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Archives Jokes?!

March 26, 2014

Once upon a time, someone found my blog while searching for “joke what is the difference between an archivist and a librarian.” ARE THERE JOKES ABOUT THIS.

Hilariously, there are none on the first two pages of Google results. But we already knew librarian types >>>>>>>>>>> Google.

The closest is from a comment on this The Hairpin post by An Archivist:

In grad school, our flat was 2 archivists, a librarian, a writer, and an equine studies major. (It’s like a bad joke setup, yes.) Equine studies major finally stated that the difference between librarians and archivists was that if she was visiting us and cut herself, the librarian would help staunch the bleeding, while the archivist would snatch away the materials.

“Merely a flesh wound!” does not cut it in an archives, that’s true.

Y’all. Tell me there are jokes about this. I know there’s a book or a piece of typewritten, mimeographed, crumply, and/or war-era acid-ridden paper with jokes, somewhere.

Let’s Talk About Salaries: Questions, Answered

March 24, 2014

The little history of this survey (it’s real little) did not answer enough of people’s questions. This will be updated as they come in.

Here are the most recent ones:


Q. Should I include intern experience from graduate school?

A. All internships can be included! They are part of your body of experience after all.


Q. If someone is changing jobs can they take it twice?

A. Yep. All jobs in 2013 and 2014 can be included. I hope you haven’t changed jobs more than once in that time, but if you have, fill out the survey as many times as is necessary/as you’d like. If you have multiple part-time jobs to cobble together one “full” position, consider noting that in the comments.


Q. Is the survey for people who have archivist duties only, or also for people with *some* archival duties regardless of job title?

A. If your job encompasses some aspect of archives work – as defined by the list and your knowledge of the field – take the survey. If you want to talk more about what you do/don’t do in the field, use the comments field at the end of the survey


Q. Do you want international comparisons or US only?

A. Silly me, I had very small designs for this survey. As I released it, the survey leaves out our non-US brethren. I still love you, I promise!

If you are in another country and would like to answer the survey, I’m sorry to complicate your lives. I ask that, instead of responding to the survey, you email me with your answers. This will require legwork on your part, but I ask that you include at least the cost of living in your country *and* the source of that information. If you’re comfortable, include your general locale – city and country if you’re okay with that.  I will keep your name/data separate and anonymous. Alternatively, non-Americans, please feel free to adapt my survey for your country/all your friends’ countries. Let’s survey all the salaries everywhere, shall we?


Q. When you ask “How many years of professional experience do you have?” do you mean only as an archives professional, or overall?

A. Keep these questions coming! This is a nebulous one and I don’t have a great answer. It seems that many employers in archives start from degree earned or from first moment of archival work, but if your employer sees your non-archives work experience as related and “counts” it towards your salary, include it in the answer. (And if you would like to share more info on how/why those skills are applicable and how that conversation about previous relevant but non-archives experience goes in your org, include it in the comments box please!)


Q: Why isn’t educator included in the options for primary career role?  

A: Note to self – surveys are not a one-person project. Note to professors, reference archivists, workshop moderators and teachers, all of whom have taught me a great deal – mea culpa, mea culpa. Education is a component of many archivist’s work, and a crucial bit of outreach and advocacy. I hope people have been including this in the “Other” field and I hope some data about those archivists who teach makes it into the final survey. Certainly I will point out this omission in the commentary. Thank you for bringing it to my attention. (One last mea culpa)


Q. Can I share this with [group]?

A. Please! Yes! I hope that this survey crosses the desk of all archivists, SAA and non-SAA alike, and it’s on my list to send it out to regional groups as well. If you are willing and interested in sending it out, go forth with my sincere appreciation.


Let’s talk about salaries, let’s talk about you and me

March 23, 2014

Paraphrased from Salt-N-Pepa with my apologies.

I have been curious about salaries in the archives world for oh-so-long. The data collections from SAA’s ACENSUS is 10 years old this year, so my curiosity lives on. The Association of Research Libraries collects staff salary information yearly, so if your library is an ARL institution: (1) the information will be applicable; and (2) should be readily available through your institution – I found it in our library catalog. Anyway, SAA members and ARL staff members do not comprise the whole of our profession, and will not ever do so. Also relevant is Rebecca Goldman and Shannon M. Lausch’s “Job search experiences and career satisfaction among recent archives program graduates.”

