My Little Manifesto

This post is my attempt to add to the already wonderful discussion sparked by Rebecca Goldman’s Howl. If you have not read it, I strongly urge you to, as well as her followup here on NewArchivist. We hope the contribution by NewArchivist to be one of suggested improvements that we can discuss and perhaps get on the table to address some of the issues Rebecca and her commentors bring up. I really hope we can continue this important discussion. Thanks to Rebecca and Emi Hastings for their invaluable help with this post.

It seems to me that the least we can do is attempt to create a baseline of what we expect from our profession. This post is an attempt to get that discussion off the ground. I am focusing on two areas here, education and employment. There have been other important points raised as well, such as the level of engagement and cost of the SAA conference. I have been working on a post about that and will try to get it up soon.

At the end of each section, I identify groups that I think can be agents of change in this area. This is not an issue for just educators, or new professionals, or students, or SAA, but the profession as a whole. It will take all of us to advocate for change.


Clearly, there is a feeling right now that master’s degree-granting institutions are contributing to the difficulty of finding employment, especially early in a person’s career, in two ways: by graduating more archivists than the current job market can support, and by not providing enough practical training. I propose that schools devoted to archival training do the following to address these concerns:

Give an Accurate Picture of the Archival Job Market Many schools tout their placement numbers. However, they do not qualify those numbers by telling people how many graduates will be looking for employment again in 1 or 2 years because they are in grant-funded or other short-term positions. Turning to my own experience and that of my graduate cohort, I would think that number would be quite high, perhaps well over half. Incoming students should have this information. While this may make it harder to recruit, it will create a more informed incoming class of students that will be aware of the challenges facing them. My alma mater puts out annual employment reports that have a lot of good information, but do not include the number or percentage of archives students receiving short-term employment. Lets give incoming students all the information they need to decide if the archives profession is indeed for them.

Address How Schools Factor the Job Market vs. Recruitment What is recruitment based on? Do people look at the positions available when determining incoming class size? These might be naive questions, but part of me does think that our schools are concerned with more than money, new buildings, and tenure. I believe most are very concerned with their students getting employment. I know my professors were. I just wonder what it will take to have a school actually reduce the number of students it enrolls due to the job market (you still think I am naive, don’t you).

Provide Managed Practical Experience This is an applied profession and we need more than theory. Most schools provide credit for and/or require some sort of experience in the “real world.” However, they should not stop at making students find internships. When I was in school I took a practicum, which was part internship and part class and discussion managed by working archivists. It was invaluable to me to be placed in a working archive and then have a chance to discuss issues that arose with my fellow students and other experienced archivists. This class is no longer offered in that format, which I think is a shame.  I know it takes a lot of resources to find local opportunities for your students. However, if you cannot provide this level of experience and education to your students, perhaps it is because you have too many students!

Agents of Change: Alumni Those of us that are alums of these schools should be able to leverage that status to at least open a dialog on these matters. Recently, a colleague and I had a very productive sit down with the dean of our alma mater. We were able to raise concerns about the job market, giving incoming students all the needed information, and designing a practical curriculum, among other things.  I urge you all to talk to your deans and alumni groups about the issues you feel they need to address. They need to hear from the front lines of the professional job hunt, and you are the best people to give them that information.

Agents of Change: Students Ask your prospective school how they are addressing these issues. If they do not tell you, demand it. If they still do not tell you, I would have serious doubts about going there. If you are a current student, ask the same questions and give them feedback as to the difficulty you are finding in the job market. Then tell them again.

Agents of Change: Hiring Archivists If you are a professional archivist who sees a huge number of applications for one position, or thinks that the applicants are not as strong as they should be, let the schools know. As the people who give graduates jobs, you have a lot of juice with the schools: use it!

Agents of Change: ALA/SAA Like it or not, ALA is the de facto accrediting body for graduate archival education programs. If you are like me, you will find it quite odd that the accreditation standards used to certify archival training programs do not contain the words archivist or archive. However, this is all we have, as currently SAA provides only Guidelines for Archival Continuing Education, not accreditation (there is a report out there as to why but the link was dead on the SAA site; if you know where it is please let me know in the comments). ALA can use its power as the accrediting body to force the schools to follow a set of community agreed upon recommendations. I think we will need to get a pretty good head of steam at the grass roots level before we can get the behemoth that is ALA to take this up. In the meantime, we can yell at SAA to get off the sidelines.


