Guide for SAA Election 2023

Image shows a graphic for the 2023 election for the Society of American Archivists and notes that ballots will be open from April 4 to April 25.
originally posted here:

Originally published on LinkedIn on April 6, 2023.

Hello everyone! Readers may remember that I previously wrote about the elections of the Society of American Archivists (SAA) in March 2020, and April 2021 (see here and here). As it turns out, a few of these people are running again, specifically: Alison Clemens, Michelle Ganz, and April K. Anderson-Zorn. Clemens was on the SAA Nomination Committee and is currently running to be on the SAA Council. Anderson-Zorn, who lost the election in March 2021, is running again for the aforementioned nomination committee, while Ganz is running for a Council seat. All the others appear to be new. Here’s what I wrote about Clemens, Ganz, and Anderson-Zorn in my April 26, 2021 post:

“…Clemens…is the only candidate to talk about transphobia and ableism”…Ganz…[has an] idea for “multiple pathways to SAA membership and participation,” having the public be “as excited about archives” as archivists, and new programs to “help archivists and potential archivists learn to advocate for the profession”…April K. Anderson-Zorn…even got an SAA Foundation grant to “create Wikipedia pages for underrepresented archivists,” highlighted the importance of growing LGBTQI+ collections, and helping “all underrepresented students and colleagues,” adding that Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) members need to lead SAA…Anderson-Zorn…[had a] focus on growing LGBTQI+ collections”

So, in sum, I support Alison Clemens, Michelle Ganz, and April K. Anderson-Zorn. Since I’m an associate member, I sadly am illegible to vote, as only “full individual members, student members, and primary contacts of institutional members” can vote. I think associate members should ALSO be able to vote as well, but alas that isn’t the case. But there are many more beyond those three candidates that I’d like to talk about.

For SAA Vice President/President-Elect

The first of these is Lori Lindberg. She is a leader and archivist at Cummins Heritage Center. While her statement about her connections in the archival field sounds nice, I am worried that she describes being an archivist as “a calling” and said she got a “calling” when looking into becoming a librarian, showing she is embracing vocational awe (which was first coined by Fobazi Ettarh) in more ways than one! She also says that she would apply the principles used at Cummins within the SAA, calling Cummins an “inclusive company”, says she would envision working with SAA sections and other associated groups to help provide a more continuous presence in the SAA, argues that the SAA should develop more “quality online education”, and emphasizes the importance of the SAA performing concrete actions to “learn about, help, and advocate for one another.” One her statements I do support, strongly:

I envision SAA revising our dues structure to accommodate various types of archives professionals, including part-time, intermittent, underemployed, and undefined levels of earnings.

This contrasts with Tomaro I. Taylor, a director of special collections for University of South Florida Libraries. She notes that she has in the last 20 years established a record of “leadership, innovation, and mentorship”, with a focus on management, use, and promotion of science-focused collections within “academic archives and special collections.” She also states that in Florida there is “legislation and rhetoric targeting those of us who are, live as, support, advocate with, are allies for, and teach about the DEIA umbrella”, calling it frustrating and infuriating, and noting she is “rather privileged” and recognizes that this creates “blind spots” in her “relationships with other people and their experiences.” To counter this, she says she notes where she is lacking knowledge, and work to expand her understanding. This involves recognizing the collective “responsibility towards addressing inequities and removing systemic barriers”, which I fully agree with. She also states that there is not anything “normal” about the world, as normalcy is “perceived individualistically based on previous experiences, current tolerance, and future anticipations and expectations”, and notes that she has found ways to be adaptable and flexible during her career, and notes that she would “identify opportunities for both leading and participating in solutions-oriented processes that will provide the steadiness and support our friends and colleagues need.”

Of these two, I definitely favor Tomaro Taylor above Lori Lindberg, as it should be obvious at this point, since I feel she is better qualified.

