What’s a new archivist, anyway?

In order to propose a roundtable for new archivists, we have to define what we mean, exactly, by “new archivists.” The RT will be open to anyone, but we need to define the subset of archivists that our RT aims to serve. I would also like to see leadership roles limited to people who meet our definition of new archivists.

There are a few ways to define new archivists:

  • Number of years as a professional
  • Number of years since graduation from a master’s program
  • Number of jobs held (e.g., someone in his/her first professional job is a new archivist)

(And maybe others? Add your ideas in the comments!)

Below I have some fictional examples of people who might consider themselves new archivists, based on the criteria above. As you can see, it gets complicated fast! Which of these people would you consider “new archivists”? Are there any useful examples I left out? If so, please add them in the comments! (I will add your suggestions to the list below.)

  1. John is currently a student in a master’s program with a concentration in archives. He’s not working in the field yet.
  2. Maygene is still in college, but she wants to eventually get her master’s and become an archivist.
  3. Peter has been a professional archivist for 20 years, and is now working on his master’s with a concentration in archives.
  4. Brenda has been a professional archivist for X years. (How big does X have to be before Brenda isn’t a new archivist anymore?)
  5. Nicholas graduated with his master’s X years ago. (How big does X have to be before Nicholas isn’t a new archivist anymore?)
  6. William has only been a professional archivist for 2 years, but in that time he has worked 5 different project positions.
  7. Frank graduated with his master’s 5 years ago and has been working as an archives assistant (paraprofessional) for the last 10 years. He is looking for a professional position
  8. Mark graduated with his master’s 5 years ago and is still looking for a job in the field.
  9. Richard graduated with a master’s in archives 5 years ago and has been a reference librarian in a public library ever since. He is now looking for his first archives job.
  10. Elizabeth has been a part-time archivist for 5 years (in number of hours, about 2 years of full-time experience).
  11. Rebecca (that’s me!) worked as an archives assistant for 3 years and has been a librarian (who does some archives things and some non-archives things) for six weeks.
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About Rebecca
Archivist, librarian, webcomicker.

8 Responses to What’s a new archivist, anyway?

  1. Gene Hyde says:

    ALA keeps membership in the New Members Roundtable pretty simple, defining it by length of ALA membership: “Individual membership is open and available to any member of the American Library Association who has been an ALA member for ten or fewer years.” After looking at the range of possibilities that Rebecca points out, something simple like “ten or fewer years membership in SAA” might work.

    • Rebecca says:

      This roundtable is for new professionals, not new SAA members. Big difference.

      • Gene Hyde says:

        That works for me – just pointing out the ALA model for discussion.

      • Rebecca says:

        And thanks for sharing that example–length of membership is one option I left out of the initial post. SAA does have some events and services specifically targeted towards new members, so that’s a need that I think is already being addressed.

  2. Liz says:

    I’m not sure we should set time limits – kicking people out after so long seems to assume they’re somehow going to exploit the group/its resources. I say we let people self-select who is “new” &, once they don’t consider themselves as such, hopefully they’ll still feel connected & do their best to give back to the group?

    • Rebecca says:

      The group is open to anyone, including seasoned professionals. No one will be kicked out. We need to define new archivists so we can explain to SAA what our target audience is, and maybe to restrict who can hold leadership positions in the RT.

      • Susan D says:

        I think we need to distinguish between those in the category of “new archivist,” however you choose to define that, and members of the Roundtable. Anyone can join an SAA Roundtable, and I expect there will be many supporters of new archivists and their concerns from more senior archivists. For example, they always have more people volunteering to be mentors than they have mentees. I suspect this is a self-selecting group, so that rather than determining when someone no longer qualifies, the focus should be on who might benefit. All of Rebecca’s categories work, IMHO, and cover aspects I would not have thought of. I would not want to have a firm line at which point, folks fall off the cliff, so to speak. I am not sure there would be the type of benefits that would force that (like discounts on publications for students). Anyone can go to the career guidance table at SAA, for example. It is just that the focus of discussion, attention, programs should focus on those breaking into the profession in a way that cuts across educational programs, since those don’t benefit everyone and create more of a silo approach. I have been involved in the Archives Leadership Institute for four years, aimed at mid-career archivists. That, too, is a kind of moving target in terms of definition.

  3. Sarah P. says:

    Before I leave my suggestion for a “formal” definition, let me first welcome any and all attempts to wordsmith this. I’m on my way out the door, so the wording could no doubt be vastly improved.

    The New Archivist Roundtable defines New archivists as:

    (1) Non-archival trained personnel who perform archival-related tasks on a semi-regular basis,

    (2) individuals considering or pursuing formal archival training thru ALA-accredited schools or pratical experience,

    (3) individuals engaged in volunteer and/or part-time archival work which does not encompass the full range of traditional archival responsibilities,

    (2) and/or archival trained personnel seeking or recently engaged in a profesional position that includes partial- or full-time archives-specific duties.

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