What I Did in Atlanta: the SAA Annual Meeting as a Newly Elected Council Member

I’m finally home and settled in after a long week in Atlanta for SAA’s annual meeting. I wrote a few days ago about our August 1st Council meeting that took place while we were there. But I also wanted to write a bit about the experience of attending Council as a newly-elected Council member. This year’s annual meeting was a particularly crazy one because I was balancing obligations from pre- and post-Council election.

So, here are a few of the pre-Council election things that I was able to do:

  • Presented a five-minute lightning round talk about our archives’ implementation of the Oral History Metadata Synchronizer (OHMS) and our integration of OHMS into our everyday oral history workflow as part of Session 506 (You Are Not Alone!: Navigating the Implementation of New Archival Systems) on Friday afternoon.
  • Met on Wednesday afternoon with new and returning members of SAA’s Committee on Public Awareness (COPA) to discuss our work last year, to brainstorm on future work, and to discuss some bigger picture issues with members of the Committee on Public Policy (COPP). I was one of the founding members of COPA and served as vice-chair this past year.
  • Spoke about the work of COPA at the Issues and Advocacy Roundtable meeting on Friday morning with incoming COPA chair Sami Norling. The I&ART meeting also featured an archival advocacy dream team panel discussion with Rand Jimerson, Kathleen Roe, and David Gracy. I’m so glad I was able to be there for that.
  • Helped coordinate the Marketplace of Ideas at the Reference, Access, and Outreach (RAO) Section meeting on Friday afternoon. I finished up a two-year stint on the RAO steering committee at this annual meeting. At the RAO meeting itself, my responsibility was quite light, thankfully. Mainly I worked with others on the steering committee to make sure that folks rotated through the Marketplace vendors on the designated twenty-minute schedule.
  • Participated in a mock interview session as part of the ARL/SAA Mosaic Leadership Forum on Tuesday afternoon. This was so much fun! A panel of three “seasoned” archivists were able to conduct mock interviews with four of the Mosaic Leadership Forum participants (which included the Mosaic Scholars as well as some of the SAA Awards winners). These students and new graduates were so very impressive and receptive to feedback. Honestly, if you’re in a position to do so, hire them all. 🙂
  • Attended the Archives Leadership Institute dinner on Wednesday night and went to dinner on Thursday night with a group of academic archivists who are either tenured or tenured track (thanks to Eira Tansey for setting up that group!).

But then there are the Council activities as well! As mentioned previously, we newly-elected folks (Courtney Chartier, Bert Lyons, and me) attended the August 1st Council meeting to observe but not vote. This meeting ran from 9am until about 3:30pm or so. Thankfully it look about two hours less than had been allotted – always a good thing!

While we didn’t officially assume our positions on Council until the end of the annual meeting, Courtney, Bert, and I all attended the meetings of most – if not all – of our new liaison groups (for more, including my liaison assignments, see here). This allowed the outgoing Council members (who worked with these groups for the last three years) to introduce us to the current and incoming leadership of these groups we will be working with over the next three years. Because some of my new liaison groups met at the same time (or at the same time as some of my pre-Council election groups), I was only able to pop in for 10-20 minutes or so of each group’s meeting. But I was able to at least say hello to folks in:

  • Cultural Heritage Working Group (Wednesday morning)
  • American Archivist Editorial Board (Wednesday afternoon)
  • Archival History Roundtable (Wednesday night)
  • Students and New Archives Professionals Roundtable (Wednesday night)
  • Electronic Records Section (Thursday afternoon)
  • Records Management Roundtable (Friday morning)

The one group that I didn’t get to meet with was the Women’s Collections Roundtable, but I’m very much looking forward to working with them.

One other fun event was on Tuesday evening when we had a short and informal social so that new Council members could meet with leadership in the Council of State Archivists (CoSA).

And then there are the “normal” annual meeting activities that I always try to attend — the plenaries (one on Thursday morning and one on Friday afternoon), the awards ceremony (Friday afternoon right after the second plenary), the all-attendee reception (Friday night), the new member coffee (Thursday morning), and the business/membership meeting (mid-day Saturday). And, of course, the SAA annual meeting just wouldn’t be the same without stopping by the Texas Roundup (this year, on Thursday night) to see Dr. Gracy!!

In spite of all of this, I even managed to make it to a couple of sessions and a brown bag discussion! I really learned a lot about exhibit design and web/document accessibility needs in Session 208: Accessible Archives and Special Collections on Thursday afternoon. The brown bag discussion on the work of the Joint Task Force on Primary Source Literacy on Thursday was really interesting, particularly as I’m thinking about student learning outcomes and assessment for my instruction work (most of which isn’t with history students). I loved Session 403: Before and After: Appraisal and Access in African American Communities as well as Session 704: Assessing Archives: Case Studies in Using Data as an Advocacy Tool. There were at least a dozen other sessions I wanted to attend but couldn’t, so I’m very grateful for Twitter folks for helping me see some session highlights and for the recordings that will be made available to attendees soon.

And, of course, I got to meet lots of great new people and see so many folks I love who I see only once a year. That’s always the best part about the annual meeting. I also had three free hours on Tuesday morning, and made the very smart decision to go visit the Center for Puppetry Arts and especially their Jim Henson exhibit (in which, at one point, I turned a corner, gasped, and said aloud “Big Bird!”). And special thanks to Rachel, Christie, and others who set some lures and helped me expand my Pokedex throughout the week. 🙂

The whole crazy week wrapped for me with the August 6th Council meeting, which took place right after the business meeting on Saturday afternoon. This was the first meeting in which Courtney, Bert, and I were “official” — seated members of Council with voting ability. This post is already way too long and I’ve got a couple of corgis who need a walk, so I’ll post an update on the events of that meeting in a couple of days! As always, if you have any questions, just let me know!!

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