For SAA Council

This brings me to the other candidates, apart from Clemens and Ganz, for the committee. The first of these is Conor Casey, head of Labor Archives of Washington, University of Washington Libraries Special Collections, noting that he has research interests including “social, labor, immigration, and ethnic history; oral history research and curation; and EDI-centered archival administration”, and he developed a strategy for archival administration and documentation he described holistic, EDI-centered, and collaborative for the community, noting it was “corrective collecting.” He also noted that he wrote a regular column in the Labor Online e-newsletter of the Labor and Working Class History Association (LAWCHA), and was a co-chair of the Society of American Archivists’ Labor Archives Section (LAS). He went onto say that there needs to be something beyond countering systemic problems, but countering his own privileges and biases, and hoping to “center and elevate the voices of historically marginalized and minoritized communities and steep myself in a framework of antiracism and cultural humility.” He then adds that he has served the labor movement as an organizer, helping to unionize his workplace, and having “sensitivity on EDI issues” because he identifies as “nonbinary, queer, and working class” and says he will seek to use his privilege to serve “activists and members of historically marginalized communities to empower themselves.”

Casey concludes by favoring parts of the SAA Strategic Plan, Strategic Plan, and emphasized the LAS, while emphasizing the importance of the SAA is advancing efforts to “diversify the archival profession and to create pathways to leadership for members from historically marginalized communities”, and noting the need to recruit new members. He further stated that there needs to be “programmatic efforts to counter the inherent biases and structural imbalances of our profession and our society”, discuss labor issues within the profession, and making “archival jobs more sustainable…more appealing to new groups of workers…[and] help expand the scope of our profession”, ensuring it better reflects societal diversity and reflects the “communities we serve.” Reading all of this, I definitely favor him for the SAA’s Council, without a doubt.

This differs from another candidate, Ryan S. Flahive, describing himself as an archivist, historian, and educator, who believes in indigenization of archival training, proactive repatriation of cultural patrimony, archival praxis which focuses on patrons, and professional support and empowerment for memory workers who are BIPOC. He also noted his years of proactive outreach and advocacy, and notes that he has become aware of his inherent voices, listens to diverse voices, and that “diversity is the active, institutional celebration of difference.” He also noted that if elected to the Council he would advocate for increasing support for the SAA Native American Archives Section, identify and recognize volunteer BIPOC memory workers, and have free “online and in-person trainings for BIPOC memory workers” who may/may not have professional archival training. He then says that such proposals may empower community memory workers to build the archival profession “from the bottom up, creating inclusive and equitable collective memory moving forward.”

He further advocates for enhancing professional growth, advancing the field, meeting members’ needs, and advocating for “memory workers of all types”. This includes, in his words, formal inclusion and recognition of BIPOC community memory workers (and community archives), focus on emerging archival professionals, advocacy for archivists and archives to focus on fiscal value of memory workers, and urging all predominantly white institutions to “reappraise holdings for potential voluntary repatriation.” He also argued that even though NAGPRA doesn’t cover archival materials, “some of what we hold should be rightfully returned to source communities” and states that proactive reparation will benefit “the field and all memory workers” as there is work toward a more inclusive and diverse profession and the same within archival collections. In sum, I would say I favor him for the SAA Council.

I then get to Selena Ortega-Chiolero, another candidate for the SAA Council. She lays out her biography like a resume, noting her current work for the Chickaloon Village Traditional Council, her education, role as chair of the Native American Archives Section, board president as Museums Alaska, member of the Northwest Archivists Native American Archival Collections Roundtable, member of Mukurtu Advisory Board, and member of University of Maryland Indigenizing SNAC Advisory Board. When it comes to her ideas, she noted the importance of DEI to her, especially when it comes to “seeing, acknowledging, and listening; honestly seeing the differences in one another, acknowledging and respecting those differences”. For her, this relates to her identity as a first-generation Mexican-American with Indigenous Mexican roots, carrying her “cultural traditions and family history” close to her heart, which drives her personal aspirations and professional work, actively contributing and participating in SAA’s Native American Archives Section, working with others toward a “singular purpose and vision to improve the resources for and understanding behind the complexities of stewarding Native American archival collections.” She says that she would provide/offer a “unique perspective”, bringing voice to the table including those which are not traditionally “considered voices of authority”.