Inspired by a thread about librarian salaries on Reddit, which pointed to a thread about salaries on my bff job-hunting-blog Ask A Manager, I decided: why not do a DIY salary survey for archivists? All of us. So I put together a survey that tries to understand how much archives-types make – in money, health care, vacation days – in relation to where we live, how much we work, what we do. It is a pale imitation of ACENSUS, but I hope it can be useful nonetheless. Access it here. Data collection will continue until May 2, 2014.

UPDATE: since there have been questions for people changing jobs (hopefully congratulations are in order!), you may fill out the survey for the position you are leaving as well as the position you are entering. People with multiple part-time positions may also fill out the survey multiple times. If you are so inclined, please note that you are taking it multiple times in the comments. Other questions are answered in detail over here.

In regards to the information that people share through the survey: Data will be summarized; comments will be paraphrased. I will maintain control over the data and, should I get a decent number of responses, after the survey closes, I will create a report that provides an overview – it’ll look something like this (opens a PDF). Have other questions? Please ask! I’m available at on Twitter and via email.

A great many thanks to input from Rebecca Goldman, Rose Love Chou, Steve Ammidown, and Sasha Griffin. Any mistakes are mine. (Tell me if you find any, please!)

Job Hunting in Academia, Round 2: A Primer in Not Losing Your Mind

March 22, 2014

It’s worth noting that I did not say you get to *keep* your mind, but this way you may not completely lose it. My top methods of archives-job-search-survival:

  • Take notes during and/or after the interviews. This is probably something everyone does already. For phone/video interviews, I take notes on who the interviewers are, what questions they ask, what opinions or information they offer, what questions I asked them, and my overall knee-jerk impressions. All of this info comes in handy if I’m asked back. As I said in my last post, I lost clarity during those waits, so these notes were a way to help me prepare for face-to-face interviews. After in-persons, I jot down impressions and further questions, if any occur to me.
  • Be who you are, and be it well. My random job experiences have built on each other nicely, or maybe I just think they have. In archives job interviews, I have referenced positions in professional archives, research, writing tutoring, hotel front desks, amateur (failed) quiche baking, and camp counselor-ing.Also  I’m a girl who likes a good joke, and it’s how I relieve my tension – interviews are tense! I try not to be too funny, but it’s what I’m going to bring to the workplace, so I don’t shy away from openings to make people laugh. I can’t remember an interview where I didn’t make people laugh, and I try not to think “Oh god was the quiche story too much??”
  • Save the job descriptions. This can be a tedious task, but my system of applying is save-friendly. I generally print out job descriptions and underline/highlight the areas that I’ll focus on in my cover letter. So I added the date I applied and stuck it in a folder. If I heard back, I: (a) immediately knew what position they were talking about and (b) could add interview materials on. If I didn’t print out this material initially, I saved them to a Word doc – less easy to find, less application info, but same idea. Also, with this information, I did not have to keep a spreadsheet of all my applications – it’s tedious and a little depressing. Purging paper at the end of a search process, on the other hand, is so very satisfying.
  • Ask for help. Although I would swear that all the people I asked for help must have gotten sick of me, we’re still friends, soooo. Friends looked over cover letters; my advisor helped me rework my resume, cover letter template, and overall search strategy; archivist friends did all the same and listened to my practice presentations; people recommended informational interview contacts; archivists granted those informational interviews; friends and acquaintances answered my emails on any number of topics. Don’t hesitate to ask for input – someone can always decide to not answer you, but they can’t help if you don’t ask.
  • Remember that you’re awesome. You! Are! Awesome! Some things you are good at; some things you are less good at. It is the human condition. But generally, you work hard and you try your best. Go you! Take care of yourself – take days off from applications, feed off the parts of the profession that are loveable, go for long bike rides or runs or ice cream treasure hunts to get you over the worst bits. At my lowest, I felt like I was on a raft in the middle of the ocean, with no land in sight. Generally we are able get to land, one way or the other, archives or not. And: You’re awesome!
  • It’s easier to find a job if everyone knows you’re looking. In my experience, people want to be helpful. I talk about my job hunts to friends and family – even if most of them don’t really understand what I do, I’ve still gotten job and volunteer leads from unexpected sources. An interviewer for one position even recommended me for another, which felt really great aside from being helpful.

