Why a roundtable for new archivists?

Other professional organizations have established groups to meet the needs of new professionals. ALA has a Young Professionals Working Group. The Society of Archivists has a Section for New ProfessionalsWe think the Society of American Archivists needs a similar group for new archivists.

Here are some things we think an SAA roundtable for new archivists could accomplish:

  • Advocate for new archivists within SAA and within the archival profession
  • Provide a space for discussion of issues affecting new archivists
  • Allow new archivists to gain leadership experience through roundtable service

And why a roundtable, as opposed to some other type of group? Check out the SAA Council Handbook section on roundtables. We think our goals fit the description of a roundtable pretty nicely.

What do you think?  Does SAA need a roundtable just for new archivists? What might it accomplish? (And if you’re wondering what makes someone a new archivist…don’t worry, that’s an upcoming post.)


About Rebecca
Archivist, librarian, webcomicker.

38 Responses to Why a roundtable for new archivists?

  1. Kate Donovan Jarvis says:

    I think this is an absolutely fantastic idea. Thanks so much for getting the ball rolling on this. If there is anything I can do to help, please let me know. I’m more than happy to whatever I can to help make this happen. Cheers!

  2. Mimi E. games says:

    I agree that this is a fabulous idea. I am a librarian transition to archival work, so although I am not young, I still am new and would love any resources and advice available from those already seasoned in the profession.

    • Rebecca says:

      Thanks for commenting, Mimi. One of the things we have to decide before we propose our roundtable to SAA is how to define “new archivists.” Age clearly isn’t a good way to define it, so what other criteria should we use? (Don’t worry, this topic is a big one and will get its own post.)

      • I just wanted to reiterate what Rebecca said here. I am one of the folks helping her organize the round table proposal, and I am also a proud middle-aged new archivist. I think the linkages that people make between “new” and “young” are false and often do more harm than good for both groups. I am hoping that together we can build a group where people can learn from the perspectives of both the young and the not-really-young-anymore new professionals.

  3. Kate T. says:

    I’m so glad to see this idea is moving along. I feel far from new but I’m happy to do anything I can to help!

  4. Gene Hyde says:

    It’s an excellent idea – like Mimi E.games, I moved from librarian to archivist in mid-career, and would appreciate any resources and advice from the seasoned vets out there in archiveland.

    • Anne K. says:

      I’m in a similar situation, but I’m a “new” (3 years in) librarian with archives responsibilities, splitting my time between the two. The archives side of the job (the smaller side) has yet to really get off the ground. I think I’m floundering in the newness of it. A site like this is most welcomed!

  5. I think that this is a wonderful idea. It would be nice to feel a part of an “incoming class” of new archivists! I’m happy to help make this a reality.

  6. archivalerie says:

    I agree. I am a soon-to-be graduated archivist, but would also be interested in finding out about the experiences of experienced librarians switching fields and what challenges they are encountering.

    As far as what our aim should be in accomplishing something… One thing I would be interested in discussing is any gaps that occur between our grad school education and our first employment experiences. What aren’t we learning? Is there any way to bring this to the attention of archival education institutions in a constructive and meaningful way?

    • Rebecca says:

      That’s a great topic for discussion. Would you like to write a guest post about it? (No pressure, no rush.)

      • archivalerie says:

        I’d love to write a guest post about gaps between archival education and practice. I might need a bit of time to flesh out how to go about it (anecdotal interviews with other new archivists and hiring managers vs. data collection via surveys), but I’m sure I could come up with something.

      • Rebecca says:

        As long as you can tie it into the roundtable–i.e., how a roundtable would help fill those gaps.

      • I think the idea of discussing the gap between archival education and first working experiences is a great one. I have written on that topic a while ago, and know it is a very common thing for new professionals to be surprised by some things they experience when first entering the profession. I think there are a couple of roles that the roundtable (if formed, that is) could address. One role could be providing feedback to the education groups in SAA on these gaps. Another could be to facilitate communication between new professionals and students to identify some skills that students may have to acquire on their own.

        I hope you decide to write a guest post because I am looking forward to reading it!

      • Abe Miller says:

        I would second @Lance’s idea of using the RT as a way to provide feedback to the archival and library science education segments within our community. I think, beyond providing feedback, we could also provide resources to those new to the profession. For example, I remember seeing that the Records Management RT provides links and documents on how to create RM programs. We could try to do similar things, but based on sets of skills.

  7. mpeachy says:

    I like the idea of having a place for new archivists to cut their teeth in leadership roles within SAA. A roundtable also seems like a nice space to use to get to know one another and hammer out issues of being new to the profession. Do you think you’ll organize a quick meet up at SAA?

    • Rebecca says:

      I would love to have an informal meetup at SAA–and, of course, provide a record of the meetup for those who can’t attend. Look for a planning post soon!

      One thing I’d like to do in the months before we submit our SAA proposal is try out different methods of meeting and disseminating information. That way, if we propose, say, videoconferencing as our primary meeting method, we’ll be able to say we’ve already tried it out and it works for our prospective members.

  8. Jordon says:

    Good idea. You ought to organize an informal meet-up at SAA to talk strategy.

    Also, another obvious observation–keep current graduate students in the loop on what you’re doing.

    “New” instead of “young” is the right way to go. Good luck!

    • Rebecca says:

      I consider archives students to be new archivists, and I hope student SAA members will join our roundtable if (when?) it’s approved.

