Steering Share: Respect the student employee

Steering Shares  provide an opportunity to learn more about the I&A Steering Committee and the issues that the committee members care about. This mid-year post comes courtesy of committee member Steve Duckworth, University Archivist at Oregon Health & Science University.

In my last Steering Share, I spoke about my concerns on archival labor. This is an issue that is being discussed more and more, including in Courtney Dean’s recent Steering Share and in Fobazi Ettarh‘s piece, “Vocational Awe and Librarianship.” For this post, I’m going to take this to a slightly more positive place (and prep for a presentation that I’ll be giving on the topic in April!) So…

Let’s talk about ways that archival professionals can maximize student positions and internships for the betterment of the student, while hopefully also getting some benefit out of it for our institutions. Please note, for the purposes of brevity, I use the word “student” as a general stand-in for employees, interns, or volunteers who are enrolled in a degree program and hoping to find a professional position in the library, archives, or museum fields.

My student workers tell me, and I like to believe them, that I’ve been extremely valuable in helping them find full-time employment. Can we all agree that one of the main goals of a student job is to find a professional position? Unfortunately, I feel that’s not how many pros out there view it. Mostly we view student employment, internships, and volunteer work as cheap labor to help us do what we need to get done because we’re all underfunded. But, while ‘getting stuff done’ is important, training and mentoring the doers in the process of the doing is much more valuable.

What I’m talking about is not all that revolutionary, but it does seem to be a little abnormal. Look at these student positions as mentorship opportunities, rather than cheap and temporary labor.  Some of the more concrete ideas you can try out in your own institution are listed below: 

  • Train students in archival practices. I was surprised to learn that students were often not trained for other jobs they’d had. Think of the job as a long-form class in archival processing and management, teach skills to help students negotiate complicated decision making and to know when to ask for help.
  • Be flexible when possible. If students don’t have public service duties, allow for flexible scheduling. If you have work that can be done offsite, consider allowing students to work from home from time to time.
  • Aid students in the job search process. Review resumes and cover letters; offer in-person and online interview practice sessions; recommend jobs they should apply for. If your institution has open sessions or presentations for job applicants, invite students to attend – it’s great experience to watch other people interview for jobs.
  • Expose students to a wide variety of job functions: exhibit planning, cataloging, reference support, physical and digital processing, project planning, etc.; the skills will come in handy for applying to a wide variety of jobs.
  • Support professional growth and scholarly output. Get to know students’ goals and interests. If possible, allow some work time for research. Offer financial support for meeting or conference attendance as possible, or help find a roommate, rideshare, or other cost-cutting measures. List students’ names as authors on finding aids; this helps during the job interviewing process. Where possible, instead of describing them as a “Student Assistant,” try “Archives Assistant” or no title at all.
  • Involve students in everything. I’ve learned students love new experiences and also getting away from their desks – the bonus for them is learning more aspects of the profession. Bring them everywhere: donor meetings, records pick-ups, hunting expeditions in the stacks, etc. Encourage students to attend relevant trainings being offered or events on campus. Allow them to serve on committees if they are interested, but don’t pressure them into it.

These are some concrete actions you can take, but more important is the work environment that you cultivate. Try to create a supportive environment where students feel comfortable asking questions and voicing opinions. This helps them develop and feel a part of the work being done, but also empowers students to bring up new thoughts on how to tackle problems. Don’t be afraid to learn from your students! Allow your ideas and common practices to be challenged by someone with a fresh view. Build trust with your workers and allow them autonomy to learn and grow; you should also review their work and offer feedback and critique when needed.

In assembling these ideas, I talked to my student workers and heard from them that one of the best things I’ve done for them was to not be condescending. Apparently they get a lot of condescension in both classroom and job settings. So I recommend that we try being more respectful or deferential, and more approachable and welcoming. I like to think that’s a simple place to start, and the rest can grow from there.


Steering Share: Records in (Processing) Action

Steering Shares  provide an opportunity to learn more about the I&A Steering Committee and the issues that the committee members care about. This mid-year post comes from committtee member Stephanie Bennett, Collections Archivist at Wake Forest University.

Many of our posts lately have been related to the fruits of research labor, an important part of advancing our field’s theory and practice. I would not be the archivist I am today without the research output of our archival predecessors or all the archivists who put their sweat and sleep (or lack thereof) into bountiful articles and books.

