Committee. This post comes courtesy of committee member Genna Duplisea, archivist and special collections librarian at Salve Regina University.


1) What was your first experience working with archives?

After working in the library stacks my first year of college, I transferred my work-study to the Special Collections and Archives department because when I often walked by its glass doors and beautiful sculptural gates, I thought it looked interesting. For the rest of my time at Bowdoin, I was an assistant there, learning how to handle and organize everything from architectural plans to brittle folded nineteenth-century correspondence to newspaper clippings to masses of trophies. The collection was robust and the department busy, so I got to see the variety of research primary sources could provide. My supervisors encouraged enthusiasm about the collection and the environment allowed me to take joy in my work. One year for my grandfather’s birthday I found for him the alumnus file for a doctor from our family lore – he had delivered one of my ancestors on a kitchen table!

2) What do you hope to gain by being on the I&A Steering Committee?

Much of my reasoning for pursuing a career in archives is my desire to contribute positively to human rights and the environment. It can be difficult and overwhelming at work to stay grounded in the ever-changing landscape of concerns and ideas linking archives to social justice. Attending to the role of archives in combating prejudice and harm means advocating for our labor, too. Serving on the I&A Steering Committee will, I hope, help me do the things I entered this profession to do, by connecting me more closely to the work addressing social and environmental justice issues and placing me in a position to support or join in archival activism.

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

I see climate change as underpinning every problem and political issue because it affects every community. Archivists have a role in helping communities preserve and protect their heritage as the climate becomes more unpredictable, and we also have lot to do in addressing our profession’s carbon footprint. How do we perform memory work for changing and disappearing communities without further contributing to the source of that change? As part of Archivists Responding to Climate Change (ProjectARCC), I recently collaborated with other archivists on hosting Climate Teach-ins and hope to contribute to the growing body of writing on archives and climate change in the coming year.

4) What can we find you doing outside of the archival profession?

Reading, writing, and basic fiber crafting are also among my hobbies, which almost goes without saying in this profession. It cracks me up to around the room of archivists and seeing a bunch of people knitting during a presentation, which I have been known to do. Additionally, I’m not very sporty, but I love going for walks. There is a land trust in my community that maintains beautiful walking trails. I’m trying to learn more about the plants and birds I see and develop a stronger knowledge of the natural world. My houseplants are also doing all right

ICYMI: Introducing the A4BLiP Anti-Racist Description Resources

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 The following is from Annalise Berdini, Digital Archivist at Princeton University’s Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library and member of A4BLiP. 

Archives for Black Lives in Philadelphia (A4BLiP) is a loose association of archivists, librarians, and allied professionals in the Philadelphia region responding to the issues raised by the Black Lives Matter movement. The A4BLiP Anti-Racist Description Resources project began as an initiative formed by various A4BLiP members in fall of 2017, specifically after a presentation they collaborated on at the 2017 SAA Liberated Archive forum with Teressa Raiford. Teressa is a Portland-based activist and founder of the organization Don’t Shoot PDX. Following the presentation, Teressa asked the group for recommendations for how she might approach a catalog audit. She wanted to initiate a project at Oregon State Library after learning about a racist subject catalog card there that a staff member had posted on Twitter. (The card read, “Negroes see also Crime and criminals. Portland.”)  

After some discussion, A4BLiP members realized that this was an area that lacked guidance for those doing archival description; many could recount instances of seeing description applied in ways that were racist, but none of us knew of any specific recommendations for how to address this in a programmatic way. As a way to both provide a framework for our own audits of racist description and to hopefully provide guidance that would be useful to other (white) archivists, we decided to create a set of recommendations collated from existing resources that we gathered for an extensive literature review, and enhanced by some of our own experiences. Additionally, the working group felt strongly that due to the fact that most of us were white women, we needed to ask for help from Black archivists to ensure that our recommendations did not cause harm and that we were, in fact, helping other archivists create more inclusive description. We created a GoFundMe for the project so that we could pay these reviewers for their time and expertise, and successfully funded enough to recruit nine reviewers, who contributed extensive recommendations and additional resources to the project. We are incredibly grateful for their assistance, which created a much stronger and more thoughtful product. 

