Meet new Steering Committee member: Liz Scott

Liz Scott (she/her) is an Archivist & Special Collections Librarian and Assistant Professor at East Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania and has worked at a variety of institutions during her career. Liz is a member of the Society of American Archivists, the American Library Association, and has been a certified archivist through the Academy of Certified Archivists since 2006. Additionally, she is a member of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference (MARAC) where she is a member of the Nominations Committee. She belongs to several local organizations including the Monroe County Historical Association (MCHA) and the Museum and Library Alliance of the Greater Lehigh Valley (MLA). Liz received an MLS from the University at Albany, SUNY and a BA in history and English from Dickinson College. She is currently working toward her second master’s degree in the English department at East Stroudsburg University. Her research interests  include archivists in academia, art and archives, service-learning in libraries and archives and web archiving.

Photo from Liz Scott

Why or how did you find your way to becoming an archivist?

I feel really lucky to have discovered archives when I was in college. I got a job as a student in Dickinson College’s archives and special collections and from day one I was hooked. I had finally found the perfect career for a history major. After considering teaching and law, the archives job felt like the perfect fit. I was lucky enough to get a paraprofessional job at Lafayette College after graduating from Dickinson and soon realized I wanted to go to graduate school. My boss was a great mentor to me and encouraged me to leave even though she would have to find someone to replace me. I feel very lucky to have been involved with this field now since the age of 20 which is over half of my life.

Can you share a success you’ve had in your repository recently?

As a lone arranger, it is all about the small things for me! We just launched our university’s institutional repository for which I am partly responsible. We have a librarian who is solely dedicated to the graduate theses and I have been working to populate it with faculty publications, student projects, jazz materials, and records from the archives and special collections. Getting the archives and special collections accessible is one of my biggest priorities so I am excited for the materials to finally be online.

What current or future project are you most excited about in your archives?

I am really excited about getting our art collections online into CollectiveAccess. There is a University Art & Sculpture Collection and then we have another collection dedicated to the local folk artist Sterling Strauser and some of his artist friends. I only have spreadsheets and an Access database as organizational tools. Our state school library network asked if I would be a guinea pig and test out CollectiveAccess and then train other repositories in how to use the software. I am excited to get these works of art and sculpture online so that people can see our collections.

What are some of the challenges you face in your position?

I think the biggest challenge is splitting my time as a librarian and an archivist. On the librarian side I teach information literacy sessions, am a liaison to eight departments on campus, and staff the all-virtual reference desk for several hours a week. This takes away time from doing the things archivists need to do like accessions, organizing records, and getting materials digitized and online. In the past, it had gotten so bad that I needed to schedule time into my day just to do archival work. We recently lost a librarian position so there is even more work. I do not want to let my colleagues down so I continue to work on library projects. We work a few weeks in the summer and this is when I get most of my archival work done. Even though I have been in this job for almost five years, I am still finding that balance. I hope that someday the majority of my work will be archives related vs. library related.

What projects do you envision the section undertaking during your time on the steering committee?

I am really interested in tenure and promotion for archivists. I have been working with my research group on the subject for several years where we have done three presentations on the subject including an SAA session and an SAA Research Forum topic. We are just about to finish an article on that same topic. When I got my tenure-track job, it was hard to find resources and information about archivists and tenure. There was plenty about librarians and tenure but largely not a lot of scholarship or even just blogs and other resources where I could find information. It may be because so many archivists are lumped in as librarians that they assume the information good for a librarian is good for an archivist. I am going to be working on a Tenure & Promotion Pathways as a Steering project that will work to create resources for those in tenured and tenure-track positions. I will also be leading a few Coffee Chats in October, November and December on various subjects. I am really looking forward to being a contributing member of the C&U Steering.