In my day-to-day work as a collections archivist, however, I am currently mostly focused on processing output and related supervision. What University records and manuscript collections suffer from a lack of description, and which of those are the highest priority? What tasks must be done by a professional archivist (which means me) and what tasks can a student tackle with supervision? What support or learning do I need to become a better supervisor and colleague to the students, staff, and other library faculty who rely on me? We all know what it is like to have many collections that need care and feeding but limited staff and budgets with which to accomplish such feats. In a department of six full-time faculty and staff, with three part-time workers, prioritization is the name of the game.

Last year, with the aid of a couple of students, we reprocessed our University archives photograph collection. The previous inventory was really a box list, not an intellectual arrangement; plenty of images were not included and instead scattered in various corners of the stacks. What a great opportunity to reorganize our images, collect everything together, and create a plan to make adding new materials easier in the future! I decided to arrange the images according to their record group, since especially internal users are often seeking images from a specific department and because the archivists on staff are familiar with its organization. Many moons and about 50 additional linear feet later, a new finding aid has arisen.

But we’re not done with the photographs yet! As is the case at many archives, I’d bet, our photographs collection is heavily trafficked and contains some real gems. To aid and simplify reference work, we decided to digitize every last image in our collection. With the help of our hard-working Digitization Lab faculty member and student staff, the images are currently being scanned.

But we all know with great images comes great needs for metadata.

Thankfully, instead of piling this work on our Digital Collections Librarian, we are able to hire a part-time metadata technician; she is an experienced cataloguer who has worked with special collections materials in the past. With supervision from me and my boss, and support from our team of archives and digitial initiatives colleagues, she will be providing detailed description for these thousands of images. Her work will be uploaded in batches to our University Archives Photograph Collection online as it becomes available (seriously, these images are in such high demand that we cannot make them searchable fast enough).

As with any processing project, you know there will be trial and error – not in part because I have much to learn about supervision work, and I find there’s always something with projects like this that arrives unanticipated. Humanity, am I right?! And an upcoming research post on this very blog has me wondering if we’re doing enough to make the images and descriptions accessible for all, note to self. Regardless of what awaits our work in the coming months, I am so very excited to improve access to these images by leaps and bounds! In addition to repaying my reference colleagues for all the baked goods that they supply me with, of course I am – the whole team is – thrilled at all the potential uses this will open up for our photographs.

Steering Share: Considering Labor Models in Archives Work

Steering Shares  provide an opportunity to learn more about the I&A Steering Committee and the issues that the committee members care about. This post is by I&A Vice Chair/Chair Elect Courtney Dean, a Project Archivist at the University of California at Los Angeles Library Special Collections.

While it is imperative that we critically examine our institutional policies, collecting efforts, descriptive practices, and user services, I would argue it just as essential to consider the affective experience of archival labor. Much work has been done in recent years on this concept of affect and the archive (see the March 2016 special issue of Archival Science and other work by Marika Cifor, Michelle Caswell, and Anne Gilliland) and this scholarship considers central questions such as:

What is the capacity of recordkeeping processes, or of records or the physical place of the archives to engender psychological and physiological responses in those who encounter them? What is the nature of those affects? What are the affects for individuals, communities and nations of the absence or irrecoverability of records? In what ways, and to what extent, do records, and the holdings of our archives capture or contain emotions and other forms of affect that were experienced by the creators or others engaged or present in the making of the records? How should the archivist represent such affect to potential users, and how should the archivist anticipate and respond to affective responses and reactions on the part of those users? What kinds of affect are experienced by the archivist? What ethical imperatives and dilemmas does a consideration of affect present for practicing archivists? What theoretical concepts and models might be challenged by explicitly incorporating affective considerations? (1)

Increasingly, attention has also been directed to the affective experience of employment in Library and Information Science (LIS) professions. Fobazi Ettarh’s exploration of what she has termed vocational awe attempts to “to dismantle the idea that librarianship is a sacred calling; thus requiring absolute obedience to a prescribed set of rules and behaviors, regardless of any negative effect on librarians’ own lives.” (2) Ettarh calls attention to the very real prevalence of burnout, under-compensation, job creep, and lack of diversity in LIS. Kaetrena Davis Kendrick’s The Low Morale Experience of Academic Librarians: A Phenomenological Study takes a close look at the development, experience, and repercussions of low morale, including physical and psychological effects and the long-term impact of “repeated and protracted exposure to emotional, verbal/written, and systemic abuse or neglect in the workplace.” (3) Davis Kendrick has recently announced a follow-up study on low morale in minority academic librarians, which will address issues such as microaggressions and the recruitment and retention of librarians of color.

