October 16, 2018
by Kathi Isham
This past year I had the privilege of serving as the SAA Acquisitions & Appraisal Section intern. As I hand over the reins to this year’s intern, Taylor de Klerk, I’d like to share my reflections on my internship; not only the new skills I developed, but how it helped me understand the nuts and bolts of the SAA organization, increased my commitment to serving the profession, and helped me develop professional connections with more experienced archivists.
The SAA Acquisitions & Appraisal section uses multiple channels of communication, most of which are managed by the Outreach Subcommittee (formerly named the Social Media Subcommittee). In addition to sending out announcements on SAA section and leader listservs and posting content on the A&A Section pages within the SAA website, the A&A section maintains a Facebook page, Twitter account, and this WordPress blog. My primary duty as A&A Section Social Media Intern was working with the Outreach Subcommittee to coordinate and create content to promote SAA and A&A Section activities and share content of interest to section members. I was responsible for posting all content on the Twitter and Facebook accounts and shared the responsibility of providing content for the blog with other section members.
One of the ways the A&A Section serves its members is by hosting Twitter chats on topics of interest. Last fall we co-hosted a chat with SAA’s Women Archivists and Women’s Collections sections on collecting Women’s March materials and women’s archives. I was already somewhat familiar with Twitter, but had never hosted a chat before. The outgoing Social Media Intern, Kira Baker organized the event with members of the other sections and explained how to host a Twitter chat using TweetDeck (a free web-based tool) to plan promotional tweets leading up to the event questions to send during the chat. The section also used Storify (a social media tool) to capture the chats and make them available to members who were unable to participate in real time. I was a little nervous about hosting the chat, but TweetDeck was fairly easy to use and once I had tweets set up to publish, the hardest part was reminding people to use the hashtag #AppraiseThis so the conversation could be followed by everybody. It was also fairly easy to learn how to use Storify to document the chat. Later in the year when we hosted a chat on collection development and acquisition policies I felt like a pro – I only forgot to use the hashtag once! In January 2018 I learned Storify was going out of commission, which put the section at risk of losing the ability to view past Twitter chats as meaningful aggregated exchanges of ideas. Fortunately, there was plenty of time for me to export the content of past section chats, create PDFs which could be stored in the section’s WordPress site, and publish new links in the old posts.
The A&A Section also serves its members by posting content on this WordPress blog, Assigning Value. This past year I posted content about section activities (elections, the annual meeting, and Twitter chats) and interviewed staff from Providence Public Library (PPL) for a repository update post. This was the first time I had conducted an interview for publication and it was a great learning experience. I was very glad I had charged my phone battery, because Kate and Jordan from PPL were very easy to talk to and what was intended to be a fifteen minute interview about acquisition and appraisal policies became a forty-five minute discussion. Later I learned how long transcribing dialog can take and how difficult it can be to edit when you get such thoughtful and interesting answers to your interview questions! I took the easy way out of the editing dilemma by posting the interview in two parts, which let me keep in all of the material that I thought would be of interest to A&A Section members.
Perhaps the most important learning experience of my internship was participating in A&A Section Steering Committee and Outreach Subcommittee meetings. I’ve attended Archives*Records conferences for several years, and was a member of the University of Texas iSchool SAA student chapter, but I learned a lot about how SAA works as an organization by listening to the A&A Section Steering Committee plan project work and the annual section meeting and by participating in the Social Media Subcommittee meetings. I used to think that because I’m a fairly new practicing archivist and don’t have a high level of expertise, I don’t have much to contribute to SAA; now I realize the combination of time, energy, and a few years of experience in the field can be put to great use in many different areas of the organization. Participating in section meetings also gave me a great opportunity to develop relationships with more experienced archivists who share some of my professional interests. Everyone on the section Steering Committee had much more archives experience than I did, but was very gracious and encouraged my participation in discussions about section activities. I now have a whole new group of people I can reach out to with questions about acquisitions and appraisal, professional development, or participation in SAA.
Even though my formal appointment as an SAA intern has come to an end, this next year I will be serving SAA by participating in the A&A section Outreach Subcommittee and by working on the A&A section’s Zotero bibliography project. I definitely encourage students and other new professionals to participate in the SAA internship program – it’s been a great learning experience!