The A4BLiP Anti-Racist Description Resources are broken up into three sections: a set of metadata recommendations, an annotated bibliography, and an extensive bibliography. The extensive bibliography was gathered first, reviewed in detail by members of the working group, and informed the other two sections.

The metadata recommendations are comprised of practical examples for anti-racist description that we hope can be put into practice across a wide array of institutions. The section is broken up into seven areas of focus, including Voice and Style, Community Collaboration and Expanding Audiences, Auditing Legacy Description and Reparative Processing, Handling Racist Folder Titles and Creator-Supplied Description, Describing Slavery Records, Subjects and Classification, and Transparency. Our recommendations in each of these sections were informed by our literature review as well as examples from our own experiences and the experiences and recommendations of our reviewers. Some recommendations should be fairly easy to apply day-to-day, like removing flowery and valorizing language in biographical notes or using accurate strong language like ‘rape’ or ‘lynching’ when appropriate. Others are more difficult and will require institutional change, like developing and maintaining ongoing relationships with collection creators in order to learn the language they use to describe themselves —  and to use that language in our description of their records. We hope that these recommendations will give others practical places from which to start their own descriptive review processes. They are by no means exhaustive, but include what we thought to be the most helpful and important recommendations.

The annotated bibliography includes a selection of theory-focused articles from the extensive bibliography that we chose to highlight based on their critique of descriptive practice and theory. Some of the articles, blogs, and presentations included do not necessarily focus on Black experiences or collections in the pursuit of highlighting shared strategies for anti-oppressive description. Our review in preparation for developing this resource reinforced our understanding that there is a wealth of research and dozens of important contributions to rectifying archival erasure and white supremacist description. But we recognize that few of us have as much time as we would like to read all of these works, and so we created the annotated bibliography in the hopes that it would help others quickly find resources that would help them rethink archival description.

For those looking to get started on creating more inclusive description, we recommend checking out the metadata recommendations first, particularly the sections on Voice and Style, Auditing Legacy Description, and Handling Racist Folder Titles and Creator-Supplied Description. These are probably the sections that will be most immediately applicable to most archives — how many of us have seen overly flowery and glowing biography notes of ‘great white men’, or passive language used to describe atrocities or distance humanity? How often do slavery records prioritize the enslavers before the enslaved? This is work that we as archivists can address quickly and which (hopefully) does not require overarching institutional change. 

We acknowledge that our recommendations are a starting point that highlights the work that other archivists have already done, but we hope that by gathering some of these practical recommendations, more of us can begin to undo the harm that our description often causes. The recommendations can be found through the A4BLiP site.

Steering Share: Meet Steering Committee Member Holly Croft

Steering Shares are an opportunity to find out more about the I&A Steering Committee. This post comes courtesy of committee member Holly Croft, the digital archivist at Georgia College. 


1) What was your first experience working with archives?

Archiving is a second career for me, and I quit the first without a clear plan with what I wanted to do next. I started volunteering on an indexing project for a nonprofit where I would attach metadata to digital versions of their collection materials. It was extremely calming in a time where I felt that many things were up in the air, and I would spend hours working on the indexes.

Because it was a volunteer position, I didn’t catch on immediately that the indexing project was part of a larger career field, but I eventually researched it and learned the avenues through which one becomes an archivist. The following fall, I applied to graduate school, and I have never looked back!

2) What do you hope to gain by being on the I&A Steering Committee?

I am so delighted to be a part of the I&A Steering Committee, and I am looking forward to working with the rest of the committee to assist archivists who need support in a variety of ways. As Joanna mentioned in her Steering Share, this is a small community, so it only makes sense that we’re stronger together.

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

Recently, this committee has taken a look at labor practices particularly surrounding temporary positions and the precarity they create for those who end up taking them. This is, unfortunately, an ongoing concern.

I also am increasingly uneasy with additional labor dumped on archivists, particularly under the guise of “other duties as assigned” and “doing less with more.” This is a topic that hits labor markets well beyond archives, but I’ll bet the majority of archivists have a story about these phrases biting them in some way at their jobs.

These are only two of a myriad of topics affecting archivists today, and I am looking forward to being able to assist where possible.

