Saturday, December 31, 2011

So Long, 2011!

Greetings, friends! It's time once again for a little bit of reflection and some goal-setting as we kiss another year goodbye.

From last year's post, these were my 2011 goals. Let's see how we did, shall we?
  1. ...because another archivist saw my QR code post and asked if I would like to be part of a session she was proposing for the annual meeting of the Society of American Archivists in 2011. We got accepted! Yay! So 2011 will mark my first presentation at a national meeting. Gulp!
  2. That meeting will be in Chicago in August. Additional travel is planned for Houston in March and, I hope, Dallas/Ft. Worth in May. I'm already chatting up online friends about possible get-togethers!
  3. What else do I want to do next year? I'd like to read more C.S. Lewis, so that's definitely a goal. I also hope to read more books from my library that I discover while browsing the shelves. They may not be current best-sellers, but they'll be things that catch my eye in the stacks.
  4. Also, I still have a number of unfinished goals from 2010, and we'll see how those progress in the coming year.
Goal 1: Survive the SAA meeting and my presentation therein. I did! I was part of a terrific panel on using technology in the archives. I met some great folks from other institutions, and we enjoyed learning from each other. The audience had some good questions for us and seemed to enjoy the session. 

Goal 2: Go places. Went to Chicago, Houston, and DFW as planned. Also went to Pennsylvania five times (with New Jersey included once) for a total of three funerals. As much as I enjoy traveling, I could do without the funerals in 2012. On the up-side, I was able to hang out with a variety of my internet friends and met some for the first time. 2011 included visits with (in no particular order) Jim, Joy, Will, Patricia, Heather, Scott, Janet, Joe, Kristin, Kirsten, Harvey, Yolanda, Zulema, Daryl, Kesha, Anne, Maria, and Marcia.

Goal 3: Read stuff. I didn't read as much C.S. Lewis as I intended, but I did finish The Great Divorce, The Screwtape Letters, and Mere Christianity. Hopefully I'll read more in 2012. As far as reading diverse books from the library stacks, those ran the gamut from Mary Roach's Packing for Mars to Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God and from Jon Gordon's The No Complaining Rule to Robert M. Edsel's Monuments Men. If you'd like to keep up with my reading, feel free to add me on Goodreads.com.

Goal 4: Keep meeting old goals. Well, let's just say I'm a work in progress!

So where does this leave me as I stare down the barrel of 2012? What would I like to be looking back on this time next year? Hmm. More travel, as usual. I'm hoping to hit Austin, TX (maybe with some time in San Antonio), again in March and to take my first trip to San Diego, CA, in August. If I can work it out, I'd also like to hop over to the UK in the spring to visit a friend who will be teaching a study abroad course there. That will mean renewing my passport, so I'd better get on that.

Professionally, I did receive my promotion to Associate Professor this year (yay!), but there are always areas in which I can grow. I'm still the ACA Webmaster, and I've enjoyed serving on the board. I'll also be finishing up the second year of my term as SGA Secretary. At this point I don't have any speaking engagements scheduled, but you never know when that could change. (Need a speaker for something? I'd be glad to consider it!) 

Beyond that? Who knows? We'll just have to see where we end up. Happy 2012 to you, dear reader! I hope it's a good one!

Cheers!












Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Rules for Improv @ Your Library

I'm behind the curve on this one. I just finished listening to the audiobook of Tina Fey's Bossypants, and like lots of other bloggers, I was struck by her Rules of Improvisation That Will Change Your Life and Reduce Belly Fat*. I think the reason so many folks have posted the rules and how they relate to their professions is that they're just good rules for life in general. If you haven't read them yet, here they are, slightly paraphrased from Tina's book. Her thoughts are in bold and italics, and mine (specifically on how I see these play out in librarianship) are in regular type.

1. Agree. Always agree, and say "yes."  
This rule reminds you to respect what others have created and to "at least start from an open-minded place. Start with a 'yes,' and see where that takes you." 

