Meet Your Steering Committee: Christy Fic

This post is the second in a series highlighting our recently-elected section leadership.

Fic_headshot
Christy Fic, University Archivist & Special Collections Librarian at Shippensburg University

Christy Fic is the University Archivist & Special Collections Librarian at Shippensburg University of PA. She received her MLIS from the University of Pittsburgh and her MA in Applied History from Shippensburg University. Prior to joining the faculty at Shippensburg she worked as a contract processing archivist for the National Anthropological Archives at the Smithsonian Institution.

Why or how did you find your way to becoming an archivist?
I’ve always been interested in history, but never wanted to teach K-12. During undergrad, I worked as a research assistant for a History professor conducting extensive primary and secondary source research for his book project, and I loved it. I had been seriously considering going for my doctorate, but the summer before senior year I decided I wasn’t ready to make that commitment, so I was seeking alternative career paths. I wound up talking to a variety of folks on campus, and got connected with our college archivist. She had me read John Fleckner’s “Dear Mary Jane” and a few other intro to archives articles, and I was hooked. I was drawn to the idea of having a career that would allow me to conduct research, work with interesting collections, and help others with their research. I spoke to a few alums who had pursued their MLS and gone on to work in archives, and that was it for me.

Can you share a success you have had in your repository of late?
We’ve been collaborating more and more with different groups on and off campus, which has brought about some very exciting opportunities. We were recently asked to participate in a collaborative effort to create a documentary series about the railroad in our local community (which used to run right through campus, and there was even a stop for the school). The documentary series is part of a broader initiative that’s underway to bring the community and the campus together through our shared heritage. We look forward to seeing all the pieces fall into place, and are so glad to be supporting our community and campus partners in this endeavor.

What project are you most excited about in your archives?
We’re in the early stages of planning a complete renovation of the archives, and I am extremely excited to see that come to fruition. While the renovation is still a few years away, the planning process has been a wonderful opportunity to talk about the role of the archives with constituents across campus, and to really think about what we want for the future of the archives. This renovation will provide our students, faculty, and community patrons with an amazing place to learn, collaborate, and grow.

You moved from a contract archivist position at the Smithsonian into an academic library position. What advice might you give to individuals making transitions to academic library settings?
There is so much I wish I had known!

1: Learn to set your own agenda! At my university, librarians have full faculty status. We go up for tenure and promotion just like all the other faculty on campus. I never would have imagined that I would have this kind of opportunity at such an early point in my career. I had assumed that I would be working under a more experienced archivist or supervisor for awhile before I was “in charge.” As a faculty librarian, you have a lot of freedom to decide what work you will do, and that can be daunting at first. You need to be able to act strategically for the long haul, and that’s not something you do when you’re working in a contract or temporary position.

2. Find mentors: inside your department and outside your department. While you might get assigned an official mentor, and that person may be great, they will not be enough. Universities are complex ecosystems and you will need to navigate paths you never even knew existed. Get involved, learn who the players are, and find folks who can teach you to be the faculty member you want to be.

3. Get comfortable with instruction. When I was working on my MLIS, no one ever told me I would have to teach a class. Academic libraries are often looking for archivists and librarians with instruction experience (or at least ability). Find ways to demonstrate you know how to teach.

4. Become involved in the profession. When you’re a contractor, you work your hours and then you go home. In academia, the expectation is that you will be serving professional associations in various capacities, publishing, presenting, etc. You need to show that you’re interested in engaging with the field in a meaningful way.

