Friday, August 23, 2013

Beth Ann and her 2013 SAA annual meeting in New Orleans

August means that sweating archivists from academia, government, historical societies, museums, and non-profits come together for the annual meeting of the Society of American Archivists. I lived in New Orleans from 1999-2001 while attending the University of New Orleans for an MFA, and had not been back there since. I was eager to see the city again while at the same time really dreading the humidity.  Thanks to the freakishly cool weather patterns, it was humane enough to venture outside the conference hotel to meet up with my old friends po'boys, beignets and cafes au lait, muffalettas, raw oysters, and seafood gumbo.

When I wasn't eating, I spent a lot of time networking with other archivists who work with women's collections, military collections and oral history collections.  I am very motivated to bridge these different worlds and work to break out of the silos archivists of specialized collections can find themselves in.

Tuesday August 13:

After throwing my suitcase into my hotel room, I took a taxi uptown to attend the pre-conference Women’s Archives/Women’s Collections:  What does the Future Hold at the Newcomb College Institute at Tulane University. Newcomb college was the women's college for Tulane, and I really enjoyed looking at the archival exhibits at Newcomb.  I had the opportunity to network with a lot of great women and swap some business cards!

Here's what I learned:
The Impact of Technology on Women’s Archives and Collections— Born-Digital, Digital Humanities, Digital Initiatives, and Social Media
Presenter: Leslie Fields (Archives and Special Collections, Mount Holyoke College)

Documenting Diverse Communities
Presenters: Danelle Moon (Special Collections, San Jose State University; Kelly Wooten (Sallie Bingham Center, Duke University); Courtney Dean, Stacy Wood, and Angel Diaz (together discussing the June L. Mazer Lesbian Archive at UCLA); Natalia Fernández (Oregon State University Libraries)

Women’s Collections Roundtable Dinner: A Celebration of our History 
Presenters: Elizabeth Novara (University of Maryland), Alexandra Krensky (History
Associates), Lucinda Manning (Independent Archivist), Fernanda Perrone (Rutgers University), Tanya Zanish-Belcher (Wake Forest University)

Wednesday August 14:

Wednesday was "military day". I went on a repository tour to meet the curators and was shown behind the scenes at the WWII museum (  If you look closely at the url, you will notice a telling clue about the museum's history. Originally, begun as the D-Day museum, Congress re-designated it to be about all U.S. involvement in WWII instead of just 6/6/1944.  The museum's holdings include a lot of REALLY LARGE OBJECTS such as planes, boats, jeeps and tanks. The curators told me that they collect everything except live ordnance and human remains, and that they also cannot fit any more Nazi flags into the collections.  I spoke to the curators about the WVHP and business cards were exchanged.

I also took a short tour about a PT boat restoration (
Later that day was the Military Archives Roundtable (MART) meeting. This is a new roundtable just getting off of the ground and I am part of the small social media and newsletter committees.
To continue the networking after the meeting, I joined the other MARTs at Mulate's, a cajun restaurant. More business card swapping.

Thursday August 15:
Thursday was "Oral History Day" as well as taking in a few instructional sessions. I attended the Oral history section networking brown-bag lunch and then oral history section meeting. Networking and card swapping ensued.

Hurricane Katrina: Disaster Recovery and Documentation in Archival Collections. Hurricane Katrina serves as a prism for examining a variety of archival issues. Subjects discussed included disaster recovery inside an affected repository; development of a large-scale digital collection preserving firsthand accounts, images, blogs, and podcasts; and management of constituent case files in congressional papers.

Lights, Camera, Archives! Working with the Media and Moviemakers
This session features archivists who have worked with documentary filmmakers, worked with television or movie productions, or made a media appearance. Each presenter briefly describes her or his repository’s holdings, the project/issue that is relevant to this topic, and one lesson learned.   (This was a very useful session for me as I have worked with filmmakers using the WVHP  as well as having been interviewed for television.)