We've all heard that "librarians fear change." No, not every single one of them, but enough of them to add it to the stereotype (hey, I don't knit or own a cat, but plenty of library folk do). I think we have trouble with this rule; our instinct is to say "no" and to question why we should do something new. But what if we took this rule to heart? Jenica Rogers, one of my library heroes, does just this (emphasis mine, fabulous writing hers):
After the first six months in my current position I told my team that my operating principle is that I will say yes unless I must say no, and that I define “must” by considering our mission, our goals, and our resources. And I’ve been consistent in that.  They trust me. And they expect a yes, but respect a no, because they understand how I make those decisions. Someone, upon hearing that, once asked me if I didn’t think that was a misstep – telling the team. Because now that they knew how I made decisions, they could manipulate the system, and thus me. I just stared at them. If my decision-making process is something I’m proud of, and it’s based on mission, goals, and resources, how precisely would someone manipulate me? If their idea is good, I say yes. If their idea compels me to say no, I say no. Knowing that doesn’t give them some strange power over me, it just makes them more comfortable asking me for things because they know how I will treat them when they do.
I love this idea. Most people (especially in libraries!) aren't going to propose random changes without some reason for them, so what are we so afraid of? Let your employees or co-workers try something new! Even better...

2. Don't just say "yes." Say "yes, and..." 
Agree, and then "add something of your own.... To [Tina Fey], 'yes, and,' means don't be afraid to contribute. It's your responsibility to contribute. Always make sure you're adding something to the discussion. Your initiations are worthwhile."

Encourage your staff/colleagues/librarians-where-you-work by joining in with their ideas. Instead of questioning them, kick it up a notch! "Oooh, I like that idea! And what if we added x as well?" What would happen in our institutions if we embraced new ideas? If we brainstormed without judging? If we weren't afraid to just go for it with no-holds-barred abandon? Think about it. Dream about it. Do it.

On to rule 3...

3. Make statements. 
"This is a positive way of saying, 'Don't ask questions all the time....'" Don't just raise questions and point out obstacles; be part of the solution. "Make statements with your actions and your voice."

I don't even need to add to this (but it's my blog, so I will). Leaders, if you're spineless, grow a spine. Stand up for yourself and your people. Be firm! Say what you mean! Everybody, if you have an idea, share it! Don't hem and haw or sell yourself short. You're in this business for a reason. You love it. You're passionate about it. If you think something might improve a process or a service, let the leaders and managers know. Own it!

4. There are no mistakes, only opportunities.
"In improv, there are no mistakes, only beautiful, happy accidents."

Try something new. If it doesn't work, you can always go back, or better yet, try another new thing. Instead of dwelling on what went wrong, look for what you learned from the experience. How can that help you improve the next iteration? What are we so afraid of? You're never going to please everyone; that's a given. But what could you do that would brighten someone's day or make a process more efficient? Do that.

The whole idea of improvisation is that you're doing something new and creative. It hasn't happened before. It may never happen again. But in this moment, right now, you can have an impact on the other actors in your scene (your co-workers and employees). You can give your audience (patrons) an experience that they'll never forget. You might even impress your directors and producers (those administrative higher-ups who really call the shots). If you always follow someone else's script, what's special about you? Anyone can do that. Live a little, and "set the stage" for something new and exciting!



*Improv will not reduce belly fat.


Sunday, November 6, 2011

Precious Memories


I was asked to share some thoughts about hymns in preparation for my church's hymnal dedication service, and the response was positive enough that I thought I would post my remarks here. Happy reading!
As many of you know, I spent six years working as the librarian and archivist at the Georgia Music Hall of Fame and another three as the popular music archivist at Georgia State University. Those two jobs provided me with a lot of exposure to all kinds of music. I learned that many famous performers got their start singing church music, either alone, with family groups, or in church choirs. I also learned that some singers used hymns as inspiration for their pop music hits, such as when Ray Charles changed the words of “I’ve Got a Savior” and recorded “I’ve Got a Woman.”
As many of you also know, I now work as the head of special collections at Mercer University. You may not be aware, though, that Jesse Mercer, the esteemed Georgia Baptist minister for whom the school is named, compiled and published hymnals in the 1800s. These early hymnals did not include music, only words, and they were small enough to fit in a pocket.
As much as I love sharing trivia about music, though, most of my experiences with hymns are more personal. I ended up deciding to share a few memories with you today.
My father is a retired Baptist minister. I grew up in south Monroe County and was raised on the songs in the 1956 edition of The Baptist Hymnal. (We had enough copies of the 1976 edition for the choir, but not for the congregation.) The choir would occasionally mix things up and sing from The Country and Western Gospel Hymnal if the music director felt rebellious.
In months that had five Sundays, the fifth Sunday night was a “Singspiration” service. Instead of a regular worship service, there was special music by the choir, solos, duets, quartets, and so on. There was always a time for “congregational favorites,” and attendees called out the numbers or titles of their favorite hymns. You could almost always count on somebody requesting “The Old Rugged Cross” or “At Calvary” during that time. The music director would jot down five or six songs, and we would sing the first and last verses.
Speaking of that, I don’t know the third verses of most of the hymns I learned as a kid. We always sang one, two, and four. Except, of course, if we were having revival. Then we sang through all six verses of “Just As I Am” until everyone was hoarse.
The hymns I grew up with are still some of my favorites. The lyrics and music have stayed with me, and I still think of them from time to time, not just when we sing them here. Nothing is more comforting than remembering “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” if you’re feeling low.
I’ve enjoyed singing hymns from the new hymnal. It’s got a nice mix of old favorites and some newer songs that aren’t just repetitive choruses but really have some theology in them. I’d like to encourage all of you to come back tonight and bring some friends for a time of worship through song. Thank you.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Hidden Suffering of “Good Librarian Syndrome”

