Spotlight on: Society of American Archivists Student Chapter
Published: February 21, 2021 by Leslie Parry
The San José State University student chapter of the Society of American Archivists offers unique opportunities for MLIS and MARA students to engage with the world of archives and preservation. “SAASC is a wonderful resource for all SJSU Spartans curious about the archival world,” says Vice Chair Samantha Hamilton. Not only does it give students a chance to learn more about trends and professions in the field, but the group is also particularly committed to connecting students “with other students, working professionals, networking resources, and industry groups,” says Alison Quirion, Chair. Sabrina Holecko, Secretary and Social Media Manager, emphasizes that SAASC is open to all interested students, including those who have yet to decide on a career path. “Some folks come into the MLIS program with little knowledge of what archives are and what archivists do,” she explains. “We are there to help fill in some of those gaps.”
Opportunities with SAASC
Through virtual events, blog posts, a vibrant social media presence and an in-house publication, SAASC offers numerous ways for iSchool students to participate. “Our social media and events are great entry points for new students to gain a better understanding in a fun and informative way,” Holecko says. Not only do these channels allow students to connect with each other, they also open doors to professional development. “We post about different opportunities within the community that students can participate in and help build their skills,” she explains.
“There are also opportunities to build out experience by submitting articles for our publication Archeota,” Quirion says. Archeota, which is published twice a year, is an open access digital publication focused on archival issues. The content – including articles, interviews, profiles, think pieces, reflections, reviews and more – is created and edited entirely by students. All students in the iSchool are invited to contribute. (For reference, past issues can be found here.)
Beyond the iSchool community, SAASC also seeks to connect students to relevant internships and job opportunities. Whether introducing members to potential career paths or promoting opportunities within SAA, the group aims to reach students at every stage of their journey. It doesn’t matter if you’re just starting to explore career options or have already committed to a future in archival work. “SAASC is truly the one-stop shop for useful resources, interesting events, and meaningful friendships at the iSchool,” says Hamilton. “My involvement with SAASC has led to great professional and personal growth.”
The spring semester boasts “an amazing calendar of events, delivering a diverse array of programming every month,” says Quirion. Holecko agrees: “Our events reflect the diversity in the archives themselves as well as the collections they hold. This can help those who already know they want to be archivists narrow down exactly what interests them and introduce them to different archival settings.”
On February 22, A4BLiP: An Archival Response to the Black Lives Matter Movement examines the ways in which the archival community is mobilizing to preserve, amplify and support collections related to Black communities and Black history. On March 24, film archivists open the vault for A Reel Look: The Collections of the UCLA Film & Television Archive. And on April 7, the archives of the environmental movement are explored in Celebrating Earth Day with the Sierra Club’s Colby Library. In addition, students have an opportunity to learn about the ACA certification exam, as well as the chance to chat more casually in a group “happy hour.”
In the past SAASC has organized field trips, tours and other in-person meet-ups. While those events are off the table, for now, due to the pandemic, Hamilton says she’s learned that “SAASC can thrive in an exclusively digital environment. The recent success of our virtual events makes me excited about SAASC’s future and the potential growth it will experience in the coming semesters!”
What have been some topics of interest among members lately? “One of the things I’m most interested in and have been watching closely in the archival field is the focus on addressing bias in collections,” says Quirion. “While we are taught as LIS professionals to be neutral, the #critlib movement has convinced me that we have to not only be aware of bias in collections, we have to bring it front and center.” Critlib, or critical librarianship, focuses on addressing inequality in library systems, interrogating theories of information organization and dissemination, and implementing practices that enhance visibility and accessibility. “Representing and preserving the materials of silenced communities” is an essential area of focus, she says.
Technology is another major topic. “I’m always looking at/interested in the different ways information organizations are utilizing social media,” says Holecko. “Given the pandemic, the digital world has become even more necessary to communicate with users.” She points to the National Park Service as having a particularly savvy social media presence, engaging quarantined followers with their clever, informative posts. “I personally love the National Park Service’s use of humor and pop culture,” she says. “I’m excited to see how digital collections and virtual interactions with collections will change in the wake of the pandemic.”
As trends emerge and evolve, SAASC actively promotes relevant resources to keep students informed about conversations in the field. These include discussion boards, podcasts, professional forums, training programs, webcasts and blogs – a myriad number of channels through which students can engage with the community and stay abreast of developments.
There are many opportunities for iSchool students who want to get involved with SAASC.
In addition to writing guest blog posts and Archeota articles, Quirion encourages students to nominate themselves for a position on the SAASC board. “One of the things I enjoy the most is working with such a great group of people! I’ve learned from each person on the SAASC board, and I think we all want to help each other out.” And don’t worry if you don’t have extensive – or any! – archival experience. This is a valuable opportunity to build skills for your CV and resume. Holecko says, “You shouldn’t be intimidated to volunteer for the chapter. You do not have to be an expert in archives to be a productive member of the team.”
Quirion explains that the group is looking to fill multiple positions in the near future. “We will be holding elections in April for chair, vice-chair and secretary, as well as recruiting for the webmaster, blog editor, social media coordinator and a new membership director position,” she says. If you are interested in any of these roles, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. The deadline for nominations is March 31.
“Besides joining SAASC,” Quirion adds, students “can benefit a great deal from joining our parent organization, Society of American Archivists. It connects you to an amazing network of professionals, scholarship opportunities, and educational resources to help you as an emerging archival professional. I highly recommend it!” A year’s membership is complimentary with enrollment in INFO 200, MARA 200 or INFM 200. A student membership is $55 a year.
Ultimately the rewards of SAASC are manifold. “I get to be on a team with dedicated and wonderful people who voluntarily try to make this student chapter as amazing as it can be,” says Holecko. “Like the students who interact with us, I am also looking to broaden my understanding of archives and special collections.”