Guest post: Getting students and new archivists involved in SAA

Today we have a guest post from Rebecca Weintraub, Queens College library school student, SAA Queens College student chapter secretary, and excellent-first-name-haver. Follow her on Twitter @BeckAW and @SAAatQC. Want to write your own guest post? Comment here or contact us.

There I was – bright-eyed, bushy-tailed – totally ready for my first professional conference. I was going to hob-nob with archives all-stars, network successfully with hundreds of people, and run completely out of business cards because I was oh-so-popular.

Unfortunately, I can’t say that this was the case. As an M.L.I.S. candidate and total newbie to the profession, I didn’t anticipate how tough it would be to enmesh myself in the sea of never-ending archivists. I did, however, have high hopes that the “New Member / First-Timer Orientation” would at least point me in the right direction. Billed as a “casual conversation about how to make the most of your time at the conference,” I was expecting just that. Instead, the President made a quick speech and introduced representatives from the Membership Committee. After about 15 minutes or so, it was over. I distinctly remember the other girls at my table looking around and asking, “Was that it?”The reason I bring this up is because I think it illustrates how badly students (future archivists!) and new archivists alike need their own support system. It’s not enough to throw us in a room together, feed us (though that does have its appeal), and give us a short speech. Where’s the orientation? Where’s the “I know what you’re going through, here are the things you need to know about being here”? In short, I felt that their attempt to reach out to us wasn’t successful because there really wasn’t much effort to reach out to us at all.

This is where the New Archivists Roundtable would come in. It’s my hope that this body could assist events such as these and really make a student or new archivist feel not too horribly overwhelmed – inside and outside of the conference setting. We’re all in the same boat and we all can learn from each other as we embark on this new career path. Being a student, my most vested interest is in the student body of SAA. It would be great if this proposed roundtable could reach out to SAA Student Chapters (such as mine at Queens College – hi guys!) and start getting students involved from the get-go. Initiate student contacts at individual chapters. Make them a co-chair. Get them involved in leadership and committees early on. Create a newsletter and have students write for it. Make them feel like they actually have a place and purpose in this organization, besides a 1 ½ hour block presenting posters at the Graduate Student Poster Session. Make them feel included!These are all a start, but it can’t happen without a group like this – a group where students and new archivists don’t have to feel like small fish in a very big pond. This roundtable, in my opinion, can go a long way in keeping both future and new archivists interested and involved in the profession for years to come.