It’s been three weeks since Sam Winn’s thoughtful post regarding professionalism in the archives and what we can do, as individuals and as a profession, to enhance and improve outsiders’ perspective of our specialized skills, and thus improve the job market.
In his post regarding employment issues and archivists, Lance Stuchell made a suggestion that I really love: “We really need to address the employment issues tied up with the current state of graduate education in the archives and LIS fields. Blog, tweet, or call your school and tell them that you are concerned about these issues and are watching their performance.” If you’re paying tuition – or thinking about paying tuition – you have leverage. Use it! And if you are an employer, you can be evern more helpful by proactively reaching out to your grad school to discuss the job skills you see (or don’t see) in prospective employees. Please read Lance’s post (and his previous work). I’m proud to say new GSLIS dean Eileen Abels seems very aware of her role in talking to employers to make sure that what Simmons teaches and positions itself will lead to more employed Masters holders.
My favorite suggestion of Sam’s – although I enjoyed them all, TBH, and hope we all take them to heart – posed that SAA “draft formal recommendations for early career positions.” I think such a tool could be useful for organizations; job-seeking new archivists; and current and prospective graduate students. This could look like drafts of job descriptions, or a career ladder/framework (which would probably entail diagrams for a number of institution types), or suggestions of the types of positions new archivists can hold and how their skills transfer.
The burden will still be on new archivists to sell the employer on that and demonstrate those skills, but career tools fall into the category of “teaching a man to fish” to borrow from that old metaphor. Also, as the profession starts to skew younger – archives was sold to me as a second (or third or fourth or…) career but plenty of people are entering LIS schools directly out of undergrad and perhaps these types of tools will help them earn experience and set their expectations accordingly.
Personally, I spend a great deal of time thinking about how to build the profile of the profession. Coming from a corporate background, I have been focusing on Return on Investment (ROI). What is the business case for organizations to have an archives? What values and services do we provide that no one else can? What kinds of money and effort can we save an organization? I think SAA could create a toolkit to help us explore these questions in our individual institutions, since the answers will look vary in individual institutions. (Even without SAA’s help, we could start this trend – how to start building a business case.)
It can be hard to imagine business discussions when knowing the bureaucracy and politics that lie below, but that doesn’t excuse us from trying. History and culture are important, but saved dollars help too. I don’t’ want to change our discussions about archives, but I do believe injecting ROI language and perspective into discussions about our profession cannot hurt. If you disagree, I look forward to the comments!
A few days ago, I tweeted “For a profession of record-keepers/research facilitators, we don’t know as much about ourselves as we could.” I stand by this. There are lots of possibilities to help improve our knowledge (yes to Eira’s suggestion of more regular surveys and workforce metrics!) and to disseminate that knowledge. Let’s get to it!
Last year, when I was on the job market in a Big Way, I had the opportunity to give a presentation as part of a campus visit. I was excited: I enjoy meeting like-minded people, and presentations are a gateway to doing that. I was TERRIFIED: it had been years since I had given an important presentation outside of a classroom, and I’d never done it with a job on the line.
I used the following reminders as mantras, to keep my sanity intact when facing a job-interview presentation:
- Perspective, perspective, perspective: I’d imagine it’s pretty rare for a hiring to rise or fall on a presentation. And no matter how good or bad the presentation was, I have plenty of other skillz. We are more than one job presentation.
- Perfection is not expected: They’ve seen our resumes and read our cover letters, so they know what our strengths are. This is not a test, we don’t have to feel anxiety about getting an A. Just… do good work (which you’re already doing because you have this opportunity).
I also distracted myself by focusing on the creation of a coherent and interesting presentation. Yay! Here are my tips for creating a job interview presentation (in addition to other people’s):
- Know the repository you’re interviewing with. What are their collection strengths, materials-wise and subjects-wise? Can you incorporate that knowledge into your presentation? My topic was straightforward – talk about a collection I’ve processed and the decisions made. I was able to use some images from their digital collections to talk about my “journey” through processing, which was fun for me and a good way to get to know their institution’s holdings too.
- Pick a topic that you understand. This goes without saying, but it took me some time to think of a collection that I could discuss thoroughly. I knew that the audience would ask some random questions. Saying “I don’t know” is totally acceptable, I did use that answer at least once – it never hurts to convey that you know what you don’t know. But I wanted to make sure that I didn’t BS either, which is tough for this reforming English major. (haha! But also yes.)