You teach library instruction classes to undergraduate and graduate students and have coordinated reference for the library. Given this background, what tips might you have for archivists who do instruction?
I teach a lot, and I have both general bibliographic instruction and archival instruction as part of my duties. Regardless of what you are teaching, it is important to remember that while you are very familiar with research, archives, etc. and could do X, Y, or Z in your sleep, your students are students. You need to meet them where they are. Determining how to frame a lesson is a crucial first step and will involve open communication with the course instructor. Do your students even know what archives are? If not, you can’t start off by talking about finding aids. They will be lost, and you will have missed an opportunity to provide them with what they need to be successful. Teaching is a service to your students. If you are new to teaching, or just looking to freshen up your routine, observe others who teach, talk to colleagues, and try different methods until you find something that clicks for you and the students. I have found that it is important to listen. You might have ideas about what you want to get across to your students, but you have to learn what they need from you first. I touch base with students individually to make sure they “got it,” and my door is always open if they want to follow up. This is crucial. While you may not be a course instructor, you play a part in getting students from welcome week to graduation. Last thought: some of your faculty may ask you to do big favors with regard to instruction (e.g., can you teach my class for 2 weeks while I’m away on a research trip?). Your gut might say “no, I don’t have time for this,” but think about the bigger picture. This could be an amazing opportunity for you, the students, and the instructor. My most interesting and creative instruction experiences have come out of these types of requests.

What would you like to see the section concentrate on during your three-year term?
I’m interested to see what we can do as a section to engage our students – those who work for us and those who conduct research in our collections. Many of my students are first-generation college students and I have seen how archival work has made them feel more confident and encouraged them to be more academically ambitious. I would like to see the section develop a set of resources that university archivists can use to assist our under-served populations.

Advertisements

Meet Your Steering Committee: Tracy Jackson

This post is the first in a series highlighting our newly-elected section leadership.

jackson1
Tracy Jackson, Head, Center Manuscript Processing Section, at Duke University’s David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

Tracy Jackson is the Head, Center Manuscript Processing Section, at Duke University’s David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library. She is the primary processing archivist for the University Archives at Duke and supervises the processing of collections within dedicated collecting centers. She has been at Duke for three years and holds an MSLS from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Why or how did you find your way to becoming an archivist?
I tried out a few jobs before feeling drawn to library school for a combination of reasons: a love of learning and sharing knowledge and a love of organizing things. While in library school I began working in the North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives and realized that archival processing was the right fit for me. Getting to work with the materials was so compelling, and completing a rehoused, labeled, described collection was immensely satisfying. Photographs are still my favorite type of materials to work with, but I’m glad I get to work with a wide variety of materials in the University Archives. I was very lucky to find my way into this work and continue to feel lucky that I have made a career of it.

Can you share a success you have had in your repository of late?
We will soon be adding a Records Manager to our team in the University Archives, thanks to tireless effort on the part of the University Archivist. This is very exciting for us, as we haven’t had a Records Manager in years, and adding this position has been a goal for some time.

What project are you most excited about in your archives?
I am really looking forward to working with our new Records Manager to make sure that university records of long-term research value are properly transferred, preserved, and accessible; we will be establishing brand-new workflows and that will be an interesting challenge. In Technical Services, we are also looking to update documentation of many of our practices, which I find both interesting and intimidating. I think good documentation is crucial to good processing, but it requires regular review and updating, and we have quite a lot to review.

You manage the processing work for the University Archives as well as the technical services staff for two other collecting areas. What strategies do you have for maintaining consistency amongst units as well as for managing projects
Consistency of practice and managing projects is an ongoing challenge. We’re a fairly large shop and all of us are juggling many projects and collections, so there is always a lot happening. In addition to my section, which is three people representing three distinct collecting areas (each tending to collect generally different types of materials), there is a General Manuscript Processing Section and other collecting areas and format specialists in our department. Since this makes for a complex set of projects and priorities, I find it helpful to have regular meetings and informal conversations with my staff as well as my counterpart in General Manuscript Processing and our management team, and to keep current on what is going on all over the department. Ultimately I think my most important role is to ensure clear communication between areas and to provide support to my staff. As mentioned above, good documentation is key to ensuring good practice, and can be difficult to maintain, but that’s something I want to continue to improve.

What strategies are you using to manage and process digital records in your repository?
We have a Digital Records Archivist who is the point person for ingesting and handling digital records, and I have worked with him regularly on born-digital components in collections I’ve processed. Thanks to his work, we’re able to preserve electronic records from media found in collections as well as capture websites, email, and some social media. How to handle the processing of large amounts of digital records, particularly email, is still in flux as we try different methods to find what works (or doesn’t) for each collection.