4) What can we find you doing outside of the archival profession?

I have become the crazy cat lady people warn you about becoming in library school! Two months ago, I had two cats. I took in a stray that looked a little rotund at the beginning of October, and mid-October, I suddenly had six cats.

Just kidding – I could tell there were kittens coming when I took in the third. So, I’m spending a lot of time socializing these little ones and getting them ready for their forever homes.

Additionally, I love cooking and preserving food, gardening, and reading.

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 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: 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:

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. 


Steering Share: Meet Committee Member Sheridan Leigh Sayles

Steering Shares are an opportunity to find out more about the I&A Steering Committee. This post comes courtesy of committee member Sheridan Leigh Sayles, technical services archivist at Seton Hall University.

1) What was your first experience working with archives

SpringShare profile picI grew up in a town rooted in history—Richmond, VA—and always had a love and fascination with old things. When I went to undergrad, I started working in the Library and that inspired me to look into all aspects of heritage work. I enrolled in the Museum Studies minor and learned about exhibit design, preservation, and got the opportunity to intersperse practical work with my studies. I fell in love with the practice of handling the objects—I remember one day getting to see the preservation housing for an outfit worn by President James Monroe in Paris, and I knew I’d found the right career!

2) What do you hope to gain by being on the I&A Steering Committee?

This is my first year on the Steering Committee, so I am still learning about what the committee does and how we affect SAA policy and all that good stuff, but I feel like we are in a good position to connect archivists with resources that can help them in their careers and with their interests. Through our blog and other resources, we can connect archivists at all stages of their careers with material to help them do their jobs better, or advocate for themselves and the practices they’d like to uphold. And I’m thrilled to be working with the I&A veterans and learning from them on how to affect change.

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

I’m really invested in archival labor and supporting early career professionals! I’m currently working with colleagues at University of Delaware and NYU on a research project into the status of term-limited (project) archivists and I’m hoping that our data can help define the scope of project positions. I think a big part of this question starts with ethical internships and making sure that the work they are doing will ultimately translate into success on the job market. Beyond that, I’ve been following the research on archivists and climate change and seeing recommendations on that.
4) What can we find you doing outside of the archival profession?

I was a competitive figure skater in a past life, so you can often find me in an ice rink jumping, spinning, and all that good stuff, or coaching youngsters. It’s so rewarding taking my students to their first competitions, not only to see how much they’ve grown as skaters, but also to show them how hard work can pay off.

Steering Sharing: Meet I&A Committee Member Samantha Brown

Steering Shares are an opportunity to find out more about the I&A Steering Committee. This post comes courtesy of committee member Samantha Brown, Assistant Archivist at the New-York Historical Society.

1) What was your first experience working with archives?

IMG_20180510_195725578_2My first experience working in an archive was in graduate school. During my second semester, I had taken a processing class where you split your time between the classroom and a field site. While at the field site, I had a friendly relationship with the archivists and assisted them with a project. A few months after the class ended, out of the blue, I received an email from the supervisory archivist at the field site asking if I was interested in a job. Being a grad student, and constantly in need of money, I excitedly jumped at the chance to gain more experience in my chosen profession while also gaining a bit of money to help pay my mounting bills. 

The job itself gave me a wide range of experiences. The focus of the job was on processing but I also gained experience providing reference services in a university setting and digitizing a wide range of documents. Getting to work in a professional setting during grad school was incredibly help. I was able to learn what the job was like on a day to day basis and learn about what parts of the profession fit me and my skills best. 

2) What do you hope to gain by being on the I&A Steering Committee?

During my first year on the committee, I feel like I was just trying to get a hold on what the expectations for me were. While I had previously served on the committee as an intern, being a full committee member is a different experience and comes with a new set of rules. Now that I’m in my second year, I want to work on building connections between archivists. Many of us seem to be struggling with our jobs for one reason or another and it would be great if we could find a way to support each other, to help others out during times of strife. 