Meet new Steering Committee member & new Academic Archivist blog editor: Caitlin Colban-Waldron

Caitlin Colban-Waldron (she/her) is a 2020 graduate of Queens College CUNY and received an MLS and certificate in archives and preservation. Since December 2019, she has worked at Queens College in the Special Collections and Archives department and currently serves as an Adjunct Archivist. She grew up on Long Island, NY, and recently moved to Queens. Beginning later this fall, Caitlin will serve as the new blog editor for the Academic Archivist (a role formerly held by Katie Nash, University Archivist and Head of UW Archives, University of Wisconsin-Madison).

Photo provided by Caitlin Colban-Waldron

Why or how did you find your way to becoming an archivist?

I initially started graduate school with the goal to become a public librarian; my previous career in e-commerce marketing was unfulfilling and increasingly frustrating, and I spent a lot of time thinking about the kind of career that would be motivating and enjoyable. I landed on librarianship, but when I finally enrolled and started coursework, the archives classes in the course catalog intrigued me. I took one class as an elective and immediately changed track. 

In that first archives class, a guest speaker was scheduled, Obden Mondesir. He spoke about his work at Weeksville Heritage Center in Brooklyn, and how he got to that point–he carved an interesting and fully purposeful path himself through internships, part-time work, fellowships, and volunteer work. It was so impactful for me, because it was that moment that I remember thinking: if this was my career, I’d have to really commit and fully jump in. It was the moment that a stimulating academic topic turned into a potential career path. After that guest lecture I decided to take the leap, quit my e-commerce job, and start trying to gain real-world archives experience. I completed a series of internships and eventually became Obden’s colleague at Queens College (QC)!

Can you share a success you’ve had in your repository recently?

At QC, we’ve been navigating COVID-19 since the very beginning of the pandemic. The first major American epicenter of the virus was here, in our community. I’m proud to be part of our team for many reasons, including transitioning to working remotely on projects and then cautiously coming back to an empty campus in the last few months, but now the library is opening to students and researchers again. We’ll have our first on-site reference visit this week, which I am counting as a small success that feels huge.

What current or future project are you most excited about in your archives?

I’m so excited to process journals from the Gender, Love, and Sexuality Alliance (GLASA) club on QC’s campus. These journals lived in the club’s office in the student union, where any member could write about how they were feeling, what they were working on, how they moved through the world, or simply to leave notes for one another. The journals range from the late 1980s to the 2000s. The journals are not just supremely cool and important historical artifacts from the college and its students, albeit in a different time and a different plague, but as a lesbian I am deeply invested in writing ethical description for these journals and working with the current iteration of the club to represent them in the archives and the college’s historical record with respect and dignity.

What are some of the challenges you face in your position?

Time is the eternal enemy, right? At QC we are up to our eyeballs with exciting, fascinating, and urgent work. But our limited physical capacity to be at work and COVID restrictions pushed us to be creative and expansive when thinking about how we would approach work remotely. The Head of Special Collections and Archives at QC, Annie Tummino, deserves all the credit in the world for keeping us focused and non-despairing. She was proactive in assigning alternative work like an in-depth review of our institution’s controlled vocabulary, a partnership with Queens Public Library’s community archiving program Queens Memory and their own quickly-launched COVID-19 project (check it out here: https://qplnyc.urbanarchive.me/cities/nyc), and the operational rollout of a new platform for digitized materials, JSTOR Community Collections.

What projects do you envision the section undertaking during your time on the steering committee?

As the Early Career Member, I’m obviously a little new to the world of SAA and its various sections, but I’m thrilled to be part of the C&U steering committee. I’m more eager to learn how the committee works and communicates with its members and broader networks. I can’t wait to be enthusiastic support to the great initiatives that the C&U steering committee are planning for the coming year.

Call for Campus Case Studies!

The leadership of the College & University Archives (C&UA) Section is very pleased to remind you of an exciting publishing opportunity through SAA as administered by this section. Writing a Campus Case Study is a wonderful way to test the SAA publishing waters and develop your ideas.

The C&UA Section Steering Committee would like to encourage you to consider this publishing opportunity. “The submission process for a Campus Case Study is designed for ease and flexibility of use and obligates authors only to a minimum of required information for submission.”