And then was the Exhibition Hall opening/Happy Hour where I asked my new friend Ivan the Danish collector of books and ephemera on human sexuality to post for a photo with me. I'll network (a.k.a. schmooze) with anyone.

Friday August 16:
The first order of the day was locating the Ignatius G. Reilly statue on Canal Street (See the classic novel A Confederacy of Dunces).                                                                                          

After that victory was the session Advancing the Ask: Proactive Acquisitions for the Modern Age
The panelists share actual experiences from archivists who work to proactively identify, appraise, and acquire archival materials. They explain strategies and successes in reaching out to donors who are not necessarily cognizant of their role as record creators or of the value of their records to an archives. How can archivists educate donors and use new techniques and tools to gather evidence of  significant events and changes in their communities?

The rest of the day was "Women's Collections Day #2". I met with other members of  the Women’s Collections roundtable and worked to develop a session idea for women’s collections of traditionally male fields. More business cards.

Friday night was the all-attendee reception at Boeing building at WWII museum.

The night (and conference) was capped off by experiencing Dr. "Gris Gris" John at Tipitinas!

Saturday August 17:
The last (EARLY morning) session before catching the plane home was Thinking Beyond the Box: How Military Archivists are Meeting 21st Century Challenges.
James Ginther of the Marine Corps University examines innovative approaches to documenting military operations when traditional records retirement methods fail. Anthony Crawford from Kansas State University focuses on the relevance of military archives addressing the multidisciplinary research value of military collections. Joel Westphal from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management addresses the issues of processing the massive amounts of digital records from the war in Iraq using innovative management and processing techniques on an archives of national importance.

My hope is to use my contacts, both new and old, to promote the WVHP within all of the various archival communities it represents.


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

My SAA Annual Meeting Recap

While it’s fresh on my mind, I wanted to share with you my recap of events and activities at the 2013 Society of American Archivists Annual Meeting, which took place August 11-17 in New Orleans. This was my 10th annual meeting (nine as a professional and one as a graduate student), and this one ranked as among the best. While I spent most of my time in meetings or presenting a paper or awards, I still felt that I came away with a greater sense of where the profession is going and innovative ways in which colleagues across the country are helping it get there

I flew out to New Orleans on Tuesday, and hit the ground running on Wednesday at 8am with a meeting of the Annual Meeting Task Force (AMTF). For the past two years, I’ve served on this appointed group that examined our current annual meeting structure and made recommendations for improvements and changes that might better meet member needs, address issues of social responsibility, and incorporate new technologies. In addition to our meeting on Wednesday, we hosted a “World Café” style brown bag forum on Thursday in which we solicited member feedback on our recommendations. Many of those recommendations have already been implemented, with the 2013 Program Committee actively soliciting sessions outside of the “three papers and a moderator” format, the introduction of an annual meeting mobile app that eliminates the need for an on-site paper program, and the SAA Council deciding to hold the 2015 annual meeting in a less expensive, “second tier” city (Cleveland).

River view from the Hilton Riverfront
In addition to AMTF, my appointment as the senior co-chair of the SAA Awards Committee kept me busy for a large portion of the annual meeting. We held a committee meeting on Wednesday afternoon to discuss logistics for the awards presentations as well as issues (such as vague language in the award description or questions of eligibility for certain awards) encountered during the 2013 awards season. With 70+ committee members and 20 awards (plus the selection of new SAA Fellows), we had a lot of awarding to do! Awards were presented at three different times during the annual meeting. At Plenary I on Thursday morning, four new SAA Fellows were introduced and the Council Exemplary Service Award and the Jameson Archival Advocacy Award were presented. On Friday morning, I opened the 8am Plenary II with the presentation of scholarships, travel awards, and writing awards to nine MLIS students from around the U.S. and Canada. And finally, at the Friday afternoon Awards Ceremony, we presented the remaining awards that honored excellence in publications, description, outreach, etc.

