Category Archives: By-Guest_Contributor

Deranging the Archives

I am once again very happy to have a contribution from Derangement and Description‘s Rebecca Goldman. This time, Rebecca is following up to her comic heard around the archival world, Post-SAA Howl. As DnD returns to the funnier side of archives, NewArchivist is excited to host this already rich conversation and begin the quest for some solutions. ~Lance

(Disclaimer: All views are my own and do not represent the positions of Drexel University, the Drexel University Libraries, or the Drexel iSchool.)

I used to worry that if I was known as a webcomic author, no one would take me seriously as an archivist. Now I worry that people will take me seriously as an archivist because I’m a webcomic author, and that’s no good either. You should listen to to me because I’ve been in archives long enough to speak from experience, but not so long that I don’t feel like an outsider sometimes. Because I have a MLS, but I’m still a student, and I’ll be starting archives classes in the fall. Because I work at a university that has an archives program, which is where most of the interns at my archives come from. And because I presented at SAA this year–as a last-minute addition to my panel, replacing an archivist who had to leave the field for financial reasons.

So! Some of you may have read a little photocomic last week about the plight of some of our new archivists. I really meant it only as a reflection of my own frustration, both with the difficult situation facing new archivists and my inability to do anything about it. And so I asked for ideas. To say that I was overwhelmed by the response would be an understatement. I expected some comments, and maybe even a little controversy; what I did not expect was a call to action.

Here is the primary reason for my surprise: I didn’t think I was saying anything new. Isn’t it obvious to anyone looking for a job, or looking for an employee, that the supply of applicants far exceeds the number of open positions? Isn’t it common for new archivists to start out in part-time or grant-funded jobs? Haven’t we argued about this on A&A already? (Regarding that last one–apparently not.)

The discussion surrounding the post-SAA Howl has been amazingly productive, and even in discussing issues that are highly emotional for many archivists, the conversations have remained polite and respectful. Gold star for everyone! I have some ideas that haven’t yet been mentioned by others, so I thought I’d share them here.

1. The problems facing entry-level archivists are not unique to the archives field. There’s a recession on, jobs are being cut across the board, and employers have many talented candidates to choose from. We should be concerned about what will happen when the recession ends. Companies and institutions will start hiring again when the economy improves, but will they replace the archives positions and funding that have been cut? Will organizations that have never had an archives see the value in starting one?

2. The state of the field hurts all archivists, not just the un(der)employed ones. Those of us who are employed, especially in entry-level positions, know that what separates us from the unemployed is often merely luck, or geographic flexibility, or knowing the right people. (And if you don’t know that–well, you do now.) There’s some survivor’s guilt there. And we can share our favorite food and music and hobbies with our friends, but we can’t so easily share our love of archives, knowing the challenges awaiting anyone entering the field.

3. Unpaid interns should be free as in kittens, not free as in beer. Archivists have used the expression “free as in kittens” to discuss the responsibilities that patrons should take on as part of the reference services they receive. (Chela Scott Weber provided great context in her SAA presentation–I’ll add a link here if it goes online.) Grad students may come to you with sad kitten eyes, begging you to take them on as interns, but you should only accept them if you are willing to take responsibility for training, mentoring, and supervising. (Whether or not archives should accept unpaid grad school interns at all is a separate issue, and certainly worthy of discussion.)

4. How can we be advocates for the profession? Many commenters have cited the need for increased advocacy. But do we know what effective advocacy for the archives looks like? Who is in a good position to advocate?

I’m glad that my post has inspired so many archivists to start asking what we can do for our profession, and that responses have come from archivists at various stages in their careers and with connections to a variety of institutions and professional associations. (Still no comments from professors or staff at library/archives schools. I hope some of you will weigh in soon at NewArchivist!) And it’s certainly flattering (not to mention a little intimidating) that a picture I made could become the basis for a movement. I’m not sure what such a movement should look like, and I’m certainly not the person to lead it, but I have a few thoughts on how it might stay true to the spirit of the original post and the commentary it generated.

1. Include everyone, everywhere, as much as possible. For in-person meetings, try to hold them in multiple cities, and help attendees find cheap housing and transportation. Also consider online meetings. They can become unwieldy very quickly as the number of attendees grows, but if you find a way to make it work, let SAA and the other associations know how you did it! And make the records of your meetings, wherever and however they happen, available online and accessible to all.

