Ok, so just one more SAA recap. This one from the first-timer! I attended NCLA last fall and thought that would have been preparation enough for the joint COSA, NAGARA, SAA conference. Alas, it was not! So many faces; so many sessions! Who do I talk to? What do I say? Where do I go? Eventually, those first-day jitters wore off and I was ready. The conference’s Transparency theme resonated very deeply with me and I was looking forward to hearing about new ways archivists can take accountability over our work and ultimately how it’s done out of a responsibility for the stewardship of our collections and to the users.
One of the earlier highlights from the conference was being able to go on a tour of the Moorland-Springarn Research Center at my alma mater, Howard University. It was interesting revisiting Founders Library, the building that houses Moorland-Springarn; not only as an alumna, but with the perspective of a new library professional who has developed an understanding of how university libraries and archives contribute to student success and the larger community consciousness. I was in awe at the depth and breadth of resources in Moorland-Springarn’s holdings and wished I would have spent more time there exploring the collections during my time as an undergraduate.
I also attended a session called “African-American Archivists at Majority Institutions: The HistoryMakers Minority Fellowship Experience”. The discussion centered on the experiences of fellows Jehan Sinclair and Afua Ferdnance. The two shared the collections and equipment they worked with and the comfort in the camaraderie between the two of them, despite being at different institutions – Afua at Yale University and Jehan at Harvard University. Their presentation allowed me to reflect on the experience I had as a summer fellow here in the special collections department at ZSR – what should I keep in mind or suggest to be considered for the fellows after me to have a meaningful experience?
Lastly, I always appreciate any sessions and resources available to students and new professionals, I’ve found them extremely relevant to where I am on my career pathway. The joint section meeting with the Manuscript Repositories and Students and New Archives Professionals left me feeling confident in my ability to advocate for myself as a person in a professional environment. Topics covered included transparency from organizations regarding vacancy information – as a potential applicant/job candidate there is information I have a right to know; the appropriate time to negotiate a salary; standing out in a crowded job market; and how to navigate the upswing in short-term project-based positions. Although I’ve heard these issues referred to in previous professional development sessions and classes, I think it’s important to continue covering them as we move through social shifts and address skill set demands that reflect evolving technologies (especially in libraries and archives).
Overall, my first national conference experience went well; I exchanged born-digital insights with colleagues doing comparable work; attended ZSR’s Dean Tim Pyatt’s panel discussion, “Race, Slavery, and the Rise of the Academy” which was followed by a lively Q&A; and I also had a very reaffirming conference experience after hearing ZSR’s Tanya Zanish-Belcher deliver her presidential address at the second plenary session because it’s awesome when your boss is an advocate for both the people and the profession. I’m looking forward to the next one!