I will no longer stay quiet.

I generally do not engage in political talk on this blog. First and foremost, I simply do not like talking about politics; it stresses me out. But secondly, I like keeping the peace. I remember learning something in political science class during my freshman year of college that will always stick with me. The TA dropped a little wisdom on us and said that if you’re ever with a group of people you don’t know very well, stay away from discussing money, religion, and politics. Because this blog is a space open to everyone, I would hate for someone to feel attacked or unwelcome by a post simply because he or she holds certain political views.  Hence, my idea of a politically neutral blog has been totally sufficient for almost two years.

But there are times when you just cannot stay quiet. Right now, we are in one of these times. A few days ago, the President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, and his administration released their proposed budget for fiscal year 2018. This proposal sent archivists, librarians, scholars, educators, museum curators, students and all those who care about cultural heritage into a complete shock. In this proposal, Trump and his administration desire to eliminate funding for the following programs related to archives and libraries:

  • National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH)
  • National Endowment for the Arts (NEA)
  • Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS)
  • National Heritage Areas program at the National Park Service. There are currently 49 Heritage Areas nationwide.
  • Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
  • Twenty individual grant programs at the Department of Education are eliminated. The proposal specifically mentions international education which includes Title VI/Fulbright-Hays.
  • The Department of Interior’s budget is cut 12%.

In my mind, this is nothing less than a tragedy. Even though this is just a proposal and it is highly unlikely that this will have any chance of making it through Congress, I call this tragic because it shows us that the President of the United States simply does not value what we value. Apparently, he does not see value in funding archives, libraries, and the countless other cultural heritage institutions that document the human experience. This proposal has once again forced me to confront the question, “why do archives matter?” I found my answer to this question many years ago, and it still has not changed. Archives matter because humans matter. Archives matter because the human condition matters, and our collective experiences, stories, victories, challenges, and legacies matter on this planet. Does President Trump value the human experience? Does he value human expression? Does he value the culture and rich traditions that we all share as members of the human race? According to this budget proposal, the answer is no, and that, my friends, angers me.

On an even more intense level, I must add that this budget proposal personally offends me. I cannot even begin to explain the incredible impact that programs like the NEH, IMLS, and National Heritage Area programs have had on my life. In 2015, I was awarded a ARL/SAA Mosaic Fellowship, which paid for the last year of my graduate schooling and provided me with a paid internship so I could gain experience in my field and enter the job force after graduation. Yeah, the IMLS did that!! Do you all remember my work with the Flat Rock Archives? The Flat Rock Archives is a small community archives in Lithonia, GA that documents the history of African Americans in the area. The Flat Rock Archives survives on two grants per year, and one of these grants is provided by the National Heritage Area program. Without this grant, the archives would cease to exist. As for the NEH, where do I even begin? The NEH and the IMLS partially fund almost every conference I attend as an archives professional. The NEH provides the entire cultural heritage profession with preservation grants, outreach grants, research grants, and more. Eliminating the NEH would be completely catastrophic for the development of the humanities in this country.

I want to raise my future children in a country that values their thoughts, expressions, and stories, and history. I want to live in a country that sees value in its people and their ideas. Right now, I am sick with grief over the current administration’s death sentence toward so many things that I hold true to my heart. But I will not give up hope!! There are too many of us to let this go down without a fight. I believe that through solidarity, activism, prayer, and grit, America will push back against this assault on its cultural heritage.

Who’s with me??

For more information about the Trump FY 18 Budget Proposal, visit http://www.cnn.com/2017/03/16/politics/trump-budget-cuts/

To see the Society of American Archivists’ most recent analysis of the Trump FY 18 Budget Proposal, visit http://www2.archivists.org/news/2017/trump-administration%E2%80%99s-proposed-fy-18-budget-slashes-neh-nea-imls

 

Mamma, I made it!

Looks like your girl has been published again! I am so excited for the publication and release of Participatory Heritage edited by Henriette Roued-Cunliffe and Andrea Copeland. This edited volume features a variety of international writers in the information studies and heritage preservation fields. The book discusses how heritage institutions can collaborate with independent, community-based heritage initiatives in order to develop a more inclusive historical record. My chapter focuses on my volunteer work with the Flat Rock Archives. Yay!

participatoryheritage_1

participatoryheritage_2

Click here for more information about Participatory Heritage, including how to purchase a copy.

I’m an archivist with a wandering eye…

I’m an archivist with a wandering eye.