2. Some archivists want to take action. Some just need to vent. Both reactions are valid, but they’re best expressed in separate settings. Don’t let the ranters derail your business meetings, but do provide them with a space to rant.

3. Your enemies are potential partners. You can blame the archives programs, the professors, the employers, the professional associations, all of the above–or, you can work with them to improve the field for all archivists.

Derangement and Description would like to revert back to being a humor blog, but let’s keep the discussion and planning going here at NewArchivist.


Filed under By-Guest_Contributor, By-Rebecca

What I Did for Spring Break

This week’s guest contribution is from Elizabeth Skene. Elizabeth is currently working at the American University in Cairo and will be starting her final year at the School of Information at Michigan this fall. She is also author of the blog Nerd Hugs. Alternative Spring Break is a great program, so we really appreciate her willingness to share her experiences. Thanks so much, Elizabeth! ~ ed

This March, I was able to spend a week at the National Library of Medicine as an volunteer through the School of Information’s Alternative Spring Break program at the University of Michigan. The National Library of Medicine [NLM] is the largest medical library in the world, located on the campus of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD.

National Library of Medicine

A sunny March morning at the NLM

About Alternative Spring Break

The School of Information’s Alternative Spring Break (ASB) program places interested and motivated graduate students, during the week of Spring Break, in professional work environments in the public sector where they can…

  • provide a service to an organization, institution, or community
  • gain practical job experience
  • develop leadership skills as information professionals
  • learn new skills
  • create professional partnerships
  • pursue their fields of interest

School of Information students are placed in non-profit, cultural, governmental, and educational institutions in New York City, Chicago, and Washington D.C. (source)

This year, 112 students were placed with 48 host organizations in 4 cities. You can explore the ASB 2010 website to see the organizations, projects, blog posts and other information related to this year’s trip.

About my project

This was the description of the project I received before the trip:

The Exhibition Program at the National Library of Medicine produces a wide variety of exhibitions and websites that use a diverse assortment of assets including print photographs, digital media, and analog media. Over the course of the last 10 years, hundreds of individual assets have been accumulated. The Rehousing plan for exhibition assets will organize, house, and label all materials for archival purposes. (source)

While I wasn’t sure what types of exhibitions they put together or what types of materials I would be working with, I knew that it would be good, hands-on experience.

My co-volunteer, Heather, & I were given large binders of materials that were used in past exhibitions. Our task was to take out all the photos, sort out duplicates, put the photos into acid-free sleeves, label the photo with its exhibition number and put them into new containers. Over the course of the week we were able to get through not only the materials for one exhibition, but also the binders for all the past exhibitions. Additionally, we updated the catalog records for the materials that had been moved and rehoused. By the end, we reduced the size of the assets from 8 cubic feet, down to 3 cubic feet.

At work at the National Library of Medicine

Sorting through a binder

National Library of Medicine

Images from the "Visible Proofs" exhibition

National Library of Medicine

Working with the "Changing the Face of Medicine" exhibition materials

Additionally, we sat in on a few meetings of the exhibition staff in the History of Medicine department. They work full time creating new exhibits, not only to be shown in the library, but as online or traveling exhibits. [If you work at an organization, make sure to check out the amazing, free traveling exhibits!!]

Everyone we met was so helpful, friendly and enthusiastic and it felt feel like we were really able to accomplish something for them – especially since they remarked a number of times that this was a project that had wanted to do for a while, but didn’t have the time or the resources.

With our mentor, Beth Mullen, at the National Library of Medicine

Heather, our project mentor Beth Mullen & myself

Becoming a participating organization

If your organization is located in Chicago, Washington D.C., New York City or Detroit & is interested in hosting an SI student next Spring Break, check out this organization FAQ page. You can also explore the types of projects offered by other organizations to get an idea of what has been done in the past.

Final thoughts on the experience

Joining an organization for just one week presents a lot of limitations – time being the biggest. It can be difficult to strike a balance between an interesting project and one that can be accomplished without spending too much time on training. While my project wasn’t the most challenging, the chance to experience a professional work environment, learn more about typical day-to-day tasks and explore future career options was invaluable.

Lastly, since you may not be able to take a similar Spring Break trip, check out the NLM’s Associate Fellows Program if you’re a recent grad interested in medical libraries and archives. It’s a year-long program and it provides a lot of fantastic experience and training.

