Steering Share from Rachel Mandell

Steering Shares are an opportunity to find out more about the I&A Steering Committee. This post comes courtesy of I&A committee past-chair, Rachel Mandell, Metadata Librarian at the USC Digital Library.

What is your favorite thing about your job or the archives profession?

Currently, my favorite aspect of my job is being able to train and hopefully mentor new librarians/archivists. From chairing the search committee to training, to answering daily questions, I have been given the opportunity to reexamine my own practices and gain a fresh perspective on the field from someone who graduated from library school recently. Before accepting my current position, I worked a series of temporary jobs. During those project positions, I was never given the chance to train and supervise a new librarian. This has been an extremely rewarding experience and I am looking forward to taking on more leadership roles in the future.

Enjoying the desert sun!

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

I first joined the I&A Steering Committee 3 years ago as the I&A intern. I had never served on an SAA Section and figured it would be a good opportunity to get a sense of what that would be like without too much commitment. At the time, I was working as a contract employee and had very little institutional support for any sort of professional development or any activities outside of my clearly defined job duties. That first year, I worked on a survey to figure out how to improve the Toolkit. By the time the election cycle for the next year came around, I had found myself in a permanent position, which encouraged library faculty to seek opportunities to serve on national committees. I spent the next two years serving as Vice-Chair and then Chair of Issues and Advocacy. It’s a great section, with broad interest and capabilities. As the current Past Chair, I am excited to see where the Steering Committee decides to focus its efforts.

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

In echoing the sentiments of many of my fellow steering committee members—the issue of relaying on contract employment and exploitative labor practices is one of the most pressing issues facing our profession. While we have a long road ahead in terms of shifting our own practices and beliefs regarding this situation, I feel reinvigorated by the statement issued by the Society of California Archivists for support of the open letter distributed by the temporary archivists from the UCLA special collections.



Steering share from Sara DeCaro

Steering Shares are an opportunity to find out more about the I&A Steering Committee. This post comes courtesy of I&A committee member, Sara DeCaro, University Archivist and Old Castle Museum Director at Baker University Library.

What is your favorite thing about your job or the archives profession?

There are some great things about being a “lone arranger” at a small private college. I have a lot of control over what we collect and projects we choose to take on. I also have a good idea of where the gaps are in representation, and I can actively take steps to fill in those gaps. I noticed, for example, that we don’t have a lot of records from student organizations on campus. These can be a very rich source of information because student organizations often form to meet the needs of historically marginalized groups; that was definitely the case when our African-American student group formed here in the 1970s. I’ve had conversations with them and our fairly new LGTBQIA group about future donations, and the response has been positive.

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

Archives and archivists, generally speaking, seem to be chronically underfunded and viewed as somehow lesser, or not essential. I’m really tired of that, and I want to do something about it. I know that’s a broad statement, but even if this is just a small thing I can do to enact change, it’s important to me.

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

Diversity and inclusion, in both our collections and employment practices. I think one of the most basic things we can do as a society to correct years of injustice towards marginalized people is to make sure their legacies are preserved. Labor issues are also very important to me; I often feel that wages for archivists don’t reflect the level of training and education we have.

Intern Share from Kristin Hare

Steering Shares are an opportunity to find out more about the I&A Steering Committee. This post comes courtesy of I&A Intern Kristin Hare.

What is your favorite thing about your job or the archives profession?

My favorite thing about the archives profession is archivists! I’ve reached out to total strangers through Twitter, listservs, and professional organizations for career advice, graduate school assignments, or with processing questions and I’ve never encountered anything but encouragement and a genuine willingness to offer any help they can. The archival profession is full of hardworking, kind professionals that will go out of their way to assist the new kids.

I also love the chaos of introducing yourself to an institutional archive for the first time. I interned with the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston, South Carolina and my first encounter with their institutional archive was a rollercoaster of confusion, excitement, and feelings of rage towards scotch tape and paperclips.

What made you want to join the I&A steering committee?

I have a strong interest in the role of archivists as advocates for marginalized people, their histories, and records. The shift towards equitable access rather than equal access within the field is a movement that I firmly believe in and I’ve really enjoyed watching archives professionals advocate for change. I also feel a responsibility to consider how my own identity and values impact my work within the field. I think most would agree that neutrality as an archivist is nearly impossible. Getting involved with the I&A steering committee seemed like a great way to continue to learn about the diverse issues within archives and challenge myself professionally.