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

As a profession, I feel like there are many issues that were facing. One problem that I was confronted with recently is legitimizing our profession to people that don’t use our services. Of course historians, social scientists, and genealogists will see the value of archives and archivists but how do you get scientists or engineers to care about what your doing. Historical records aren’t things they need to deal with on a daily basis and, because of this, many people in those fields see our work as something unimportant.If we want to continue our work and receive the funding that we so desperately need then we need to find a way to reach people who don’t use archives and teach them about the inherent value of historical records. We can’t spend all of our time educating people, of course, but if people keep thinking of history as an unknowable and unreachable thing then they won’t value what we can provide them.

4) What can we find you doing outside of the archival profession?

Outside of work, I’m a bit of a nerd. I enjoy playing Dungeons Dragons, reading scifi and fantasy novels, and playing video games. Nothing beats getting together with a group of friends and fighting off a dragon. 

Steering Share: Meet I&A’s New Chair Joanna Black

JoJoBlackMy name is Joanna Black, and I am the 2019-2020 chair of SAA’s Issues & Advocacy section. What an honor it is to be part of such an impactful and meaningful section, and it’s an equal honor to be working alongside very talented professionals in the section’s Steering Committee.

This is the first Steering Share blog post of the season, so please let me take a moment with the rest of my colleagues to tell you a little bit more about myself.

1) What was your first experience working with archives?

My first experience working with archives was in 2008 as an undergraduate student at San Francisco State University. I was looking for an internship and came across a listing for an “Archives Intern” at the University’s Poetry Center and American Poetry Archives. I didn’t know anything about archives, but it sounded mysterious enough for me to take a chance. Upon working with my first “archival object” – a 60 year old recording of an on-campus poetry reading from Allen Ginsberg – I knew immediately that there was something special about working with archival materials. I was hooked, and off to an MLIS program I went!

2) What do you hope to gain by being on the I&A Steering Committee?

Actively participating in the I&A Steering Committee is such a privilege, and I hope to learn from my colleagues and fellow section members more about the issues that are most impactful to our profession. Additionally, I hope to learn some of the creative ways in which those issues are being tackled both inside and outside of SAA. Being part of a small profession places extra importance on building strong professional communities, and I aim to build this with fellow section members as well as with SAA members more broadly. By the end of my tenure as chair, I hope to know many more SAA members on a first name basis and learn more about their experiences working in the archives profession.

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

Advocating for the importance of the archival profession is a really important issue to me. Our jobs are made so much more difficult when, on top of our impossible workloads, we are tasked with advocating for our positions – even within our own organizations! Each of us entered the archival profession because the work means something significant to us, and communicating that passion to others is an important way to strengthen public awareness around the significance of our work. As much as I like being a secret superhero of cultural heritage, broader awareness of the archives profession would help ensure job and funding stability, public engagement with cultural and historical resources, and a possible societal shift in how we think about our past, present, and future heritage.

4) What can we find you doing outside of the archival profession?

When I’m not thinking about memory, metadata, or manuscripts, I enjoy the simpler things in domestic life: writing, reading, gardening, listening to music, playing with my two cats, and taking walks through the gorgeous California redwoods surrounding my home in Oakland, California. I also really love sleeping. 

Archivists on the Issues: Where are all the California Archivists?

Archivists on the Issues is a forum for archivists to discuss the issues we are facing today. Today’s post comes from Joanna Black, the Digital Archivist at the Sierra Club’s William E. Colby Memorial Library.

It started with a discriminatory “bathroom bill” and ended with the absence of almost an entire state’s worth of SAA members. For this upcoming SAA 2019 annual conference in Austin, TX, there will be a considerable gap in representation from California-based archivists, most of whom are employed by the State of California.

Many of us recall in 2017 when the issue was first brought to the attention of SAA members. After the SAA Council narrowly voted to move forward with holding the 2019 annual conference in Texas – a state where legislators tried passing “bathroom bill” SB6[1] and, when that failed, passed HB 3859[2] which allows child welfare providers to refuse adoptions to LGBTQ individuals based on “sincerely held religious beliefs” – the SAA Council acknowledged[3] that Californians will be subject to California State Assembly Bill 1887,[4] which bans California State employees from traveling on business to Texas. This ban extends to the SAA 2019 annual conference.