It’s a really tough time to be a(n) ___________. Fill in that blank with your chosen profession. It’s true for all of us right now. But in my own role as a librarian and archivist, there are some particular challenges.

I recently had an online discussion with some wonderful library/archives friends from around the country who are all struggling with hiring freezes, budget cuts, and administrators begging us to do more with less. One of the issues that was mentioned was a lack of staffing, which led to position restructuring within the library but no change in services. As usual, library employees were expected to endure these changes with pleasant smiles and helpful demeanors. But why? Other departments are not burdened with such expectations. Nobody bats an eye if they stand up and fight against cuts. Why are we so different?

It was suggested that the core of our problem is “Good Librarian Syndrome”: it hurts us to say “no” when we are asked by our supervisors, administrations, or even our patrons to do something. The librarian who described this malady went on to say that we have to teach librarians how to say “no” – it’s not a natural behavior for those of us who love to help people. Instead, we will naturally go out of our way to help patrons discover topics, find the best sources, and format and cite their research papers. It’s just what we do. We can’t help helping. And we will help you until it kills us. Maybe not literally, but we will “do more with less” until we have nothing left to give to anyone.

One of the librarians in the discussion fought back: “I don't understand why we have such a problem saying ‘no.’ If our budgets get slashed and we have to cut resources, and then people complain, I feel like we should be honest and say, ‘Hey, our budget got slashed. It totally sucks. Here is who you should complain to.’ I find the fact that we are not ok with doing this mind-blowing. I don't think it is good to portray libraries as not suffering, if in fact they are. I think it could work against us. How can we ask for more when we always seem to be doing more with less?” She’s right, of course. If we continue to maintain hours and services with fewer and fewer resources, we will never get our budgets restored or our vacancies filled.

The answer she received in our chat was, “Because ‘Good Librarians’ like to suffer and want to seem like superheroes. It's a nice idea but it leads to bad service, unrealistic expectations, and burnout.”

Yes, it does. Why do we think this is normal behavior? Why aren’t we empowered to stand our ground and state our case? How can we maintain our “Good Librarian” status without running ourselves ragged? I don’t have all the answers, but I think the outspoken librarian above is correct. We need to let people know that we’re suffering and that we’re not superheroes no matter how much we long to be. (And with a name like “Superstarchivist,” I do long to be.)

Friday, July 29, 2011

Another Week in the Life

Welcome, dear reader, to the end of #libday7. I haven't been able to post as much as I'd like this week; it's just been wild.

Today I got to do a couple of things related to my job as a university archivist (or archivist in a university, which isn't exactly the same thing). As part of our "facultyness" at MPOW, librarians (and yours truly, as the archivist, or special collections librarian) are expected to participate in professional development activities. This may include writing articles, presenting papers, serving on committees, or whatever we do to further our academic careers while trying not to embarrass the university.

I'm currently serving as the Secretary of my state archives organization, and we had a board meeting today. So I was able to take a day off work to further my professional development. The group has a terrific, enthusiastic board, and taking the minutes isn't difficult. It's a good way to stay involved and to keep current with what's happening in archives in GA.

After the meeting, I came home and reviewed applications for job vacancies. That's another part of my faculty life, helping to recruit for our library faculty positions. This is the first time we've formed a search committee to deal with all the applicants (we have a lot, and we have two jobs available). It's definitely easier to be on the hiring side of the table when it comes to job searches!