In fact, if you have been considering publishing via an SAA vehicle such as Archival Outlook or The American Archivist, a Campus Case Study might be the perfect gateway to test your idea, theory, or thesis. We even provide the rubric for evaluating your submission in order to encourage and facilitate your success.

Please feel free to contact any member of the C&UA Steering Committee to learn more about this exciting opportunity. Names of Committee members can be found on the Section website at https://www2.archivists.org/groups/college-and-university-archives-section.

Thank you for considering this opportunity and we look forward to your submissions!

Meet new Steering Committee member: Tiffany Cole

Tiffany Cole is the archivist at James Madison University (JMU) in Harrisonburg, Virginia. In her role at JMU, Tiffany manages all aspects of collection processing including new and legacy arrangement and description. Tiffany also assists with collection development, reference, outreach, and instruction. She earned her MA in public history from JMU. She has been a member of the Academy of Certified Archivists since 2018 and earned SAA’s Arrangement & Description certification in March 2020 (just days before the COVID-19 lockdown!). Tiffany also serves as the senior co-chair of MARAC’s Finding Aids Award Committee. Her interests include the role of archives in campus history initiatives, reparative description, and vintage Pyrex.

Photo provided by Tiffany Cole

Why or how did you find your way to becoming an archivist?

I pursued my graduate degree in history knowing that I absolutely did not want to teach, but instead wanted to engage with history in a more tangible way, outside of the classroom. (Little did I know just how integral instruction is with archival work.) I had a graduate assistantship at the very same repository where I now work and I fell in love with archival processing—each collection was a new adventure with its own story and set of challenges. After graduate school, I worked in the research and curatorial department of a presidential home and then transitioned back to archives in a public services capacity at a local university special collections library. I returned to JMU, my graduate alma mater and where I was first introduced to archives, in 2016.

Can you share a success you’ve had in your repository recently?

I’m encouraged by recent collaborations with folks in our library’s Metadata Strategies unit. The pandemic provided us the time and space to look closely at our metadata and descriptive practices. Together, we’ve worked to identify opportunities for reparative description, including revising outdated and harmful subject headings as well as remediating gaps in name authorities, particularly for local Black community members and organizations. These efforts will undoubtedly inform future projects related to JMU’s collection of Black poetry specifically as well as all new and legacy description moving forward. Additionally, I am confident that our collective efforts toward better and more equitable description will help researchers find and access materials as we move forward with implementing the ArchivesSpace PUI.

What current or future project are you most excited about in your archives?

I’m looking forward to the ongoing collaboration between JMU Special Collections and Furious Flower Poetry Center, the nation’s first academic center for Black poetry. We began stewarding their collection in 2016 and it is particularly rich in its audiovisual materials featuring readings and performances by Black poets. Work is underway to adopt a digital platform that suits this and other collections of AV materials which also means creating and capturing lots and lots of metadata. Our main library, where Special Collections is housed, is also slated for an expansion and renovation in the coming years. See also my comment above about adopting the ArchivesSpace PUI. So there are many exciting things on the horizon!

What are some of the challenges you face in your position?

The semester started a few weeks ago and we have witnessed an unprecedented level of in-person appointment requests. Our researchers are making up for lost time! While this is definitely a good problem to have, and I am heartened that students in particular are exploring our collections with so much enthusiasm, it magnifies the lack of time and resources that our small staff has to do all the things—reference, outreach, preservation, instruction, processing, etc.

What projects do you envision the section undertaking during your time on the steering committee?

I’m really looking forward to continuing the weekly section coffee chats. It’s a great way to stay connected to the section on topics ranging from content management systems, student workers, professional development, and promotion and tenure. Speaking of P&T, the section is just starting a project to explore pathways to promotion and tenure.

Anything else you want the membership to know about you or your work?

