It’s been a long, long year

At the SAA business meeting when recognizing Courtney, Bert, and me for serving on Council, President Meredith Evans referenced that I’ve had a tough year. Most of you know by now about the loss of Franny, my 13-year-old corgi who died from a rare skin cancer in mid-July. She died 10 days after her diagnosis. On the morning of her death, she ate her breakfast and went for a walk as usual. But by noon, she just couldn’t get up. She was having trouble breathing. Her gums were almost white. And even the smelliest treats didn’t get her attention. I knew it was time and had to make the painful decision to let her go. She had been my best friend since she was 10 weeks old.

What most folks don’t know is everything else that has happened over the last year. In late June, my grandmother had a stroke. She’s recovering and has been moved to an assisted living home that she seems to like, but I haven’t been able to go see her because I was dealing with Franny.

In July of last year – right before the 2018 annual meeting – my cousin (the one closest in age to me and the one who grew up just down the street from me) and his five year old girl were murdered. The one-year anniversary of this came two days after Franny’s cancer diagnosis.

And then there’s been work. I don’t want to go into too much detail here, but I have the security of tenure, so I feel like I can say more than most people in my situation probably should. For over a year, I was promised a shift in my work responsibilities. I literally created a new program for our department, and helped write a job description for this new position. Campus HR wouldn’t let me simply shift over into the new role without going through some of their processes. So, just before leaving for our 2018 annual meeting, I was told to make sure my CV was up-to-date so we could jump through those hoops quickly. Then about a week after returning from D.C., I was told that the job needed to be posted publicly. But that I should continue doing this new work (along with my “normal” responsibilities, of course). I jumped through the hoops — which were drawn out in a ridiculous way. The phone interview didn’t happen until December. The in-person interview (again, for a job I was already doing!!) didn’t happen until mid-March. And in early May, I was told that our dean decided he would rather hire someone else. So now I wait for that person to start at work, where they will take over what I’ve been doing for over a year, and where it won’t be long before they learn the whole story. It’s going to be awkward. But also I’m just not sure what to do anymore.

On the day before I left for Austin for our annual meeting, I went to a therapist for the first time in my life. I have my second appointment this afternoon. I’m in my early 40s and grew up in a rural, heavily evangelical area. Therapy wasn’t a thing. But I’m actively trying to treat myself better than I have been. My health has suffered, my interest in most things (work and beyond) has suffered, and my basic ability to interact with other people has suffered. But I’m finally trying to do something that might help.

So, in the spirit of transparency that I took away from Austin (both in the larger conversations that took place and in smaller ones, like a friend who has reached the place where they can be be open and honest about their pronouns), this is me. I’m at a pretty low place right now, but I’m trying. And sometimes that’s all you can do. I appreciate others who have been open about their struggles. And for those who don’t feel like you can be open about your struggles, please ask for help, and know that the rest of us are cheering for you.

Only a few more hours…..

It’s Monday, August 5. I’m running on coffee and Diet Coke. And the annual business meeting in 45 minutes is basically all that’s left on my SAA Council “stuff I’ve got to do” list. I’m tired, so I’m excited to rotate off of Council. But I’m kind of bummed too. I’m excited to see what Council will do next year. We have an awesome group of new folks rotating on, and there’s momentum for doing some really great things. I look forward to seeing what will happen with issues like salary transparency and rethinking SAA’s structure (including the massive number of Sections!). And I’m both glad and sad that I won’t be at the table with these awesome folks when the discussions take place.

So in thinking back over the last three years, there has been an insane amount of change within SAA and within our professional discourse. Off the top of my head, here are some Council things that stand out as things that have happened that I was really proud to be a part of:

  • Signed on to the Native American Protocols and issued a statement calling the original decision and discussion out as a reflection of white supremacy
  • Eliminated unpaid internships from the SAA job board
  • Issued a bazillion statements about important issues to the profession (and issued them relatively quickly, all things considered)
  • Instituted the first streaming option for annual meeting sessions
  • Rethought the SAA intern program to make it the Early Career Member program, focused heavily on mentorship by appointed SAA leaders
  • Decommissioned the toxic Archives and Archivists listserv

This was ton by *ALL* of Council. No one person on Council can do something without the rest of the group. This is why elections are so important. We need a slate of candidates who are committed to progressive action. We need to actively learn about those candidates (to me, too often SAA elections are like student government where the best known names are elected without folks really knowing what the candidates think about really important issues). And we need to vote. That’s important for all of the positions on Council — the nine Council members (three per year), the Treasurer, the Vice President, and the President.