I hope all of you have had a good week and have enjoyed seeing some of the diverse activities librarians are involved in. We don't just shelve books, you know!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

What a week!

I'm behind on my Library Day in the Life posts. It's been a zoo of a week, and it's not over yet. Some highlights include:
  • getting workouts loading an archives collection into and out of my car on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively,
  • sorting out the duties of MPOW's first ever search committee for a library job (actually, two jobs),
  • attending a campus wellness "lunch and learn" program on gardening,
  • printing out a large number of job applications for the above-mentioned positions,
  • hosting a research team working on another college's 150th anniversary plans,
  • showing one of my great staff members how to log in to our archives blog,
  • keeping up on new writings about QR codes,
  • and a whole bunch of stuff I've forgotten!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Another exciting round of "Library Day in the Life"

Yes, friends, fiends, and fans, it's time for another exciting week of "Library Day in the Life" posts! Follow the fun on Twitter by searching for #libday7, or see more at http://librarydayinthelife.pbworks.com.

My own day thus far:
  • Before 8:00am - stop to pick up lunch and some cookies for today's going away party for two colleagues.
  • 8:15 - 8:45 - check in with colleagues to find out what I missed by being out for professional development on Friday.
  • 9:00 - 10:00 - check email and voice mail to discover an urgent reference request for a campus department. Start digging. Find out from assistant he is working on same question. Email campus department and learn that they have already answered one part of their question.
  • 10:00 - 11:00 - library management group meeting. Discuss fall plans (we're short on reference and subject librarian help) and brainstorm ways to survive. Deliver report from library communications committee on next steps.
  • 11:00 - 11:30 - open snail mail from Friday, delegate contents of some envelopes, put other items in box for student to file.
  • 11:30 - 11:45 - start blog post on #libday7. Talk to circulation desk about fall student hiring.
That's it for now!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Pork Chop, Pork Chop, Not So Greasy

With mad props to Mary Puskar, I present to you her recipe for Spicy Pork Chops as found in the first Fix-It and Forget-It Cookbook. This is far and away my favorite way to eat pork chops.

5-6 center-cut loin pork chops
3 Tbsp. oil
1 onion, sliced
1 green pepper, cut into strips
8-oz. can tomato sauce
3-4 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. vinegar
1.5 tsp. salt
1-2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

1. Brown chops in oil in skillet. Transfer to slow cooker.
2. Add remaining ingredients to cooker.
3. Cover. Cook on low 6-8 hours.
4. Serve over rice.

A few modifications from Chez Superstarchivist: when we were out of tomato sauce, we used a 14 oz. can of diced tomatoes. Equally yummy! We've also added extra peppers and onions just because we like them. Also note, these aren't really what you think of when you think of "spicy." A better name might be "Sweet and Sour Pork Chops." Regardless, though, enjoy!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Baptist History Resources

These resources were gathered from Taffey Hall's article, "Saving Grace: Baptist Archives and Historical Collections in North America," in the Baptist History and Heritage journal, volume 44, no. 2, 2009. This blog post was prepared in conjunction with Telling the Old, Old Story: Research Opportunities for Minority Baptist Groups, presented at ALABI 2011.


Links to a Variety of Baptist Institutions and Repositories


ALABI: http://alabi.org/related-links/

BaptistHeritage.com (includes Starr bibliography): http://www.baptistheritage.com/resources/resources.htm

BHHS: http://www.baptisthistory.org/bhhs/

BaptistLife.com: http://baptistlife.com/

Baptist Studies Online: http://baptiststudiesonline.com/links/

SBHLA: http://sbhla.org/links.htm


Specific Baptist Groups

Baptist General Conference Archives
http://www.bethel.edu/bgc-archives/

Conservative Baptists
http://www.westernseminary.edu/Library/PDX/index.htm
http://www.denverseminary.edu
http://www.worldventure.com

Free Will Baptists
http://abacus.bates.edu/muskie-archives/
http://www.fwbbc.edu/
http://www.moc.edu/?freewillbaptisthistoricalcollection

General Association of General Baptists
http://oak.oak.edu/

General Association of Regular Baptist Churches
http://www.garbc.org/

Independent Baptists
http://bbfimissions.com/
http://www.gobbc.edu/library/
http://centralseminary.edu/

Landmark Missionary Baptists
http://www.mb-seminary.net/
http://www.bmats.edu/library.htm