Also, D.S. Apfelbaum’s guest post here on NewArchivist gives some good advice and perspective on the value of volunteering in his entry “Ask Not What Your Archives Can Do for You: A Volunteer’s Perspective.”

Thanks to Lance for allowing me to contribute! Please share any thoughts, questions or comments!


Filed under By-Guest_Contributor

Publishing by Fire

We are very pleased to have a guest contribution this week from Matt Schultz of the awesomely named Educopia Institute, who was kind enough to write this post at my request. Matt is a founding member of the FONA (Friends of NewArchivist) and we really appreciate his support from day one, and his willingness to share his insight. Thanks Matt! ~ ed.

Seeing your writing in a publication for the first time is elating. I think anyone reading this who has gotten their voice into print can recall that feeling.

As a 30-something just coming out of my Masters program from the University of Michigan’s School of Information, and re-inventing my career in automotive manufacturing to go to work in the field of cultural memory, I have a lot of catching up to do in the area of getting published. This is in comparison to several of the slightly younger folks I encountered during my program, who by their mid-to-late 20s were already working on their second Masters degree and had several articles under their belts (many of these folks were really bright HCI-ers who were ambitious in their computing and usability research). Diving into LIS, ARM and PI education, most of us were doing the grad thing for the first time, moving on from our BAs in the humanities. I think most of us did not write so much as listen, take copious notes, and work our little butts off in various internships to get as much practical experience as we could muster. I know I didn’t have the time nor credentials to get published.

The road for me to getting published came along much more serendipitiously, and only after I dipped my toes a little further into the real world of digital preservation and archiving.

The MetaArchive Cooperative hired me shortly after my graduation as an outside consultant. I was to put on several hats and not only guide them through the arduous process of a trusted repositories audit, but also perform some light planning, and help out with administrative work. Things went so well, that I soon found myself pulled suddenly into the thick of a final editing process for their long germinating work titled A Guide to Distributed Digital Preservation. Not only was I given the benefit of the doubt to help sharpen the matured and well-articulated chapters written by various Cooperative members, I was charged with completely overhauling a couple of the technical chapters. My voice was actually getting into the publication.

The final work was a collaboration of 11 authors who were spread across the Cooperative’s membership, the central staff, and myself. The editing process was intense. Once we had rough final versions in from each of the chapter authors, the Program Manager, myself, and a librarian from GA Tech set hard to work bringing the volume together into final form. To streamline what was a highly disparate work, with multiple voices, we had to develop a unified nomenclature of terminology and phraseology that could be reinforced across all of the chapters. On a practical level we ended up implementing at least three different document versioning conventions over the course of 2-3 months, to reinforce orderliness and proper identification of exchanged edits, as all three of us as final editors were not co-located.

When it came time for me to overhaul the more technical chapters, I had to research heavily on the fly, a range of documentation on the MetaArchive’s technical organization and design (a process already somewhat informed from my TRAC auditing), as well as documentation on the underlying LOCKSS software. Interviews with the MetaArchive’s central technical staff, with whom I share authorship in my chapters, were essential as well. This required me to be able to dip into their pressured time schedules quickly, get clarification on terms, and return to the manuscript to transform difficult jargon into language that an unfamiliar audience could grasp. Talk about a crash course. Research. Write. Clarify. Refine.

We wrapped up final editing right before the Christmas holiday of this past year. By January, the whole collaborative process had gone so well, I found myself with a job offer and the awesome title of Collaborative Services Librarian. I am no expert as of yet in collaboration, but I have had my trial by fire through this incredible publication. From what I have gleaned of the state of publishing in my field of academia, both on a profession level as well as in research, any effort toward publication, even as a single author, is a collaborative one.

Since this first experience I have gone on to write two pending articles for iPres 2010, both of which are giving me the opportunity to put my voice forward a little earlier in the process, and go through the process of having my language and presentation heavily edited. It is an awesome process. Humbling and educational.

For other new archivists and cultural memory workers out there looking to get themselves published, my encouragement would be to look for ways of promoting your current work through your most immediate network of actively publishing peers. I cannot really speak to how easy or difficult this might be. I was blessed, and continue to be blessed, by an employer that believes in championing the expertise and ambition of their staff. Also, I would encourage new archivists and cultural memory workers to offer your services as an editor on a publication or the outcomes from a research process underway by your co-workers or peers. If it goes well, don’t be shy in requesting being credited or acknowledged on any such article or work. It’s all a stepping stone. In the meantime, practice the process of researching, writing, clarifying, and refining. Do your own thing, bring it forward to those who might have some capacity for promoting your effort and style. Who knows where it might go.