Yes, I admit it. As much as love, cherish, obsess over, and constantly think about archives, I cannot deny my love and passion for rare books! There, I said it. To make matters even more complicated, my love affair is exacerbated by my incredible job. Although I am the Outreach/Special Collections Archivist at the Kennesaw State University Archives, my job as evolved into a position that helps preserve and manage our university’s Bentley Rare Book Gallery. At this point, I’m probably my job is probably 60-70% archives and 30-40% Bentley. It is a love triangle that I am stuck in, and honestly, it’s the best thing that has ever happened to my career. Let me explain why. . .

Since starting my job at KSU, I’ve learned that I don’t have to view rare books and archives in isolation. During graduate school, rare book education was not a topic we touched on at all. This is pretty common for most archival graduate programs, and probably most library graduate programs as well. This left me feeling as though I was inadequate to work with rare books. Although I was desperate to learn more about them, I kept telling myself, “No, you’re an archivist. This is not what you do. Stick with what you know.”

What a miserable existence, right? Now, after plunging into the field of rare books at my job, I am now able to embrace what I do not know and instead of viewing my ignorance as a barrier, I use it as motivation to educate myself further and further.

2016-06-16-11-16-45
This rare book is an example of “incunabula” – books printed before 1501. This particular book was published in 1489 and is a part of the KSU Bentley Rare Book Gallery.

So where does a person obtain formal education in the field of rare book curation? Well, I am still trying to figure this out. Take a look at this explanation from the American Library Association’s Rare Book and Manuscript Section regarding education in the rare book field (https://rbms.info/committees/membership_and_professional/educational_opportunities/):

 Educational opportunities for those seeking a career in rare book and manuscript librarianship are so numerous and diverse, it is becoming increasingly difficult to pinpoint them. These opportunities range from formal academic programs leading to a graduate degree, to single-day workshops or seminars. They are offered by schools of library and information studies, English and History departments, libraries, museums, and other academic organizations, by master craftspersons in bookmaking, and on the internet. They provide education on such varied topics as the theory of textual editing, how to catalog a rare book in the MARC format, the history of bookbinding, typography, and publishing, and how to create electronic archival finding aids. Given this great variety, the Membership and Professional Development Committee of the Rare Books and Manuscripts Section (RBMS) of the Association of College and Research Libraries, American Library Association (ALA), has developed the following directory to aid both prospective and current members of the profession in navigating various educational opportunities for special collections librarianship. Currently, the directory lists graduate coursework offered within degree programs leading to a graduate library degree (MLS).

For most of the 20th century, the more ambitious library schools in the United States were the places to go for formal education in rare book and manuscript librarianship. They routinely offered courses in the history of books and printing, descriptive and analytical bibliography, rare book curatorship, paleography, archival management, cataloging, and preservation. However, for the last decade at least, many schools have dropped such offerings. The obvious case in point is Columbia University’s School of Library Service, which after nearly 20 years of leadership in the professional development of special collections librarians, closed its doors in 1992. Surviving library schools have been rethinking their curricula and retooling them for the 21st century by focusing on electronic information technologies. Yet, at the same time, there has never been in more interest in the “history of the book,” both within and outside academia, and there are more places to obtain knowledge on book history than ever before.

2016-06-16-11-14-44
A handwritten Medieval manuscript leaf from the KSU Bentley Rare Book Gallery! Look at those gorgeous and brilliant colors. The colors were most likely created from crushed gemstones mixed with albumen (egg white). 

In other words, rare book education is not a cut-and-dry process. If you are looking for something more robust, options like Rare Book School, California Rare Book School, Center for Book Arts, Midwest Book and Manuscript Studies, etc. are probably better options. If you are seeking education in more of an informal way, perhaps something a little quicker and less in depth, conferences and workshops are probably your best bet, such as the Rare Book and Manuscript Section (RBMS) annual preconference, and random workshops held by the Society of American Archivists (they’ve got one coming up in December all about rare book. . . check it out here http://saa.archivists.org/events/rare-books-for-archivists-1747/738/).

While formal education is imperative, I believe that apprenticeship and learning from a more experienced rare book curator is one of the best ways to understand this field. Each week, I spend time with Mr. Robert Williams, curator emeritus of rare books at KSU, and I cannot tell you how much I’ve learned from him. Sometime he has to tell me things two and three times before I fully comprehend it, but that is okay. Being under his wing and letting him impart knowledge of his fifty-year career in book collecting onto me is the most wonderful (and fun) way to learn about this field. Find yourself a Mr. Williams!

Confessions of an ACA Exam Survivor

Important update: I PASSED THE ACA EXAM!!! WOOHOO!

Sorry, I just had to put that out there. I’ve known for a week, and I’m still on cloud nine. Now that I’ve taken the test, and the experience is still fresh in my mind, I’d like to put some tips out there for all of you future test takers. . .