She goes onto say that at present we in a momentous period “within the cultural heritage sector”, and noted that the balance can go either way, with professionals continuing to “empower those of privilege while maintaining exclusive spaces with limited access” while others reflect on their own identities, and that of their organizations and institutions. She adds that the latter have begun to “understand and acknowledge the subjectivity and commodification of knowledge” and how colonial legacies continue to “influence how we manage, share, and provide access to material culture.” She adds that the SAA currently “embraces collective knowledge through acknowledgement and collaboration”, has identified that “structural barriers exist within the organization”, emphasizes the importance of restructuring and reevaluating SAA leadership and membership, states the understandings and views of archives are changing with a focus “toward community-centric approaches” toward managing and maintaining cultural heritage. She she concluded by saying that the success of the SAA lies in collaboration, with supportive networks, and more. In sum, I would favor her as a candidate for the SAA Council.

There’s one more candidate for the aforementioned Council that I’d like to mention: Alex H. Poole. He is an associate professor at Drexel University, teaching research, teaching, and service, and said he is “deeply passionate about and invested in DEI” with work which “surfaces hidden histories and marginalized voices and fosters a dialogue between past and present.” He describes diversity as about “the myriad differences among us…and the ways in which we acknowledge, understand, and honor them”, and said he has long grappled with his privilege and worked to dismantle it, saying that his personal and professional experience and expertise have prepared him “to advocate vigorously for inclusive and equitable practices.” Poole also added that he experienced trauma, said he has an inveterate, “rigorous commitment to DEI and antiracism”, said he would help the SAA promote paid internship opportunities and “broadly cultivate a reciprocity pipeline between graduate programs and local institutions.” He went onto said that he wants an “innovative, dynamic, flexible, and responsive SAA…committed to continuous improvement,” explore training and education issues with “diverse SAA stakeholders”, reject technochauvinism but support ethics in technology, create a task force/committee to address those archivists with student loans, and says that he believes in the “value of archives to society and to human-flourishing more broadly”. I favor Poole, although I favor the others more than him, to be honest.

For SAA Nominating Committee

Apart from Anderson-Zorn, whose candidacy I favor, I’d like to talk about Courtney Dean, Interim Coordinator, Collection Management, at UCLA. She notes that she has been “advocating for and supporting archival workers”, was co-founder of Los Angeles Archivists Collective (LAAC), helped develop the Best Practices for Archival Term Positions document, served on the Archival Workers Emergency Fund (AWE Fund) Organizing Committee. In her diversity statement, she noted that she is a “white, cisgendered woman in a field overrepresented by white, cis women”, meaning she is aware of privilege from White supremacy she has, the need to go beyond DEI work and “actively work towards antiracism and other forms of decolonial and justice work” with an “active and intentional commitment in every facet of our professional work.” She also notes that a lot of justice and reparative work as a White person is “knowing when to be quiet, to listen, and to allow others to take up space”, and says she aims to use her institutional privilege, power, and positionality to intervene and amplify, helping to call her fellow White people in.

She goes onto say that the SAA can be a signpost, giving space and promoting space to “our BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ colleagues” and those with disabilities, along with those outside academia, and anyone else who “may find themselves invariably excluded, should be paramount.” She ends her statement by saying she believes in work-life balance, self-care, and remains committed to the SAA because of her belief in “the radical possibility of change”, leveraging collective power to create a professional organization that supports archives and archivists. She then says that the SAA should work to disrupt our professional involvement with “policing, armed response, surveillance, and the prison industrial complex” and to those amplifying “professional contributions to the…climate crisis.” This makes me favor her candidacy without a doubt.

Moving on, there’s Krista Oldham, an university archivist at Texas A&M University, who oversees “acquisition, description, and preservation of university records,” previously chaired the Records Management Section, and was appointed to the Digital Archives Specialist (DAS) Subcommittee. She also noted that she believed in the value of DEI, considers herself a memory worker, says she understands importance of continued advocacy and allying with “many individuals and communities”, and says there is a need to “fully grasp the importance of integrating diversity, equity, and inclusivity”. She ended her argument by saying that volunteering is important, with benefits of volunteering beyond “personal and professional gains”, and noted that archivists are “uniquely mobilized around advocacy efforts which support the continued growth of the archival profession and nurture archivists and archives.” That seems notable. I’m not sure I favor her as much as others.

