Seeking Input: How Should the Section Act Upon a Theme of Student Workers in the Archives?

By Rebecca Goldman

A student in the archives. Image courtesy Georgia State University Library.

At our last meeting, the College and University Archives Section decided to focus on the theme of student workers for 2017-2018. We’re in the process of coming up with new projects for this year and an agenda for our in-person meeting at the 2018 SAA conference in D.C.

We chose this theme for a couple of reasons. It expands on my personal interest in new professionals in archives. Our student workers are all future new professionals–and most of them won’t stay in the archives field after they graduate. How can archival work as an undergraduate help prepare them for other careers? We also hoped that this topic would be relevant to academic archives in all environments, not just large research universities or well-funded institutions. Repositories of all sizes rely on student workers for a variety of archival tasks. We have a lot to learn from each other.

Before our next Steering Committee meeting on February 1, we welcome your ideas and feedback. If you’re a current or former archives student worker, we especially hope to hear from you!

Please join in the discussion in one of the following ways:

  • Comment on this post
  • Reply to the discussion on the C&UA listserv
  • Email the Steering Committee
  • Email me directly

To get you started, here are some focusing questions, and some feedback that we received from members last year when we proposed our student worker theme:


  • What knowledge can college and university archivists share with each other related to student workers?
  • What actions can we take as a section to benefit our home institutions and our student workers?
  • What resources, within and beyond the archives profession, should we be aware of?
  • What issues should we consider as we move forward?
  • How can we center student workers in this conversation, and highlight their accomplishments, without asking them for unpaid labor?
  • How can we use our SAA meeting time to move our work forward?


  1. Address issues of student labor and economic justice in the context of the corporate university.
  2. I especially like the idea about “how archival work can help prepare students for careers outside of archives”. I find the whole discussion about Archival Literacy Competencies and Teaching with Primary Sources in SAA very useful, not only for history students but for our student workers too. In addition, I hope we will be able to have some feedback on the problems that might come up with regard to archival policies (issue of confidentiality, excessive use of social media while at work, etc.).
  3. I would love to share with many of my colleagues just what it is that archives students do across the spectrum of universities and colleges (each time I mention my experience from 10+ years ago, I think they think it is just me and not an experience shared by many students in archives across the years).
  4. I think it’s really important to address the gig economy and its implications for work in this field.
    Two issues leap immediately to mind:

    1. The practice of using underpaid or volunteer workers, as well as interns and library assistants — and, of course, student workers — as substitutes for professional archivists
    2. The increasing “adjunctification” of the archival profession that the next generation of archivists will be facing, and that this generation is already enduring, where archivists live (and often move) from gig to gig, and where all too often temporary/short-term jobs translate not into permanent jobs after one has “paid one’s dues,” but rather into, at best, a string of renewals. There are so many problems with this model, not least among them the inhibition of people’s chances to request decent pay and raises or to build careers. Students should be well aware of what they may be getting into, because I don’t think archives education programs stress anywhere near enough how many people are unable to find decent, long-term professional jobs …
  5. Have people successfully (or unsuccessfully) involved students in a “snazzy” (untraditional) side of archives; i.e. working on cool exhibits (interactive); working on DH or game-based learning programs or apps, etc.; outreach to communities; programming?  Things that make you go “wow!”  How about in lone arranger settings?
  6. As a current Student Assistant working in special collections/archives, I appreciate the Steering Committee’s focus this year. All of the ideas are great and would be relevant to the work I’m doing now and the questions I encounter. I especially like the idea of the Campus Case Studies because I’m sure we’re all doing some fascinating work. One topic that may be of interest is how student assistants can help encourage fellow students to utilize the archive or special collection. It seems in my institution, at least, the Special Collections department is one of the best kept secrets in the library. It does, however, have a lot of information that could be useful to student researchers. As peers, I think we have a unique opportunity to generate interest in our collections among students.

Rebecca Goldman is the College Archivist at Wellesley College. She holds a MSLIS from Drexel University and a BA in linguistics from Swarthmore College. She currently serves as chair of the College and University Archives Section.


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 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.  

Section Elections

Election official changing the results on a large scoreboard in front of the Daily Reflector building. Courtesy Joyner Library, Eastern Carolina University.

