Why we need a new archivists roundtable

Friday morning, those of us attending SAA heard outgoing president Helen Tibbo talk about the future of the archives profession, and the problems it currently faces. She talked about the archivists who have been laid off, or who have had to lay off employees, or who have lost their jobs and been unable to find new ones. And I applaud her for reminding the audience about our colleagues who are struggling.

But conspicuously absent from this talk about the future of archives was any mention of new and future archivists. The archivists who wonder why they’re taking on tens of thousands of dollars in debt to enter a profession that doesn’t seem to have room for them. The archivists who are 6 months or a year or more than a year out of school who still can’t find jobs within the profession. The archivists who spend years in project positions and have no job security. The archivists who have the tech skills that our profession needs, but can’t break into the field to use them. The archivists who can’t afford to come to the annual meeting.*

New archivists are a growing force within SAA. At the business meeting on Saturday, we heard that 27% of SAA’s members are students. Add to that the number of members who are new professionals or still looking for their first professional job, and the ratio becomes even more significant.

We are the future of the archives profession. We are the future of SAA. And without official representation within SAA, which this roundtable would provide, I worry that our current and future leaders will keep ignoring us.


*(Obviously, some of these apply to less-than-new archivists too.)

Update: No RT meeting, come to the SAA Tweetup/Beer RT instead

I don’t think there’s a time that works for everyone, or almost everyone, for an informal RT meeting at SAA this year. But Lance, Jessica, and I will all be at the SAA Tweetup/Beer RT, so if you’re interested in this RT, please come find us there! (No Twitter account necessary to attend or RSVP.)

What’s the value of an in-person meeting?

So, that last post generated a few comments about organizing an informal meeting at SAA to discuss this roundtable in progress. I’ll be at SAA, and so will Lance and Jessica, and we’re all open to the idea (as long as it doesn’t conflict with the SAA 2011 Tweetup and Beer Roundtable). Please post your ideas for times and/or locations in the comments!


But I also want to use this post to talk about the value of meeting in person. One of the benefits of getting this group approved by SAA by January (we hope!) is that we can request a roundtable meeting room and time at SAA12. And it’s an especially important topic for a group for new archivists, because many of us can’t afford to attend the SAA annual meeting or other professional events in person.


So I pose the question: what can this group accomplish with an in-person meeting at SAA–either an informal one, like we’d have this year, or a formal one, like we might be able to have next year–that we can’t accomplish remotely? If we do have an in-person meeting, formal or informal, how can we make sure that archivists who can’t attend aren’t out of the loop?