I was also elected to a second term on the steering committee of the Issues and Advocacy Roundtable. SAA doesn’t have the government affairs and advocacy framework that other groups like ALA has, so the I&A Roundtable serves as a site to discuss those issues and create opportunities for learning ways to reach out to funders, administrators, and politicians in order to advocate for certain issues, for individual archival repositories, or for the profession at large. At our meeting on Wednesday afternoon, we talked about the ways in which the Roundtable can collaborate with SAA’s Government Affairs Working Group on developing a set of issue briefs that can serve as official SAA position pieces and talking points on key issues.

Late Friday morning, I presented a paper as part of a session titled “Shout it from the Mountaintop: Changing Perceptions about Archival Advocacy.” My paper entitled “Get Your House in Order: Advocating for the Profession by Advocating for Your Archives” focused on the need for archivists to align their conversations with their institution’s mission. I discussed the need for archivists to go beyond a focus on their “specialness,” and instead focus on clearly articulating, assessing, and demonstrating how the work of the archives fits in with the larger whole of their parent organization (a library, corporation, government department, etc.). In doing so, they can build an army of advocates – non-archivist colleagues who can speak to how the archives impacts their work (and how it can potentially impact the work of others in the institution).

Two other meetings – both broken into really well run small group discussions – proved particularly fruitful in helping me think through my work here. One was at the Reference and Outreach Section’s meeting, where I took part in conversations on assessment of instruction in special collections and on engaging undergraduates through archival instruction. The other was at the College and University Archives Section meeting, where we had great talks about collaborating with IT staff and building a network for tenure support and professional mentoring.

Reception at the National WWII Museum
The other big events that I took part in were related to my participation in the 2013 cohort of the Archives Leadership Institute. While ALI isn’t operated by or associated with SAA, they used the annual meeting as an opportunity to bring us all together to discuss our practicum projects, review some key take-awards from our time in Iowa, and allow us to talk about potential collaborative projects that might bridge institutional lines. We had a dinner for all of the ALI alumni (we’re the sixth cohort) on Saturday night, and a Practices Workshop at Tulane University on Sunday morning. Lots of great ideas were discussed, and I’ve already got plans for an SAA 2014 annual meeting session proposal, a possible collaborative grant focused on professional issues, and a number of possibilities for research collaboration.

Audubon Aquarium fish
Both at the SAA and ALI events, we also talked up Archival Practice, our new open-access, peer reviewed journal that is being hosted by UNCG using OJS. I held an informal meeting with many of the members of our wonderful Editorial Board. We handed out 500 postcards to promote the journal, and talked about in all of the roundtable meetings we attended. Folks are really excited about this new publishing opportunity, and we’re looking forward to going live with our first issue – hopefully in January 2014!

So, it was a busy week. I even had to talk a friend from Emory into bringing me beignets, since I didn’t have time to go out to Café du Monde. But there was still time for a little bit of fun – including touring around the National World War II Museum at the All Attendee Reception on Friday night and a trip to see the otters, penguins, and other critters at the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas on Saturday afternoon. All in all, a great trip where I met loads of wonderful new people and learned lots of awesome new things.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

ALA Chicago Conference Summary!

It has taken me a few weeks to post a summary of my activities at ALA Annual in Chicago in late June/early July. Chicago is a fun city and I arrived downtown when the Chicago Blackhawks Parade for winning the Stanley Cup was happening so crazy, red shirt, screaming fans everywhere - but I found then all to be polite and not too annoying (though a rolling suitcase through a crowds helps clear a path :)
view from room
I stayed -  not in a hotel this time  - but a dorm-like University Center housing called Chicago Summer Housing, that was secure, great location, simple but with all basic necessities (like WiFi, free breakfast but no TV or any fancy hotel like things I never need) and cheap at $52/night! I had a librarian friend roommate and we share a joint bathroom with two other awesome librarians I know. Highly recommend checking it out if you are in Chicago for ALA next time
my room