What would you like to see the section concentrate on during your three-year term?
There are a few issues that I think are of immediate importance for many of us. The first is the scariest: how to deal with the legacy of white supremacy in our archives, and how we as archivists are responsible for dealing with the complex repercussions of that echoing into the work we do to preserve what is happening in the US today. This is an issue of special important to this section because of how often these conversations happen on campus, and because colleges and universities are not only the keepers of so much of our historical record, but also integral players in culture, past and present. A second and related issue is about the environmental impact of our work, an issue I have been pleased to see is starting to get more discussion in the profession. We already think of the very long-term in our work, but we should make sure that thoughtfulness includes considering the impact of our choices beyond the materials themselves. A third topic I would love to think more about is discoverability and accessibility of our description, particularly how we can and should rethink the finding aid as the way we present our description. Not one of these issues has any easy answers, and I think this section can play an important role in finding ways to think about and act on these questions as a profession.

I Spy: A glimpse into the Stasi Museum and Stasi Records Agency in Berlin, Germany

By India Spartz

In June 2017, I joined faculty from Union College on a study tour of Berlin, Germany. We attended lectures about global issues, sustainability and human rights. This included visiting numerous sites in East Berlin, including the Stasi Museum and the Stasi Records Agency.

Stasi background
The Stasi, or the East German Ministry for State Security or Ministerium für Staatssicherheit (MfS), operated from 1950-1989 and served as the official state security service of the German Democratic Republic (GDR), also known as the DDR. This secret police organization included professional officers and a network of citizen informants (Inoffizielle Mitarbeiter or IMs) who actively surveilled and documented the lives of East German people. Many IMs were former resistance fighters who were blackmailed by the Stasi to spy on their own family and friends.

 

STasi Entrance
The Stasi Museum entrance in Berlin, Germany. Image courtesy the author.

The Stasi Museum
We started our tour at the Stasi Museum, which is situated inside the former Stasi headquarters building and compound. The museum retains much of the original 1960’s décor and once inside, visitors get a sense of what it might have felt like to visit Stasi headquarters in the Cold War era. The focus of the Stasi Museum is to address the question of ‘how the Socialist Unity Party (SED) managed to keep millions of people in East Germany under control for forty years.’ Educational exhibits and guided tours reveal methods of Stasi atrocities around espionage and surveillance through special cameras, bugs, burglar’s tools, and devices that secretly opened letters.

The Stasi Museum foyer allows groups to gather and learn about the Stasi surveillance apparatus, designed to control the people of East Germany.

 

The Stasi Records Agency
When the Berlin Wall fell in November 1989, the East German regime went with it. Although the Stasi dissolved in January 1990, it was between these two events that Stasi authorities ordered the destruction of thousands of personal files that had been gathered by surveillance and informants. The Stasi packed bundles of files into large paper sacks and shipped them to nearby incinerators and shredding plants.

Protest
East German citizens protesting the removal of Stasi archival records, January 1990. Courtesy of Bundesarchiv Bild, 183-1990-0116-01

Concerned East German citizens witnessed these activities and began protesting the removal or destruction of the files. This act of defiance was an important step for many East German residents to collectively resist the authoritarian DDR dictatorship that had controlled them for more than four decades. This resistance led to the passage of the Stasi Records Act of December 1991, which created the Federal Commissioner for the Stasi Records or the Stasi Records Agency (BStU) to safeguard and preserve the files for the public. By 1992, East Germans could apply to view their own files for the first time ever. Although the files are restricted, researchers may apply to the BStU for access. In addition, scholars and journalists may use them to study the history of the DDR.

 

The Stasi Records Agency archive facility

ludke
Susan Ludke, Chief Information Officer at the BStU at the Stasi Archives. Image courtesy the author.

The Stasi Records Agency archive is also located inside the former Stasi compound. We entered the facility through an innocuous basement door located next to a parking lot. Guided by two BStU employees, including Susan Ludke, Chief Information Officer, we were escorted through a narrow hallway onto a secure elevator that took us to an archives research room containing thousands of typed 5×7 index cards.