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

The inclusion and preservation of LGBT materials within archives is an issue that means a lot to me. During my graduate program, I researched the unique challenges archivists face when working with LGBT materials, including ethical concerns, cataloging and copyright issues, and privacy. I designed a research study to explore the information seeking behavior of transgender, intersex, and non-binary persons within South Carolina and I currently serve as a member of the South Carolina Library Association’s GLBT roundtable. I’m interested in the lack of representation and safe access to information within archives and libraries faced by LGBT persons and the steps professionals can take to bridge those gaps and improve services and programs for the public.

Steering Share from 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.

What is your favorite thing about your job or the archives profession?

One of my favorite things about working in archives is that you get to be a bit like Sherlock Holmes. It’s the archivist job to go through everything and piece together the clues about who the creator of the collection was and how that creator used and organized the collection. Every item you look at contributes a new detail that you can use to solve your mystery. While solving that mystery, you get to learn about a topic you may never have known about before. An even if the collection deals with topics you’re familiar with, it may come at it from a completely different angle which will show you a new way to contextualize history. The fact that working in archives forces me to constantly learn and explore new ideas is something I love about the job.


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

After working as an intern for the committee, I knew that I wanted to join as a full member. My experience getting to work with everyone was so fulfilling that I didn’t want it to end after just one year. Working with the committee has allowed me to connect with other archivists and deal with issues that our profession is facing. Not only do we discuss the issues but we try to come up with concrete ways to solve the problems. While trying to get people who are scattered across the country to work together can be a struggle since we all have differing time zones and responsibilities, we all put in an effort to contribute something.

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

An issue that I have been thinking a lot about lately is the value of archival labor. It seems like a regular thing at this point to hear a story about how a researcher or historian visited an archive and discovered a lost piece of history. What so many of these stories neglect to say is who enabled that person to find that item. Even if a story acknowledges that the researcher used a finding aid or consulted with an archivist, there never seems to be any acknowledgment of the work that archivists do to make the materials available and accessible. This, to me, shows an inherent problem that archivists face. People may know we exist but they don’t know what we do or why it’s important. If the public at large doesn’t understand our work then they can’t value it. While they may think that the materials we work with are treasures, they fail to understand that those treasures can’t be preserved and accessed unless someone does some kind of work.  This lack of understanding can also contribute to the anger people feel when they can’t access something they want. Without understanding what we do, people can’t understand the framework we work within and how that can restrict use of a collection or material. By helping people understand what we do as archivists, we can help them gain a greater understanding of what archives are and why our work is so valuable.

Steering Share: Steve Duckworth’s second year with I&A

Steering Shares are an opportunity to find out more about the I&A Steering Committee. his post comes courtesy of committee member Steve Duckworth, University Archivist at Oregon Health & Science University.

Hello again. This is my second year on the I&A Steering Committee and I’m excited to be back and helping continue the work of this group. This year, I’ll continue to oversee our news monitoring efforts, but we’re going to turn away from the monthly list of news reports and have a few people blog on news items of interest to them. This, I hope, will result in a more focused look at a few topics rather than a really shallow overview of a ton of topics.

For my first Steering Share this year, I’ll attempt to avoid repeating my answers from last year, even though my thoughts haven’t really changed much.

Steve having fun with mold.

What is your favorite thing about your job or the archives profession?

I still really enjoy mentoring students and new professionals, and hope to do more of that as my career continues to grow. But another thing I really enjoy about this profession is the archival community. For the most part, I’ve met amazing people with great ideas and a drive to do something about them. I’ve been lucky enough to have great mentors of my own and am constantly meeting people that I want to collaborate with on some project or another. I am learning to limit those projects to what I can actually handle in a given time period, but the ideas are still great and that positive energy helps keep me going.

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

I’ve been involved with I&A for a few years and, again, the people have been great to work with and really keep me wanting to stay involved. This committee is involved in a lot of issues that I feel are important not just to archives, but also to humanity – climate change, labor practices, open records, and truth in information exchange. It’s a great way for me to work within the profession, but know that the work I’m doing has some further reach.

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

Last year, I wrote about labor issues here. This is an area that I’ve continued to focus even more on in the past year – and I think some of these issues are becoming bigger and more widely spoken about. In the past year, the UCLA Project Archivists have spoken out loudly about the structure of that institution’s labor practices. I’ve continued to advocate for better labor practices for student employees. And I even advocated for myself when I felt I was not being fairly paid by my own institution. I think advocating for ourselves may be even harder than advocating for others – people don’t want to come off as needy or pushy or selfish. But I think we need a bit more push in this profession. What we do is important and we need to push others to understand the value of that work and stop accepting the status quo.