While part of JMU Special Collections’ collection development strategy is to document the history of the university, we are not an official university archives. This is a precarious position for us and one that I’m hopeful will change in the not too distant future. Until that day happens, I’m excited to connect with others who are working to document the histories of their institution who are in a similar position as well as learn from others who have recently gone through the process of becoming a recognized and official university archives.

C&U Section Election Results

by: Michelle Sweetser

I am pleased to announce the results of the College & University Archives Section’s election. April Anderson-Zorn has been elected as our Vice-Chair/Chair-Elect and Tiffany Cole and Elizabeth Scott have both been elected to the Steering Committee.

Join me in thanking all of the candidates who ran as well as Benn Joseph and Karen Trivette for their work on the Nominating Committee. Benn will be rotating off of the Steering Committee, completing his one-year term as Immediate Past Chair. Also completing terms of service are Lae’l Hughes-Watkins and Elizabeth James.

The full leadership roster for the coming year, beginning at the conclusion of next week’s section meeting is:

Chair: Karen Trivette
Vice-Chair/Chair-Elect: April Anderson-Zorn
Immediate Past Chair: Michelle Sweetser

Steering Committee: Angel Diaz, David McCartney, Krista Oldham, Sandra Varry, and our Early Career member, Caitlin Waldron.

Blog Editor: Katie Nash

Look for future communications about section projects and opportunities to become involved in the coming weeks and months.

C&U Section’s Landscape Survey – Preliminary Findings

by Michelle Sweetser via C&U listserv

The College and University Archives Section’s Survey Working Group is pleased to announce the release of our new report, College & University Archives: A Landscape Survey – Preliminary Findings. The report provides initial analysis of data gathered earlier this year surrounding the management and organization of college and university archives within the United States, as well as the background, skills, responsibilities and tasks in which college and university archivists are engaged. The survey was designed to collect baseline data on the current landscape of the archival profession within college and university archives. 

The Survey Working Group was composed of volunteers from the section’s steering committee and the section at large. As part of the College & University Archives meeting at the Society of American Archivists’ annual conference, survey working group members and section leaders would love to hear questions and comments from members about the report and how section members anticipate using the results.

The section meeting, scheduled for Wednesday, July 28th from 4:00-5:30pm EST, is free to attend. Individuals interested in attending must register in advance. Due to limited time, please submit questions or comments using our form; we will respond to questions that we cannot address due to time constraints via a follow-up blog post.

Free Webinar Series: Spring 2021

The College and University Archives Section is excited to announce a spring webinar series! This series of four virtual learning opportunities will feature archivists discussing their approaches to a variety of prevailing topics in our work today, including documenting current events, the archives role in institutional commemorations, collecting the student experience, and instruction. Below is the schedule, basic information about each webinar, and how to join via Zoom. Participants can register at no cost via the Zoom link anytime before the session begins. We hope you can join us!

March Webinar

Title: Collecting the Present in University Archives

Date: Wednesday, March 10, 1 pm ET/12 noon CT/10 am PT

Description: Archivists are afforded technologies that can facilitate digital documentation projects that document current events. However, these projects present a number of challenges and may put those represented in the records in vulnerable positions. This panel will discuss the history of University of Illinois Archives’ contemporary collecting efforts and how these initiatives fit within the Archives’ overall collecting policies and approaches. Panelists will discuss challenges of these projects and learning outcomes for collecting the present. 

Speaker Information:

Bethany Anderson is the Natural and Applied Sciences Archivist at the University of Illinois Archives. In this role, Bethany works with units across the University of Illinois campus to document the scientific enterprise. She is also Reviews Editor for American Archivist and co-editor of the Archival Futures Series, which is co-published by ALA and SAA.

Jessica Ballard is the Archivist of Multicultural Collections and Services at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. She holds a joint Masters in History and Library Science from Indiana University Bloomington. Jessica’s work focuses on collection development, policies, and research pertaining to underrepresented groups. She is an advisory board member for Project STAND.

