“We Have to Do This For Each Other”

CaptureThe July 14, 2020 panel discussion on LAM (Libraries, Archives, Museums) Mutual Aid & Solidarity, hosted by AWE Fund Organizing Committee is now available online on You Tube.

Participants included Callan Bignoli of Protect Library Workers, Anna J. Clutterbuck-Cook of AWE Fund, John Chrastka of EveryLibrary’s HALO Fund, and Paula Santos of Museum Workers Speak, which established the Museum Workers Speak Relief Fund. The event was moderated by Alison Clemens and facilitated by Jessica Chapel of the AWE Fund Organizing Committee.

Panelists discussed the origins of their mutual aid models of community care and community-building solidarity efforts among library, archives, and museum workers and principles guiding the development of their funds or collectives. More broadly, participants addressed the meaning of mutual aid and solidarity to them individually and as a group, and how mutual aid fits into a broader organizing strategy for LAM workers.

While originating in different LAM contexts, all mutual aid and solidarity efforts address the immediate need for material aid and community care during the long COVID-19 health, economic and solidarity crisis. “The legitimate agenda in a crisis like this is the human need,” said John Chrastka, highlighting how they retooled the EveryLibrary initiative to address not only the needs of the institutions, but also the needs of every library worker during the crisis. The panelists made clear that their efforts went beyond the immediate crisis and confronted much broader, structural problems and imbalances of power in the LAM fields that the COVID 19 crisis has exposed more clearly. Some institutions quickly furloughed workers, especially those in precarious positions, yet there is a gap around labor and solidarity organizing among library and other LAM workers. Protect Library Workers, the AWE Fund, Museum Workers Speak, and EveryLibrary’s HALO Fund thus all walk the line between addressing the immediate crisis, while working toward developing larger and lasting community care and solidarity structures for LAM workers. In the absence of larger structures, such as a National Library Workers Union, the organizing efforts made clear that, “there are things that we can do to bolster our own ability to pull ourselves up in these situations and protect ourselves from some of the more egregious abuses,” said Callan Bignoli.

A key principle for all mutual aid funds has been to keep barriers to the funding and support networks low and, “believe people when they say they need a hand. That is incredibly radical,” said Paula Santos, comparing it to the process of means-testing common for most funding applications. All efforts are united in their approach to support all workers in libraries, archives and museums, not only those with professional degrees. “We were all really united on this idea that we wanted the fund to be open to all archival workers,“ said Anna Clutterbock-Cook.

While fundraising has been a key component for HALO, AWE Fund and the Museum Workers Speak fund, the panelists made clear that money was only one component of mutual aid and community care. The mutual aid and solidarity efforts have highlighted the need for establishing formal and informal networks, for conversations across professions and hierarchies and for gathering knowledge about organizing. Participants discussed the benefits of leveraging existing structures, such as labor unions or the Society of American Archivists, for inspiration and practical support. The efforts also opened up possibilities of emulating at a grassroots level models of how we can organize and work together. “How do we think together? How do we work together? How do we imagine together?“ asked Paula Santos.

Alison Clemens concluded the panel with an open question from the Q&A: “How do we unite all of these wonderful but disparate efforts?” The event was one important step of uniting the L and A and M in a larger effort of creating informal and formal networks of mutual aid and solidarity during and beyond the long COVID-19 crisis, and the proceeds from optional donations from attendees were split among the organizations.