ALA for me this year was a lot of meetings. As I was taking over as elected Chair of the ACRL University Libraries Section, I had a lot of business related events. Friday began with the ACRL Leadership Council Meeting focusing on Communities of Practices activities. I did like our "cafe style discussions" where we moved to new table every 10 minutes, to talk about the questions "what could we achieve? What challenges do we face? and What would we like to know?" rotating again and again, with a constant scribe staying at the table. Good way to meet others in ACRL outside my usual haunts and hear their ideas and directions. I liked that leaders in ACRL we want to see more of a "pull for knowledge rather than a push."  I also attended the ULS Executive meeting one early morning and enjoyed seeing those who could attend, sharing ideas (such as more ULS webinars or "virtual conversations"  to engage more than just at physical conferences, with more ULS members!) and celebrating our accomplishments.  I look forward to taking over as chair this year with such dynamic, and innovative ULS committee chairs, conveners and members!

I attended a few informative but fun sessions such as one from the GameRT on makerspace and fablabs happening in various libraries. Some public libraries has a fab lab on carts to roll out or move around locations in town. Also the push for STEM to shift to STEAM - adding the A for art - as art and creativity in the STEM environment is also just as important.  The ULS program this year was Busting Out of the Cubicle: Your Creative Self at Work - a fun interactive session where we played with Legos and more. The idea is that we ALL can be creative if given the time, strategies and facilitator. The presenters from U of Guelph were amazing and I highly recommend viewing their slides and ideas:

As co-chair of the Distance Learning Section's Program Planning Committee for Chicago, a big role for putting on our program "Is It Worth It? Assessing Online Instruction" We had over 310 attendees for this panel of 3 librarians and a moderator who keep the session interactive and yes NO powerpoints were used - a PBS NewsHour style session. Great ideas were suggested and interesting questions asked by attendees!  Following the program I also had to attend the DLS Exec meeting which is also nice time to meet other DE Libraries, share thoughts and catch up on projects.

As recently appointed co-chair of the Innovations Committee for the ACRL 2015 conference in Portland, OR (woot!) I attended a meeting for those taking over to learn tips and idea from those who were co-chairs for 2013 conference. Good information and I really look forward to this unique ACRL service over the next 2 years - being able to be creative and innovative with ideas and working with people on the committee with that same mindset. Let's see what cool innovations we can bring to 2015 with the theme Libraries Build Sustainable Communities.

SustainRT walk - photo by M. Egherman
This theme wraps into my last involvement at ALA which is the newly formed Sustainability Round Table (SustainRT) which I helped get approval at ALA Seattle in January. In September ALA members will be able to sign up officially for SustainRT and spring 2014 there will be elections. For now its just a number of us sort of leading the way, and drawing in other interested people especially those who want to take the lead (as you can tell I need to cut back on service leadership activities :) Our meeting on Monday morning had an amazing 24 people attending  (at ALA Anaheim last year we had only 3 interested!) and hopefully they will get involved! We even had 2 international librarians from Aruba and St Maarten. These international folks were part of a session "How the Dutch Caribbean Goes Green with Libraries and Other Supporters: A Panel Presentation"Fascinating and inspiring how these islands are advancing in green energy and sustainability. The National Library of Aruba supports the annual Green Aruba Conference, Symposiums,  and a Sustainability Education program. The library in St Maarten had a solar energy project, adding 48 panels on their roof, 200kw hours saving $17700 in 40 months! Out SustainRT folks also met at the Chicago River Walk for a beautiful afternoon stroll along the waterfront.

Lastly there were fun social as well, which often are the best for networking and meting other librarians from all over the globe. The ULS Social was held outside on a rooftop location and I enjoyed seeing many of my DE librarians friends there as well:  (PS Recommended place eat at least once while in Chicago Native Foods Cafe!)
With librarians from Utah State, MS State, U of Central FL, JHU, and Winona