The index cards show categories such as name, date of birth, education, occupation, surveillance officer along with notes reporting illicit activities. A file number is stamped at the top and a handwritten archive number is listed separately. Because the Stasi files contain personal information, researchers are required to apply to the BStU beforehand to access the files.

 

 

index
The index cards show categories such as name, date of birth, education, occupation, surveillance officer along with notes reporting elicit activities. A file number is stamped at the top and a handwritten archive number is listed separately. Because the Stasi files contain personal information, researchers are required to apply to the BStU beforehand to access the files. Image courtesy the author.

Preservation and storage

files
The Stasi files are kept in original folders (non-archival) and organized by file number. Image courtesy the author.

After we saw the research room, the group was taken via an elevator to a large, secured climate-controlled room filled with files sitting on rows of compact shelving.

An exhibit in the stacks described efforts of citizen activists to rescue many documents shredded by the Stasi. Bags of shredded documents have been preserved with hopes of restoring these documents in the future.

 

shredded
An exhibit in the stacks described efforts of citizen activists to rescue many documents shredded by the Stasi. Bags of shredded documents have been preserved with hopes of restoring these documents in the future. Image courtesy the author.

After the tour I wondered why I found the Stasi Museum and Stasi Records Agency so fascinating and significant in the unification of Germany. Yes, it demonstrates the madness of massive spy operations and espionage in authoritarian regimes. But I was also struck by the power of citizen activists to save the archive from destruction. These efforts prompted a unified German government to pass legislation that ensured the Stasi files would be preserved for future generations. As an archivist, I’m moved by the power of the people to transform and save such an archive. They took an archive born of a dictatorship and transformed it into a valued public resource that is helping Germany heal its painful past.

For information about the Stasi Museums see: www.stasimuseum.de

For information about the Federal Commission for Stasi Records see: http://www.bstu.bund.de/EN/Home/home_node.html.


India is the Head of Special Collections and Archives at Union College in Schenectady, NY. She holds an B.A. from the University of Alaska (her home state), MLIS from UC Berkeley, and M.A. in Museum Studies from the Institute of Archaeology, University College London. She’s a member of the Academy of Certified Archivists and serves on SAA’s College & University Archives Steering Committee.

Building a Video Preservation Rack for In-House Digitization AV CLUB | Issue 1

A Common Video Preservation Scenario: A researcher requests a copy of a show held in your special collections. It’s a university production from the 1970s, a unique recording on ¾” tape. This tape is an “at-risk” item, because the inherent vulnerabilities of magnetic based media. What do you do? Do you send it out to a vendor, or do you digitize the tape in-house? Where possible, it’s best to digitize at-risk items in-house. It’s faster, it’s more economical over the long-term, and you can maintain your own quality-control standards.

Source: Building a Video Preservation Rack for In-House Digitization AV CLUB | Issue 1

Archiving the Aftermath of a Tragedy: Preserving Expressions of Condolence and Humanity

by Georgette Mayo

Solidarity
Card: “Prisoners in Solidarity Are With … Mother Emanuel 9.” Photograph by author.

The horrific tragedy which took the lives of nine Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church (Charleston, South Carolina) parishioners and adversely affected five witness survivors on June 17, 2015 shook the world. Individuals, families, organizations, members of all denominations, and even the incarcerated have reached out to the victims’ families, survivors, and congregants to express their sympathy. Tangible evidence is continuously sent in the form of cards, letters, flowers, posters, paintings, books, art work, quilts, and prayer shawls express an outpouring of love, concern, and sympathy.

Members of the Charleston Archives, Libraries, and Museums (better known as CALM), volunteered their time and archival skills to organize, relocate, and inventory the numerous gifts.    A Memorabilia Subcommittee was established to define a collection policy and processing procedures. CALM’s mission in part is to “preserve the history of the moment for the future, help tell the story to others and through the use of the collection, contribute to building a better, stronger, more united community.”

