Envisioning the Next Steps

You may have seen the recent message from SAA (Society of American Archivists) announcing the decision to sunset the SAA Foundation’s facilitation of the Archival Workers Emergency Fund (AWE Fund) on December 31, 2021, the end of the current pilot period. Responding to immediate needs created by the COVID-19 pandemic, the AWE Fund has provided grants of up to $1,000 to 188 archival workers since its inception in April 2020, thanks to donations from 998 individuals and organizations. The pandemic brought attention to the financial precarity of archival workers. Archival communities’ responses to the AWE Fund highlighted a commitment to addressing this issue. As members of the ad hoc AWE Fund Organizing Committee, we support the SAA Foundation Board’s intention to “develop a new strategic plan with a high priority on addressing archival employment precarity and supporting archivists in need through both new and existing programs.”

The decision to sunset the AWE Fund is illustrative of broader issues that go beyond any one professional organization or global pandemic. Tax laws, as they currently exist, make it difficult to give people money without requiring them to prove that they need it and/or document how they are using it. This reflects what Dean Spade (2020) describes as the “eligibility requirements” of the charity model (Mutual Aid, p. 22). It implies that some people in need are worthy of help, and others are in need due to some failing in morals or effort–an idea the Organizing Committee and the SAA Foundation rejected with the AWE Fund by taking colleagues at their word when they said they were in need of funds. To continue exercising this radical spirit of solidarity and generosity, we risk finding ourselves on the wrong side of U.S. tax law and the requirements it imposes on philanthropic organizations such as the SAA Foundation. Much as the AWE Fund raised our awareness of broader issues in the profession, so too does this decision by the SAA Foundation raise our awareness of broader issues in the tax law and other systems that are creating barriers for supporting the most vulnerable in our communities.

This is not the end of the AWE Fund, but a moment of transition. We have questions and ideas to discuss. Do we have the capacity and know-how to carry the AWE Fund forward as a mutual aid organization independent of SAA? Does solely focusing on the distribution of monetary support to our colleagues remain the most pressing need to dedicate our time and attention to? If not through distribution of funds, how else can we address the ongoing precarity entrenched in our profession?

The needs that inspired the creation of the AWE Fund persist among our colleagues in archives and beyond, as does the will to be there for one another and dismantle systems that make mutual aid a necessity. The Organizing Committee will be discussing our way forward. We invite you to participate in that conversation with us. 

On January 28th, 2022, at 11amPT/1pmCT/2pmET we will be holding an open AWE Fund Organizing Committee meeting. Please join us to talk about what the AWE Fund has meant to you and add your perspective as we imagine our next phase. Watch the blog or follow us on Twitter (@AWEfund2020) for a link to register, coming soon. You can also sign up for our mailing list or join the AWE Fund Organizing Committee.

Coffee for Colleagues September 2021 Update: A Moment of Transition

Thank you for your ongoing support of the Archival Workers Emergency Fund. You may have seen an email through our “Coffee for Colleagues” GoFundMe informing you that GoFundMe will no longer be able to process recurring donations after September 30, 2021. This change comes at a moment of transition for the AWE Fund. In addition to this change at GoFundMe, the fund’s pilot period expires at the end of this year. The AWE Fund Organizers are actively discussing how best to continue supporting our colleagues through current and future crises. The circumstances that prompted the creation of the AWE Fund are far from resolved, as we all know.

We will be reluctantly ending the Coffee for Colleagues Campaign on September 30th, but we are doing so on a high note. Thanks to both recurring and one-time gifts, we’ve come together as a community to ensure that our funds have stayed ahead of our needs. The AWE Fund has come to the aid of over 180 archival workers, proving that we can be there for one another and see each other through the most difficult of moments, even while highlighting and working to change the ongoing labor issues in our profession.

We want to stay in touch with you about the future of the AWE Fund, and we are offering a few options for doing so:

  • Sign up for our mailing list. We will only use your email to send the occasional message about the next steps for the AWE Fund as we know what they are, including updates on our fundraising platform.
  • Follow us on Twitter and Instagram @awefund2020.
  • Join the Organizing Committee and help us shape our path forward.

We also ask that you consider continuing your financial support of the AWE Fund by making either a lump sum or manual recurring gift through the SAA Foundation site.

All money raised through Coffee for Colleagues will remain with the SAA Foundation and be provided to eligible AWE Fund applicants as applications come in.

This is not the end of our work together, and we’re eager to see what comes next.

In solidarity,

The AWE Fund Organizing Committee

AWE Fund at SAA 2021!