- Practice. Just do it. I redid my flashcards three times and cut so so much out of my presentation. I would have never known how much I was trying to do if I hadn’t practiced it over the space of a week. I took breaks, too, to avoid over-saturation.
- Get input from the outside. The best things I did were (1) email with a friend from grad school who had been through this and who knew me, and (2) Record my presentation and send it to some archives friends. They gave good advice and feedback – “yes you’re coherent! be ready for questions about x!” – which in turn gave me confidence in my survival and possible success. It takes a village.
I didn’t get the job. Sad face. But I got a different job, and it’s a great one! And it is a good feeling to have navigated a job-interview presentation. That experience has given me confidence to give presentations at conferences (still an intimidating prospect, but less intimidating, at least).
I’m a former researcher, and when I’m job-hunting, my research mode is full-blown. It’s in part so that I’m ready for interviews, but it’s also because I want to know what I’m getting into. Museum archives? There’s a book for that. Lone arranger position? There’s a book for that!
When it came to a job presentation, though, I did not know where to turn. I scoured the internet for advice on job-related presentations, particularly for LIS types. I didn’t find all that much specific to job interview presentations, so I hope this round-up of resources will help job-seekers. My next post will discuss my personal coping mechanisms, because let’s be serious, so much emotion goes into job interviews – presentations are no less emotional!
Putting together the actual presentation, I found the following resources really helpful (presented in order of usefulness):
- Jill Hurst-Wahl’s top seven presentation tips. The reminder to not memorize the presentation was my favorite.
- That Elusive Archives Job’s The Public Speaking Thing. The only archives-specific resource I found, but it covers a lot.
- Guy Kawasaki’s 10/20/30 Rule of Powerpoint. Good technical tips on creating slides and structuring a presentation.
- Precious William’s Tips for Giving a Presentation at a Job Interview. No idea who PW is, but I really appreciated the questions. They helped clarify what I really wanted to convey to the audience in my short time.
- Mic Farris’ Job Interview Presentations – Making It Easy. Hahaha, like this can be easy? But this article is a quick pep-talk, which I appreciated.
- UC Davis’s presentation tips. A good overview with reminders like “take a watch” and “eat breakfast.” When I’m on an interview, being reminded to eat breakfast is not superfluous.
- Giving a Talk at a Job Interview: Advice from Faculty, from Penn State faculty. While this is aimed at scientist types and not LIS in the least, “achieve depth without overwhelming” was a helpful thing to keep in mind. Frankly, in a 15- or 20-minute presentation, you’re not going to overwhelm all that capably.
This is a fair amount of links, I know, but I used them all to make a master list of things to keep in mind while I was creating, practicing, and ultimately delivering my presentation. Best of luck to all ye job hunters – I hope you can have some fun with the presentation and remember that you’re interviewing the institution, too!
Herein lies my attempt to keep track of archives-related institutions. Many are summer programs, although some are not. So far I have not found as many as I expected, although I’m not sure who I think is running this programs. Looking at the involved groups, this does seem to cover it.
Institutes for current archives and library professionals:
- Archives Leadership Institute, NHPRC and Luther College: currently only funded for three years
- California Rare Book School, UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies
- Midwest Book & Manuscript Studies Program, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and Indiana University
- Rare Book School, independent, at University of Virginia
- Annual Archives and Records Management Seminar, Pennsylvania Heritage Foundation and the Pennsylvania Office of Administration
- Digital Preservation Management Workshops, MIT Libraries and a host of others
- Summer Educational Institute for Visual Resources and Image Management, Art Libraries Society of North America and the Visual Resources Association Foundation
Institutes for archivists without an MLS:
- Georgia Archives Institute, independent
- Modern Archives Institute, National Archives and Records Administration
- Western Archives Institute, Society of California Archivists and the California State Archives
Not for archivists, but interesting anyway:
- Archival Summer Seminar, German Historical Institute. For PhD students who need training in working with German archives
In trying to blog more this year as I forge on in my big-kid archivist career, I’ll be doing more of these round-up posts. They aren’t original work, obviously – more an attempt to keep track of who’s saying what and the impact that it’s had on me and my thoughts.