#Auction4AWEfund in 3, 2, 1, …

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The Persistent Stitches #Auction4AWEfund begins today, July 1, 2020 at 6pm ET (5pm CT / 4pm MT / 3pm PT)! We have a total of 22 crafters participating who have donated over 60 hand-crafted items for the auction block! With a goal of $3,000 we hope you will think ahead to your end-of-year gift giving, any special birthdays or other anniversaries coming up, and bid on an item or two (or more!). 100% of the proceeds will go directly to the Archival Workers Emergency Fund, and 100% of the dollars donated to the Fund go directly into the hands of our colleagues in financial crisis. Here’s a sneak peek at a few of the many items available!PinkDrops3 - Carli LowePink Drop Earrings by Carli Lowe. These earrings hang off of copper ear wires (can be replaced with silver upon request) with one section of pink and amber beads followed by a larger pink bead with a dark brown edging that mimics the look of a cross-section of log. Top beads are glass and plastic with brass spacers. Larger bead is a plastic piece derived from a vintage necklace. Earrings hang three inches from top of ear wire. Bidding begins at $40.00. IMG_4755 - Becky Briggs BeckerCrochet Llama Amish Puzzle Ball by Becky Briggs BeckerThe Crochet Llama Amish Puzzle Ball, or Amamani Puzzle Ball, is a plush toy llama that measures 12 inches tall from ears to feet and 8 inches wide from front to tail. This customized plush is adapted from a pattern by crochet Amish puzzle ball designer Dedri Uys. Amish or Amamani puzzle balls are made with wedges sewn together into rings, then fitted together to construct the plush. It is made with Red Heart Super Saver Fair Isle Derby yarn, a 100% acrylic worsted weight yarn with white, navy, magenta, spring green, and tan stripes and flecks. Plush contains 3 segments. Plush contains small parts that when broken are not suitable for children under 3 years. Machine washable. Bidding starts at $35.00.IMG_3072 - Diana SandersonHand-Stitched Blank Journal by The Crafty Tiger. This hand-stitched, leather cover black journal has 5 signatures with fountain pen & ink-friendly paper. Each signature is wrapped with colorful, textured cardstock. A decorative beaded accent on the spine and closes with a braided string and button. Bidding starts at $25.00.20190518_073636-e1558184962241Curious Crows Embroidery by Anna Clutterbuck-Cook. Cotton print in green with white vines and black birds embellished with pink embroidery floss down the center. Ready to hang in a 6″ bamboo embroidery hoop, backed with wool felt. Bidding starts at $10.00.F887E4FF-E2FD-4244-B8E0-8AFED790F6BD - Jessica JohnsonNotorious Dissent Cowl by JessicaA cowl reminiscent of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s dissent collar, worked in Ancient Arts Nettle DK “Fog Warning“ (blue) and Manos Del Rio Feliz “Autumn” (multicolor), both wool blends. Pattern is by Carissa Browning. Bidding starts at $30.00. IMG_6269 - Sarah McLuskyAssorted Bookmarks by Sarah McLusky (5 packs available). Set of 6-7 bookmarks made from postcards and decorative greeting cards. Size varies; most are 1″-1.5″ wide and 5.5″-7″ long. All bundles are different but contain bookmarks with a variety of patterns. Bidding starts at $3.00. baby - Michelle SweetserBaby Quilt by Michelle Sweetser. 37″x41″ baby quilt featuring alternating 9-patch and square in a square blocks in magenta, pink, teal, and gray. 100% cotton, made in a smoke-free, pet-free home. Bidding starts at $35.00. 

Visit the auction site to view all available items.
The auction will close at 9pm ET on July 4, 2020.

AWEsome Organizers! Sarah McLusky

How and why did you get involved as an AWE Fund Organizer?

In early April, I read on an SAA email list that they were looking for volunteers. I was nearing the end of a two-year contract and I was already receiving emails from places where I had applied for other jobs, letting me know that they had suspended their searches or frozen hiring. The AWE Fund seemed like a good way to help other people in similar situations, and to feel a little less powerless in the face of the pandemic. My own employment worries have been resolved for now, but I know many people are not so lucky – I hope the AWE Fund can help as many of my fellow archival workers as possible weather the pandemic’s effects.

What is one cultural shift you would like to see come out of this crisis?

When people try to think how to respond to future crises or disasters, I hope they value strategies that include helping others and asking for help, rather than assuming that everyone must go it alone.

What is one public policy shift you would like to see come out of this crisis?

I’d like to see those who were declared essential workers – especially those like grocery store employees and home health workers, who often don’t get paid much – given greater respect and fairer compensation. Ditto for those who work customer/public service or hourly jobs that put them into greater contact with the public, as more workplaces reopen.

What’s an archival item you’ve worked with that you love to share with people, and why?

Honestly, I don’t have a favorite item so much as a favorite patron reaction: getting to see the moment when documents help a researcher realize that the past was different/more diverse/stranger/happier/sadder/more complicated than they thought. One of the best things I discovered while processing a collection, though, has to be a Darth Vader action figure with a tiny image of the donor’s face pasted onto Vader’s. (Presumably it was a gag gift from one of his – many – critics).

What’s one thing — archives related or not! — that you’re proud to have created or accomplished?

I am proud of (and grateful for!) the friendships I’ve made and sustained. That goes for both friendships with other archivists and friendships with non-archivists who are willing to listen to me talk about primary source literacy for longer than is reasonable.

Sarah McLusky is the Project Archivist for Reference and Academic Programs at the University of Michigan’s Bentley Historical Library.

AWEsome Organizers! Carady DiSimone

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Smol Carady

How and why did you get involved as an AWEfund Organizer?