Want to dig more into the work of the AWE Fund and discuss related issues surrounding labor and mutual aid in the archives? You’re in luck – there will be multiple opportunities to do just this at the virtual 2021 Society of American Archivists (SAA) Annual Meeting. Consider attending one or more of these events:

  • The Issues & Advocacy Section meeting on Tuesday, July 27th at 4pm ET/3pm CT/1pm PT will feature a panel discussion about advocating for archival labor. You do not need to register for the SAA 2021 Annual Meeting to attend – registration is free and open to all. 
  • Come learn more about us! Members of the AWE Fund organizing committee will be presenting at the SAA Research Forum poster session on July 28th from 3-3:30pm ET/2-2:30pm CT/12-12:30pm CT. Registration is free and open to all, and does not require you to be registered for the Annual Meeting. Click here to access the full agenda for the entire forum, which convenes on Wednesday, July 21st AND Wednesday, July 28th from 2-5:30pm ET/1-4:30pm CT/11am-2:30pm PT.
  • AWE Fund organizers will be participating in two different conversational lounges during the SAA Annual meeting. The first conversational lounge, “Putting Collective Leadership in Action,” will take place on Thursday, August 5, at 5pm ET/4pm CT/2 p.m. PT/5:00 p.m. ET. The second conversational lounge, “Mutual Aid and Solidarity During and Beyond the COVID-19 Crisis,” is scheduled for Friday, August 6th, at 5pm ET/4pm CT/2 p.m. PT/5 p.m. ET. All registered SAA Annual Meeting attendees are welcome to join these discussions. 
  • The Diversity Forum on Friday, August 6th at 12pm ET/11am CT/9am PT will address over-reliance on temporary contingent workers for core archival functions. The forum will discuss the Diversity Committee’s March 2021 report, which recommends prioritizing recruitment and retention of BIPOC workers.

We look forward to seeing you (online)! 

A Belated Thank You for Celebrating the AWE Fund’s Birthday with Us

It’s not always easy to enjoy birthdays in these pandemic times, but this community of archival workers and archives fans came together to make the AWE Fund’s birthday week truly celebratory.

Thank you to the 40+ new individuals who gave through the Coffee for Colleagues GoFundMe. Recurring small gifts through this platform ensure the AWE Fund’s long term sustainability. You have brought us within sight of our goal to have 100 recurring donors giving a total of $1,000 a month.

Thank you to the eight regional organizations who answered our call to spread the word about the birthday party to their members: Archivists of the Houston Area, Chicago Area Archivists, Chicago Area Medical Archivists, the Consortium of Iowa Archivists, Maine Archives and Museums, Society of California Archivists, Society of North Carolina Archivists, and the Three Rivers Archivists. Your efforts helped us amplify our message. An extra thank you to Society of California Archivists for donating $1,200 to the AWE Fund, allowing us to easily surpass our April fundraising goal.

Missed the celebration? It’s never too late for a birthday present. Please consider a small recurring gift through the Coffee for Colleagues campaign. We still need more “caffeinators” to reach our goal of 100 recurring donors and $1,000 a month. Your gift could be the one that puts us over the top.

As we work together to survive the pandemic and work against the labor conditions that create persistent financial precarity for our neighbors and colleagues, the ongoing support of the AWE Fund continues to be a source of hope for survival and change.

AWE Fund, One Year Later

Infographic summarizing the amount of money raised and distributed by the AWE Fund.
Infographic summarizing the funds raised and disbursed by the AWE Fund, created by Carady DeSimone

Dear friends,

It’s hard to believe that a full year has passed since COVID changed our lives. The Archival Workers Emergency Fund Organizing Committee members want to sincerely thank every one of you for your solidarity through this difficult year. On March 13, 2020, Jessica Chapel first sent the call out for organizing on the SAA Leader List and social media, you answered, and we built the fund and the associated fundraising and other efforts together. In the midst of uncertainty and anxiety, layoffs and closures, you said, how can we show up for our colleagues who are hurting the most?

Our grassroots organizing to help archival workers in need during the pandemic offers example after example of generosity, resilience, and collaboration. Thanks to the generosity of the SAA Foundation and more than 900 donors, $146,625 has been distributed to 175 archival workers affected by the COVID crisis.

As the pandemic continues to stretch onwards and budgets for archival repositories continue to flex and flux, we remain committed to helping our colleagues through these difficult times.

Birthday fundraising campaign

To celebrate the one year birthday of AWE Fund, the AWE Fund Organizing Committee has set the goal of reaching $1,000 a month in recurring donations and 100 recurring donors by the end of the AWE Fund’s birthday week, April 8th-15th. Making a single or recurring donation to Coffee for Colleagues (Tea on Me) is easy to do, and the minimum single or recurring amount is $5, which we hope means that many donors will be able to participate. Recurring donations can be cancelled at any time, especially given that those who are financially secure today may find themselves in a different situation tomorrow. 

If you choose not to participate, you can still help us spread the word about AWE Fund’s one year birthday. Follow our birthday celebration on Twitter @AWEfund2020.

Panel Discussions

We are planning our 2021 season of panel discussions and seek speaker self-nominations! We hope to organize panels on topics including:

  • Students and new professionals during the pandemic
  • Pandemic impacts on archival workers
  • Labor and union organizing
  • Environmental sustainability
  • Alternative archival career paths
  • Possibly other topics TBD

We seek a diverse representation of perspectives and experiences on our panels from student to administrator level workers, rural to urban settings, and a variety of archival institutions and archives-adjacent fields. BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and people with disabilities are especially encouraged to apply.