I had been asked to run for Council once before and I hesitated. Partly because I didn’t think anyone knew who I was (I’m not in a state that’s part of a regional, I don’t really publish much, etc.), and partly because I just wasn’t sure that I wanted to deal with the politics side of SAA. I had chaired a Section and a committee, served on a task force, subcommittees, and steering committees. And I knew that my experiences with student loans, loads of debt, not working at an “elite” institution, etc. were different from many of the folks I thought of when I thought of SAA leadership (whether that perception was true or not). I just didn’t know if I was ready in a lot of ways.

I finally agreed to run, and I want to give a shout out to one person who was instrumental in helping me make that decision. Bergis Jules was elected to Council the year before me. I knew Bergis from Archives Leadership Institute, and I really respected (and still do, of course) him. I thought that we might have the makings for making some awesome changes to SAA. And we did. And I’m proud of that.

We’ve still got lots to do, and I’ve been thinking a lot about what role I would want to have in SAA moving forward. But I’m optimistic for SAA’s future. I’m excited for change, and I hope others are too. Keep pushing, and think about what role you might want and be able to take. The organization has changed greatly since I joined as a new grad student in 2001. And it’s going to keep changing. Please speak up and do what you can to ensure that change is the best change.

The Cost of Serving on Council

I’m about halfway through my final year of serving on SAA Council. One thing that we’ve talked about in various ways throughout my time on Council has been member engagement — and specifically how do we get members to actively engage in leadership within the organization. There are lots of personal issues that might stop someone from pursuing a leadership position within SAA. And there are a lot of institution-specific things that might stop you (like your employer not providing leave time for participating). And then there’s the cost of service. So, I wanted to take an opportunity to just talk about the actual financial cost of serving on SAA Council.

I’m lucky that my employer allows me to participate in SAA leadership on work time. I don’t have to take leave in order to travel to Council meetings or participate in Council conference calls. So, there’s no cost to be there. But, if you work in a situation where that’s not the case, there may be a burden (even if it’s not a direct financial cost).

Also, I don’t have kids, and I have someone who can take care of the corgis for me when I’m out of town. So, I have no childcare, eldercare, pet care, etc. charges. That said, for the annual meeting, SAA does offer a childcare service option. There is an amount in every annual budget set aside to cover childcare costs for members who are traveling to the annual meeting.

And I work at a university where I’m provided an annual stipend for professional development and travel. I know that not everyone has that luxury, and I know I’m lucky in that regard. So I’m not intending this post to be something that tells you “it’s easy! do it!” Everyone’s situation is different. I’m providing raw numbers from my experience, and there are lots of variables that affect the cost of my travel that might not affect others.

Caveats aside, here goes……

There are four face-to-face Council meetings and a few conference calls that are scheduled throughout the year. Two of the four face-to-face meetings take place in Chicago (where SAA headquarters are). The third and fourth face-to-face meetings take place at the very beginning and very end of the annual meeting.

For the two Chicago meetings, SAA covers all of the expenses — flight, food, hotel, and any other expenses you have (airport parking, transport from the airport to the hotel, etc.). SAA covers the hotel outright, so that cost is paid for you. The remaining expenses are paid through reimbursement (note: you aren’t reimbursed for alcohol, so if you’re a drinker, that’s an expense that’s on you). Reimbursement can be done as soon as you’ve paid the expense (so you request reimbursement for your flight right after you book it, and then request the other on-site charges after you return home). And SAA is really quick about repayment (much quicker than my own place of work). Again, you still have to have the ability to pay up front, but usually reimbursement is received within two weeks.

[Note: I’m not sure if childcare costs are offered for these two Chicago meetings but, based on conversations we’ve had about the annual meeting and childcare costs as well as conversations about reducing barriers to participation, I think that folks would be open to considering covering these costs for leadership meetings.]