    • Susan D says:

      This is a great idea – and to follow Jordon’s comment, it would also be good to engage the archival educators so that they alert their students to this non-threatening way to get involved in SAA and make the leap from student chapter to working professional. For the past four years there are been an Archives Leadership Institute every summer on the UW-Madison campus, and the difficulty of getting involved in SAA often comes up. So this is a terrific way to use the roundtable type of membership group to focus on professional issues and encourage networking.

  9. Susan says:

    I think this is a great idea and I look forward to hearing more. I hope the SAA RT would be successful in drawing in both new archivists and more seasoned archivists who are interested in helping develop and mentor new professionals.

  10. Megan says:

    What a fantastic idea! Please keep us updated.

  11. Laura DeMuro says:

    This is a wonderful idea, I’ll help in anyway I can. I think this will be a great place for SAA to start new archivists into leadership roles, something that is sorely needed.. They will probably be just as eager as us to get this going.

  12. Lori Satter says:

    I would love to be involved in this SAA RT! I’ve started to share my experiences as a new archivist on my blog.

  13. K. Herzinger says:

    As a “lone arranger” with only a couple years’ experience in the field, I, like others who have posted, am excited to see a forum like this. In particular, I appreciate the idea that this group will allow young professionals to gain leadership experience (am I the only one who is intimidated by and uncertain how to become professionally involved beyond the borders of my own institution?). Thank you for your collective vision—I am eager to see how this group evolves!

  14. Ashley says:

    I think this a terrific idea. I’ve been at my position for less than a year and it would be great to meet other professionals in the field and share ideas. I would love to be involved!

  15. Amanda says:

    I think this is a wonderful idea! I’m still working on my archives degree, but am always on the lookout for opportunities to become more involved in SAA. I second the idea that it would be great to have a quick meeting at SAA. I also think this roundtable is something that student chapters of SAA at various archival programs will be excited about. Cheers!

  16. Jeremy says:

    Thanks so much for taking this on. I’m a new archivist who recently started my first professional position after a lengthy job hunt following graduate school. This would be a great way for me to begin to actively participate in SAA. Let me know how I can help make this happen.

  17. Rebeccah says:

    Great idea! One consideration you’ll want to think of is that, as an SAA roundtable, membership in SAA will be required for RT membership. Meaning you have to be willing and able to pay SAA dues to be a member of the group. How might that affect organization/focus?

    • Kate T. says:

      Actually, no, you don’t need to be a member of SAA to be a member of a roundtable. As stated in the “Guidelines for SAA Roundtables” : “Although it is expected that the core of a Roundtable is composed of Individual members of SAA, anyone may belong to a Roundtable.” (http://www2.archivists.org/governance/handbook/section10) .

      However, as it says in a different section, “Only SAA members are eligible to serve as or vote for Roundtable leaders.”

  18. Abe Miller says:

    I think this is a fabulous idea. Thanks, y’all, for your enthusiasm. I would enjoy being involved somehow, given time. (what? another way to make time scarce?).

    One thing that might be useful is to use the RT as a way to coordinate between new professionals so that we can give each other feedback on job hunting, resumes, cover letters, etc. I’ve done a tiny bit of this on a very informal letter up here in Boston with Simmons GSLIS folks, but I wasn’t able to give it enough of my time.

    Thinking of a recent request by Rebecca Goldman on Twitter and the recent post of this material to the SAA-AA listserv, I think this blog, even before the RT gets up and running, would be a good place to coordinate resources and readings, and the like.

    • Rebecca says:

      Don’t forget about NewArchivist, which is Lance’s blog by and for new archivists. That’s a great place to write about topics relevant to new archivists. I see this blog as being more specifically about topics that relate to the roundtable and what it can accomplish.

  19. Eira Tansey says:

    What an utterly fantastic idea! I’m in and glad to help however I can.

  20. This is an incredibly good idea! I would love to help in any way possible, as well.

  21. Amy Jankowski says:

    I love this idea! I’m a new archivist (as of two weeks ago, hooray!), and I would love another avenue by which to form more solidarity with other newcomers. Being the only person with formal archival training at my institution, it would be great to have a way to stay connected with others doing similar work but on a different scale. The round table would be an excellent way to share experiences, ease into leadership positions, analyze current academic curriculum, form professional relationships, and shed new light on how newcomers view the profession as well as SAA. We can all benefit from sharing ideas and new perspectives!

    I will definitely keep my eye on this initiative. I’m also potentially interested in an informal SAA meet-up!

  22. Pingback: What’s the value of an in-person meeting? « Planning a new SAA roundtable for new archivists

  23. Kate T. says:

    Just saw this article about “The Rise of the New Professionals” and thought you might want to talk about it here: http://www.infotoday.eu/Articles/Editorial/Featured-Articles/The-rise-of-the-New-Professional-77180.aspx

    It’s in a more European context, but still relevant.

  24. keith helt says:

    i’m way late to this, but i just wanted to say i fully support this idea and wish that this had existed a few years back when i was just starting out in the field. i definitely felt like the few comments i made on the saa listserv were shut down quickly and loudly because i hadn’t paid my dues yet. and i’ve continued to be frustrated by the seeming lack of interest in what new archivists have to say and what their experiences in the field are.


  25. Sarah P. says:

    Having just started my first professional position (a temporary one, alas), I would love having a resource such as this proposed RT available to me. The RTs I originally joined have not panned out the way I hoped — while they do have interesting posts and conversations, much of it is only relevant to practicing, active archivists.

    A “New Archivist” RT would be a great way to ground new and interested students/professionals in what archivists do, what the SAA is, and how to use the different RTs. At the moment, joining the SAA is more akin to being dumped in the deep end of the pool.

    I’ll be following (and hopefully participating) in this group with great interest!

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