Neo-Calvinists
http://www.arbca.com/
http://founders.org/library/
http://www.reformedreader.org/
http://www.reformed.org/documents/index.html
http://www.reformed.org/documents/index.html

North American Baptist Conference (former German Baptist Conference)
http://www.nabarchives.org/

Primitive Baptists
http://www.mountzionpbc.org/
http://www.carthage.lib.il.us/community/churches/primbap/pbl.html
http://www.elon.edu/e-web/library/
http://www.pb.org/

Seventh Day Baptist Historical Society
http://www.sdbhistory.org/


Print Sources

Hall, Taffey. "Saving Grace: Baptist Archives and Historical Collections in North America." Baptist History and Heritage 44, no. 2 (2009): 31-46.

May, Lynn E., Jr. International Directory of Baptist Archives/Libraries. McLean, VA: Baptist World Alliance Commission on Baptist Heritage, 1990.

Sumners, Bill. "Baptist Archives." In Baptist History Celebration, 2007: A Symposium on Our History, Theology, and Hymnody, 244-251. Springfield, MO: Baptist History Celebration Steering Committee, Particular Baptist Press, 2008.






Friday, February 18, 2011

My Dewey Classification




Superstarchivist's Dewey Decimal Section:

007 [Unassigned]


Class:
000 Computer Science, Information & General Works


Contains:
Encyclopedias, magazines, journals and books with quotations.



What it says about you:
You are very informative and up to date. You're working on living in the here and now, not the past. You go through a lot of changes. When you make a decision you can be very sure of yourself, maybe even stubborn, but your friends appreciate your honesty and resolve.

Find your Dewey Decimal Section at Spacefem.com

Friday, January 28, 2011

God Is My Travel Agent

This week I did something I don't think I've ever done before. I attended the funeral of a person I never met. And it was awesome.

First, a bit of background. Frank was the brother of my good friend Jim, whom I met online (via FriendFeed) a couple of years ago. Frank was diagnosed with sarcoma last spring and battled cancer courageously until succumbing to it on January 19. The FriendFeed community had been following Frank's journey through Jim's posts, joining as virtual members of "Team Frank" and trying to support the family through our prayers and good wishes. We even had specially designed logos that a number of us used on FriendFeed:


and



(Kudos to FFer Jeremy for his great designs. The extra F in Frank is for FriendFeed, by the way.) Eventually the Team Frank movement even made its way to Facebook, where a number of Frank's real life friends and supporters used the logos, too.

And now, back to this week. We knew Frank was fading fast, but all of his virtual fans were still shocked and saddened when we found out about his passing last Wednesday night. We mourned with his family and friends, crying and posting messages of support for his family and each other. We shared posts and photos from his sister Maria's Facebook page as well as songs and videos to encourage everyone involved.

Some FFers were even closer to the situation.

Jim is a pastor, and Frank had asked him to conduct the funeral service. Jim requested and received help from his pastor friend Will and from a FriendFeeding nun, Heather.

Over the weekend, my husband and I were talking about the funeral plans. He said he didn't mind if I wanted to go; he could stay home with the dogs. Well, of course I'd love to go, but how on earth could I manage it? I'd have to get from Georgia to Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and last-minute plane tickets aren't cheap. I looked at some tickets online and found some reasonable prices, but that didn't take into account getting from the airport in Philadelphia to the funeral in New Jersey or finding a place to stay. Was I really up for renting a car or trying to find some kind of shuttle service?

Cue FriendFeed. On Sunday afternoon, I posted that I wanted to fly to PA/NJ for the funeral but was having trouble with the logistics. Heather and her husband, Scott (yes, she's an Episcopal nun, so she can be married), were driving up and offered to meet me at the airport Monday night if I needed them to. Patricia, another FriendFeeder, was planning to drive up Tuesday morning for the funeral and could also get me from the airport. Pastor Will was on the road when I posted but said he would call from home. I updated FriendFeed with the possibilities.

At that point, Heather commented: "Be not afraid - your path will be made clear." And you know what? She was absolutely right.