The two Council meetings that bookend the annual meeting are the places where expenses are incurred. SAA will cover the cost of one hotel night for Council members during the annual meeting. I have taken advantage of this, and it’s paid through reimbursement. And typically, meals that take place during the meeting are provided by SAA.

So that leaves the rest of the cost of the annual meeting as the financial cost of serving on SAA Council. Typically, the SAA meeting is a Monday-Saturday deal. Austin in 2019 is going to be an exception to this. But for the sake of simplicity, let’s go with a Monday to Saturday scenario. For an SAA Council member, things get going around 8am on Monday with an all-day Council meeting. And they usually end at some point on Saturday (after the programming ends) with a short meeting (about an hour long). In between these meetings, Council members have multiple group meetings to attend as Council liaison. And, while the exhibit hall is open, you’re asked to check in with a number of vendors to make sure that the conference is meeting their needs. And then, if you have time, you can go learn something in the sessions or poster display area! But you really do need to be around for the full week.

So, the financial cost would approximately break down to:

***Cost of travel to the annual meeting (which is going to vary wildly based on where the annual meeting is, and where you live. My home airport isn’t a major hub, so it’s a bit pricier for me to fly most places than it would be if I lived in Atlanta or Charlotte. Last year when we were in D.C., I took the train for about $100 roundtrip and saved about $150+ on travel costs. But flying to Portland cost me about $600, including the cost to check a bag.). So, let’s say $300 as an estimate.

***Cost of transportation incurred during the annual meeting (public transportation pass, cab rides, etc. – getting from the airport to the hotel and back + any other places you don’t walk to). I usually keep this cost relatively low by splitting rides with folks and using public transportation whenever I can, so let’s say $50.

***Cost of food not provided during the annual meeting (For me, this usually means dinner Sunday and Monday night, lunch and dinner on Tuesday and Wednesday, and lunch on Friday. Other meals are either provided by SAA, provided in the exhibit hall, at the alumni event, at the SAA president’s reception, or at the all-attendee reception. I also typically cover breakfast cost by staying at a hotel really close to the conference hotel that provides free breakfast. Or, if that’s not a possibility, I keep coffee and oatmeal in my room for breakfast.). Again, this is a cost that varies based on city, restaurants near the conference hotel, and lots of other factors. But let’s say $250 for the week, a high-ish total which would include a drink or two some nights.

***Cost of the hotel for five nights (check in on Sunday and SAA covers Sunday cost if needed; covering hotel cost Monday through Friday, with checkout on Saturday morning). This is going to be the biggest cost. You can, of course, have a roommate and cut this cost in half. But, let’s say you’re like me and you want to go back to the room and sit quietly at the end of a really busy day filled with lots of social interaction (a luxury, I know). So the cost here for me is usually about $1200 (including all of the hotel taxes and fees).

***And then there’s the conference registration cost. $330 last year at the early bird rate (same cost for Council members as well as everyone else).

So, for me, the total annual cost of serving on SAA Council is about $2130. I could cut it down to about $1530 if I shared a room at the annual meeting.

If I wasn’t on SAA Council but was still going to the annual meeting, I might not travel into town until Wednesday, and then I would leave on Saturday. That would eliminate two nights at the hotel (about $480) and a couple of lunches and dinners (about $120). But I would still be paying about $1530 just to attend.

I’m lucky that my place of work provides us with an annual stipend of $1700 per person for professional travel. And I’m extra lucky that our Office of Research has a pot of money that’s specifically set aside for faculty members to get up to $500 of costs associated with conference leadership or presentations reimbursed by them. If you’re thinking about taking on a leadership position with SAA (or any other professional organization), I highly recommend asking around about any resources your employer might offer to help with costs (if you don’t get an annual travel allotment, maybe your boss might see the benefit to the organization of having a professional association leader on staff and agree to cover some costs).

Also, we do have a pretty measly per diem allowed for meals (compared to the actual costs typically incurred). And, of course, I can’t be reimbursed for alcohol. My place of work is incredibly slow at reimbursement. Usually it takes six weeks — sometimes longer. And since I use my personal credit card to cover the hotel cost, I do have interest incurred.