The job situation is the most difficult one facing us as a profession. The lack of positions, and the tenuous funding for existing positions, is at the core why so many archivists, new and established, are howling.

You will notice that in the following list I do not address the fact that we are underpaid as a profession. I believe that is very true. However, I think as far as employment goes, the lack of fairly paid professional positions with benefits far outweighs the overall underpayment issue. I also think it is a bit unfair to compare us with other professions, like technical or records management. People in the for-profit sector will make more than those of us in the non-profit cultural sector every time. I am not saying that is fair, but I knew that going in. We are among many professions that are underpaid, and in my book, social workers, teachers, people helping others combat addiction and sickness, are ahead of us in line. That is just my opinion, of course.

However, I think we can fight to make professional positions the default, while making “paraprofessional” positions or internships fairer and less of an economic burden. I propose we demand the following from our fellow archival professionals:

Professional Compensation for Professional Work We cannot tolerate, as a profession, positions that have all of the requirements and duties of professional positions without full-time pay and benefits. Positions that file papers all day but are called archivists devalue our profession. Non-professional and/or part-time positions that require a master’s degree or previous experience devalue those degrees and experiences. We all see these types of positions, like this recent gem, and we should pick today as the day we stop tolerating them, dammit!

Underpaid/Unpaid Interns/Volunteers Require Other Benefits Readers of my blog know that I have a difficult time working out my feelings on internships. I think that unpaid work of any kind severely limits the diversity and richness of our profession. However, I also do not see it going away as long as people love the work and want to gain experience. I think we can agree that an intern or volunteer should earn much more for their work than a line on their resume. Building on what Rebecca has already said in her post, institutions that hire or accept non-professional workers should provide some sort of combination of the following:

  • Formal mentoring programs
  • Resume reviews, mock interviews, and job search sessions
  • Chances for professional development (conferences, local workshops, etc.)
  • Opportunities to be exposed to other professional advice, training, or assistance
  • Other career preparation help

This list is just a starter. My point is that interns or volunteers should not be viewed as all the work with no or little pay. They are entering the profession, or are already in it, and should be treated as professionals. Just because you do not have funding does not mean that you can simply create a professional position minus the pay. If you are doing this, you are on the wrong side of ethics–and, in some cases, the law.

Agents of Change: Archive Professionals This one is a no-brainer. If you are creating professional positions without professional compensation, stop. To be fair, the vast majority of archives are not creating positions like these. But I also do not think enough of us are calling out the few that are. If you see an unfair position posted, contact the people posting the position and let them know your feelings. If they are breaking your local law by offered unpaid positions separate from a formal training or education program, let them know that as well. We need to create an atmosphere where it is embarrassing to put positions like these on the Internet.

Agents of Change: SAA SAA should make fair employment practice part of their Code of Ethics for Archivists. This should come as part of a complete reform of the Code in an effort to make it meaningful, with repercussions if it is not followed. I know this used to be the case, but then it was watered down. Perhaps this is something the SAA Issues and Advocacy Roundtable could address?

So there you have it. I hope that did not come off as a rant, although I was kinda ranty there at the end. If you think the posts at Derangement and Description, here, Twitter, and the like are true, if you think that our profession is in need of some reform, then I have a challenge for you. Keep the discussion going, try to work out a common set of reforms, and then act. It is clear that these issues have been around a while, and people were just as fired up about them as we are now, but nothing was done.

Part of our mission as archivists, after all, is to try to prevent repeating mistakes from the past, right?


Filed under By-Lance

33 responses to “My Little Manifesto

  1. Marti

    These are all good points.

    I like that you point out that your professors were concerned about students finding employment. Mine have always been as well.

    The administrators don’t seem to care as much, though. And that is really where the fault lies. And it is why your “meeting with the dean” suggestion is key. The deans and those in the admissions offices are the ones who need to change, it seems. Professors don’t like having to teach big classes. I’m sure they would be just as happy to admit fewer students.

    But then the universities will retaliate with the argument that without all those students, they will be unable to pay professors, pay Facilities, etc.