Putting aside the appalling nature of HB 3859 and how social justice intersects with the archival profession (which the SAA AGM Program Committee Co-chairs acknowledge here), little attention has been given by SAA leadership on the impact of California archivists’ absence from this year’s conference. Beyond loose commitments to implement “live-streaming and/or other virtual conferencing options”[5] for those who cannot travel, and with limited evidence[6] two weeks before the annual conference that this commitment will be adequately honored, the exclusion of most California SAA members should be of concern to all members who value diverse perspectives and inclusion within the organization.

Each SAA annual conference is a chance to share professional values, build partnerships, and exchange ideas. It is one of the most prominent opportunities of the year for members to introduce themselves to greater diversity within the profession. The SAA Archives Records 2019 program website states:[7]

By attending the Joint Annual Meeting, you can:

  • Bring back fresh ideas and new knowledge to benefit all of your colleagues;
  • Discover cutting-edge tools and resources in the Exhibit Hall;
  • Enhance your professional development by attending a pre-conference course;
  • Become a better advocate for the archives, records, and information profession;
  • Network with colleagues, who may share new ideas you can implement at your institution or in your classroom; and
  • Promote your institution’s profile in the archives community!

But without the attendance of most California archivists – one of the most diverse blocks of archivists in the world – SAA members should consider how this absence limits perspectives within the conference itself and hinders the exchange of information within the profession as a whole. California is home to some of the most forward-thinking archivists in SAA, but how will their knowledge reach other members? How do California archivists build partnerships with other institutions when most are excluded from this year’s primary networking event? As one archivist from the University of California library system told me last month, “As archivists, we like to discuss inclusivity, but I do not find anything inclusive about holding our national meeting in a place where the majority of the archivists from our largest and most diverse state are unable to attend.”

As a California-based archivist, I am one of the lucky few who will be attending the conference this year (I am not a California State employee). I will be representing my institution as well as all my California colleagues who can not attend. As I prepare to be “on the front line”[8] of activism in Texas, I reflect on SAA’s Statement on Diversity and Inclusion. Diversity, it reads, encompasses not just “socio-cultural factors” but “professional and geographic factors” that reflect SAA’s “desire for broad participation from archivists working in various locations, repository types and sizes, and professional specializations.”[9] With little support offered to those California-based archivists excluded from the conference this year, SAA is falling short of its own commitment to “promote diversity and inclusion in all of [SAA’s] professional activities with an eye to ensuring effective representation of our members.”[10]

The SAA 2019 annual conference promises to address the intersection of social and political issues with the work of archives and archivists.[11] This also extends to the ways SAA members are able to show up, participate, and grow within the organization and its events. All SAA members should be cognizant of our colleagues, whether from California or elsewhere, who cannot attend the 2019 annual conference. When conference goers come together in Austin next month, let us support not only those whose lives are negatively impacted by the bigotry steeped in bills like HB 3859 but our archivist colleagues as well who, by extension of discriminatory legislation, have been excluded from this year’s gathering.


[1] Alexa Ura and Ryan Murphy, “Here’s what the Texas bathroom bill means in plain English,”, (July 13, 2019).

[2] Legislature Of The State Of Texas, Chapter 45. Protection Of Rights Of Conscience For Child Welfare

Services Providers, – navpanes=0, (July 13, 2019).

[3] Tanya Zanish-Belcher, “An Open Letter to SAA Members Regarding the Location of the 2019 Annual Meeting,”, (July 13, 2019).

[4] State Of California Department Of Justice Office Of The Attorney General, Prohibition on State-Funded and State-Sponsored Travel to States with Discriminatory Laws, Xavier Becerra. Assembly Bill No. 1887. (July 13, 2019).

[5] Zanish-Belcher,

[6] There is no mention on the program website that any virtual conferencing options will be available to members. However, after reaching out to Carlos R. Salgado, Manager of SAA’s Service Center, regarding the virtual conferencing option, I was told that SAA “will be introducing live streaming this year and will be posting information to the conference website this week” (email received Jul 15, 2019).

[7] “‘Making Your Case’ to Attend,” (July 13, 2019).

[8] Zanish-Belcher,

[9]  SAA Council, “SAA Statement on Diversity and Inclusion,” (July 13, 2019).

[10] ibid.

[11] Zanish-Belcher,