So, in the end, the actual out-of-pocket cost to me each year for service on Council is about $200. That’s primarily the cost of some beers in Chicago and at the annual meeting, the cost difference between per diem and meal cost at the annual meeting, and the interest charged to carry over the annual meeting hotel costs one month on my credit card.

Anyways, that’s my situation and my cost. For someone who shares a room or who doesn’t drink, that cost will go down. For someone who has childcare or eldercare or pet care expenses, that number may go up. And for someone whose employer doesn’t provide any kind of professional travel stipend, the out-of-pocket amount is high. And of course, the cost I haven’t mentioned is the annual SAA membership fee. SAA is a membership organization, so its leaders must be members.

All that said, Council isn’t the only way to participate in SAA leadership. There are only 12 people on SAA Council at any given time. There are many, many, many more who are leaders of sections, committees, task forces, and other SAA groups. For those positions, there are ways to participate without traveling to the annual meeting. Some component groups have done a fantastic job of providing virtual participation options for members (incluing the ability to participate in their group meeting at the annual meeting in a virtual way), and all component groups have access to an SAA-provided listserv for their leaders to do their work. So, for most component groups, you don’t have to travel to the annual meeting in order to be a group leader (although travel to the annual meeting is the best way to meet people and learn about SAA and leadership options, so there’s that).

I’m happy to answer any questions folks might have. And I want to reduce barrier to participation in SAA as much as possible. And I am aware that there are a ton of other organizations that folks might find better suited to them. But that’s my SAA Council experience. For some reading this, that might be a higher cost than they anticipated. And for others, it might be lower. But I hope it helps some folks better understand the financial costs of these types of positions.

Barkivist’s back … alright!

So I’ve ignored this blog for far too long. Truth — SAA Council takes a good amount of work but being on Council while you’re the University Archivist planning a massive yearlong 125th anniversary celebration is a bit much. But our anniversary celebration is done. So I’m going to try to pick this back up as a way of keeping folks informed with my work as a member of SAA Council.

Please keep in mind that, in this blog, I’m speaking for me and not for SAA or SAA Council as a whole.

tenor

The 2018 annual meeting was action packed, of course. It kicked off on Monday, August 13th with a 9am Council meeting. As always, the agenda and background materials are made available to Council members and anyone else on the SAA website a week in advance of the meeting (technically, most of it is available two weeks in advance). You’ll see that we reviewed a lot of reports from various staff members, officers, and other groups. But a few items resulted in key talking points (that you may have heard a Council member read at one of the section meetings during the annual meeting):

  • SAA Council (finally) endorsed Protocols for Native American Archival Materials, a document that had initially come to Council for consideration in 2008. All of the documentation and member comments from 2008 as well as a second round of discussion can be found on this Information and Resources page. Much of the discussion was rooted not in the interest of Native American record creators but on trying to force traditional archival practice on them. It was inappropriate, to say the least. In endorsing the Protocols, Council also issued a statement that “acknowledges that endorsement of these Protocols is long overdue. We regret and apologize that SAA did not take action to endorse the Protocols sooner and engage in more appropriate discussions.” It also calls out much of the original criticism of the Protocols as “based in the language of cultural insensitivity and white supremacy.”
  • We approved revisions to the “Principles and Priorities for Continuously Improving the SAA Annual Meeting” that include the addition of two bullets:
    • “We will strive to meet in locations governed by laws, regulations, and practices that support the values and ethics of SAA” and
    • “We expect panels to be diverse and inclusive. This includes bringing balance to the panels, such as individual diversity (gender, race, age, length of time in profession, ability, access to financial resources), institutional diversity (academic, government, corporate/business, non-profit, large, small), and geographic diversity.”
  • We also agreed to form a six-member task force to develop guidelines for staff use in considering vendor exhibits, sponsorships, and advertising. Personally, I was shocked that we didn’t already have something in place to address this. A petition concerning HP as a vendor brought this issue to light — but this task force will give us the opportunity to look at the issue holistically, identify the key issues, and provide SAA staff with guidance in future sponsorship decisions. The task force will be asked to produce a report for consideration at the November 2018 Council meeting, so the work will be done quickly. Details on the appointments are still to come.