My employer and I are already scheming a potential new publication that should further benefit the field of distributed digital preservation. Which is really what it is all about – making a meaningful contribution.

Good luck all you NewArchivists in getting published!

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Blooms Among the LAMs: Early‐Career Professionals and Cross‐Pollination between Libraries, Archives, and Museums

This post was co-authored by Lance of NewArchivist and Audra Eagle, author of the Touchable Archives blog, on which this post also appears.

As the lines between libraries, archives, and museums continue to blur and professional identities become less and less concrete, a question arises on how to best foster collaboration and knowledge‐building between these sectors. In some regards, this question is even more profound for new professionals. In graduate school, there are opportunities to take classes in other disciplines or even specialize in multiple areas. Is this type of education actually bringing together the best of the theory and practice of these disciplines, or merely teaching library skills in one class and archives skills in another?

Furthermore, it can be difficult for new professionals to know which of these identities belong to them. For example, what if you are a graduate of an archives program, working in a library setting, and putting together a few online and physical object exhibits? What are you? What professional organizations do you belong to and what journals do you read? Being new (and most likely carrying a mountain of education debt), we probably have to choose between the SAA, ALA, or AAM annual meetings.

Where does one look to learn more about the issues and opportunities surrounding the convergence of libraries, archives, and museums? Is there something out there for new professionals interested in cross‐discipline topics and fostering collaboration? If not, what types of groups would suit our needs? The purpose of this post is to solicit answers to some of these questions.

A Little History
The Joint Committee on Archives, Libraries, and Museums (CALM) was established by the American Library Association (ALA) Executive Board in 1970 as a partnership between the Society of American Archivists (SAA) and ALA, with the American Association of Museums (AAM) joining in January 2003. An in‐depth history can be found on the ALA website. The committee consists of fifteen members, five from each organization, as well as three co‐chairs from each organization. There are also staff liaisons and sometimes interns (mostly from ALAbut the committee is largely made up of experienced and well‐known archivists, librarians, and museum professionals. It is clear from the official functions of CALM that it is an administrative, high‐level committee that fosters communication between these three large organizations.
CALM’s official function is to:

(1) foster and develop ways and means of effecting closer cooperation among the organizations; (2) encourage the establishment of common standards; (3) undertake such activities as are assigned to the committee by one or more of its parent bodies; (4) initiate programs of a relevant and timely nature at the annual meetings of one or more parent bodies either through direct Combined Committee sponsorship or by forwarding particular program plans to the appropriate unit or on or more parent bodies for action; and (5) refer matters of concern to appropriate units of one or more of the parent bodies.

Both of us had never heard of CALM as graduate students. It was not until Audra was selected to be a part of the 2009 class of ALA Emerging Leaders that she was introduced to the committee and its priorities. (In case you’re curious, the 2008 EL class created a wiki for LAM (libraries, archives, and museums)‐related issues, which the 2009 EL class updated and supplemented with a page, and the 2010 EL class is working on a podcast series for LAM‐related issues.) CALM was born as a policy‐based group of representatives from SAA, AAM, and ALA. Their willingness to work with ALA’s Emerging Leaders program seems to demonstrate an interest in the ideas of early‐career professionals.

There is potential for CALM to become a major vehicle for encouraging discussion and scholarship about LAM convergence. The OCLC‐related hangingtogether blog as well as the new IMLSUpNext wiki present opportunities for discussion and debate around LAM issues.

A Call for Ideas
So other than getting involved with the big OCLC working groups and the super‐committee known as CALM, what opportunities are there for early‐career librarians, archivists, and museum professionals to be a part of the convergence of libraries, archives, and museums? Where is the “Emerging Leaders” program for new/young professionals who think and work between the LAMs?

Convergence is an exciting thing. How does this generation of new professionals understand and interact with it? That is what we are asking you. When we were first discussing this idea, we thought that an informal type of group focusing on these issues would be a good start. Perhaps it could have an online access component to foster collaboration and not require travel. We need your help and ideas on filling out this idea and make it into something tangible and usable for us new information professionals. Please leave comments or email us at to let us know what you think!