    In the end there simply is no easy solution to this problem. I hate the whole “IN THIS ECONOMY” argument, but honestly – until funding increases from government and private institutions, I’m afraid none of this will make a difference.

    I feel really depressingly pessimistic saying that, but I don’t see any other way around it.

    • Lance

      I am with you on the pessimism; it is hard to be optimistic in this environment and I think a losing proposition to storm in and tell our schools to lower enrolment. However, we should also be sure not to underestimate our influence as alums and students, especially with the admin which, as you point out, are the most removed from the students. It is my sense that we are very good at bitching about the situation (myself included) and not so good about taking our thoughts to the people that can actually improve the situation. I think we should at least try.

      • S

        Maybe after some care research is done about enrollment rates vs. the amount of jobs, a letter outling concerns could be drafted and sent to all schools with these programs? But that might need a larger body to act as the “author” of the letter. I’m not sure if it would be easy to get an alum from each program to sign on to this…

  2. Beth

    I also think that Underpaid/Unpaid Interns/Volunteers issues are a concern. Although many new archivists have to volunteer to get experience, I think this can create a troubling cycle where less paid positions are available because others are doing the work for free. It creates this Catch-22. As a new archivist, you need to do volunteer work/internships to be competitive, but this work may actually limit the amount of paid positions that are offered.

    I don’t think it’s the senior archivists/directors that are the problem, since I believe they would pay everyone for the work if they had the funding. I also don’t think students/new archivists are the problem, since they are just being thrown into this system. My worry is that the archives funders will see that the archives can produce X amount of work with Y amount of funding, and see this as a reason not to increase archival funding, even if much of the work is unpaid. Perhaps this could lead to a system where archives rely more and more on volunteers to do essential work. I don’t know if this is how things actually play out, but it seems plausible to me.

    Also, I’m an SI alum too!

    • Lance

      I know what you mean and I would think your scenario is quite plausible. I also think you are absolutely right when you say that senior professionals would pay everyone for the work if they had the funding. I think in most cases these are genuine attempts to do good archival work in the current economic climate. However, low funding plus a high number of new graduates should not equal a generation of semi-professionals. At some point we need to draw a line in the sand and tell our funders that we cannot complete our missions with an army of free labor, it is not sustainable. I know, I know, easier said than done, but I think something will have to give or your scenario will have a good chance of playing out.

      And Go Blue!

    • That addresses several of my concerns atucally.

  3. schmengels

    Just want to say that these issues in the comic are not unique to new archivists. I’m still dealing with them after 10 years in the profession. I think the biggest key to success in this field is an ability to move where the jobs are. I can’t do that right now so my prospects are quite limited. There’s a big gap between archivists at large institutions (who pay for them to go to SAA) and those of us at smaller ones.

    • Matt

      This is an excellent post Lance, and I’ve been following related discussion on the A&A list and other blogs.

      Regarding practical experience during education: I graduated in 2008 with my MLIS degree from a pretty prominent archives program in a big city environment. So there were many opportunities to do volunteer or internship archival work as a student. One thing I did when researching which archival programs to apply to was to explore possible work experience opportunities in the area before committing to a specific school. I also had conversations with the archives professors about experience opportunities before any of them had a clue of who I was. So if a prospective student applies him or herself in that way, then the chances of finding real world experience greatly increase. The exploration of real world experience begins BEFORE one applies to a graduate program.

      You are correct about “too many students” in archival programs creating a saturated job market. This also is compounded by some archival programs redesigning their programs down to 1 year, and thus pumping out graduates at faster rates than before. I talked to a colleague who years ago (at least 15) attended Wayne State’s archival program, a programmed that championed their extremely high graduate rate. My colleague then said that less than 10% got archival jobs. Why would a program be proud of this?

      One major problem with archival employment that I think goes unaddressed is that when people leave positions or retire, it is all too often that that particular archives job will never be filled, thus creating one less job opportunity. I’ve seen this multiple times already in my very young career in both university and government archives settings. Perhaps the economy and hiring freezes are playing a roll, but there wasn’t even any talk of one day filling the position. Everyone’s speech and body language suggested that these said positions would remain unfilled. Also, as I have witnessed, especially in university archives, is that 15 or so grad/undergrad archives volunteers can accomplish more than 1 professional staff person. So when a staff person leaves in an environment where unpaid labor thrives, it is another reason not to replace the professional staff member.