As I’ve mentioned before, Council meets at the beginning and the end of the annual meeting. In a few days, I’ll update with news from the SAA Council meeting that took place at 7:30am on Saturday, August 18th. As always, feel free to email/message me if you have any questions!!

 

SAA Council May meeting wrap up

As I mentioned in the last post, SAA Council met in Chicago earlier this week. I wanted to pass along some highlights of what happened there. At the meeting, Council:

  • Approved public policy issue briefs on declassification and federal funding of archives programs. Returned to the Committee on Public Policy an issue brief on police mobile camera footage to address concerns raised by several individuals.
  • Approved the revised Guidelines for Reappraisal and Deaccessioning as proposed by TS-GRD and the Standards Committee.
  • Approved formation of a new student chapter at the University of Missouri.
  • Approved minor revisions in the description of the DAS Subcommittee, extending terms to four years and creating the positions of vice chair and immediate past chair as a means of ensuring continuity.
  • Reviewed SAA’s 2014-2018 Strategic Plan, made several refinements in plan-directed activities, and made a number of suggestions in advance of the fuller review of the plan scheduled for the November 2017 Council meeting.
  • Approved a budget for FY18 (July 1, 2017 – June 30, 2018) of $2,627,416 in revenues, $2,623,767 in expenses, with a net gain of $3,649.
  • Agreed to create a task force to explore the feasibility of forming a standing body within SAA to conduct, facilitate, and/or evaluate research/data that is practical, useful, and meaningful for SAA and the archives community. The task force report date is November 2018.
  • Approved an Archives and Archivists of Color Section recommendation to create the Brenda S. Banks Travel Award to support attendance by an archivist of color at her/his first SAA Annual Meeting.
  • Elected Kris Kiesling to serve on the 2017-2018 Executive Committee and Amy Cooper Cary and Bergis Jules to serve on the 2017-2018 Nominating Committee.
  • Disbanded the Committee on Archives, Libraries, and Museums–with thanks.

If you would like more information about the full agenda (including supporting documents), those are available here: http://www2.archivists.org/groups/saa-council/may-16-17-2017-council-meeting-agenda. The meeting minutes will also be made available as soon as they are completed and approved.

And as always, if you have any questions, I’m happy to answer them (or, if can’t answer them, I’m happy to pass you along to the person who can!).

May 2017 Council meeting preparations

Just as a heads up — SAA Council will be meeting in Chicago on May 16th and 17th. If you are a component group leader with an item for the agenda, please contact your group’s Council liaison with your concerns. April 25th is the deadline for putting items on the agenda. The SAA President, as the presiding officer at Council meetings, approves all agenda items. But your Council liaison can help you craft the language and ensure that your item is on the agenda.

If you’re an SAA member who isn’t a component group leader, but you have an item that you would like to bring to Council for action or discussion, please feel free to reach out to me or any other Council member. We want to make sure your voice is heard!

February Conference Call

A quick update … this semester is rough already and is only going to get rougher, but hopefully I can continue to throw out some brief updates on Council activities as we go along….

As most of you know, SAA Council meets face-to-face in November, May, and at the annual meeting (both at the beginning of the annual meeting and at the end). But in between, there’s of course a ton of stuff to do and discuss. Yesterday afternoon (February 6th), we had a Council conference call with a few key items on the agenda. You can see the agenda and related materials here: http://www2.archivists.org/groups/saa-council/february-6-2017-council-conference-call-agenda. But here’s a summary of what happened during that call:

Also, for anyone who might have missed it, last week SAA Council issued a statement on the current Administration’s Executive Order Restricting Entry into the United States by Individuals from Seven Muslim-Majority Countries. Please note that an SAA Council statement requires a consensus (not unanimous, but majority) of Council members’ approval before it is officially issued.

And as a final note, there will be loads of information about the annual meeting coming soon. The schedule (at least as it’s proposed right now) is significantly different from in years past. As soon as details are firmed up, you will get that information. But for now, you might not want to book your flight to Portland just yet….