Webinar recording: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qAtruKi4GIQ

April Webinar

Title: Those Were the Days: Making College and University Milestones Matter Today

Date: Thursday, April 15, 1 pm ET/12 noon CT/10 am PT

Description: All colleges and universities have a history. College archives are charged with preserving their histories through the institutional historical records in their care. What are some unique, interesting, and innovative ways that we can leverage the records at times of institution commemoration, celebration, and remembrance? Join your colleagues from the leadership of the College and University Archives section of SAA to learn how peer archivists have done just that.

Speaker Information:

April K. Anderson-Zorn is the university archivist for Illinois State University.  Anderson-Zorn holds a master’s degree in History from the University of Central Florida, an MLIS from Florida State University, maintains a Digital Archives Specialist certificate through the Society of American Archivists, and is a certified archivist.  Anderson-Zorn is active in SAA and the Midwest Archives Conference, presenting topics and authoring articles related to university archives outreach projects and tools.

Karen Trivette is an Associate Professor and Head of Special Collections and College Archives for the Fashion Institute of Technology-State University of New York. She holds a Master of Library Science degree from the University at Albany-SUNY and is pursuing her Doctorate of Archival Sciences at the Alma Mater Europaea University in Maribor, Slovenia. Trivette is active in SAA, especially the College & University Archives and Design Records sections, and presents regularly both nationally and internationally.

Webinar recording: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CwpmSkajCYs

May Webinar

Title: Archiving Student Life on Campus

Date: Wednesday, May 5, 1 pm ET/12 noon CT/10 am PT

Description: An integral component of college and university histories is student experience. Archivists interested in documenting a more inclusive record of student experiences on their campus will look to student organizations, alumni accounts, social and cultural activities, political activism, and other key events. Creating meaningful relationships with students can lead to impactful archival collections and resources for future scholarly research and for students looking to understand their legacies. Join three archivists in a discussion about their approaches to collecting student life, including their goals, specific projects, and successes and challenges faced while doing this work. 

Speaker Information:

Jessica Ballard is the Archivist of Multicultural Collections and Services at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. She holds a joint Masters in History and Library Science from Indiana University Bloomington. Jessica’s work focuses on collection development, policies, and research pertaining to underrepresented groups. She is an advisory board member for Project STAND, and served on STAND’s student engagement committee.

Lae’l Hughes-Watkins is the University Archivist for the University of Maryland. As the University Archivist, she is responsible for the University of Maryland collection area within Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) and oversees reference services, collection development, donor outreach, and stewardship and instruction activities. She is the founder of Project STAND, and research areas focus on outreach to marginalized communities, documenting student activism within disenfranchised populations, and utilizing narrative of oppressed voices within the curricula of post-secondary education spaces.

Valencia L. Johnson is the Archivist for Student Life at Princeton University. In addition to being a certified archivist, she holds a Bachelor of Arts in American Studies and History from the University of Kansas and a Master of Arts in Museum Studies from Baylor University. She engages with student organizations on managing and preserving their records, in analog and born-digital formats. As the creator of Amp Up Your Archives program, she works to create records management and archival initiatives to inspire students to view their records and materials as important documentation that is an equal to the administrative record of the university.

Webinar recording: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=84Xp1tt5AlA

June Webinar

Title Using Primary Sources for Instruction

Date Wednesday, June 2, 1 pm ET/12 noon CT/10 am PT

Description: This 60-minute presentation will focus on online instruction tools and activities, with an emphasis on the instruction process from start to finish. Presenters will also discuss self-care for instructors and students. 

Speaker Information:

Rachel Seale is the Outreach Archivist at Iowa State University (ISU) Special Collections & University Archives (SCUA). Rachel has been a member of the SAA Committee on Public Awareness since 2017 and is currently serving as vice-chair. In 2018, she presented at the Midwestern Archives Conference Fall Symposium with Anna Trammell and Cara Stone on instruction and assessment in special collections and archives. In 2020, Rachel was elected to serve on the Midwest Archives Conference (MAC) Nominating Committee.