      • S

        I agree that this problem started before the current recession. From what I can tell and from what some have told me, at my place of work throughout the history of the special collections department from when it was first established, it has been underfunded and understaffed.

        The backlogs so many archivists (and interns!) are trying to eradicate didn’t emerge yesterday. I think the underfunding will just continue until we start communicating to administrators (outside of our departments) the value we provide.

    • Lance

      Hi All, these are great points you raise. Being flexible with where you live is a huge factor, but also gets more complicated when you have a partner, as I recently learned when both my wife and I were looking.

      Matt, I agree that students have to do all they can to get experiences preferably before they even get to grad school. I think this is even more of a need as grad schools are now aggressively pursuing people right out of undergrad, so there is a chance they are producing master level graduates with no professional experience at all. I did not even know of the 1 year programs, and agree that is not a good thing. You also hit on something that I forgot to mention in my post: the Myth of the Great Archivist Retirement (I am now trademarking that term). Some are not retiring at all, going well beyond 65, and other positions are simply not being replaced. This is happening here at Michigan, just like it is your institution. Schools need to stop using that as a recruitment tool.

      S, I think you hit the nail on the head. This all goes back to the need for better advocacy on our part to convey our value to external entities, and I think getting a bunch of people to do our work for free does not help in that advocacy.

  4. Sam

    Is this the SAA accreditation report you mention?

    Click to access EdCommittee%20Accreditation%20Report_Final.pdf

    All great points, above. I worked like mad during grad school to find volunteer experience, internships, and anything else to give me an edge. I was one of the lucky ones — I found a job. And I am convinced I would still be looking had it not been for all that free/cheap work I did to gain experience. Yet I still don’t feel I am employed at the level I was led to believe was likely by my grad school recruiters, who sometimes sounded as if they would be giving away $50k/year jobs at graduation! So I agree: schools need to be much more realistic in the expectations they set for their students.

    • Lance

      I was just hired for my second professional position, and both have directly come from internships/student employment I did in grad school, so I am with you there. I would think that those low paid positions and number of internships also serve to lower our overall professional pay. This is discussed a little in this article, although from a more unemployment take. I am not sure how to get around this dichotomy.

      Also, way to go with finding that article!!

    • Dana

      Exactly. The schools need to get real. As people interested in attending a graduate program, we are indeed responsible for sussing out the employment situation ahead of time, but in many cases you cannot know the inside scoop until you are truly inside, and by then it is too late. Before I enrolled in library school I did read literature on the job market for archivists, as I’m sure many of us did, but there was no official word on project work- all the official messages sold a pie in the sky- stability and good pay- both of which are in extremely short supply. And at that time, there weren’t any uppity archives blogs either, so I had little possibility of ever finding out just how hard it would be to pay the rent or find a permanent job.

      I have an idea and I need a lots of help putting it together:

      Let’s gather brochures for as many archives education programs as we can, pinpoint what they’re promising, and call them out on it. We can turn it into a white paper and get Council to recognize the issue.

      Do I have any TAKERS???

      • Lance

        I LOVE this idea, count me in!!!

      • This is a great idea. I recall when I was in school one of my fellow students saying that she planned to get a job as a corporate archivist right after grad school and make 90k a year and pay off all her loans. I had to stop myself from laughing. I tried for two years to get an entry level archives technician job before I entered grad school, so I am well aware that someone with no experience is not going to get an 90k a year job right out of school. What did our lecturer say about this? She encouraged the student and said that sounded like a great plan.
        The faculty running these graduate programs need to be realistic, and make sure their students understand the financial risks involved in following this path. Most graduate students leave school with an average of 50k in debt, and entry level jobs are maybe 30k a year. College debt is often a crushing burden, and faculty should not be leading students astray in making them think they will have good jobs immediately after graduation. Professors are culpable in encouraging students to take on more debt than is prudent.

  5. MK

    Great post, Lance. I hope you don’t mind that I posted a link and some comments on A&A. (Yeah, I know. . . . ) I do that sometimes with significant blog posts that I think the list as a whole should know about. (Not everyone on it reads a lot of blogs).

