Some good news for Georgia State Archives, but bad news (that’s not really news) in a larger sense

As you’ve probably heard by now, the Governor of Georgia has said he is committed to keeping the state archives open. However, as far as I’ve heard, no plans have been made to rescind the firings of the 7 out of 10 employees. So he’s committed to keeping the building open, but not to doing so with appropriate staffing?

On the SAA Students and New Archives Professionals (SNAP) Roundtable listserv, Jeremy Floyd posted this:

I just wanted to point to this bit of reporting about the ongoing Georgia Archives debacle

http://www.news-daily.com/news/2012/sep/19/governor-georgia-archives-will-stay-open/#

First, yay the Governor promises to keep the archive open somehow.  But what I wanted to point out was at the close of the article:

“Although Clayton State University, which is located next to the Georgia Archives, offers a master’s degree program in archival studies, Kemp said using student interns to keep the facility open is not a viable option. It would mean the secretary of state’s office would still have to pay security and janitorial staff to work. The security and janitorial staff will be let go as part of the budget cut.”

So the Georgia secretary of state says professional archivists can’t be replaced by unpaid interns, not because they lack the training or expertise necessary, or that it would be exploitative of those students, but because ‘oh yeah we’re also firing the janitors and security guards that allow the building to stay open’. Maybe they can get unpaid janitorial and security interns, problem solved. Seriously, we need to eliminate the perception that budget shortfalls can made up for with volunteers and interns performing essential functions. Its not good for the interns, its not good for the archives, and its not good for the profession.

I don’t think I can say it any better than Jeremy did. The Georgia State Archives situation illustrates many of the problems faced by archives all over the country and the profession at large. The staff has been reduced from over 50 employees down to 10 over the years. And now eliminating virtually all public access is seen as more acceptable than cuts to other departments. The governor seems to want to support the archives, but doesn’t recognize that  the services of professional archivists are necessary to provide adequate public access.

I don’t know that there is very much anyone can do to combat these larger trends, but I know when I’m giving my input into SAA’s updated strategic priorities, I will be arguing for moving advocacy higher up on the priority list. If you have suggestions about specific actions or strategies that could help address the root cause of these problems, the comments are open for you.

 

 

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8 Responses to Some good news for Georgia State Archives, but bad news (that’s not really news) in a larger sense

  1. Traci Drummond says:

    After we went to the Capitol yesterday, I mentioned to a fellow archivist that we, as a profession, carry some of the blame for the situation the Georgia Archives is in. We often shrink from advocacy and outreach responsibilities, mainly, I think, because we don’t know how to advocate for ourselves. Our curricula doesn’t support it (or hasn’t in the past – I’ll admit I’ve been out of school for about ten years), and there’s only one SAA continuing education class that mentions advocacy in the title. It’s hard, and sometimes unpleasant, but we need to start integrating advocacy into our day-to-day work, not only when we’re hit with a crisis of these proportions. And maybe if we do, we won’t have anymore crises like the closing of the Georgia Archives.

  2. Rebecca says:

    As I said on Twitter: this is a PERFECT example of how exploitation of students and new archivists hurts archivists at all levels of the profession. Thank you, Kate and Jeremy, for spreading the word!

  3. Susan says:

    Totally agree with this blog. But it’s brought up another thing I don’t get about the governor’s “promise” to keep the Archives open. Even he doesn’t understand the need for professional archivists, how the heck can the building be open without security and janitors? It seems to me that even if the place is completely closed, if the state is a responsible custodian at all – even just of their physical structures – they need to provide at least minimal security and janitorial staff. This leads me to believe that the governor doesn’t mean what he says at all. He figures he can blame it all on the Sec of State.

  4. Steve Ammidown says:

    Let me start by saying that I’m a first semester student in archives, and a newbie to SAA, so I’m sure these conversations have been had before.

    Coming from an activist and non-profit background, I was surprised to learn that SAA does not include a 501(c)(4) component, and that there wasn’t generally a lot of organized advocacy around archives on a national level. Changing this seems like it should be a top priority for the community. But how do we sell it? How do we push a normally reticent profession out of the shadows?

    There’s one clear answer- it’s about our jobs. Nobody is going to stand up for archivists, be they professionals or students, if we don’t stand up for ourselves. The recent discussion on the SNAP listserv about hiring data for new archivists got me thinking about this. While data is great and useful and essential, it is no substitute for raising our voices. Waiting for the people of Georgia or any other state to recognize the power and necessity of archives is only going to lead to more layoffs, or more jobs going unfilled when others retire.

    Since all this Georgia stuff has started, I’ve found lots of great archivists rabblerousing for the profession through Twitter and Tumblr and other sources, and that fills me with hope. But without organization, and lobby days, and talking points, these will continue to be voices in the wilderness, and we will end up reacting to a crisis like Georgia instead of heading it off.

    As I said, forgive me if I’m sounding a bit naive here. But I’ve really come to love the archives profession, and I see a place for it in the future, no matter how digital the world becomes. I just want to make sure that we can see that through.

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