Steering Share: Hello, from Summer Espinoza

Steering Shares are an opportunity to find out more about the I&A Steering Committee. This post comes from I&A steering member Summer Espinoza, Digital Archivist at California State University, Dominguez Hills

“El Archivo”

How did you first get involved in archives?

I have enjoyed history from an early age. I used to visit my local public library’s reading room to listen to records and gaze upon all the “old materials.” As a child, my father also took me to antique shops where I learned to appreciate history from antique vendors, and sometimes take home a piece. The first time I discovered my own history was at my local library in a 1918 phone directory of my hometown– I found my great-grandparents’ street address.

It wasn’t actually until after I completed my degree that I connected these influences in my early life to my decision to earn an archives and records administration degree from San Jose State University.

At one of my first paying positions at a cultural heritage organization close to my hometown, I found a record of my great grandfather’s work as a citrus picker in materials not yet identified as having archival or historical value. I took it as a sign that I had landed in the right place.

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

Last year I contributed to the “Archivists on the Issue” blog series. It was both challenging and rewarding to explore my professional interests. It was an opportunity for me to think more deeply about my experience as a practitioner and about my personal values and ethics relating to community records and personal identity politics.

On a recent MLK day (an observed holiday) I was at work. I had students from a local university campus in the archives at the cultural heritage organization for which I was the director of the archives. I remember thinking, “this is absolutely where I should be on this day. ” I was engaged in providing access to records of significant value to the history of oppression and exclusivity in our nation. In my own quiet way, I want to continue being an activist and this section gives me that opportunity.

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

I am very interested in practitioner experience in creating inclusive archives. In my first  “Archivists on the Issue” blog I wrote of the sometimes taxing and always relevant ways in which practicing inclusivity in daily work can create hesitation, confusion, and deflation of professional duty. I think within the theoretical ideas of inclusivity, as archivists, we often forget or minimize the connection to personal ethics, morals, and also emotion.

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.

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.

Steering Share: Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen (for now)

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

I signed up for I&A elections back in 2016 with a cavalier “I probably won’t win.” But I was very excited by I&A’s level of activity and the importance of our work buoying archivists and our work in so many ways: socially and governmentally, our use and language of labor, etc etc. When I managed to win and join the Steering Committee, I was – and have been – thrilled to continue this work and the level of activity that has come to be the norm for the I&A Section.

Over the last two years, I’ve learned more about how the Society of American Archivists works as part of my steering committee work. It’s an imperfect institution (aren’t all institutions?) but it’s populated by us – archivists who are pushing our profession to contribute to society in useful, unique ways, open new avenues of research and theory, move toward equity and justice in our institutional and professional practices. Corporate bodies are best reserved for name authority files, in my view, but I am warmed and spurred on by the individuals who populate and inhabit SAA in order to leave the profession better than they found it.

I look forward to continuing the work, though off this committee. Archivists, whether we pay SAA dues or attend national meetings, whether we work within the section or external to it, are a powerful community of knowledgeable experts. Our daily work, our records expertise, our historical perspectives are all powerful assets and activities. These we can share with one another, with our local non-archivists, with communities that have long been harmed through enforced invisibility and/or mistreatment.

If you have an axe to grind, an archival issue that is not discussed enough in our field, I hope that you find the I&A committee and its tools a welcoming place to share information and build community around that concern. We offer this blog, social media feeds, an annual meeting, and anything else you want to build or make use of in order to education and organize. I am grateful every day for the work of my colleagues around labor, for example. I did not grow up steeped in those concepts or language around work and solidarity, but being an archivist helped me become aware of imbalances and issues. By reading my colleagues’ articles and Twitter musings, and then beginning to join conversations and act, I am able to be a better advocate for the hours of labor we put in to make our corner of the internet rich in information and beautiful (or at least useful) metadata.

Thank you for the space you provide for these discussions, Issues & Advocacy, and thank you for your contributions, archivists and archives workers! I am a proud alumna of this steering committee.

Steering Share: The Year in Review

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 comes courtesy of committee member Steve Duckworth, University Archivist at Oregon Health & Science University.

For my last Steering Share this year, I’m taking a bit of a look back at the past year or so of my professional life. It’s my first year as a Steering Committee member, but it also marks roughly my first year as a University Archivist and of being actually in charge of stuff. (It also marks the near-end of considering myself a “new professional” even though I still very much feel like a newbie.) I’ve actually been here a year and a half, but the first 6 to 8 months were a muddle of trying to figure out where I was and what I was doing. My experience before coming into this position was all in processing collections and I absolutely loved doing that. But there are some perks to being a more responsible type of archivist, too.