    Matt, you’re right. In a lot of workplaces, they just don’t fill positions when people leave to take other jobs or retire. Depending on whether they are private or public sector, the organizations reply on volunteers, turn to contractors (which reduces the employers’ need to pay more in terms of thye total compensation package, that is, benefits as well as salary), or hope they can make do with less. Some think technology will help with the latter. But that’s just where one needs people with new skills and a fresh perspective to mix in with the existing staff.

    Marti, right now I don’t know to what extent funding will increase any time soon in the public or private sector. State budgets are in trouble in a lot of areas because of revenue shortfalls due to the collapse of the housing bubble, a lengthy period of tight credit for business owners, and decreased consumption of goods and services. It’s really an issue in states where laws require balanced budgets. The money that used to come in to fund state and local services has really been reduced in some localities where the commercial and real estate sectors are still struggling. Lots of budget slashing in many states, some hitting libraries, etc., unfortunately. On the federal level, voters are all over the place in terms of whether they want deficit reduction, stimulus spending, or whatnot. It’s an awfully uncertain time in terms of public sector budgets and projections.

    I see a lot of other complications in ACtrying to sell the importance of knowledge workers and preservation of records that tell community, local, state, and federal history. I would urge archivists to look for opportunties to do that so that their value will get the proper weighting when it comes to funding choices. This comment has gone on long enough so I’ll cut it off here.

    • S

      I think it’s great you found the post of value to share with the listserv. But I’ve yet to see anyone reply to it there. Any thoughts as to why that is? Just curious.

      • MK

        Good question. I find it difficult to project what will start a conversation there and what will not. It could just be that my post there was so long. Don’t know how many people made it all the way through. Oh well, I tried.

      • MK

        An additional thought. Some people only receive the Listserv messages in email through Digest, so I sometimes wait a day or so to see if there are late responses.

        I appreciate your asking about this, S.

    • Lance

      MK, No, I do not mind that you linked this to the list at all. At first I was a little worried as you never know how some people will react to things from blogs (we all know what I am talking about here), but I really appreciated your thoughtful message. I will say I am disappointed that so far no one commented on your message, and the fact that a bunch of people did comment on if they got a cold at SAA makes that even more disappointing 🙂 However, almost 300 people looked at this yesterday, and that is way more than we have ever had for one day and I am sure it is because of your message. So, they may not be talking but they are looking, and that is something, I think. Thanks!

      • MK

        Hah! Yes, we all do know what you’re talking about the list. Thanks much for your kind comments, I’m glad to hear you got so many page extra views. That’s something, anyway.

        As for the lack of comments on the list, well, who knows. Some difficult issues the list members handle pretty well, some others they largely avoid. I think some issues just stymie them. There’s also the fact that some people lurk on the list and play it safe, not wanting employers to read their thoughts. (Some people have told me that in off list comments.) I just don’t know what type of bosses they have and who’s on a short leash and who has more latitude. So I try to be sympathetic to that, although I yap a lot on the list myself. And then there’s the fact that your blog essay laid out so many strong points, perhaps a lot of people read them and went “hmmm, gotta think about this” rather than posting to the list. I hope that’s what happened.

        Advocacy is important here, in various venues. There’s a lot of anti-intellectual chatter on the web, unfortunately. Some of that may lead some citizens to undervalue archives and knowledge institutions. I hope A&A list members, especially the ones who lean right on the political spectrum (which I do not, I moved firmly to the center 20 years ago), seize opportunities to advocate for preservation of and access to the nation’s historical records. And push back against anti-intellectualism and the pooh poohing of data and knowledge as opposed to native intelligence. The important thing is to get the largest number of people, no matter how they vote, to buy in to the value of keeping and making available records. At all levels, not just federal, where I work, but also county, municipal, local, community, corporate (as business interests allow), and family.

        Again, kudos to you Lance, and to Rachel, who started the ball rolling. Way to go!

    • MK, are you talking about me? My name is Rebecca, and I’m the author of the Howl comic.

      • MK

        Ha, brain wasn’t working, I wrote the wrong comics artist’s name. Yes, I totally meant Rebecca. No offense, so sorry

  6. P. G.

    If you want the Issues and Advocacy Roundtable to work on something, you need to contact them (contact info is on the SAA website) and offer to work on the issue you suggest.
    P. G.