Cara B. Stone is an Instruction Librarian at Iowa State University. She is active in Iowa’s library associations, having served on both the Iowa Library Association (ILA) and the ILA Association of College & Research Libraries executive boards. In 2016 Cara founded the ILA Committee for Diversity & Inclusion and served as Chair through 2019. She also co-leads the Iowa Private Academic Libraries Information Literacy Interest Group annual workshops. Cara has presented at several conferences, including the Annual Conference on the First-Year Experience, the Council of Independent Colleges Information Fluency in the Disciplines Workshop, LOEX, and the Midwest Archives Conference Fall Symposium.

Webinar recording: https://youtu.be/lpFdQmi8KlA

Slides: http://bit.ly/saajune

Padlet: https://padlet.com/cstone62/saajune

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

Meet Steering Committee Member: Elizabeth James

This is the final post in our series highlighting the recently-elected Section leadership.

Elizabeth D. James is the current Archivist and Digital Preservation Librarian at Marshall University. She earned her Master of Science in Archives Management at Simmons University. Her work focuses on maximizing access to archival materials through accessible description, processing, and digitizing of materials and making use of non-traditional platforms to encourage access by diverse users. Her research interests vary, but primarily focus on computational approaches to using archival collections for discovery and analysis, the impact of memory organizations on local communities, and scalable approaches to managing digital archives.

Why or how did you find your way to becoming an archivist?

As an undergraduate history major in search of work, I somehow used my skill at origami to leverage my way into a job in my university’s preservation department building phase boxes for rare books. To my surprise, I enjoyed reading and handling the books much more than I expected. This job led to another position in a special library and archive on campus that exposed me to prints, rare books, exhibit curation, and archival materials–needless to say, thanks to some wonderful supervisors and colleagues, I was hooked! However, I had heard tales of how competitive and difficult life in the archives professional could be, so I worked for a year as an AmeriCorps service member at a house museum before I finally decided to apply to and attend Simmons College (now Simmons University).

Can you share a success you’ve had in your repository recently?

Like many, even though “digital preservation” composes half of my job title, much of my work involves hefting around and addressing legacy issues with physical material. Digital preservation is something that all too often falls by the wayside, especially in smaller institutions, so I was excited to finally have my proposal to implement a low-resource intensive digital preservation program using open source tools and my own programming knowledge approved.

What current or future project are you most excited about in your archives?

Since learning Python, I have been using it for various projects at my institution related to digital preservation, data visualization, and data cleanup and migration. However, one of the things that I’m most excited about is creating learning resources and conducting instruction on how our collections can be explored and used as data by undergraduate students to expand our traditional instruction program.

What are some of the challenges you face in your position?

In addition to my work with digital preservation, I am also responsible for all manuscript collections at my institution. Currently, I’m processing a large, early 20th century collection of business records created by an industrial company that manufactured coal, salt, and chemicals. This means I spend some of my in-person work time covered in coal and other mystery substances. I have never been more thankful for the COVID-19 induced mandated practice of indoor mask wearing at my workplace!

What projects do you envision the section undertaking during your time on the steering committee?

One large project the steering committee will be working on is initiating a review of the Guidelines for College and University Archives. I’m excited to work on this project because I feel that it is an opportunity to update the Guidelines to be indicative not only of the current college and university archives field, but the desired future. I’m particularly enthusiastic about providing multiple ways for college and university archivists of all kinds to contribute to this work.

Anything else you want the membership to know about you or your work?

As an archivist in Appalachia where the archives community is dispersed at best, I’m a huge fan of collaboration and creating virtual communities within the archives profession. I’m always interested in talking to individuals doing similar work, so please reach out if you’ve read anything here you find interesting!

Meet Steering Committee Member: Angel Diaz

This post is the third in a series highlighting our recently-elected Section leadership.