The first task was the maintenance of the temporary public-initiated memorial outside “Mother Emmanuel.”  CALM members worked on a daily rotation basis to remove gifts of stuffed animals, posters, candle, balloons, Sweetgrass roses, and fresh, and artificial flowers. Days of torrential rain with flooding presented constant challenges in retrieving and preserving items, many of which sustained damage.  The large shrine which spanned the length of the church was discontinued two months later due to upkeep and time constraints.

Love Letter
Quilt: “A Love Letter from Dallas to Charleston.” Photograph by author.

The second ongoing task was to sort and catalog the countless cards, letters, emails, textiles, and artwork sent in the mail. The City of Charleston provided two rooms at the Saint Julian Devine Community Center, an after-school children’s facility, for provisional storage of the donations. One room, holding cards and letters, along with 400 shawls and quilts, comprised 1,000 feet of space.  Artwork and large memorabilia were contained in the second room.  Prior to inventorying, CALM members researched various collection policies and best practices of sites of massive tragedy, including Sandy Hook Elementary and the Boston Marathon bombing.

Our volunteerism commenced in the evenings after our daily archival positions.  We divided duties with one group processing the correspondence and another working with the shawls and quilts. The abundance of prayer shawls received was mostly made by church “Shawl Ministries.” We indicated the measurements of the piece, fiber content (wool blend or acrylic), design type (knit or crochet), and donor name, if indicated.  The article was photographed and the information was saved on a computer database.  Cards and letters were individually noted on the database with sender and date. The final step was packaging items in archival acid free boxes and labeling for long term storage. When the donations outgrew the Center, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Charleston donated temporary space for the expanded holdings. Considering the future, the Mother Emanuel desires a permanent location with a professional archivist to maintain their collection. Naturally, adequate and ongoing funding will be needed for the Church to fulfill its goals.

Mother Emanuel commemorated the first anniversary in 2016 by displaying a small temporary exhibit of prayer quilts in a City of Charleston building located close to the Church. This year, the Church, with the assistance of Brockington and Associates, a cultural resources consulting firm, installed “The Light of Hope,” an expanded exhibition incorporating memorabilia and various portraits of the Emanuel Nine.

Lessons learned:  It is crucial to understand and provide the family members, parishioners, and members of the clergy time and space to decide how and when they want to handle their donations. In times of grief, it is challenging to make decisions, much less rational ones. If anything, we realized the virtue of patience and sensitivity.

While CALM members organized and inventoried the initial massive amount of Mother Emanuel’s donations with the goal to preserve history, it is ultimately the Church’s decision to do as they want with the materials.   The Avery Research Center, along with numerous and vested repositories in and around Charleston are capturing images and documents from the days, months, and years that followed this tragedy.  One example is the online digital exhibit: “A Tribute to the Mother Emanuel Church,” which highlights the outpouring of expressions of condolences locally and worldwide.

The Emanuel Nine:  DePayne Middleton Doctor, Cynthia Graham Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lance, Reverend Clementa Pinckney, Tywanza Sanders, Daniel Simmons Sr., Sharonda Coleman Singleton and Myra Thompson.


Georgette Mayo is currently the Processing Archivist for the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture at the College of Charleston. She received her BA in African American Studies (Phi Beta Kappa) and master’s degrees in Library Science and Public History, with a concentration in Archival Management from the University of South Carolina.

From the Chair

Hello Members,

The C&UA Steering Committee is excited to see many of you next week in Portland.  In the meantime, I write with some important news and updates from the Steering Committee: 

Election results are in.
We had an impressive and robust ballot, which is a real testament to the strength of the section. Congratulations to the following individuals who were elected:

Vice Chair/Chair-Elect: Ellen Engseth
Steering Committee: Christy Fic, Tracy Jackson

Also, a big thank you to all the candidates. We really appreciate your willingness to serve.

The section also passed the proposed changes to the standing rules.

I also want to thank Carrie Daniels and Benn Joseph, this year’s nominating committee.  Carrie, Benn, and Cynthia Ghering will all be rotating off the steering committee and have each contributed a great deal of time and energy to the section, so please join me in thanking them for their service.