She is different from Jonathan Pringle, another candidate who describes himself as a Canadian-American archivist, and said that he did a First Nations curriculum concentration, intending to return to his home “and serve a population with a majority First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people” but then ended up in the desert, in a different country, managing the University of New Mexico’s Native Health Database. He further noted that he has “enormous privilege” as a cisgender White man, but is also gay, noting the importance of accepting his bias to inform his professional decisionmaking and ethics, and notes his strong interconnectedness with those dealing with mental illness, and said he would bring his “natural compassion and empathy” to the Nominating Committee. He goes onto say that volunteering is an expression of support for the broad goals and mission of an organization, and can lead to leadership opportunities, noting that the SAA has been listening to “its key stakeholders and seeks collaborative solutions to helping us be better custodians of these materials.” He concludes by saying that humor is an important part of voluneering, as is not overextending ones self, creating flexibility, and paying attention to the “impact of our work and its effect on those with less privilege” while centering decision-making around “those who may be most vulnerable to its effects.” I have to say that I favor his candidacy for the Nominating Committee, after reading his page.

There are two other candidates I’d like to focus on here. One of those is Sarah Quigley, director of special collections at University of Nevada, Las Vegas. She noted that she has arranged and described numerous collections “across…collecting areas, supervised students and professional archivists, and led our efforts to increase transparency in our descriptive practice and develop inclusive description guidelines.” She says that she has a strong track record of professional service, including as chair of the Committee on Public Policy, and teaching arrangement and description in workshops and graduate programs. She goes onto say that for her, DEI work involves considering her “immediate sphere of influence” and how she personally contributes to “safe and accessible professional spaces”, consider how she can contribute to “dismantling systems that have made our profession hostile to difference”. She adds that systems are slow to change, but that much of her DEI work has been in archival descriptive practice and professional labor practices, and that she is “particularly sensitive to class issues and structural barriers to financial stability” in GLAM professions, including discouraging “ise of temporary positions for core operational work”. Beyond this, she notes that the SAA is “a powerful tool for influencing the profession and creating positive change”, that some are skeptical of serving, and says that the profession and culture need to stop “asking people to give us time and investment they just don’t have”, saying the SAA can help us address this issue. All of these comments make me favor her candidacy.

Last, but least, is Krystal Tribett. She defines herself as a curator and historian, and an “activist forever in training”, working as a curator for Orange County regional history for UC Irvine Libraries Special Collections and Archives, saying that she is a library professional but is continuing to explore “community-driven knowledge of the past and present and preservation of memories for the future.” She goes onto say that for her, “diversity, equity, and inclusion have been at the center” of her personal and professional life, noting that she has experienced alienation, and says she will continue her “commitment to centering BIPOC, LGBTQ+, differently abled, economically poor, and others pushed to the margins by those with power.” She goes onto say that DEIA work is everyday work because “every day there will be some attempt to sustain systems of power that keep the marginalized in their place”, opposing individuals, organizations, and institutions that “lean on the maintenance of…anti-Blackness.” She says that if on the committee she would identify candidates committing to DEIA every day “even when it is hard, even when it is inconvenient, even when others make excuses.” She also argued that there needs to be a real need for work-life balance, challenging “traditional roles” of archivists, curators, and library professionals and of cultural heritage repositories, while working in consultation and partnership with “previously un- and underdocumented, misrepresented, and maligned communities.” Reading all of this, I have to favor her candidacy.

Those I favor

I’d like to outline who I would favor to be elected if I was allowed to vote:

  • Tomaro Taylor for Vice President
  • Michele Ganz, Alison Clemens, and Ryan Flahive for SAA Council [three seats]
  • April Anderson-Zorn, Courtney Dean, and Krystal Tribbett for SAA Nominating Committee [three seats]

If Ganz, Clemens, or Flahive are not victorious in their candidacy, I would favor Conor Casey, Selena Ortega-Chiolero, and Alex H. Poole. When it comes to the Nominating Commitee, if Dean, or Tribbett are not successful in their candidacy, I would favor Jonathan Pringle and Sarah Quigley, but not Krista Oldham.

That’s it for this post.

© 2023 Burkely Hermann. All rights reserved.

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