Check out Fobazi’s keynote at the Pushing the Margins symposium:


While the aforementioned examples specifically address librarianship, they can just as easily be applied to archives and archivists. Perhaps even more endemic in the archival profession, however, is the reliance on temp workers, further compounding issues of job satisfaction. Chela Scott Weber’s OCLC Research Report Research and Learning Agenda for Archives, Special, and Distinctive Collections in Research Libraries specifically mentions a need for investigating the long-term effects of term labor. “There is growing concern regarding ways in which insecure employment affects both the diversity of the profession and the cadre of early career professionals who often fill term roles, as well as how forced turnover, fluctuating staff resources, and the short-term frameworks inherent to project-based work affect our programs in the long term.” (4)

Even though the labor issue did not rise to the top as a priority for further OCLC research, they have been very supportive of interest and future work in this area. To this end, a colleague and I have been considering how to go about conducting a survey which captures both a snapshot of the current usage of temp labor in archives, and the costs, both emotional and financial, of reliance on this labor model. What percentage of the labor force in the field is temp workers? Is the practice of creating/hiring temporary positions greater now than it has been in the past? How does this affect diversity in our profession? We have all heard the anecdotes and have experienced, or can speculate about, the resultant anxiety, inability to make major life decisions, and constant relocating that plagues individuals, and the loss of institutional knowledge and transient staff that face institutions. However, there has historically been little to no actual data collected about the affective experience and long term effects of temp labor.

One of the end goals, besides data collection, is to publish our findings, and create a document outlining best practices for temporary positions. Initially this began as a much smaller undertaking, mainly to arm ourselves with information to present to our own institutional management. In the course of conducting a literature review, and talking to colleagues across the profession, it quickly became apparent that this is much sought after information that would have a wide reaching impact, and we plan to reach out to groups that are already engaged in complementary work in allied professions, such as the DLF’s Labor Working Group.

It is my hope that this work will inform awareness of the long-term effects of temporary labor and encourage conversations about labor models in our field. While it is likely that temp positions will never go away entirely, there are steps that can be taken to ensure that the experience is meaningful and ethical.

Works cited
  1. Cifor, M. & Gilliland, A.J. Arch Sci (2016) 16: 1.
  2. Ettarh, Fobazi. Vocational Awe and Librarianship: The Lies We Tell Ourselves. In the Library with the Lead Pipe. January 10, 2018.
  3. Davis Kendrick, Kaetrena. (2017). The Low Morale Experience of Academic Librarians: A Phenomenological Study. Journal of Library Administration. 57.
  4. Weber, Chela Scott. 2017. Research and Learning Agenda for Archives, Special, and Distinctive Collections in Research Libraries. Dublin, OH: OCLC Research. doi:10.25333/C3C34F.


Steering Share: An Update on the Fight for Net Neutrality

Steering Shares  provide an opportunity to learn more about the I&A Steering Committee and the issues that the committee members care about. This post is by I&A Intern, Samantha Brown. Along with serving as I&A’s intern and Social Media manager, Samantha works as an Assistant Archivist at the New-York Historical Society.  

Back in mid-December, the FCC overturned net neutrality protections and voted for a rule titled the “Restoring Internet Freedom Order” (Cameron 2018). Under previous Net Neutrality rules, the internet was treated as a public utility which required that ISPs, also known as Internet Service Providers, treat all internet traffic the same (Huffman 2018). With the FCC’s new order, ISPs will no longer have to follow those previous rules and will not be prevented from blocking content or creating fast lanes for those customers that pay more (Cameron 2018). Additionally, companies like Time Warner or Comcast can favor access to their own sites over that of their competitors (Reardon 2018).

