November Council meeting – almost time!

For those who haven’t seen it yet, the agenda and supporting documentation for the SAA Council meeting that will be taking place in Chicago November 14-16 is up on the SAA website. I’m currently reading through the documentation, and there are a few things that I wanted to point out:

  • The transition work plan from the Member Affinity Working Group is up. Council will be discussing the proposed work plan and timeline as well as the needed revisions to governance documents.
  • The compilation of annual reports from all of the various sections/roundtables is available. It’s a 116 page document, so you probably aren’t going to read cover to cover. But there is an increasing interest and emphasis on collaboration between the various SAA component groups. And it’s hard to collaborate if you don’t know what the others are doing! At least give this full document a skim just so you have a better sense of what’s happening across the organization. You never know where you might find a common ground for an interesting collaboration!
  • COPP (Committee on Public Policy) has submitted a new issue brief on “Confidentiality of Private Information Held in Records of the Federal Government’s Executive Agencies.”
  • Immediate past president Dennis Meissner has submitted a proposal to form a new Committee on Research and Evaluation (CORE). From the proposal, “CORE gathers quantitative and qualitative information of strategic value for advocacy, awareness, relevance, audience service, and community engagement. CORE evaluates this information and surfaces it to members in dashboards, reports, and data sets that members can use to better understand and act upon their environments.”

Additionally, the Council meeting will actually begin on Monday afternoon with a workshop on diversity and inclusion, led by DeEtta Jones. We will continue the conversation on Tuesday  with an update from the Council Working Group on Diversity and Inclusion and a discussion of ways in which SAA – and us as individual professionals and organizational leaders – can advance diversity and inclusion within SAA and the archival profession. This is an area where I would love feedback from members. What are your thoughts?

Here are my personal thoughts — me as an individual and not anything “official” or decided by Council as a whole. One thing I would personally love to see is an extension of the cultural competency training that Helen Wong Smith has conducted. I would love to see a “train the trainer” system in collaboration with state/local archival organizations and RAAC (Regional Archival Associations Consortium). I would love this type of regional approach to ask people to question both inclusion within their own professional association/environment and within their collections/collecting work. I’m also hoping that we can more heavily highlight some of the important initiatives being carried out within SAA component groups that might serve as inspiration for others. Also — again this is me speaking as an individual and not as “Council” (the whole) — I want to see SAA more vocally speak out, frequently reaffirming the organization’s ongoing commitment to diversity and inclusion in the profession and to its professionals, in both actions and words.

So, that’s what coming up next week. I’m going to be the somewhat odd position of participating in the Council meeting virtually. For those of you who haven’t heard, one of my corgis (Jasper) is facing the possibility of back surgery for a ruptured disk in his lower back. We went to a neurologist earlier this week for a consultation and an MRI, and we’re still in the phase of determining whether he will be able to recover on his own with strict crate rest and pain medicine or if he will need back surgery to remove the disk. He was given a 50-60% chance of recovering on his own, and he’s showing some early signs of recovery. But he’s got a long road ahead, and I’ll need to be here to keep a close eye on him throughout the next few days. Barring any emergencies, I should be able to participate fully in the meeting. It stinks, but, anyone who knows me knows that my corgis are my babies. I can’t leave when one is hurting.

So, please message me on Twitter (@barkivist) or email (elawrimore32 at gmail) with your thoughts, ideas, opinions, etc. I genuinely want to hear from folks because I want to be a representative for you….

August 6th Council meeting (and what I’m currently thinking re: my spot on Council)

As I mentioned in my last post, the SAA annual meeting wrapped up for me with a short Council meeting. This was the first for Courtney, Bert, and me as officially seated, voting Council members. This meeting was very short (just over an hour long), and was primarily scheduled so that we could discuss any issues that arose over the course of the meeting. So the agenda was very light.

One thing that all of the Council members are asked to do is complete an annual Conflict of Interest form. SAA doesn’t exclude individuals with ties to vendors or competing organizations from having an elected seat on Council but they do ask you to disclose any potential conflicts of interest (and update the form immediately if something arises over the course of the year).