  7. Jennifer

    Thanks, Lance, for putting this out there in such a concrete manor. It is so daunting to be searching for a job and see that the majority of them are short-term grant funded positions. It’s almost as if those type of positions are a pre-requisite for having a full time position down the road. While the grant-funding cycle of most non-profit institutions creates a lot of open positions, it is often paid at the lowest rates and provide very little benefits. I hope to see some advocacy for better benefits and pay for short-term positions, perhaps in a forum such as in SAA. Also, it would benefit the profession as a whole if archives professionals at larger institutions (such as academic libraries) advocate for their positions to be on par with those of similar rank, such as librarians (who are often considered faculty). All too often I see archivists put in a position that defines them as “administrator” and provides little to no promotional track. Changing HR tracks in institutions is hard, but attempting to is a very direct way of potentially elevating the career opportunities for archivists in the future.

    • Lance

      I know what you mean about the short term positions. I am just starting my second one but in my case my benefits and pay have been the same as comparable full time positions, but I know I am one of the lucky ones. I certainly think SAA can be a place to advocate for things like this, at least I hope they can because I do not know of anyplace else! Also, you make an outstanding point about tenure track archivists. Recently I have seen a lot of archivist positions that are tenure track but they are also part of the library system. If I were a archivist at a university and librarians were faculty and I was not, regardless of who administers the archive, I would be demanding that change. I agree it would not come quickly but the benefits to the profession would be worth it, as you point out.

  8. Dana

    Hi there,

    Issues and Advocacy Roundtable co-chair here. I personally am ready to try to help. As I mentioned before, I put together a whole panel for the SAA AGM 2009 on professional sustainability, addressing a litany of issues. I doubt deeply that there is even a passable degree of sustainability in our profession- from an objective standpoint, and from a personal one. I’ll admit it: I love archives, I’ve worked hard in my 7 years in the profession, I believe it can be rewarding and worthwhile work, but I am ready to walk if I cannot find a permanent job. I know I’m not the only one, by far.

    I would like to help somehow address these issues on a broader stage within the profession, and I think the I&A Roundtable- as an officially sanctioned body within SAA- is a good place to start. Please join the Roundtable- and if you are not an SAA member, not a problem, we’ll figure something out- and talk to us on the listserve.

    We cannot continue ignoring these problems- as if hundreds of archives grads and even working professionals who find themselves out of work are simply aberrations. It’s a trend, it’s been this way for a while and it’s only going to get worse. We need SAA and especially the educator community to officially recognize this problem, and then we all need to work together to attack it at its roots.

    I’ll be back…

    Thank you,

  9. Lance

    First off, can I say I love your fight “The Man” attitude? I know I will be joining the I&A Roundtable and I urge others to join as well, as you have convinced me that there is a place for this discussion with the Roundtable and SAA. I agree what we have been discussing here is a trend, it did not start with the recent economic downturn and will not go away when the economy recovers.

    Also, I want to say that I was very impressed with the material from your panel for the SAA AGM 2009 on professional sustainability. I wish I was there in person, but I highly recommend people check out your presentation, which is linked from here
    (I hope you do not mind me providing this link, Dana).

    I would love to work with you and others on how we can present these issues to the Roundtable and larger SAA community.

  10. Lindsey

    You mention the Code of Ethics as a possible resource for bringing change, and I wanted to let you know that the Code is currently being revised. In addition to the I&A Roundtable, I would also recommend contacting Tim Pyatt, current chair of the Committee on Ethics and Professional Conduct. I agree with you that many of the points in your “Employment” section could be incorporated into the new Code.

    There has been some wonderful discussion on NewArchivist the last few weeks, thank you!

  11. Miranda

    This is a great post, probably more thought-out than mine could ever be. I could go on and on and rant about my own one-year program but I think we’ve established the cons of these. And it would just make me angry (who needs that on a Monday?). Do I feel my professors were concerned about our job prospects? Hmm, while I think they offered the best advice they could, I don’t think they were particularly interested in our welfare. There were just too many of us.