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Filed under By-Guest_Contributor, By-Lance, LAM

Ask Not What Your Archives Can Do for You: A Volunteer’s Perspective

We are very pleased to have D.S. Apfelbaum as a Guest Contributor this week. D.S. will be graduating from the M.S.L.I.S./Archives Certificate program at Long Island University this May. Please be sure to also check our her blog at Thanks for the contribution! ~ ed.

When Lance recently blogged about resolving to get more involved in community service projects in 2010, I was reminded of a time – now, almost two years ago – when I first began to consider volunteering at an archival repository. For me, it was an easy decision – not only was I fortunate enough to have a schedule that would accommodate volunteer work, but, as Lance also mentioned, I knew it would complement my courses while building my résumé. Three organizations and a couple of jobs later, I would say I made a fairly safe prediction. The obvious benefits aside, though, volunteering has paid off in ways I could have never imagined at the outset. I hope that in sharing my experiences I will: 1) bring some of those hidden perks to light and 2) elucidate essential aspects of the volunteer process as it relates specifically to archives.

Finding a Gig
Finding repositories can be difficult if you don’t know where to look, especially if you’re just starting out and aren’t familiar with your local, regional, and/or national archival associations. The best place to begin is the SAA site. There, you’ll find a listing of local and regional archival organizations in the U.S. and Canada, which will lead you to institutions in your area. For example, those of us in the New York have the Archivist’s Roundtable (NYART), as well as the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference (MARAC) and the New York Archives Conference (NYAC). Both NYART and MARAC maintain an extensive listing of member sites, so it’s easy to find the contact information for a variety of archival repositories.

Another great resource: your graduate program (that is, if you’re currently enrolled). Whether you’re going for the full M.S. or just the archives certificate, chances are your program has at least one email listserv and/or a wiki (the Palmer School, where I’m currently a student, has both). Granted, if you’re in a distance-learning program or on a satellite campus, much of the local service opportunities posted on that particular listserv/wiki may not be of much help. However, it never hurts to shoot a quick email inquiring into information about opportunities or organizations in your area. Incidentally, if you find that your listserv advertises far more internships than volunteer gigs, feel free, if there’s an organization you’re drawn to in particular, to inquire about the possibility of volunteering there. The worst they can do is to refuse you (and it does happen, but more on that in a bit).

Getting the Gig
Of the four archival repositories I’ve applied to as a volunteer, three have required an interview. Though interviewing, itself, is rarely pleasant, the experience is definitely one those less-obvious perks. Think about it – where else will you get a no-stakes opportunity to practice convincing an established professional that your coursework and experience make you the choice candidate? It’s also the perfect occasion to start thinking about your transferable skills and how to turn specific aspects of your non-archival professional experience into assets for future archival work.

That said, if you are asked to come in for interview for a volunteer position, treat it as if it’s the real deal: dress appropriately, have a decent grasp on the organization, and know how much time you will be able to commit. Remember: you never lose points for professionalism.

Of Mentors and Moolah
If I hadn’t realized at first how helpful the interview process would be, I certainly never imagined that volunteering would allow me to cultivate serious professional relationships to the extent that it has, let alone put me in the running for paid positions.

When it comes to mentors, I have been extremely lucky. I have had gracious supervisors who have not only been willing to discuss their experiences, but who have also gone out of their way to actively engage me in discussions about relevant trends and issues in archival science. What’s more, their faith in my abilities has boosted my confidence as a burgeoning archives professional. In particular, I regard it as a privilege to have been allowed by the archivist at the Oyster Bay Historical Society to plan, create, and install the Archives Month Exhibit (which has now traveled to LIU). It was a completely unexpected experience that has now left me with an invaluable skill set.

While my volunteer work has yet to secure me a full-time position with ample vacation and an opt-in dental plan, it has led to paid, part-time work in archival repositories. My first experience was with the National Archives at New York. In the spring of 2009, I found myself having to commute from Long Island to NYU for classes. With a 4:30pm start time, it was a bit of a day-killer, so I contacted NARA about volunteering at the agency’s Varick Street location during the morning and early afternoon. Admittedly, it didn’t work out the way I had planned – only three months in, a change in personal circumstances and scheduling precluded my volunteering with the organization further. Needless to say, after committing to volunteering the whole semester and having to pull out half-way through, I was extremely embarrassed. I never expected, after such a short time and an abrupt departure, that I would later be contacted with the opportunity to work for NARA over the summer as a temporary Archives Technician.

