What’s the C&U Section up to in 2021?

Post by: Michelle Sweetser (Head, Center for Archival Collections, Bowling Green State University)

As the current chair of the College and University Archives section, it is my honor to work with both section and Steering Committee members throughout the year to provide resources and services that benefit our members. As a group, we chose to focus our efforts on three large projects this year, in addition to continuing our blog and hosting weekly coffee chats to bring us together in conversation. Those three projects are:

  1. A landscape study (survey) of college and university archives settings to collect baseline data on the profession.
  2. An update to and revision to the Guidelines for College and University Archives, which was adopted and endorsed in 1999.
  3. Hosting a series of free webinars on topics of interest to section membership.

Others will report on the second and third projects in the coming weeks, but I write today to share background on the survey project and to invite you to participate. Section leaders first considered a survey last year, in response to my observation that there were no recent, comprehensive data about college and university archives. For a period beginning in 1949, the section conducted semi-regular surveys of its members, but they were discontinued well before the terms of current section leaders. There have been other efforts to survey academic institutions in the U.S. and Canada in the intervening years; (1) however, this data has not been collected in a comprehensive manner for nearly two decades, a period during which the professional landscape has changed significantly.

Nearly all of these previous surveys predate the rapid growth of digitization and digital preservation systems; the wide-scale online delivery of finding aids; the use of institutional repositories for dissemination of university scholarship; the emergence and development of professional standards such as EAD and EAC-CPF (and in some cases, possibly even the adoption of MARC at the institution); a growing emphasis on data management for faculty data; the use of the Internet to publish many standard reports and university publications; electronic records and email management; collection management systems; content management systems; equity and inclusion work and evolving campus histories; and many other practices that have significantly changed the landscape of our work.

We sought support from the SAA Foundation last year but were unsuccessful in our effort to secure funding for research assistance. Section leaders remained committed to the project and after presenting about the project briefly at the section meeting last summer, we developed a working group comprised of at-large and steering committee members who have met regularly throughout the fall to develop the survey instrument. I want to extend my sincerest thanks to these colleagues – Tamar Chute, Elizabeth James, Ann Kenne, Jane Metters LaBarbara, Krista Oldham, Emily Reiher, and Karen Trivette – for their input and perspectives and their ongoing commitment to reporting on and sharing the survey’s findings.

Ultimately, our hope is that this survey will benefit you, our section members, by providing benchmark data that can be used to more effectively advocate for yourself within your institution and by section leaders to advocate on your behalf. We anticipate the data will allow for a greater understanding of the job responsibilities and competencies required to serve as a college or university archivist and to demonstrate to newcomers opportunities for professional growth.

We aim to share our research results with the archival community through the section website, publication, and presentations. We hope to have significant participation from the C&UA community and encourage you to participate in the 32-question survey. It should take no more than 10 minutes to complete, it is anonymous, and all records will be kept confidential. Please don’t delay: the survey will remain open through February 5, 2021.

[1] See, for example, Nicholas Burckel and J. Cook. “A Profile of College and University Archives in the United States.” The American Archivist. Fall 1982, Vol. 45, No. 4, pp. 410-428. https://doi.org/10.17723/aarc.45.4.a77534258450710x; Association of Research Libraries. University Archives in ARL Libraries. SPEC Kit #107. September 1984. https://hdl.handle.net/2027/mdp.39015071453198; Don Skemer and Geoffrey Williams. “Managing the Records of Higher Education: The State of Records Management in American Colleges and Universities.” The American Archivist. Fall 1990, Vol. 53, No. 4, pp. 532-547. https://doi.org/10.17723/aarc.53.4.x50632186v6j2775; and Bessie Schina and Garron Wells. “University Archives and Records Programs in the United States and Canada.” Archival Issues. 2002, Vol. 27, No. 1, pp. 35-51. https://minds.wisconsin.edu/handle/1793/46020


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