Despite the new ruling by the FCC, the fight for Net Neutrality has not ended.  Since the FCC’s vote, twenty-one states, along with the District of Columbia and several public interest groups, have filed lawsuits which attempt to block the FCC’s new rules. The suits claim that the FCC failed to provide adequate justification for the reversal of Net Neutrality rules and that evidence showing how changes to the rules would harm individuals and business were ignored. Additionally, those filing the suit are arguing that the FCC is using an unreasonable interpretation of federal communication laws and that they are unlawfully overruling state and local regulations. By bringing this issue to the courts, those filing the suits hope to have the FCC’s “Restoring Internet Freedom Order” reviewed so that it can be determined whether the rule is illegal and unconstitutional (Shaban and Fung 2018).

The courts are not the only place where the fight for Net Neutrality is taking place. The U.S. Senate is also attempting to overturn the FCC’s ruling. Senators are trying to accomplish this by using the Congressional Review Act. This act allows Senators to use a simple majority vote to initiate actions to overturn the ruling of a federal agency but the vote must happen within sixty days of the action being registered with congress (Kang 2018). Currently, all forty-nine Democrats in the Senate along with one Republican, Susan Collins of Maine, are ready to use the Congressional Review Act to reinstate previous Net Neutrality rules but they still need one more vote to make sure their decision is not overturned (Reardon 2018). Since the FCC has not filed their decision with the federal registry yet, a process that can take days or weeks to complete, Senate Democrats may have some time to find another person to join them on their vote (Kang 2018, Shaban and Fung 2018).

If Senators do manage to gain enough votes then the resolution would need to be approved in the House of Representatives and signed by the President. Passing the vote in the House could be a problem for two reasons. First, the Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, would need to approve the vote. This issue can be avoided by filing a petition with 218 signatures which would allow the vote to take place even if Speaker Ryan opposes it (Kang 2018).  This brings us to the second issue. There may not be enough people in the House who support Net Neutrality or overturning the FCC’s ruling. Currently Republicans have a majority in the house with 238 representatives to the Democrats’ 193 (Reardon 218). If, by some chance, the Democrats can muster support in the House, then the President would need to sign the legislation. This may present another problem since the White House has publically stated their support for the FCC’s decision (Kang 2018).

Even though the possibility of saving Net Neutrality seems slim, there is a glimmer of hope. The minds of Senators and Representatives might be changed if they hear from enough of their constituents. The Policy Director of the Free Press Action Fund, Matt Wood, has stated that congressional offices have received millions of calls on the issue of Net Neutrality. With that many voices in support, the issue is likely to get the attention of lawmakers (Huffman 2018). If lawmakers listen to the voices of their constituents then there is a possibility that the resolution could pass the House and Senate or that legislation could be introduced that would uphold Net Neutrality protections. Continuing to call your Senators and Representatives will ensure that they continue to pay attention to this issue and understand the concerns people have. Ensuring that Net Neutrality remains in place is important not only so that we have equal access to the websites of our choosing but also so that free speech on the internet is not limited. While we only have a slim possibility of net neutrality being protected, there is still a possibility which means that we should continue the fight to protect the internet as it currently exists.


Works Cited

Steering Share: Bringing First-Generation College Students into the Archives

Steering Shares are an opportunity to find out more about the I&A Steering Committee. This post comes from I&A Chair Rachel Mandell, Metadata Librarian at the University of Southern California Digital Library.

A few months ago, my colleague Giao Luong-Baker and I responded to an Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) call for proposals to write a chapter for a forthcoming publication, Supporting Today’s Students in the Library: Strategies for Retaining and Graduating International, Transfer, First-Generation, and Re-Entry Students. My colleague and I both work in the University of Southern California’s (USC) Digital Library, where we make archival materials and digital collections discoverable to researchers online. More specifically, as the Digital Initiatives Librarian, Giao creates partnerships both on campus and with local community groups to develop projects that preserve and also promote collections, materials, and untold or underrepresented histories. And as the Metadata Librarian, it is my job to describe and publish these materials in our Digital Library.

We responded to this call for proposals, because although we have recently seen more literature surrounding first-generation college students and the role that academic libraries can play in helping these students meet academic demands and expectations, there seems to be even less written about how archives and archivists can also play an active role in the first-generation college student’s experience. We structured our proposal first around the research practices and learning theories that help to identify gaps where first generation students are left out of current archival collection policies. We then presented two case studies, which demonstrate how the USC Digital Library is currently engaged in the process of expanding digital collections to be more inclusive and diverse by partnering with an array of contributors including professors and community archives.

