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

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.


Steering Share: A Look into LAAC’s ArchivesNOW Mini-Conference

Steering Shares are an opportunity to find out more about the I&A Steering Committee. This end-of-year post comes from I&A Vice Chair/Chair Elect Courtney Dean, a Project Archivist at the University of California at Los Angeles Library Special Collections.

As I mentioned way back in the fall, in my very first Steering Share, I am one of the co-founders of the Los Angeles Archivists Collective (LAAC) which is a local professional org that focuses on community building, skill-sharing, and outreach, with a particular emphasis on supporting students and new professionals.

Several weeks ago we held our first ever mini-conference, entitled ArchivesNOW, at UCLA Library. Co-sponsored by LAAC, the UCLA Library, and the UCLA Department of Information Studies, the day featured a host of presentations by MLIS students and early career professionals, addressing current issues in archives. The goal of the event was to provide space for the voices of students and new professionals, and to foster conversations from their unique vantage point. We aspired to facilitate open and honest discussions that led to awareness, reflection, and interrogation, and by all accounts, we were pretty successful!

Photo by Angel Diaz. ArchivesNOW2018 swag!

The day started with a rousing keynote from Rebecca Goldman, College Archivist at Wellesley College in Massachusetts and the driving force behind the establishment of SAA’s Students and New Archives Professionals (SNAP) Section in 2012. (She also runs the amazing webcomic Derrangement and Description.) Taking inspiration from Obazi Ettarh’s “Vocational Awe and Librarianship: The Lies We Tell Ourselves” and Miya Tokumitsu’s Do What You Love and Other Lies About Success and Happiness, Rebecca posed a number of provocative questions, including:

  • How does the career path of new archivist affect archivist identity- and vice versa?
  • How do we fight unreasonable expectations of new archivists, especially young archivists?
  • How do new archivists build a professional identity without sacrificing all their other identities?
  • Does social media create an unrealistic image of archives work and archivists’ lives?
Photo by Sharon Farb. Keynote by Rebecca Goldman, bringing the truth.

(Video of Rebecca’s entire keynote will be available soon on the ArchivesNOW Speakers page!)

The morning session, “Getting Ready for Work,” included Jessica Maddox, Accessioning Archivist at the University of Nevada, Reno discussing her transition from student to accessioning archivist; Noah Geraci, Digital Assets Metadata Librarian at UC Riverside on getting started with [computer] programming for archivists; Alyssa Loera, Head of Digital Services and Technology at Cal Poly Pomona on teaching expectations in academic libraries and archives; and Karly Wildenhaus, MLIS Student at UCLA, on denormalizing unpaid positions in archives and libraries.


Photo by Snowden Becker. The real financial COST of working for free on a graduate intern, from Karly Wildenhaus.

Session 2, “Archival Dilemmas: Collection-Based Case Studies,” featured Carolina Meneses, a former Metadata Technician at the University of Miami, and incoming UCLA MLIS student, discussing the practices and challenges of archiving performance; Julia Hause, Archival Studies Student at UCLA, on reviving the Salton Sea History Museum; Jonathan Naveh, MLIS/Media Archival Studies Student at UCLA on the problems that arise when processing pornography; and LAAC’s own Grace Danico, on creating diversity and inclusivity through outreach and collaboration in LAAC’s Acid Free Magazine.

Photo by Courtney Dean. Angel Diaz introduces the afternoon panel.

The day ended with paletas and Snowden Becker, co-founder of the international Home Movie Day event and the nonprofit Center for Home Movies, and currently the MLIS Program Manager in UCLA’s Department of Information Studies. Snowden teased out some of the main themes of the day, encouraged everyone to fight for more salary transparency (“that’s how the man keeps us down!”), and challenged us to think critically about what constitutes “professionalism.”

Photo by Sharon Farb. Snowden Becker and our main takeaways.

Be sure to check out #ArchivesNOW2018 on Twitter for all of the hot takes. Community notes from the day available here.

As I approach my transition into the I&A chair position, I will be bringing with me an agenda filled with many of the issues that arose at ArchivesNOW. You’ll continue to hear about all of I&A’s ongoing dynamic projects, but expect an increased focus on things like the deleterious effects of unpaid internships and temporary positions on our profession; cultural humility; and, of course, cats. See you in D.C.!


