By Michelle Sweetser
This post is the third in a series highlighting our elected section leadership.
Rebecca Goldman is the Head of Archives and Digital Initiatives at La Salle University’s Connelly Library,where she supervises the University Archives and oversees digital projects. She holds a MSLIS from Drexel University and is completing a MA in Public History at La Salle. Rebecca is the founder of the SAA’s Students and New Archives Professionals (SNAP) Roundtable and currently serves as the section’s vice-chair / chair-elect.
Why or how did you find your way to becoming an archivist? And why college and university archives?
I’m a bit of an accidental archivist. I earned my MLS planning to go into metadata or digital libraries, but the only job offer I received was for a paraprofessional position in a university archives. And I loved it! I’ve spent my entire career in academic archives. I enjoy being part of an academic community. I love working with college students as they use primary sources for the first time. I’ve always worked in archives situated within academic libraries, and I’ve learned so much from my librarian colleagues.
What tips and tricks do you have for encouraging individuals to deposit to an IR like the one you manage at La Salle? How do you handle overlaps in collecting with the University Archives?
Like most universities, La Salle does not have a mandate requiring faculty to deposit their research in our IR. As the Library Loon puts it, “For the rest of us [without a mandate], a 1% faculty participation rate would be cause for amazement and rejoicing!” I hope to pass that 1% mark someday! We currently use our IR primarily for sharing digitized University publications.
For us, the University Archives and the IR mostly overlap in the area of outreach. If we’re talking to a faculty member about highlighting her research in the IR, we’ll also talk about getting department records and personal papers for the Archives. If the Archives is the initial point of contact, we’ll talk about using the IR to highlight current research and department events.
What are the top priorities for you in your role right now?
- Documenting student life, particularly for groups that are currently underrepresented in the Archives
- Growing and formalizing our instruction program
- Advocating for systematic retention of historical university records
How have you balanced the demands of the work place with your professional involvement in SAA and elsewhere?
Archives work will never be finished. There are always more collections to process, more reference questions to answer, more outreach projects to take on. My own department has grown and shrunk and reorganized several times in the last five years, and each time I’ve reprioritized the work that we do.
I’ve held several leadership positions in SAA and in the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference, and I’ve learned to be more selective in volunteering and accepting nominations for professional involvements. If you can, talk to folks who have held similar positions, to get a sense of the responsibilities and time commitments. And if you realize you’ve overcommitted, it really is okay to back out graciously (and ASAP). I did this last summer–I was scheduled to teach a one-credit course in the fall, and organize a Raiders performance at SAA, and discovered I wasn’t going to have the time to do a great job with either commitment.
My biggest commitment over the past few years has been working on my M.A. in public history, and I’ve cut back on my professional involvement to make more time for my classes. If your employer offers tuition remission, I strongly recommend taking advantage. Beyond what I’ve learned in my classes, I’ve built relationships with faculty that have turned into collaborations with the University Archives.
As Vice-Chair and Chair-Elect, what are your priorities for the section for the next two years?
I’m not a new professional anymore, but new professional issues are always close to my heart. I’m interested in ways we can better engage interns and new professionals working in academic archives–for example, publishing their experiences in our Campus Case Studies series. I’d like to see our section take a stand on issues in higher education that affect university archives, and well as issues that affect all archivists. And I hope to foster more interaction with our members, on the blog, on social media, and at the Annual Meeting.