Our proposed article titled, “Validation in the Archives: Developing Inclusive Digital Collections to Promote First-Generation College Student Engagement,” was accepted! As we started researching learning theories, we realized that the critical and multicultural pedagogies theory, which holds that if students are engaged in the process of knowledge construction, they are more likely to be active participants in their education (1), completely supports our first case study. This case documents the oral history collection created by students of Pulitzer Prize winner Viet Thanh Nguyen, who recorded the detailed accounts of Vietnam War participants. I actually wrote about this collection in a previous Steering Share when I first started working on it. This project can serve as a model for bringing more student work into the archives, therefore validating the students’ efforts.

Our second case study is the Independent and Webster Commission materials, which documents the aftermath of the 1990s Los Angeles civil unrest. The Independent and Webster Commissions were tasked with exploring the perceptions minority communities had of the Los Angeles Police Department surrounding the Rodney King beating and subsequent civil unrest. These materials were only recently disembargoed. We chose this collection as an example of how collection development can serve as a tool for engagement with the local community.

The crux of our article is that collections like these two create a more representative resource that reflects the university’s demographics, including first-generation students, which are now nearly 20% of USC students (2). At the USC Digital Library, it is our ultimate goal to create and promote inclusive and cutting-edge scholarship wherein students of all heritages and levels of privilege can find validation in the archives. Keep an eye out for our upcoming chapter in what promises to be an interesting new book from the ACRL Press!


(1) Rashné Rustom Jehangir, Higher Education and First-Generation Students: Cultivating Community, Voice, and place for the New Majority (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), 55

(2) USC Trojan Family Magazine Staff. “First- Generation College Students Transform the Face of USC “ USC Trojan Family. Accessed July 25, 2017.

Steering Share: Lisa Calahan

The Steering Shares series provides an opportunity to learn more about the I&A Steering Committee and the issues that committee members care about. This introduction post comes courtesy of Steering Committee member Lisa Calahan, Head of Archival Processing at the University of Minnesota.

Lisa Calahan
Steering Committee member Lisa Calahan

My favorite thing about my job is that every collection is different and I can never get bored. As Head of Archival Processing, I lead a lot of processing projects and there are never two collections that are the same. For example, I am currently managing processing projects for a collection of comic books, a social welfare organization, a civil rights activist’s papers, a theater company, two rare book collections, a collection on youth work, a historic architect’s records, and a partridge in a pear tree. I love assessing each collection, discovering (or attempting to discover) what clues the material and original order convey and piecing the information together in a cohesive way that can be useful to researchers. I also like seeing history “in the raw.” When I’m appraising new archival collections, very few others have peaked into the boxes and the collections have yet to be subjected to interpretations. It’s an incredible opportunity to be reminded how powerful and sneaky bias can be and try to remember to check my own before creating processing plans.


I’m a long-time member and listserv lurker. I&A is one of the most active sections I’ve been involved with; I wanted to be a part of the activity and help keep the section successful!


An issue that means a lot to me is valuing the concept of “shared authority” and how our profession can better collaborate with communities. The professional model that archivists are taught, at least I was taught, involve removing the historical record from the community and keeping the records in a “safe” place. By doing so, we also alter the ability for communities, especially historically disenfranchised communities, to retain ownership and power over their histories. I think a lot about how we as archivists can use our knowledge to support community based archival efforts to build relationships rather than building collections.

Steering Share: Hope Dunbar

The Steering Shares series provides an opportunity to learn more about the I&A Steering Committee and the issues that committee members care about. This introduction post comes courtesy of past I&A Chair Hope Dunbar, Special Collections Archivist at SUNY Buffalo State.

Past Chair Hope Dunbar
Past Chair Hope Dunbar

As the immediate past-chair of the Issues and Advocacy Committee, I’ve had the opportunity to help direct our projects throughout the past year. I will be echoing many of the sentiments shared by my other committee members in their Steering Shares.

I&A is so essential because it provides a concentrated focus on issues related to archival advocacy—a task which can at times be onerous, but has never been more essential to historical preservation and cultural heritage institutions. In our political climate, regardless of political affiliation, it is easy to become exhausted, to be worn down by the immense number of highly adversarial policies, positions, actions, laws, and events. I&A provides a constant and steady voice on topics effecting archivists.