For me, AWE Fund grew out of my work with the independent Salary Transparency Group. I saw the original AWEF survey go out and responded; as a recent grad two semesters deep in the job hunt, I was terrified. I may or may not have ‘preached to the choir’ in my responses, and J recognized this. She reached out and asked if I would like to lend my voice to the cause and represent my peers in an effort to help others.

 While my household makes ends meet, it is not always comfortable; and I find myself in the position of being able to volunteer time more than donate funds. I have the relative luxury of a fixed income due to military benefits. Others of my cohort are not so lucky. And I have been there, too. I know first-hand how small problems blow up into big problems when you don’t have the resources to make the ‘smart’ choice – the anxiety of not being able to plan past your next paycheck and juggling bills. I know the desperation, fear, and frustration of having one’s life exponentially impacted by outside forces beyond our control. This pandemic is not the fault of the students, interns, or early professionals, yet as the most vulnerable in our profession they bear the brunt of the risk and financial disruption.

 One of my best friends (and constant mentor) is a professor in social work and was (pre-covid) awarded a grant for a community resilience program. Her research often illuminates the root causes of issues such as poverty, substance abuse and misuse, lack of mental and physical health education and resources, chronic homelessness, and un/under-employment. We see these themes (and more) echoed throughout the veteran community.

As Brene Brown argues in “I Thought it Was Just Me,” our support networks are crucial to our wellbeing as functional members of society. It is our duty to future generations to combat the early employment precarity resulting from this crisis and continue to investigate related labor issues within our profession and our related industries. 

What is one cultural shift you would like to see come out of this crisis?

Culturally, I would love to see an overall shift to self-reliance and realistic expectations. Maybe we don’t need everything we think we do – and maybe we can do a little more ourselves. Modern civilization affords a number of perks, but we have also become complacent, lazy, spoiled. I would love to see the next generation avoid predatory lending, live within their means, and spend their earnings smartly and ethically. We need to reach out to our young folks and teach them resiliency skills; especially those of us who have learned them the hard way – by practicing them in the face of personal trials and crises. We need to figure out, together, how to #UpcycleTheAmericanDream in efforts to phase out corporate (and private) greed.

What is one public policy shift you would like to see come out of this crisis?

Overall, the American labor market needs a huge overhaul. I think it would be amazing if the flexibility afforded to remote work that has been explored would /continue/ throughout the future. Folks with accessibility requests that have had been previously denied as “impossible” or “too difficult” should have their requests reconsidered by administrators, even after state and county level reopenings. I am totally on board with the #DoBetterLoveUs mission and would love to see unpaid internships and exploitative volunteer positions eliminated. We were beginning to see positive trends in internships, such as providing housing for short-term projects, or NWA’s new paid fellowship program. Continued transitional support and flexible contracts could provide both higher employee morale and wellness /and/ potentially cut financial costs for both individuals and companies. I want to see and feel more compassion in the workplace, especially in administration and HR.

What’s an archival item you’ve worked with that you love to share with people, and why?

One of my favorite resources is the Newberry Library in Chicago. Their Modern Manuscripts Collection is a fantastic primary source collection for American History and genealogy, and is open for crowdsourced transcription volunteers. They have fantastic policies in place and are a great example for other institutions to model programs such as virtual outreach, collection digitization, and collaboration with indigenous communities. Transcribing these materials, often letters or journals, has reinforced my own personal archival habits concerning research and project planning.

What’s one thing — archives related or not! — that you’re proud to have created or accomplished? 

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Carady and her father in uniform.

I’m writing this on the seven year anniversary of the end of my second deployment. I ‘manned the rails’ for our transit into port in Bremerton, a Naval tradition. Stepping off the ship to meet my dad, retired but still rocking his flight suit, was pretty awesome; but not quite as moving as saluting him for the first time after completing bootcamp. I made my final run by only 5 seconds, so it was a major personal victory.

Carady is a recent MLIS/archives graduate with current research interest in labor practices and human resources throughout the arts and humanities. She has always had a knack for records management and documentation, and has explored those practices through work in theatre, radio, electrical engineering, military administration, research, and historical applications.

AWEsome Organizers! Valencia L. Johnson

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Valencia L. Johnson

How and why did you get involved as an AWE Fund Organizer?

I saw the call on the SAA Leaders listserv and was glad someone else was thinking about supporting archival workers through a tough economic period. I wanted to support an effort that I would’ve needed not that long ago.  

What is one cultural shift you would like to see come out of this crisis?

That the profession really evaluates our labor structure and we come out on the other side with less precarity. Overall cultural shift, that more people realize that the inequalities magnified by the pandemic will still be issues we need to solve after it has subsided. 