Later this month, all active section members (as of June 30) will receive a ballot to vote on a number of section-related issues. First and foremost amongst these is the election of our section leadership. Two candidates are vying for Vice-Chair/Chair-Elect: Greg Bailey and Ellen Engseth. Steering Committee candidates are: Elizabeth Beckman, Randall Bowman, Christy Fic, Tracy Jackson, Noah Lasley, Chloe Pascual, Karen Trivette, Bryan Whitledge, and Eric Willey. Candidate biographies and statements are available on the section’s website.

The section will also be voting to amend our Standing Rules. The proposed changes account for:

  • the Section’s movement to a blog from a newsletter;
  • a three-year trajectory for the leadership position – one year each as vice-chair, chair, and past chair – to ensure continuity of effort; and
  • changes mandated by SAA’s effort to standardize documents across all sections.

Please take a few minutes to participate in the election and to help set the direction for the section. Results will close July 10-12 (due to staggered balloting) and results will be available by July 14. Kudos to Nominating Committee members Benn Joseph and Carrie Daniels for putting together this excellent slate, and a big thank you to all who have agreed to run.

Call to Service: C&U Section Opportunities

Dear Colleagues,
The Nominating Committee of the College & University Archives Section seeks a diverse slate of candidates to fill the following positions:

  • Vice-Chair/Chair-Elect – 1 seat
  • Steering Committee Member – 2 seats

Please consider nominating yourself, or a colleague, to stand for election this summer. Elected individuals will take office at the close of the Section meeting in July 2017.

The office of Vice-Chair/Chair-Elect is now a 3-year term: one at Vice-Chair, one at Chair, and one at Immediate Past-Chair.

Steering Committee Members will be asked to provide regular content for the Section’s Academic Archivist blog.                                     

The Nominating Committee encourages individuals from colleges and universities of all sizes, and with diverse professional experience, to stand for election. Individuals should be members in good standing of the Society of American Archivists and the College & University Archives Section. All candidates must declare their intentions to stand for election by emailing Benn Joseph  no later than June 1, 2017, and are each encouraged to submit a photograph of themselves, a brief biography, and a statement to voters (also due to the Committee by June 1).

Steering committee participation is a great way to get involved in SAA leadership and contribute to the College & University Archives community. Please contact us with any questions you may have about candidacy or the election.


 The College & University Section Nominating Committee
Carrie Daniels
Benn Joseph

Call for Candidates: Join the Steering Committee

If you are looking for a fun opportunity to get involved with SAA, the section has an opportunity for you!! The Nominating Committee of the College and University Archives Section seeks a diverse slate of candidates to fill the following positions:

  • Vice-Chair/Chair-Elect* – 1 seat
  • Steering Committee Member* – 2 seats

Please consider nominating yourself or a colleague to stand for election this summer. Elected individuals will take office at the close of the Section meeting in August 2016.

The Nominating Committee encourages all C&U section members including individuals from colleges and universities of all sizes, students and new members, with diverse professional experience, to stand for election. Individuals should be members in good standing of the Society of American Archivists and the College and University Archives Section. All candidates must declare their intentions to stand for election by emailing Jordon Steele no later than June 1, 2016, and are each encouraged to submit a photograph of themselves, a brief biography, and a statement to voters.

*Duties of the officers, election and term information are described in Article 6 of the Section’s bylaws.

New Beginnings

Hands cupping a seedling in soil, photo by TNS Sofres

With this post, the College & University Archives section launches its new blog, The Academic Archivist. Why a blog? To be honest, it’s something we’ve been talking about for a number of years. One of the primary reasons for switching to a blog format is our desire to get relevant content to you in a more timely fashion rather than saving it for one push in a semiannual or quarterly fashion. We believe the blog format affords great flexibility in managing the workflow for production and provides increased opportunities for integration with social media and interaction amongst our members.


For those of you with concerns about the section’s ability to maintain a blog for the long-term, let us allay those for you: our SAA microsite will continue to serve as our repository for meeting minutes, reports, and other official documents.

We envision the blog as a place where you can come to find links to information and resources related to college and university archives, where you can find original content written by your peers, where you can learn about section leaders, and where you can find answers to questions you might have. In the weeks and months to come, we hope to nurture this blog, providing a steady and reliable source of information for the section.

Ultimately, however, we want this blog to be responsive to the needs of the section members, to grow in directions that are needed and valuable to our members. We welcome guest posts, including case studies; reports on webinars or conferences with relevant content; reviews of books, articles, or other blog posts related to college and university archives topics; and more. What would you like to see here? What areas of college and university archivy do you want to read more about? We want to hear from you! Submit your ideas and suggestions using the form below.