    I’ve been lucky to get a job that I love (although mine’s in Preservation) but I’ve had to straddle my job interests and related fields due to my geographic limitations in order to up the likelihood of employment. I was also very aggressive during grad school, working as many career-related jobs as possible and tossing in a few different volunteering positions as well. I felt, at the time, that that was my advantage over my classmates when I managed to find employment and many didn’t. I also happened to be at the right place at the right time. The poor job availability in our field was made apparent to us right at the beginning of our program, but I don’t think many students reacted to that news or knew how to react.

    But as everyone else has already expressed, I’m concerned with the direction the field is taking. I hire a good number of students that are enrolled in an MLIS/Archives program and the trends I’ve seen are disturbing. I used to see older students who understood the basic hiring processes, knew how to network, and in general knew how to use their assets (and weaknesses) to find a job. I even met some that left the program within the first few weeks once they realized that they’d be facing a poor job market and high student debt. Now I have students that are getting younger and younger, graduating undergrad early, and moving straight to grad school, barely 21. They have a tough time understanding how difficult it will be to find a job and refuse to alter their course. Their naivety over how easy it will be (after all, they have the degree, right?)is saddening. It’s no longer just a question of ‘Can you move anywhere?’ It’s ‘Can you move anywhere and compete against more experienced colleagues who are also willing to move?’ And sometimes you have to move first before the institution will even read your resume, as colleagues of mine have found quite recently.

    What can those of us in the field do? Some of us, myself included, can feel limited in how publicly we may speak or act. My employer has a love/hate relationship with my former program but I’m not sure I’m comfortable with outright criticism. I just try to counsel the students that do come my way and keep them better informed to make whatever decision is right for them. I really like Dana’s brochure idea, though!

  12. Laura

    Well, there was another volunteer archivist position posted on A&A yesterday. It is upsetting when the listserv is used to further the idea that we aren’t really worth paying. Or maybe I’m just sensitive.

  13. Elizabeth

    I would add a point of major frustration we have re: graduate assistants. Our university has a library science program with archival studies. Most of its students that get assistantships get them through the school so they can receive a tuition reduction. The assistantships that are provided through the university libraries are not allowed to offer tuition reduction because they are not “academic.” Do you know what the “academic” GA’s primarily do? Grade papers and make photocopies. I’ve hired students that had those kinds of placements for their first year and that’s all that they did. Practical job skills? Nope.

    So what do the students hired by the library & archives do? Everything from pulling collections out of attics to processing to digitization to reference to exhibits to cataloging. Practical job skills? Big time. Tuition reduction? Nope. We’re not “academic.”

    I agree that a lot of the library educators are out of touch with the real job market – actually I’d say that about most academics.

    I’d also like to point out that we have been extremely fortunate in that our university libraries have a development officer who has helped us set up endowments to pay for student assistants. I wouldn’t have the money for a GA if I hadn’t gotten that set up several years ago. And part of the selling of the idea to the donor was the real world experience the student would get.

    Miranda, you raise an excellent point about the youth of the students and their lack of knowledge of the job hunt and hiring process. That is something that I have discussed with some students, especially the mysterious academic search process.

  14. recent IS grad

    Thank you for continuing this discussion! I am a recent graduate trying not to lose hope while job hunting and dreaming of life beyond sharing a studio apartment. While I attended an IS program at a well-respected university, I have several specific complaints that speak to larger issues in archival education.

    1. An archives class taught by a professor who had never worked in an archives or studied the field
    2. Core (required) classes with up to 90 students and an average of 35-40 students in all but one class
    3. Zero faculty members with an archives background during my second year of the program
    4. An adviser who didn’t respond to multiple emails asking for help
    5. Being sold the profession with enthusiastic speakers, history and theory, etc…but not given a realistic picture of the current landscape (lack of jobs, highly competitive nature, lack of permanent positions) and skills needed to succeed (computer science, practice with EAD/finding aids/digital collections, CMS, or DAMS)
    6. An Information Technology class taught by an 85 year old professor emeritus who gave us the history of computer science through 1970 and spent the rest of the quarter teaching us how to build an Excel spreadsheet, though he could not demo the current version 😦 [To note, I have great respect for his contributions to the field but did not learn what I needed to from a 21st century technology class]

    That said, I went in knowing I would not get rich being an archivist and did research the profession, though in hindsight I would have searched for archives blogs rather than relying on SAA’s “So You Want to Be an Archivist.”