  • Be early – not on time. They start giving instructions about 30 minutes before the actual exam.
  • Bring more than one pencil! I forgot how annoying it is to fill in Scantron bubbles with a dull pencil!
  • Turn your phone off, or don’t bring it.
  • Read each question VERY CAREFULLY.
  • Look for answers to questions within other questions.
  • You are going to get stuck between two (and sometimes three) answers. It is just going to happen. Some of the questions on the test, in my opinion, were a bit subjective.
  • If you are totally stuck on a question, move on and come back to it.
  • You will most likely have plenty of time. It generally doesn’t take three hours.
  • Study the Archival Fundamentals Series. I think a lot of the more straight-forward questions came from those.
  • Be sure you know your domains well: 1) Selection, Appraisal, and Acquisition 2) Arrangement and Description 3) Reference Services and Access 4) Preservation and Protection 5) Outreach, Advocacy, Promotion 6) Managing Archival Programs 7) Professional, Ethical, and Legal Responsibilities.

These are just a few nuggets that might help you if you’re planning on taking the test next year. If anyone else has more tips, please comment and share!

letter photo
I am one happy archivist! Technically, I am now a provisional member until I petition that I have enough work experience to qualify as a fully certified archivist. But hey, I’m not complaining!  

 

I’ll do me. You do you. But let’s all do SAA!

Last week, archivists from all over the country (actually, probably the world) came to Atlanta for the eightieth Society of American Archivists (SAA) annual meeting. And it was AWESOME. Aside from the fact that I live in Atlanta and had the luxury of watching so many of my colleagues enjoy all that my city has to offer, I had a chance to experience what it was like to serve on the host committee for the SAA meeting. In addition, I am a 2015 – 2017 Association of Research Libraries/Society of American Archivists Mosaic Fellow, so I enjoyed a few different special events through that as well. One thing that I love about the SAA conference is that no one’s experience is identical. At some conferences, everyone attends the same sessions, eats the same conference food, etc. Nothing is wrong with that. However, at the SAA conference, there is no possible way an archivists can go to every session, visit every vendor, drink at every happy hour, eat at every restaurant. . . it’s just not humanly possible. Hence, each archivist attending the conference has a customized experience based on what is important to him or her. Some archivists choose to stay for the entire conference while others may only stay for a few days. Some may choose to attend pre-conference workshops while others may choose to spend that time getting to know the area and socializing with colleagues. There is no wrong way to do SAA! Even archivists that cannot physically come to the meeting can enjoy conference recordings on Mp3. How cool is that??

Anyway, I’m going to give you a glimpse into my SAA experience. I encourage everyone to comment and share their own!

Tuesday, August 2

8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. ARL/SAA Mosaic Forum

During this all-day forum, my fellow Mosaic scholars and I enjoyed learning about diversity in archives and early career development from a variety of panel speakers. I’d like to make a special shout-out to my friends Holly Smith, Gabrielle Dudley, and Courtney Chartier for conducting a wonderful panel to kick off our forum! Later in the day, we had lunch with current SAA President Dennis Meissner and SAA Executive Director Nancy Beaumont, which was delightful. We ended the day with a mock job interview. I am already employed, so it didn’t mean much to me, but the practice is always good.

Tuesday, August 2:       

5:30 p.m. Archive-It Partner reception

Be still my beating heart! Some of my oldest blog readers may remember that interned with Archive-It during the summer of 2015. That’s the reason I started this blog in the first place! I enjoyed a lovely reception with my former co-workers and internship supervisors. It was so wonderful to see them. They came to Atlanta all the way from San Francisco.

Tuesday, August 2

6:30 p.m. ARL/SAA Mosaic Fellow dinner at White Oak Kitchen

Dinnertime with my Mosaic Fellows! We had a delicious dinner at White Oak Kitchen in downtown Atlanta and enjoyed lots of bonding. I was so impressed because the restaurant was even able to accommodate all of my dietary issues (which is rare). Yum!

 

ARL_SAA photo
Aren’t we adorbs??

Wednesday, August 3

8:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Academy of Certified Archivists exam

Umm, do I really need to describe this one? It was definitely a challenging test. I am keeping positive thoughts and hoping that I passed! I want to be a certified archivist!

Wednesday, August 3

12:30 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. Bookstore

Those prices were incredible!! I bought two new books—College and University Archives: Readings in Theory and Practice edited by Christopher Prom and Elaine D. Swan and the new, hot-off-the-press Digital Preservation Essentials edited by Christopher Prom, Erin O’Meara, and Kate Stratton. In addition, I got to meet Abigail Christian, SAA’s Editorial and Production Coordinator.