Annual Meeting reminders
Please plan to join us for the C&UA Section Meeting on Friday, July 28 from 11:15 am to 12:30 pm in Room Oregon BR 201 of the Oregon Convention Center.

We will dedicate the majority of the meeting to an interactive and facilitated discussion about faculty papers, a topic relevant to almost all of us.

I’d like to thank in advance our facilitators for this discussion, Dainan Skeem, Cory Nimer, Ruth Bryan, Christine Weideman, and Amy Allen.  All have contributed thought-provoking blog posts to the Academic Archivist about aspects of faculty papers.  Before attending our meeting, please take a moment to read these posts, as well as to reflect on your own experiences working with faculty papers. We hope the session will be as participatory and inclusive as possible, so come prepared with questions and comments to share.

To get you started, here is a preview of the questions the facilitators will help us tackle:

  • Why a policy? (Christine)
  • Is the policy meant to document the institution or the faculty member? (Cory)
  • Does it allow for both proactive and reactive collecting? (Dainan)
  • How a records schedule helps (or doesn’t help) as an appraisal tool (Ruth)
  • How to maintain donor relations after saying “no” to a potential donation (Amy)

C&UA Custom Calendar for SAA
Finally, to help highlight SAA meeting activities directly related to academic archivists, the C&UA steering committee has put together a custom calendar.  This list is by no means exhaustive.  There are many other great sessions that touch on, relate to, or impact our work. The custom calendar is only meant to be a place to start for those interested in academic archives.

I hope those of you who can attend SAA have a great time in Portland. Safe travels to all, and I look forward to seeing many of you at our section meeting.

All best,
Kat


Kat Stefko is Director of Special Collections & Archives at Bowdoin College and current chair of the College & University Archives Section of SAA. She has held library and archives positions at Duke and Harvard universities, Bates College, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  

Reflections of a Department Head

By Christina Zamon

IMG_3143
Providing feedback at a staff meeting at Georgia State University. Photo courtesy the author.

One year ago I accepted the position of the Head of Special Collections and Archives at Georgia State University. Although the title was similar to the one I held at the time, Head of Archives and Special Collections at Emerson College, the differences in duties and responsibilities were vast. Emerson College is a small liberal arts college in Boston with a total student body of 4,100 and two satellite locations, while Georgia State University is an R1 research institution boasting 52,000 students and six campuses. At Emerson College, I started as a lone arranger for six of my nine years there, but gained two staff employees and a student worker by the time I left. However, we were all considered staff in the Archives and Special Collections department. At Georgia State University, I am a non-tenured faculty member, my six direct reports are also faculty; I supervise an additional five staff employees and a multitude of student workers, GRAs, interns, and volunteers. Despite being well aware of the differences not only in the institutions and regional culture, I was most nervous about taking that leap from big fish in a small pond to becoming a tiny fish in a very large ocean. How was I going to be successful making such a big leap?

Upon reflection on this last year I found that I have used the following keys to success.