My second experience was just as surprising as the first. Again, faced with a little extra time during the week, I decided to volunteer at LIU’s B. Davis Schwartz Library in the Digital Initiatives/Art Slide Department, which is currently working on a huge project involving the archives of William Randolph Hearst. During my time there in the fall of 2009, I worked on small things, like rehousing documents and scanning photo files. But, being a student in the M.S.L.I.S. program and having familiarized myself with the staff and department projects, I suppose it made it that much easier for me to slip into the graduate assistant’s position after she accepted a job at another library.

The bottom-line: even a few hours of quality volunteer work can make a big impression on potential employers.

Thanks, But No Thanks
Free, skilled labor – it’s not welcome everywhere. Such was the case, I found, when I contacted a local library about helping out with the archival materials in its history room. Though the call, which had been posted on the Palmer School listserv, had been made specifically for an intern, I decided to touch base with the library anyway. I made it explicitly clear that I was at the start of my degree and that my time with the library would not accrue course credit. With that understanding, I came in, had my interview, and was told they couldn’t wait for me to start. Then, without warning, they dropped the I-bomb on me: “But we only take interns.”

If you find yourself in a similar situation, there’s good news and bad news. The bad news, first: if you’re not enrolled in an accredited program during the time in which you plan to volunteer for an organization that enforces an interns-only policy, there’s very little you can do. However, if you are in a program, consult BOTH your academic advisor and your university’s career office for further guidance. Unfortunately, when I petitioned my graduate advisor for advice, I was given only the option of doing an independent study. I declined, since I didn’t think it was an experience worth the $800 I would have had to shell out for a single credit.

For whatever reason, I wasn’t pointed in the direction of LIU’s cooperative education office which would have ameliorated several conflicts. First, participating in the Co-op program would have solved the problem of needing official university support. To take part, students must register for a section of Experiential Learning; thus I would have been able to call myself an intern. Second, since the class functions as a no-credit course, it would have been free.
Had I known then what I know now – that I should have consulted with the career office before giving up – I might have been able to volunteer at that small library after all. Nevertheless, I still managed to find professionally meaningful service opportunities.

Go Forth & Archive (For Free!)
I can’t guarantee that if you volunteer you’ll have the same experiences I’ve had, even though I hope that you do (well, except for the whole rejection bit – that sucked). What I will say, though, is that if you’re on the fence about volunteering, consider the potential perks: a chance to flex your muscles as an interviewee; a career-long mentor; a new skill; a job. And, let’s not forget — the chance to do some good. After all, altruism looks great on everybody.

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Feeling Inadequate? You’re Not Alone!

We are excited to have Bria Parker as a guest contributor this week. Bria has a Master of Science in Information and works for a large academic library in the Midwest. She is also the first New Librarian to contribute to our site (we are so inclusive). I think this post is something that a lot of us new information professionals are grappling with and will spark some great comments, so please feel free to add yours. Thanks for the awesome post, Bria! ~ Ed.

DISCLAIMER: I have a great boss, and none of this is directed at him. ~ Bria

If you’re like me, you were required to take some sort of management course in Library School (Information School, Archives School, whatever). And if you’re like me, much of it seemed like a spectacular waste of time, because really, how many of us are managing a department or institution right out of grad school? Oh you are? How nice for you. You can stop reading now.

For the rest of us, management seems to be in the distant future. For now, we must content ourselves with being managed by others. Whether your an archivist, librarian, or like to live dangerously and walk a fine line between the two, being managed, being a cog in the wheel, is not something grad school really prepares us for. Sure, sure, we are prepared for working in groups and we all probably are adept at interpersonal relationships. But that is with our peers. So what can we do to prepare ourselves for developing effective relationships with our superiors

Sure, sure, we’ve all had jobs before now in which we were managed, but when it comes to the professional world of libraries and archives, how do us neophytes operate in the pre-existing hierarchy that is [insert institution here]. We are now professionals, too, so how do we assert our thoughts and ideas when we disagree? What happens when you disagree with how things are done? Or about the way things are about to be done? What happens when you disagree so strongly that maintaining the status quo compromises your belief in what’s right? What can you say? What is the appropriate action? How could anyone get so worked up about old stuff?