2016-08-04 19.30.58

Wednesday, August 3

2:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. Registration table

Part of being on the SAA host committee is putting in work. In addition to contributing to the conference blog, one of the ways I contributed was by working the registration table. This allowed me to meet archivists from all over the place. I even got a chance to meet Frank Boles—an accomplished and prolific archivist who has written countless articles for The American Archivists and other well-known journals in our field. Meeting people was so much fun!

Friday, August 5

5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. 71st Presidential Address and Awards Ceremony

During this large ceremony, I was recognized as an ARL/SAA Mosaic Fellow along with other SAA scholarship winners. I even got to walk on stage. I also enjoyed listening to the address that President Dennis Meissner gave. He talked about a variety of topics including the need for inclusion in the archival profession and the need for archivists to become givers to their profession. After the presidential address, I met two INCREDIBLE archivists whom I have looked up to for such a long time—Cheryl Oestreicher and Scott Cline!!!

I had such a wonderful time at SAA. There were tons of things I wish I could have done, but attempting to go back and forth between the conference in downtown Atlanta and working at my job in Kennesaw in addition to moving into my first apartment that same week, I could only do so much. (Yes, there was stress involved). To be honest, I REALLY wished I could have attended the Write Away! Breakfast. *Sigh* Next year definitely!

That was my experience at SAA. Now tell me how you did SAA!!

Pomp, Circumstance … and Employment!

First comes …

archives_books_pic

then comes …

graduation_pic

then comes …

joy_nametag_pic

joy_office_pic
Check me out in my big-girl office 🙂

YAAS! It’s official! As of May 7, 2016, this girl is a graduate of Clayton State University’s Master of Archival Studies program.

And…

I have officially finished my first week of work in my very first professional position ever. That’s right, no more “i-word” for me (aka intern). I am now the Outreach/Special Collections Archivist at Kennesaw State University! #Hallelujah. Check out our site here.

As the Outreach/Special Collections Archivist, I am a member of the Archives section of the KSU Museums, Archives, and Rare Books Department (MARB). My position focuses on increasing and enhancing archival awareness both on and off campus. My main functions include providing archival instruction sessions to undergraduate and graduate students, providing reference services for patrons, working with donors from the north and northwest Georgia community, and developing exhibits, workshops, social media content, and public programs that increase the presence of the KSU archives.

Some of you may not have heard of an outreach archivist before or may be wondering how it is similar to or different from other archival positions. An outreach archivist is very much the face of the archives. In other words, my position is all about facilitating a connection between our archives and various constituents. I may not be involved in much archival processing, but my job is to work closely with the processing archivist, letting him know which collections are being requested the most so he can determine priorities for processing. I also work with him to discuss interesting items within collections so I can promote them to the public. In addition, the second half of my title says “special collections.” That means I work primarily with records created outside the university. The KSU Archives’ goal not only involves collecting records created by the university but also documenting the history of north and northwest Georgia. Hence, I work closely individuals, civic organizations, and social groups in the surrounding areas to ensure their voices are heard and represented within KSU’s archival collections.

In a nutshell, my first week at the KSU Archives was amazing, overwhelming, eye-opening, exciting, busy, and inspiring. During my time at KSU, I know that I will be challenged; I know will make mistakes; and on occasion, I might outright fail. However, I also know these challenges will never supersede my passion for archives and my determination to work hard and diligently no matter what it takes. My title as “archivist” has been three years in the making. I’m ready. #Letsgo.

 

KSU_mug_pic

Last but not least … many congratulations to all the librarians, archivists, curators, and information science professionals who graduated this year! We did it!

 

 

A Questionable Process

Anyone who has ever taken courses in archival studies or has spent any time working in an archives has surely learned a thing or two about processing. Processing refers to the “arrangement, description, and housing of archival materials for storage and use by patrons.”[1] Basically, it is the “get down and dirty” work of being an archivist—bringing order to materials, rehousing, reboxing, removing rusty staples, creating finding aids,  etc. Processing is one of the most important steps toward making archives available to the public for research. As to be expected, archivists go back and forth debating best practices for processing. Some archivists ascribe to very traditional views that insist on removing every staple and every paper clip from all documents, refoldering all items using archival folders, and then describing collections at the item level. Other archivists fully embrace Mark Greene and Dennis Meissner’s revolutionary concept of “More Product, Less Process,” affectionately known as MPLP. MPLP encourages archivists to focus on processing in a way that will provide users with faster access to collections instead of focusing on removing every staple, ordering every document chronologically, or transferring all materials to acid-free folders.[2] Other archivists (I’d say the majority) are somewhere in between.