  • Will called me and said he could pick me up from the airport and even provide a place to stay.
  • The cheapest flight I had seen on Travelocity that afternoon was from United. It had disappeared, and I was getting nervous. The next time I logged in after talking to Will, a new flight was there from Airtran. And it was four dollars cheaper than the missing United flight.
  • I was pretty sure I could get time off work, but I needed to go to a Monday morning meeting. I texted my boss to see if I could take Monday afternoon and Tuesday off. Yes, no problem.
I made my reservations, firmed up plans with Will, and made the trip. The service was wonderful, and I got to meet Maria as well as Jim's parents and family. After an amazing lunch at Cafe Antonio's, Will and I said our goodbyes to the family and headed to the airport. Will apologized for dropping me off so early, almost two hours before my flight, but said there wasn't really any place to hang out at the Philadelphia airport. I told him that was ok, thanked him for his kindness, printed my boarding pass, and went through security. When I got to my gate, there was no flight information on the screen and no customer service representative there - it was too early. I walked to the next gate just to make sure my flight hadn't moved, and I saw the screen there read "Atlanta, 5:38." Hmmm. My flight was scheduled for 7:03.

I asked the Airtran employee if they had any available seats. She asked if I had a seat on the next flight, and when I told her I did, she said she had some available. She changed my reservation, handed me a new boarding pass, and sent me down the ramp. No charge.

I ended up getting to my house at the time I should have been landing in Atlanta.

Every single thing about that trip worked out perfectly. I couldn't have asked for anything better. So I leave you with this thought:

If a nun ever tells you, "Be not afraid - your path will be made clear," you had better believe it.

Rest in peace, Frank.



Sunday, January 16, 2011

True Colors? Thoughts on "National Archives Blues"

A recent item from the Literary Review of Canada floated to the top of my infostream and captured my attention. The article, "National Archives Blues," is by journalist Susan Crean, a self-confessed admirer of archives. I don't really know much (ok, ANYTHING) about Canadian archives, but the subtitle of the article spurred me to read more: "Is a precious Canadian asset being digitized to death?" I'm not a member of the "digitize 'em all, and let God sort 'em out" camp of archivists (if there is such a thing). I do believe, however, that there is a place for digitizing archival resources, so the idea of "digitizing an archives to death" struck me as an interesting premise.

I don't want to replicate Ms. Crean's entire piece here, but you should go read it. I'll cut and paste enough to comment on here and hope you will contribute your thoughts, too.*

Shall we begin?

"Archives are, after all, overtly dull places. Never mind the swanky marble entrances; they actually consist of a bunch of nondescript rooms with big tables, straight-backed chairs and large windows, and very little going on other than an attendant or two dispensing information at the reference desk and a few people sifting through papers. And this is the exciting part."

Not much to argue with there. I will say that I'm not a fan of large windows in archives, though, just because of the damage that can be done to the documents by sunlight and water. But we'll save that for another post.

"It did not take long to discover the great truth about archival work, which is, appearances to the contrary, that it is utterly absorbing. In the first place, it is unpredictable: you never know what you will find, even when an archive has been worked over by generations of historians, writers and relatives. Despite the sense of order and rational purpose implied by the tidy boxes and numbered files, archives do not follow rules and are not reducible to a system like the Dewey decimal as books are. You cannot put in a search for a missing memo as you can for a missing book. Moreover, be they institutional or the papers of individuals, archives are never complete or comprehensive. What floats up from the past is largely a matter of serendipity, which means that archival research is pretty much a crapshoot."

Yep. All true. We do follow our own rules, but she's right about the lack of an overarching system like Dewey.

"My first foray into the National Archives was in 1977.... Right off the top, I encountered the all-important corollary to the truth about the irrationality of archives—that the real treasures are the archivists, the clue givers. ... With collections that are not used enough to merit the expense of developing finding aids, they can be your only hope."

I feel like Obi-Wan Kenobi! Again, though, Ms. Crean is correct. Ladies and gentlemen, please be nice to the archivists.

"What I am describing here is a partnership rather like that of violin maker and violinist, both m├ętiers depending on hours and hours of highly skilled labour and a devotion to the non-monetary rewards implicit in their art. Although they may never meet, artisan and artist are inextricably connected—the accomplishment of one depending on the craftsmanship of the other. Similarly, the work of archivists and writers (academics, government researchers, students, independent scholars and creators) operates interdependently and on an intellectual level, and insofar as the resulting creation—book, film, policy, painting, lyric or theory—reaches other minds, it feeds into the stream of ideas and knowledge that constitutes living culture."

I like the way she thinks. And writes.

But what is this? Something has changed. Our tale of intrepid researchers combing through boxes of loose pages takes a sinister turn. Where are the native guides who will show us the way?