Angel Diaz (she/her/hers) is the University Archivist at Penn State University. In this role since 2018, she identifies, acquires, and maintains records of enduring value that chronicle the development and experiences of the Penn State community. She earned her MLIS from the University of California Los Angeles. She served on the 2020 SAA Annual Meeting Program Committee and was Co-Chair of the Archivists and Archivists of Color Section (2016-2018). She is a participating member of Project STAND and is a current fellow in the Association of Research Libraries’ Leadership and Career Development Program (2020-2021).

Why or how did you find your way to becoming an archivist?

As many people do, I started working with archival materials through an undergraduate internship–at the California Historical Society. I helped organize their extensive California newspaper collection by county. Not only did I love learning about the state, but found myself thinking a lot about why we were keeping and organizing the newspapers in this way. However, even while working there I had no idea one could become an archivist. I started working as a middle and high school humanities teacher. A short time later, my friend took on a job at the Bancroft Library (UC Berkeley), told me she was going to get her MLIS, and invited me to study for the GRE with her. It was an exciting jump to a new profession. In our graduate program, I found my place learning about how archivists can facilitate engagement and learning with historical materials to audiences of all ages and communities.

Can you share a success you’ve had in your repository recently?

It’s taken some planning and extra work but I have been pleased with some recent collaborative outreach and engagement efforts, including shifting from developing a physical exhibition to a digital exhibition and zine workshops for student organizations. The zine workshops have all taken place on Zoom, but a small group of colleagues and I have been able to prepare physical zine supplies packets that we mailed to the students to have ready for the meeting date. The packets include paper, sample zines, and reproductions of archival materials for the students to cut up and include in the zines they create. We invite specific student organizations and base the theme of the zines on that group’s mission and focus. The workshops provide a space for creative thinking, while highlighting collection materials and making a connection with leaders from student organizations.

What current or future project are you most excited about in your archives?

I am very excited about a student-led oral history initiative currently taking place. It started with a seminar course I was embedded in last spring. Students in this course took on research projects with University Archives materials on their chosen topic around Penn State history. One student conducted research on African American student activism in the late 1960s and early 1970s. She was eager to learn as much as she could on the topic. I provided archival materials and other resources, and the professor put her in touch with a Penn State alumnus who graduated in 1970 and had been active in various social and political efforts. The student interviewed the alumnus for her research paper and through the conversation learned of additional African American alumni who had also been activists on campus.

At the conclusion of the course, the student reached out to me to share that she wanted to speak to the other alumni in order to bring more resources for our collections. We quickly developed an oral history project she could take on–and I was able to advocate for a paid position for her to do this project. The work would all be done remotely over Zoom because this all started alongside the pandemic. We met regularly to discuss best practices and methodology, utilized her existing research to develop interview questions, and even conducted practice interviews. The interviews will be added to the University Archives collections for research access. This oral history project has been a wonderful initiative to be a part of because it is wholly based on the student’s interests and goals. Watching her interviews are such a positive experience because I see her genuine interest in hearing from each participant and that in turn brings ease and great topics into the conversation.

What are some of the challenges you face in your position?

This is not a new challenge to anyone, but there is so much to do as a University Archivist. I work in collaboration with the Office of Records Management to support handling of university records coming in from across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (Penn State is one university with 24 campuses) in both physical and digital format, support research and access to materials during the pandemic, am always looking for ways to engage students with archival materials, and am in a tenure-track position so scholarship is an expectation. It’s a balancing act that I have yet to figure out.

What projects do you envision the section undertaking during your time on the steering committee?

It seems like this steering committee hit the ground running this year! I’ve been happy to participate in some of the Coffee Chats organized by Karen Trivette. These weekly meetings are a great way to come together as colleagues to share challenges and successes presented to us throughout the COVID work environment and to also just chat about our work generally.

The steering committee is also starting the process of revising and updating the Guidelines for College and University Archives. The last update was in 1999, so we’re due for an update! Lastly, since it looks like our remote work and social distancing will last for some time, we have been looking into providing a series of virtual learning opportunities on a variety of topics for section and organization members.