Many times, processing standards are unique to different institutions. For instance, in the Archives Research Center at the Robert W. Woodruff Library, Atlanta University Center (where I intern), each archivist is required to write a processing plan before embarking on a new collection. Our processing plans are always evolving, of course, but they help us to think about the kinds of series that may exist in the collection and how we plan to budget our time while processing. Another processing practice we abide by involves getting rid of newspaper clippings (well, most of them anyway). It may sound like heresy for an archivist to throw things like newspapers away, but remember … newspapers are extremely acidic and will inevitably deteriorate much faster than regular paper. Placing them in close contact with other documents may put the entire collection at risk of premature deterioration. Hence, during processing, we make preservation copies of the articles using acid-free paper, and then we deaccession the newspapers themselves. *Disclaimer: this doesn’t occur in all cases; we keep high-value newspapers and house them appropriately.* Lastly, another interesting preservation practice at the Woodruff Library is our use of legal-size folders only. We never use letter-size folders. Don’t ask me why, but that’s just how it is!

paper clips

As you can see, archival processing is anything but a simple process. It is affected by money, time, staff members, user and donor requests, management demands, and institutional policies. It can be the most tedious activity in the world and the most exciting activity at the same time. My appreciation for processing has grown tremendously over the past year, mainly because that is what I’ve been doing at my internship. My main job is to process the Bernard W. Bell collection, which contains forty-two linear feet of documents along with a few floppy disks, and cassette tapes. The collection also contains more than one thousand books from Dr. Bell’s personal library. Processing the Bell collection is monumental for me because it is the first time I’ve processed a full collection on my own. Of course, I have lots of support from my co-workers and supervisors who graciously answer all my questions and provide me with advice, but it is still a big deal for me.

The more I process, the more I realize how much the phrase “it depends” is fitting for archival work. There are always exceptions to the rule, and sometimes, we just have to use common sense if we’re going to get the job done. I’d like to be transparent for a minute and lay out some issues I’ve run into while processing the Bell collection. I’ll tell you how I managed these issues, but feel free to speak your mind about how you might have dealt with the situation.

  • Bell is an African American literary scholar and former professor; hence, his collection is FILLED with documents containing staples and paper clips. Early on, I tried to be the perfect archivist and remove each stable and paper clip. I quickly realized I wouldn’t have a prayer of processing the collection by May if I continued in this way. I decided to practice MPLP with the staples and paper clips and only remove the ones that are causing preservation issues.
  • I am processing one series at a time. I was very pleased to finish the “Writings” series last semester because it contained an enormous amount of manuscript drafts. Last week, I was inventorying a box of books, and lo and behold, I found a surprise in the box—more manuscripts! I started getting anxious because I wasn’t sure how I was going to interfile these manuscripts into boxes filled with already refoldered manuscript drafts. However, as Kathleen Roe states, “the act of arranging and describing records is not a simple linear process.”[3] My co-workers reminded me that the manuscripts I refoldered last semester are not resting in their final boxes yet, so I don’t need to worry about interfiling. I decided to simply refolder the newly found manuscripts, and I will make a note to interfile them at the end when I am putting everything into the final boxes.
  • Dr. Bell was a professor, so inevitably he graded things—lots of things! However, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) protects student grades, and leaving them in the collection would be a violation of privacy. The same goes for health records, which are protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA). I’ve come across some HIPPA violations in Dr. Bell’s collection, particularly when students needed to correspond with him about medical issues affecting their academic performance. In order to deal with these issues, I created two folders—a RESTRICTIONS folder and a SHRED folder. Once I finish processing, I will work with my supervisors to review the contents of both folders so we can act accordingly. We will create memos detailing exactly which records are restricted and for how long. We will also discuss which ones we need to shred.

These are just a few of the many processing adventures I’ve experienced thus far. I haven’t started the description portion of the Bell collection yet, so I bet I’ll have even more scenarios when that happens. Who else has “processing issues” they’d like to share? Any and all advice, questions, and concerns are welcome!

archives box

[1] The Glossary of Archival Records and Terminology, s.v. “processing,” accessed January 23, 2016, http://www2.archivists.org/glossary/terms/p/processing.

[2] Mark A. Greene and Dennis Meissner, “More Product, Less Process: Revamping Traditional Archival Processing,” American Archivist 68, no.2 (2005): 208-263.

[3] Kathleen Roe, Arranging & Describing Archives & Manuscripts (Chicago: Society of American Archivists, 2005), 67.