If you or any archival worker you know would be interested in participating in a panel discussion, please fill out the Speaker Self-Nomination Form. Submissions will be received on a rolling basis but we encourage anyone interested in possibly participating to please submit their information as soon as possible, since it takes several months to plan and prepare each session. 

In solidarity,
Members of the AWE Fund Organizing Committee

Disclose This! Advancing Disability Awareness in Libraries and Archives Panel Recap

Flyer promoting Disclose This! Advancing Disability Awareness in Archives & Libraries

The recording of Disclose This! Advancing Disability Awareness in Libraries and Archives is now available on YouTube.

This October 26, 2020, panel discussion included Jasmine Clark, chair of the DLF Digital Accessibility Working Group; Michelle Ganz, chair of the SAA Accessibility & Disability Section; and Karina Hagelin, librarian, activist, and organizer. The conversation was moderated by Bridget Malley and facilitated by Lydia Tang of the AWE Fund Organizing Committee.

Panelists discussed disability awareness and representation in libraries and archives, the intersection of race and disability, the politics of disclosure, and advocacy for self and others, and answered questions from the audience during the Q&A portion of the event. Additional questions submitted via chat were answered following the event.

Community at Work: LAM Mutual Aid and Solidarity

Take Care / Care Take.” Art by Peter Railand, sourced from Justseeds.

Join the AWE Fund Organizing Committee, EveryLibrary’s HALO Fund, Protect Library Workers, and Museum Workers Speak for a conversation about community care and organizing on Tuesday, July 14 at 4:00 p.m. ET / 1:00 p.m. PT.

The LAM Mutual Aid and Solidarity Panel — hosted by the Archival Workers Emergency Fund Organizing Committee — will include Callan Bignoli of Protect Library Workers, John Chrastka of HALO Fund, and Paula Santos of Museum Workers Speak. Panelists will discuss mutual aid models of community care and community-building solidarity efforts. 

The event if free to register and open to the public, however donations are being accepted for these collective efforts to support LAM workers.

About the Panelists

Callan Bignoli is the director of the library at Olin College of Engineering in Needham, Massachusetts. With support from many others, she has been organizing resources to help with advocacy and safe reopening efforts at libraryworkers.net. She also co-manages the New England Radical Reference Collective and the LIBREV community (librev.info), is a member of Library Freedom Project, and serves on the executive board of the Massachusetts Library Association as the Library Information Technologies Section chair.

John Chrastka is a founder and executive director of EveryLibrary, the first Super PAC for libraries, and the EveryLibrary Institute, a public policy and tax policy think tank for libraries. Since 2012, EveryLibrary has provided pro-bono support to over 100 library communities with ballot measures and tax referendums, helping win over $328 million in stable tax funding. The EveryLibrary Institute supports individual library workers through the HALO Fund and libraries through the FundLibraries crowdfunding platform along with publishing the journal “The Political Librarian.” He is a former Board President of the Berwyn (IL) Public Library and RAILS, the Reaching Across Illinois Libraries System.

Anna Clutterbuck-Cook is a historian, reference librarian, writer, and crafter. She works as a reference librarian at the Massachusetts Historical Society and is a volunteer organizer with the Archival Workers Emergency Fund. She is the founder of Persistent Stitches, an all-volunteer an all-volunteer collective raising money for resistance, social justice, and anti-oppression work through crafting, and recently coordinated the Persistent Stitches #Auction4AWEfund event. As a historian, she is interested in the intersection of gender and sexuality, religion, and political activism. Michigan born, now Boston based she lives in Roslindale with her wife and two cats. 

Paula Santos is a museum educator, cultural organizer and podcaster. She has held positions in major art museums in New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago. In addition to her museum work, she is the host of the Cultura Conscious podcast and a founding member of the Museum Workers Relief Fund. She is a graduate of the Leadership in Museum Education masters program at Bank Street College and earned her B.A. in Art History from Williams College. Currently, she is the Senior Manager of Learning and Engagement at Intuit: The Center for Intuitive Art in Chicago.

Moderators: Jessica Chapel and Alison Clemens.

This panel is the first in a series of semi-regular panel conversations hosted by the AWE Fund Organizing Committee.

COVID-19 Impact on Archival Workers Survey Launched

The Archival Workers Emergency Fund organizers have created an anonymous survey to continue to keep a pulse on the scope and extent of the impact of COVID-19 on precariously employed archival workers.

As libraries and archives respond to the spread of COVID-19 and take steps to reduce the impact of the epidemic and prevent transmission of the virus, many institutions have closed, reduced hours, or required staff to work from home. Additionally, many libraries are currently facing or anticipating budget shortfalls in the coming year due to ongoing repercussions in the economy due to COVID-19.

Please take the survey by July 31!