If you’re a New Archivist, it is likely that you are currently facing this dilemma, or will soon. How does a new archivist (or librarian) balance the feeling that you might know more about a particular aspect than your superior(s) (either the particular aspect in question is your specialty, or you’ve studied it more recently than others) with the feeling that perhaps you’re just too naive to really understand the bigger issue. I was recently faced with this exact issue, and it broke my confidence. For months others and I had planned and planned, and had developed reasonable specifications. I felt like the research I had done, and all of my previous study really prepared me, and that the right path was chosen for the project at hand. Then someone stuck a stick in our spokes. “No. We aren’t doing that.” Umm…what? Had I been completely wrong? Where was this coming from? Do others not trust me? Am I too stupid to see something?

Unfortunately, a management class and group projects with peers did nothing to prepare me for such a crisis of faith in myself, nearly buckling to the decrees of others whom I felt did not truly understand the issue (despite us having talked about it for months).

The situation that brought on this rant has been resolved (thankfully) in a manner that did not require me to give up much ground (the compromise was a true compromise, with both sides giving a little). My colleagues and I were able to successfully defend the decisions and choices that were being questioned by others. No feathers were ruffled and nothing was as confrontational as the email exchanges leading up the successful meeting had indicated. This is a good thing. Yet while I leave this situation feeling that yes, my knowledge and training did prove to be correct, I was not really able to address the feeling of naivete and inadequacy that plagued me during the two weeks this went on. I was never able to resolve to myself whether or not one of the issues was that I just didn’t get the big picture.

Ultimately, this has been a great learning process for me, and no class would have prepared me for this lesson. But I’d like to know some of your experiences and seek your wisdom. In the future, what should one do? How can one manage the dichotomy of knowledge versus naivete? What if this hadn’t come to a peaceful solution? Should I have stood my ground and possibly made a bad impression? Or should I have buckled to their collective will? Enlighten me, New Archivists!


Filed under By-Bria, By-Guest_Contributor

The Derangement and Description of a NewArchivist

Our next guest contribution comes from no other than Rebecca Goldman of Derangement and Description. We are big fans of her work (not to mention Twitter buddies) and are thrilled she has contributed an original comic to the blog. Rebecca has, in her words, “NewArchivist cred” herself. She started her first archives job at the Drexel University Archives in August 2008. This comic is part one in a two part series, so keep you eyes peeled for the next installment. Thanks so much Rebecca!


The photo in panel two comes courtesy of the State Library of New South Wales’ Flickr collection.


Filed under By-Guest_Contributor

Summer at the Library of Congress

We are pleased to welcome Heather Ball as our first Guest Contributor. She is a current student at the Graduate School of Library and Information Studies at Queens College in New York. We thank Heather for her contribution to NewArchivist!

Hello burgeoning archivists! I thought it might be interesting to share my experience from working at the Library of Congress this past summer. I was a Junior Fellow in the Manuscripts Preparation division, and my task was to fully process a roughly 45,000-itemed collection from accession to boxing and foldering. Though I didn’t quite complete the task in my three months there, I did accomplish and learn a heck of a lot. I also learned a lot about the Library itself, and about how collections are received and processed. One of the things that I found most interesting is that the Library is a lending library; anything that is on their shelves is open for user perusal—even the books from the Jefferson Library exhibit. Items out at our storage facilities in MD can even be retrieved and delivered to users in one day. Just imagine the enormity of the holdings, and the implications of this process- the Manuscripts Division alone has roughly 60 million items!

On my second day at the Library, my archivist came to me and another Fellow in the division and asked if we would give a presentation to tour groups from a local university the next morning at 9am. We eagerly agreed, so my archivist brought us into the bowels of the stacks to the “core” collection (approx. 100 of the library’s most popular items). These items are housed separate from their original collection so that tours or viewings can be put together quickly. She told us to pick eight items that best exemplify the library’s holdings, do some research, and write up a little bio of each piece. In two hours we picked our items, researched them, and prepared a presentation. The group was thrilled with our picks (which included a 15th cent. Icelandic MS; a bail petition from accused witches in 1692; a letter between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams talking about the tenuous relationship with King George; a Shaker painting from 1853; a punch card, plate and instructions from the first tabulating machine in 1895; the Woman’s Bible from 1898; a flag from the NAACP in the 1930s; and a telegram from 1941 announcing the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor), which was a great feeling for a new professional.

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