When Ms. Crean returned to the National Archives in 2010,

"it was to Libraries and Archives Canada, which had amalgamated in 2004, and a building on Wellington Street rattling with ghosts. When I was last there in 1994, the archivists had already been moved to a building across the street; now they are a 40-minute bus trip away in Gatineau.... [T]he only remaining occupants are general reference staff and the genealogy department."

Even in the university archives where I work, we help a number of genealogists because of the kinds of records we hold. Nothing wrong with that. But Ms. Crean now arrives where the title of the article has suggested we will go: the digital graveyard.

"The biggest pressure, however, comes from the digital revolution, which has transformed the world of documentary production—and with it the work of archivists—while irrevocably changing public expectations. Digital access is now seen as a quasi right and digitization as a means of mass democratization. So it is no surprise that this has become the central preoccupation of LAC and has apparently led to a radical reassessment of its purpose."

Hmmmmm. A "quasi right," eh? "Mass democratization"? I'm not arguing with Ms. Crean; I agree that these are the perceptions of some in library/archives administration and surely of some of our patrons. Yes, I have been asked, "But isn't it all online?" and had students stare at me when I explain that most archives do not have the time, money, staff, or server space to digitize even a fraction of their holdings, much less to provide persistent and consistent access to them for the foreseeable future.

She goes on to describe Daniel Caron, "the first chief archivist not to have a degree in history, but rather a PhD in economics," who "spoke of the 'public memory monopoly once exercised by archives.'" Apparently Dr. Caron has described archivists as existing "within an anachronistic time and space," instead of where he would like for us to live, capable of providing information that "needs to be ubiquitous, instant and unmediated."

Again, hmmmmm. Let me say here that I do not work in a government archives, especially one in Canada. I'm sure the missions of our institutions are different. However, I bristle at the thought of archives holding a monopoly on public memory and at the thought of archivists as anachronisms. Isn't the "public memory" just that? Public? Of the people? Shared as part of our collective cultural being? Of course there have been archivists who have hoarded documentary treasures in sealed vaults behind closed doors, just as there have been plenty who have created displays, given talks to school and civic groups, and thrown open those doors to share the wonderful things we have beyond our "swanky marble entrances." Certainly we walk the tightrope between preservation and access. Yes, we're happy to provide access to you, but in order to preserve it for the next user, there might be some limits. Our patrons seem to understand this and appreciate it.

Ms. Crean continues, describing the "Modernization Papers" issued by Dr. Caron in 2009, strategic plans for the LAC "
written as if staff and the archive-going public do not exist, as if senior management, in its headlong rush to find favour with a new generation of users—and masters?—has become disconnected." She makes a valuable case for the importance of archivists who help lead researchers through the maze of holdings, both print and digital, and reminds us that digitization cannot "guarantee accuracy. Scanning does not necessarily capture all the information on a paper page, and with handwritten records, one entry misread and your entire family can disappear."

The LAC's emphasis on digitizing has led to cuts in its acquisition budget: "The fear is that LAC is being reduced to collecting government papers and not much else." Ms. Crean describes Craig Heron, a historian who has his own concerns about the future of the archives. "Heron ... found scant appreciation among LAC officials for the nature of historical research, or the role of archivists in delivering access. 'The implication seemed to be that people doing long-term research are elitist and marginal,' he told me."

By all means, government records must be preserved. However, I hope other institutions in Canada are picking up whatever slack the LAC is leaving in its digital wake.

Ms. Crean concludes: "If I have the blues, it is for the absence of this kind of conversation, and for an intellectual tradition under siege because of the undervalued work of the archives in general and archivists in particular. But it is also a lament for an institution caught in the backdraft of digitization and losing its way."

I suppose this article made me feel like those that say we don't need librarians now that we have the internet. I think archivists have value to researchers beyond what we provide when we scan and add metadata to documents. We help find connections within and among our collections. We can, with the consent of those involved, point you toward others who are working on similar topics. We know what we have that isn't online, and we know other archivists that have wonderful things in their collections, too.

So please, LAC, don't go digital at the expense of your patrons. Providing access online isn't a bad thing, but I hope you don't lose the depth of service provided by trained, knowledgeable, helpful archivists. Interpretation is, in my mind, as valuable as the sources we share.


*I quoted more heavily than I intended to but hope it makes sense.