I love the work of processing collections – learning about a person’s life and work, learning in-depth history about an organization, creating order from what often appears to be a sea of mismatched paper documents, crafting well-written findings aids that help people access those collections. And while I do miss being so immersed in that work (and having less overall responsibility in general – and fewer meetings), what I enjoy about this job is still related to that first archival love.

I manage a small team of people that do most of our processing work. I get to choose what collections are next in the processing queue. I meet with donors and learn about their lives, or their parents’ lives. I get to work on improving description and access for collections, and try to standardize the work we’re doing across all of our holdings. Possibly my favorite aspect of this job is training and mentoring library school students. I’ve always enjoyed teaching, and though I’m not teaching in an LIS program (anybody need an adjunct?), I am getting to impart my knowledge of how archival processing can work and of how it can be better. I also have the pleasure of learning from those students and having their knowledge and new ideas keep my perspective fresh.

While managing the archives here, I’ve also gotten to implement some major changes in my short time in this position. Since I’ve started, we’ve implemented web archiving with Archive-It, migrated from Archivists’ Toolkit to ArchivesSpace, and sorted out a processing workflow for born digital records with the help of the extraordinary training from a Digital POWRR Institute. I’ve published a peer-reviewed journal article and served as a peer reviewer myself, presented at a regional conference and at two national conferences, and I’m about to present a paper at an international conference. I curated my first exhibit. And I’ve started to learn the limits of my ability to manage multiple projects and committee requirements, while still keeping open the ability to say YES to exciting opportunities that pop up from time to time.

As the next year unfurls, I’m hoping to work more on incorporating teaching from and with the archives at my institution (which has never been much of a focus here), enhancing our digital holdings in a new digital repository structure, wrangling in our large medical artifacts collection, planning out the space of our (potential) new reading room, and helping the employees of the University get a better grasp on records management (even though that is emphatically not my job). So, while it’s been a whirlwind of sorts – moving from Processing Archivist to University Archivist – and I admittedly miss the pleasures of the former roles, there is enjoyment to be found amidst the higher stress level, including the increased ability to help make positive changes at my institution and in the archives profession.

Steering Share: Reflections on a Year as Committee Intern

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.  Thank you for your year of service, Samantha!

While it seems like my internship started just yesterday, almost a whole year has gone by. Never having served on a professional committee before, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started. I wasn’t sure if I would just be observing the committee’s work and working on my own small project or if I would be taking an active part in the committees work. Much to my surprise, I was warmly welcomed to the committee and treated like any other member.

In our first meeting, new members were assigned jobs that they would be fulfilling throughout the year. Since I had worked on social media as a graduate assistant, I was assigned the job of managing the committee’s Facebook and Twitter pages. As the job was explained to me, managing the pages would consist of sharing articles that discuss issues and advocacy within the world of archives and sharing new posts from the committee’s blog. After hearing this, I assumed the job would be easy and wouldn’t take too much time away from my work.

Overall, my committee assignment was relatively easy. The difficult part wasn’t finding content or managing the pages but juggling my responsibilities. Since I am working on strict processing deadline for contract position, I didn’t have any time during the day that could be devoted to searching for articles to post on the committee’s social media pages. At first I tried mult-tasking, trying to search for articles while Archivists’ Toolkit loaded or while I was waited for a file to load on my computer. I quickly discovered that this would not give me nearly enough time to find what I need. Instead, I decided that I would take a half hour to search for articles when I arrived at work. If I couldn’t find anything during that time then I needed to move on with my day and possibly make another attempt at finding something during my lunch break.

Taking this tactic worked well for creating social media posts but did not work as well for the other responsibilities that I had as a committee member. Throughout the year, committee members were expected to write blog posts and participate in any projects that happened to arise. This posed a problem for me since my current position does not allocate time for worked that is not directly related to processing our project. To make everything work and accomplish everything I needed, I had to fit things in where I could. For me, this meant I had to write blog posts on my days off and work on projects, such as #AskAnArchivist Day, on my lunch break.

Despite my struggle to fit everything in, I really enjoyed my time on the committee. Everyone was friendly and encouraging. No one ever made me feel like my opinion was of less value since I was an intern. In the future, I would be love to work on a committee again and become an active member of the archives community. From this experience, I’ve learned what it means to be part of a professional community and how to coordinate competing responsibilities. If was given this opportunity again, I would not hesitate to take part.