So let’s read up on use of archival vocabulary words in the civilian world, since Kate Theimer has been discussing this on Twitter – and giving presentations on it – lately. Her post on the subject is available here.
Ben Bromley was thinking and writing about the word “archive” way back in 2010. In a short post he does a good job exposing the differing uses of the word and the trouble that it creates for us as archivists.
The New York Times wants to talk about the word on “The Tip of Creative Tongues,” namely curation. The Oxford Dictionaries have two definitions for it, and I look them up more frequently than I’d like to admit. But the extra effort is worth proper vocabulary usage.
Rebecca Goldman highlights some opportunities to misappropriate the word in her 2011 comic.
My problems with archival terminology have centered around how we talk about our work with non-archivists, particularly with our researchers and other user groups – people who might not consider themselves “researchers” but who use our collections. I wrote a decryption of the term “processing” for the Iowa State University Special Collections blog, borrowing some inspiration from Office Space. I’m getting over my distaste for the phrase “finding aid,” though I still use “inventory” more frequently when I’m talking to new archives users.
What am I missing? What words do you avoid and/or find yourself defining over and over again?
Laws a-mercy, y’all, I do not post here enough. In another effort to encourage me to remain engaged in learning more about what I do, I’m starting a new series of book reviews. Call me old fashioned, but I have found that when I want to educate myself about an aspect of archives mangement, books are the way to go. I frequently find something devoted to the subject at hand and it’s so easy to tote a book around. Journal articles serve me well, too, but nothing is easier than a book (at least, so far!).
This month’s book review looks at Christina Zamon’s The Lone Arranger : Succeeding in a Small Repository, published by the Society of American Archivists in 2012. I remember when the book came out, since I was still at Simmons and regularly attending NEA events. Christina is the Archivist and Records Manager for Emerson College in downtown Boston, and this book had quite the buzz! You know, amongst archivists. Unlike some of my friends, I had little interest at that time in becoming a lone arranger, so it was in one ear and out the other (sorry, Ms. Zamon).
But thanks to the job hunt, my interest was soon piqued in learning more the day-to-day of a lone arranger. And nothing beats the perspective of a current practitioner. Especially this current practitioner. I loved reading this book! She has essentially provided a training manual and a support group for lone arrangers in this relatively brief workbook. The tone is realistic, the subjects cover a great deal. Without my own L.A. experience, I can’t say that it is everything, but I CAN say that if I ever land a solo archivist gig, purchasing The Lone Arranger will be my first act. It covers the “grad school” subjects (records management, IT, collections management, reference, administration), but Zamon knows her audience: she addresses those day-to-day questions that pop up and provides a good sense of what needs to happen and what is simply nice to have.
Side note: the Lone Arranger Roundtable website has great resources that address most archival tasks, simply because that’s … what lone arrangers do and need support for. I suppose sometimes deeper knowledge is necessary, but I’ve become a LART #1 fan between this book and that website. If you have questions about the whats and hows of archives, start with those two sources!
I’m sure that I am not the first person to laud this book, but it’s worth doing anyway. For newly minted archivists or those who are a little bit further on in their careers, Zamon’s The Lone Arranger acts as a good mentor for the 11 months of the year that you’re not amongst other archivists.
I have never had that much time or interest in working on Wikipedia articles. There are a wealth of things to do on the internet, including reading Wikipedia articles, and I generally look up things that I don’t know, rather than things that I do.
This trend has shifted a bit since starting my new position at Iowa State University, where I find myself looking up people and places that might have small stub articles or fuzzy/incorrect information. While I still don’t have a ton of time to correct articles, particularly at work where it’s full-throttle most days, I do what I can to flesh out or correct information.And I’ve added a Wiki-themed to my mental to-do list (which I mean to one day turn into a REAL to-do list): adding finding aids to Wikipedia articles and biographical information or “where are they now?!” information where possible.
It serves two purposes: (1) adding to the collective knowledge of the intarwebs, and (2) promoting our collections for whomever is looking up these sometimes random characters. If someone is googling some of my subjects, they much *really* be looking for them!
If there are other archives-centric reasons to update Wikipedia articles or other information that you include in your edits, please comment! I’d love to up my editing skills since I’m new to the game. Thankfully, I have years of Wiki-reading experience behind me, which is as good as it gets.