End-of-Year Steering Share: Accomplishments and What’s Next

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 from soon-to-be-outgoing (but still current!) I&A Chair Rachel Mandell, Metadata Librarian at the University of Southern California Digital Library.

Though we are not quite down to the final moments of the year (in terms of the SAA leadership schedule), we are indeed approaching the final push and thus, as I&A Chair, it is my final Steering Share. First of all, I want to thank everyone on the Steering Committee for being such a great team. You were all vital components of the work that we accomplished this year and working with you all was such a treat! I can’t wait to see/meet all of you in August!

I wanted to take this opportunity to briefly recap everything that we worked on this year and what we hope to continue next year.

Projects accomplished this year:

  • Blog series: Probably our most focused project. We really tried to add valuable content to each of our 3 blog series.
    • Steering Shares: Each Steering Committee member writes 3 posts throughout the year
    • Archivists on the Issues: 3 contributors each writes 3 posts about a topic of their choice.
    • Research Teams: Two research teams each write 3 posts.
      • News Monitoring Team: This year, the News Monitoring Research team, led by our very own Steve Duckworth, created monthly updates as well as more focused posts.
      • Legis* Team: We revamped the Legislative Research teams this year. We encouraged each member on the team to monitor topics of interest relating to legislation, legislators, and/or resources relating to discovering information.
      • Also had some additional guest contributors like Eira Tansey and international blog follower François Dansereau
  • #AskanArchivist Day: Our Steering Committee participated by taking turns monitoring our Twitter feed. It was great fun!
  • Social Media: Our amazing I&A Intern, Samantha Brown, took on handling our social media—and she rocked it! Thanks, Samantha! See us on Facebook and/or Twitter!
  • Archives Design Share Portal in collaboration with the Regional Archival Associations Consortium (RAAC): Just getting started with collaborators at RAAC—hoping to get more going soon!
  • Collaboration with DLF’s Labor Working Group: Two phone calls to touch base and a possible project on the horizon!
  • SAA Advocacy groups quarterly calls. Keep each other informed, run ideas by each other. Also helped CoPP edit /update SAA’s public policy agenda
  • Developing program for section meeting at Annual Meeting

Projects to continue next year:

  • Continue the blog series tradition!
  • Collaboration with DLF
  • Temporary labor in libraries/archives survey/study
  • Archives Design Share Portal

While in many ways it seems like I wasn’t able to accomplish as much as I wanted, I also  definitely feel proud of what we did work on this year and the new projects that we got started on. I look forward to watching Courtney Dean, our esteemed Vice-Chair, who was really more of a co-chair, take over next year.


Steering Share: University Archivists and advocacy

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 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. There are a lot of things that drive me as a professional.

Here at Wayne State I’m fairly new as a professional – I began here this past September – so I’ve been here six months. That being said I’m coming back to Wayne State after receiving my archives degree here in 2002. I went away and served in two great positions between then and now – first as a Reference Archivist at the American Jewish Archives and then as Archivist and Associate Librarian at Indiana University South Bend.

Coming back to Wayne State – the university that I feel so deeply for – that I feel has given me the profession that I love – is a real honor, and an opportunity. I’m coming back in Wayne State’s sesquicentennial year – so there’s been a lot of celebration of this great urban university in the heart of the wonderful city of Detroit. 

Coming back to Wayne State as a full-blown professional with some great experience under my belt has enabled me to have the perspective and scope to connect with people all over the world who love Wayne State just as much as I do. These include the immediate campus community – university schools, departments, offices – and their faculty, students, staff, administrators. It also includes a lot of people who feel very connected to the university for many reasons: alumni as well as the community beyond.

I feel that being a University Archivist – first for 13 good years at Indiana University South Bend and now at my alma mater of Wayne State – means advocating for your repositories and always, always reaching out. It’s critical that we are actively connecting with all the – varied – communities that we serve.

We must let people know who we are, why we’re important, and show our value. We cannot wait for people to come to us. This underlines the fact that advocacy for our collections, our repositories, and our institutions has to be sewn into what we do.

I feel honored to serve this role at Wayne State University – and in a similar role with SAA’s Issues and Advocacy Section: that of advocate, ambassador, and communicator. Thank you for the opportunity to serve you – the membership of the Issues and Advocacy Section!

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.