We also discussed our meeting times for in-person Council meetings in Chicago. We’ll be meeting in mid-November (November 14-16 to be specific) to look at strategic planning, and in mid-May (still not firmly set, but probably May 15-17) to discuss the budget. Both of these meetings will be essentially one half day, one whole day, and then one half day — allowing most of us to travel in and out on those half days.

We got an update from Terry Baxter on the Program Committee work for the 2017 annual meeting in Portland. If you haven’t seen it already, the call for proposals is officially up (and due November 18). This does not, however, include the Saturday forum titled The Liberated Archive: A Forum for Envisioning and Implementing a Community-Based Approach to Archives. Calls for proposals for that will come out in January 2017.For those who are wondering, SAA is also thinking about adjusting the timing of the annual business meeting (usually held at the end of the annual meeting) in order to better accommodate the forum, which they are hoping will draw a number of non-archivists. No decision on that has been made, but know that it is being discussed.

Finally, we went around the room and let folks talk about specific projects they would like to see SAA address over the next year or so. Many people discussed a desire to work on the growth of cultural competency training (which will be free of charge, including a free in-person workshop by Helen Wong Smith prior to the Portland meeting). Personally, I talked about how we can develop a “train the trainer” sort of system in conjunction with the state and regional archival associations in order to maximize the reach for these types of workshops/trainings. Can we use these networks to reach more archivists? And can SAA help these state and regional associations take a close look at collections and collecting practices within their areas in order to identify silences (and advocate for ways to fill them). I’m also interested in a similar style of training and collaboration in the areas of public awareness, media relations, and advocacy. How can SAA collaborate with RAAC (Regional Archival Associations Consortium) and expand the reach for these important initiatives?

I also mentioned in this meeting a desire to build off of the “community of giving” that outgoing president Dennis Meissner mentioned in his presidential address on Friday afternoon. In discussing the need for SAA to build a donor culture, Dennis recognized that not everyone has the capacity to financially contribute to SAA — and that’s totally true [I finished undergrad in 1999 and grad school in 2003, and I’ve still got another 10 years to go in paying off student loans with little to no cost of living increases from the State of NC, so I understand – and recognize that I’ve still got it good compared to many].

What I would love to do is expand on this notion of a “giving culture” and make it a bit more inclusive and empowering for the archivists who don’t have the financial means to contribute more money but have a desire to contribute in other ways. I don’t have any specific ideas set about how to do this, but a few things have cropped up (and are still hazy):

  • Empower archivists to become better advocates for key SAA initiatives. If the Mosaic Scholarship, for instance, means a lot to us, but we cannot personally contribute to its financial future, what can we do? (Thanks to Stephanie Bennett for asking this on Twitter!) How can we effectively advocate with our vendors, our employing institutions, private foundations/donors, etc. to develop important programs within our professional association? We’ve got some clout even if we don’t always personally have the dollars. How can we use it?
  • Encourage the hundreds of people who contribute their time to SAA to quantify that in some way so that we have a broader sense of the “giving culture” that exists. People want to see that members are committed to their organization. Financial contributions are critical, but so are the contributions of time.
  • Think about project-specific microfunding opportunities that we might have. Basically, are there any SAA projects or initiatives that could use Kickstarter-style backing to get off of the ground? This wouldn’t be a good option for long-term sustainability, of course. But it might be a good way to build a ground swell of support that could in turn grow into a more stable means of support.

If you have further ideas for how we might do this, please let me know!! Again, these are still very much in the percolating stage. And, to be honest, these aren’t things that are going to magically be “complete” at the end of Year One. I’m just personally interested in moving these conversations forward.

I’m also interested in other key initiatives you might be interested in seeing SAA address in the coming year. Again, these ideas are just my perspective — there are 11 other Council members who have many other ideas (not to mention financial constraints, time constraints, etc.) — but I’m more than happy to listen and learn and bring issues forward. You can contact me here, on Twitter (@barkivist), or email (elawrimore32 –at– gmail). You can also contact any other Council member or Nancy Beaumont (SAA’s Executive Director).