  1. Know your limits. I find this one difficult sometimes but I have gotten better over the years and learned this lesson the hard way being a “lone arranger” for many years. I came into a department that needed a total refresh in many aspects and in my quest to prove my worth jumped headlong into many new projects and initiatives. I had to work to both slow myself down and manage this self-imposed workload in conjunction with my daily administrative duties.
  2. Relate to Your Employees. One thing that has helped me tremendously is my ability to relate to my faculty and staff. As I came up through the profession I held many of the positions that my faculty and staff currently hold. When talking to them about performance, initiatives, goals, etc. I use my experience to relate to their daily workload and any issues or struggles they may have. Sometimes they just need to be reassured that the task at hand is not impossible or that you really do understand the issue they are facing. This provides them with confidence in your leadership and helps you both to push past any barriers.
  3. Make Your Expectations Clear. Say what you mean and mean what you say. This also goes back to the issue of confidence and trust in your leadership ability. It is difficult but you need to hold yourself accountable for what you say to your employees. If you say, “we are going to take on x initiative,” then make sure that you set the wheels in motion and work with everyone on your team to complete the task. Be sure to do the same when speaking on an individual level about performance issues or goals.
  4. Include Everyone. Every department has one or more employees that are not the greatest team players, those who say “why can’t we just do it the way we’ve always done it?”, or“it works fine the way it is, why do we need to change it?” This can be frustrating but sometimes the employee(s) aren’t always wrong. Drastic change may not be needed, and instead you may just need to tweak it, or even should leave it alone. The most important thing is to listen to those folks and find a way to either incorporate their ideas or help them to adjust to the changes. Steamrolling through doesn’t address the underlying issues, and only creates more problems down the line.
  5. Make Friends with Building/Facilities Managers. This has always been a critical relationship in any archival facility, but it is just as critical if not more critical as the head of the department. Although your employees may have established connections, it is best that you establish your own relationships, particularly at higher levels. This is essential not only for the maintenance of your own spaces and facilities, but also when it comes to organizing events and activities across a campus or campuses.
  6. Look at Every Challenge as an Opportunity. This one can be very difficult but it has always paid off for me. If an employee leaves, whether they were your best or worst employee, this gives you an opportunity to review and restructure the position if necessary. It may even give you the opportunity to restructure the department. That leak or flood that just waterlogged 12 boxes of records? Maybe this gives you some leverage in getting a new space or takes care of the quarantined records because now insurance will pay for the document cleaning.
  7. Create Documentation. As archivists, we know how important documentation is, but sometimes we forget how important it is in the administration of our own departments. I have instituted quarterly reviews for my employees for two reasons. First, it forces us to sit down and review their progress on a quarterly basis rather than once or twice a year. Second, it allows the employees to reflect on the last three months and to keep track of their own progress. By collecting these quarterly reviews over the course of the year, it is much easier for your employees to hold themselves accountable for their goals and remember all of the things that they have done over the course of the year. It also helps you to write a more accurate annual review without the extra effort. Documenting your own work helps you to hold yourself accountable for your actions (or inaction).
  8. Keep It Fun and Say Thanks. We do serious work but we can’t always take ourselves so seriously. I try to reward my employees with something fun every once in a while just to boost morale. This doesn’t mean going all out and spending tons of money. Simple gestures such as providing coffee and donuts one day, or taking an hour or two on a quiet day before a holiday to watch a movie (archives appropriate, of course!). Creating a positive and collegial atmosphere goes a long way to improving morale and productivity.
  9. Understand What Your Employees Do. This is similar to what I wrote under “relatability,” but in this case, keep on top of current trends in the archives world.  Just because you are a manager doesn’t mean you don’t need to know how to do the daily work of an archivist. Archives in the 21st century are rapidly changing due to changes in technology and laws. There is a lot to keep up on and you need to be responsible for understanding the latest trends and the ins and outs of how a variety of processes work. If you don’t understand them then how can you truly measure the success and progress of your employees who are engaged with or should be engaged with the latest developments in the field?
  10. Take Time for Yourself. We all have weeks where we get so wrapped up in our work that we fail to take time out for ourselves. Find something that will take your mind away from work on a semi-regular basis throughout the year. Maybe take a day trip, or even a day to do something that you’ve always wanted to do that is non-archives related. I schedule a day off once every other month and plan an activity with one of my children so that I can get some one-on-one time with each of them, and do an activity they like to do and don’t have to share with a sibling.  It gives me some time off and it provides them with a lifelong memory.

Of course there are other key elements that are necessary to the job. The usual suspects such as time management, personnel management, and budgeting, but these are all expected skills of management and the things we learn about in school or management seminars. I hope that what I have shared here will inspire confidence in those seeking management positions and for those who may be managers who would like to look beyond the textbooks. I would love to hear your comments. What makes you a successful manager?


Christina Zamon is the Head of Special Collections and University Archives at Georgia State University, a position she has held since September 2016. Prior to that time, she served as Head of Archives and Special Collections at Emerson College. She is the author of The Lone Arranger: Succeeding in a Small Repository. She is currently a member of the College and University Archives Section’s Steering Committee and previously served as chair of the section (2014-2015).