It has been an honor to serve as the I&A Chair, and I look forward to serving on the committee in the 2017-2018 term.

Steering Share: Alison Stankrauff

The Steering Shares series provides an opportunity to learn more about the I&A Steering Committee and the issues that committee members care about. This introduction post comes courtesy of committee member Alison Sankrauff, University Archivist at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan.

Hello, everyone, I’m Alison Stankrauff, the University Archivist at Wayne State University. I’ve been on the Issues and Advocacy Section’s Steering Committee since 2009 (a long time!) and I was Chair of I&A from 2010 to 2012.

Steering Committee member Alison Stankrauff
Steering Committee member Alison Stankrauff

Advocating for archival collections, the historical record, and the archival profession drives me as a professional. We are in an age that advocating for primary sources and access to them is all the more pressing. I am drawn to speaking for the collections, their repositories, and their caretakers (us – the archivists!).

What we do as archivists – acting as connectors for people to their historical memory – is such a critical role in the fabric of society at all levels – whether that’s at the community level, the state level, the regional level, national level, and international level.

I’ve been an archivist for fifteen plus years now. I’ve been in my current position as University Archivist at Wayne State University since September; previously, I was Archivist and a Reference Librarian at Indiana University South Bend for thirteen years. And prior to that, I was a Reference Archivist at the American Jewish Archives. At all three of my professional positions as an archivist, I’ve felt that this role as connector is key to what I do each day and as my identity as a professional on a deeply personal level.

As I go through this year serving on the Issues and Advocacy Section’s Steering Committee, I look very much forward to sharing this deep connection to advocating for our materials, our archives, and us as professionals. Thank you for the opportunity to serve!





Steering Share: Steve Duckworth

Steering Shares  provide an opportunity to learn more about the I&A Steering Committee and the issues that the committee members care about. This introduction post comes courtesy of committee member Steve Duckworth, University Archivist at Oregon Health & Science University.

Steve Duckworth
Steering Committee member Steve Duckworth
What is your favorite thing about your job or the archives profession?

My favorite thing about the archives profession, in general, is that within every collection I’ve seen, even the ones that are 95% bland meeting minutes, I manage to find something that intrigues me or makes me laugh (often just at the absurdity of the past). And I think this really informs how I see and deal with the present. I’m a late-comer to the archives profession so perhaps this will wear off someday, but I rather hope not.

The thing I enjoy most about my current job though, is that I get to work with and mentor a couple of library school students. I work in a health and sciences archives (i.e., medical/nursing/dental/etc. school), so we don’t have a library program. However, we do have a bit of money in the budget to hire student workers and since Portland has an MLIS program (at Emporia State University), there is a good pool of library students to hire for these positions. So, even though I don’t officially teach any archives courses, I do get to train and mentor these students in archival practices; help them shape their resumes and cover letters, and navigate the job application process; and guide them as they find their own voices and places within the profession. I get to answer their questions, learn more about what they are being taught in school, and have my choices and assumptions questioned. So, not only are they learning and gaining professional experience, I’m constantly learning from them and reevaluating the work I do.

Having been a music teacher before embarking upon the archivist lifestyle, getting this experience back – of teaching what I know and learning from those I teach – is something I highly value having in my life again.

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

I had already been involved with I&A – having been on one of the on-call research teams for 2 years. Being still relatively new to the profession, I was finding my niche and really liked what I saw coming out of the I&A Section. I liked how they tackled both issues within the profession itself and within archives, as well as related concerns in current news and events. And I was also drawn to the different forms of blog writings that they had invited anyone to contribute to. To me, it seemed like they were working hard to make anyone feel like they could be a part of the change they wanted to see.

I especially liked (and even once wrote for) the “Archivists on the Issues” series – where the ever ‘neutral’ archivists were finally allowed to have a public opinion. Anyway, after two years of on-call news searching and blogging, the call for Steering Committee members spoke to me … I could have a say in the future of this group and the initiatives they take on for the next two years. So, now I get to manage one of those news teams, write blog entries (such as this), and help shape the direction of I&A.