The above are simplistic guidelines but they helped me survive. Also helpful: surveying my father and brothers to see who would let me move in with them. So I survived, but it wasn’t always pretty. You’re awesome! And may need to take days off from feeling awesome.

If you have been through the Elusive Archives Job Hunt and are feeling generous: what strategies helped you cope with the stress and the unknown? If I’m missing some good ideas, the people need to know!

Job Hunting (in Academia): One Archivist’s Tales

March 19, 2014

Sung to the tune of The Brady Bunch theme song: Here’s a story, of a girl mired in grad student loans, who struck out to make a living with recorrrrrds.

(sorry/not sorry)

This isn’t my advice – that will come – but this has been my academic-ish job seeking journey. YMMV.

- – -

When I started job hunting during my last year of graduate school, I applied for almost any job that looked remotely entry-level-ish. A number of these were academic institutions, although I applied for corporate, state and federal government, and library positions as well. I wanted to stay in Boston or move closer to my family in the South. I wanted to gain valuable experience, not just do work.

I accomplished some of these goals: I took an archives assistant position at a college archives in Boston, working for a processing archivist who was open to letting baby archivists stretch their legs. My salary was tolerable, especially given the learning opportunities and Boston’s happening scene (which sounds super-nerdy but it’s TOTALLY happening). The hiring process, for me, was relatively quick; I applied at the end of March, had an in-person interview in mid-April, was asked for approval to contact references the next day (holy grail), got a hire letter around my graduation date (~1 month later), and started my new job June 1. Two months from start to finish.

Alas, my job was only a one-year contact position so I took about three months off before I started applying for positions. A friend in NC recommended a non-academic position to me; I applied in October, heard back from the organization in late January, had a phone interview in February, and made an in-person visit at the beginning of March. It’s worth noting that this non-profit did not have an HR department, which may have affected the process’s speed. No job for me. Five months from start to finish.

Next promising opportunity was a FULL-TIME, PERMANENT, ENTRY-LEVEL position at a university in Florida. The rarest of birds, so of course I jumped at the chance. I applied at the end of March, had a phone interview at the end of April, was invited to interview in-person (all day, with a presentation) at the end of May, actually interviewed in person in late June, and knew by the first week of July that the (very cool) job (with great people) was not mine. Four and a half months from start to finish.

At this point in my search, a few academic institutions at which I had put in applications called for references before reaching out to me. Some of them I never heard from myself. This was unexpected and, frankly, unwelcome although I see the value in it. My negative feelings mostly emanate from sad places and worries about why they never got in touch. Santa Cruz, call me! Why u no call? So, be forewarned, job seekers.

Another academic opportunity – project job in Iowa, egad IOWA - had an alarmingly, blessedly rapid process. They contacted my references before reaching out to me, around the same time Florida Job was checking before hauling me down for my visit. I put in my application in mid-April, knew they checked on me at the beginning of June, was contacted at the end of June, had a video-conference interview at the beginning of July, participated in a background check AND received an offer the next week (seriously – boom, boom, boom). Application to acceptance, a little less than three months, and most of that was time between application and first official contact from the search committee.

The funny (HAHAHAHA) thing is that these processes feel much longer. I’m amazed right now that none hit the six month mark, because it felt that way. I found the wait between phone and in-person interview particularly difficult, because the position and the people faded from my mind. I’m sure they expect that, but it was still difficult. The good thing about the wait (or is this is a bad thing?) is that I would use to the time to read books about specific types of archives or job functions, things that did not come up in graduate school. I learned a lot from that tutelage, but it also cost me a little sanity.

Next post will offer some strategies and tools that I have found useful in the two years or so that I spent on the archivist job market. What works for me may not work for you, but in case it might, I’ll serve up some ideas.

The Archives Profession: Marking Our Territory

February 20, 2014

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!

Surviving Job Presentations: A First-Person Perspective

February 1, 2014

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).


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