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

One of the thorns in my side with the archives profession how we value our labor – or do not value our labor. We have a lot of unpaid labor happening, and this is something many people have spoken of. We also have a lot of under-paid labor. And a ton of temporary positions. And contract positions. Many of us are aware of these concerns. I was personally lucky enough to move into permanent employment after one project archivist position, but I know plenty of people who bounce around from project position to project position – and not out of the sheer joy of relocating every year or two.

I have a related issue with passion. I truly hope you love your job and enjoy going to work every day. However, if you’re being paid to work 40 hours per week, but end up working 50, 60, or more hours on a regular basis because of your passion (or the tenure-track-inflicted passion you are required to exude), you are also part of the problem. I’m sure this statement will bother a lot of people, but unpaid work in all forms devalues the work archivists do. When we accept lower pay and higher hours, we signal to people that we can get by, that our work isn’t worth that much, that money isn’t a huge concern – because we love what we do. [Editor’s note: Fobazi Ettarh writes eloquently about this in her post “Vocational Awe?”]

This devaluation also hinders access to the profession. If you can afford to be underpaid or potentially unemployed after a 2-year position ends or move to a new city to take one of these jobs where you’ll likely have to pay for your own healthcare and miss out on employer sponsored retirement savings – you probably have some privilege you may not even be aware of. Your privilege may also allow you to work extra hours because you can afford to only have one job or you are single or don’t have children or are coupled and have easier access to child care (there are a lot of ways this can play out; I’m just trying to make a point). This leaves the not-so-privileged trailing behind in the race to find a job – and then the rest of us sit around and try to figure out how to diversify the profession. I don’t mean to rant here, but perhaps this is where my passion has gone. Perhaps working as a struggling freelance musician for over a decade before entering this profession taught me more about the value of work and the joys of employee-sponsored benefits. Perhaps I’m trying to use my own privilege to affect some change. And obviously I don’t have this all figured out yet. But, this is definitely an issue that needs more attention.

Steering Share: Stephanie Bennett

Steering Shares  provide an opportunity to learn more about the I&A Steering Committee and the issues that the committee members care about. This post come courtesy of committee member Stephanie Bennett, Collections Archivist at Wake Forest University.

What is your favorite thing about the archives profession?
Steering Committee member Stephanie Bennett
Steering Committee member Stephanie Bennett

There are lots of things that I enjoy about our profession – providing access to unique materials that tell stories and demonstrate history outside of rare books; working with our students, who brighten my days with their good-natured smiles and 90s renaissance denim; researchers full of questions; finding aids with well-structured, clear information. But my favorite thing is archivists! I have so much respect for my coworkers and professional colleagues – interesting people who are invested in our work and who also have developed other aspects of life, deeply. We are archivists and also artists, activists, bakers, gardeners, hikers, many adoring pet owners, movie buffs, sports enthusiasts, woodworkers, and on. I thank y’all for being generous with your skills and passions – archival or otherwise – on the clock, on the internet, and over lunch at SAA annual meetings. I do my best to pay your goodwill forward!

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

I admired the work of Issues & Advocacy and wanted to help make it happen! It can be a struggle to fit professional work into busy lives (see above), for all of us who have the means to join committees and those who do not. But committees are so useful for helping us all advance goals at work and on a broader societal level. They – we – take on some of the bigger questions or issues that I am too tired to tackle alone after a day on the job, days when I struggle to go for a run or eat some pizza (or both). Individually I’m not going to think deeply about innovative ways to talk to various communities about archives and archivists, advocating for work that confronts our biases instead of concealing them, finding sparks of inspiration from conferences that I haven’t gone to. But that’s what I&A is for! My time on the section’s steering committee has been as rewarding as I had hoped when I put myself up for nomination.

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

Most things that are intrinsic to archives are important to me. As a Collections Archivist, my day job centers around providing access to all, eliminating backlogs, and introducing people unfamiliar with archives to our field (not sure how many archivists can get away with not having to explain our work to the uninitiated!). But I am really, really, passionate about archives salaries and other things wrapped up in the “people at work” part of our profession: salary and other benefit negotiations, well-developed leadership in archives and libraries, fair pay for us and our paraprofessional colleagues, and all that jazz. One day, I would love to do proper research and  advocacy in this area, because I think these topics are tied up in how archivists advocate within our institutions and in our communities and countries. But my brain and my planning skills haven’t caught up with my ambitions yet! I’ll let I&A know when they do.