What is one public policy shift you would like to see come out of this crisis?

There are so many. 

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Dr. W. R. White sugar portrait.

What’s an archival item you’ve worked with that you love to share with people, and why?

I processed the W.R. White Paper at Baylor University and inside the collection was a portrait of Mr. White made of sugar. This sugar portrait was a surprise to us all and felt like a brick inside the manuscript box. The reason why there was a sugar portrait was to commemorate the Sugar Bowl (an important football game).   

What’s one thing — archives related or not! — that you’re proud to have created or accomplished? 

My program Amp Up Your Archives! I love working with students and helping people archive their stories.  

Valencia L. Johnson is the Project Archivist for Student Life at Princeton University. She engages with student organizations on managing and preserving their records, in analog and born-digital formats.

Be a #Craftivist: Join the #Auction4AWEfund!

Do you make things with your mind, heart, and hands? Do you have a stash of crafting supplies? Whatever your medium, we are calling on you to put your creativity to work on behalf of the Archival Workers Emergency Fund! In less than two months, the AWE Fund has raised nearly $100,000 and disbursed cash grants to over 100 archival workers in crisis due to covid-19. As the end of the fiscal year approaches and many organizations are preparing to implement austerity budgets amidst the pandemic, the AWE Fund Orgaanizing Committee anticipates another wave of need in our community.

The Persistent Stitches #Auction4AWEfund online silent auction will be held July 1-4, 2020 to help us raise the funds to address this need. We are currently recruiting crafters! The deadline to submit items for auction is Monday, June 15th.

Submit your auction items here

We currently have eight crafters with a total of eighteen items ready to list for auction. Our goal is to have no fewer than 30 crafters with a total of at least 50 items on offer, raising no less than $3,000 during the four-day auction. Can you help us? 

  • Create items to donate for auction!
  • Spread the word far and wide through your networks!
  • Save those auction dates and prepare to signal boost our craftivists‘ offerings!

Questions? Reach out to the auction coordinator Anna Clutterbuck-Cook at persistentstitches@gmail.com.

AWEsome Organizers! Courtney Dean

 

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A “punk quilt” created by UCLA students and donated to the UCLA Library Special Collections punk archive (discussed below).

How and why did you get involved as an AWE Fund Organizer?

I spent years precariously employed in archives so know firsthand the immense stress and anxiety that comes with not knowing if you’ll be able to pay next month’s rent. Throwing a global pandemic into the mix heightens all of this exponentially. I saw the announcement about a meeting to discuss mutual aid for archival workers and didn’t hesitate to jump in. I see AWE Fund organizing as a natural extension of my ongoing labor advocacy work and, given my current (relative) job stability, I felt it imperative to step up.

What is one cultural shift you would like to see come out of this crisis?

I’d love to see a greater recognition of the importance and power of community. Our society, and even profession, has been increasingly geared towards individualism and a competition for scarce resources (like permanent archivist jobs!). It’s essential to support each other and band together to address systemic issues and effect real and lasting change.

What is one public policy shift you would like to see come out of this crisis?

It’s ridiculous that health care in this country is tied to one’s job. Now that there’s a staggering unemployment rate, I’m hoping comprehensive healthcare reform will come about sooner rather than later.

What’s an archival item you’ve worked with that you love to share with people, and why?

One item that brings me immense joy is a “punk quilt” created by UCLA students and donated to the UCLA Library Special Collections punk archive. Each student contributed a square and then they sewed everything together with dental floss and some safety pins for good measure. My colleague and I use the quilt in instruction sessions to dismantle common (mis)perceptions about archives and special collections; examine notions of archival and historical value; and introduce concepts such as community and participatory archives and self-documentation.

What’s one thing — archives related or not! — that you’re proud to have created or accomplished?

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Los Angeles Archivists Collective: Archivists of Los Angeles unite.

In 2014 I co-founded the Los Angeles Archivists Collective along with two former classmates of mine, Angel Diaz and Jennifer Kishi. We had no idea that it would blossom into such a remarkable community, and as I step back from my leadership role and watch newer professionals take up the mantle, I couldn’t be more proud.

avatar(1)Courtney Dean is the Head of the Center for Primary Research and Training (CFPRT) in UCLA Library Special Collections, where she provides hands-on training in archival methodology to graduate students from a variety of academic backgrounds and facilitates creative engagement with special collections materials. In 2014, she co-founded the Los Angeles Archivists Collective, a community-driven local professional organization with a focus on students and new professionals. She’s on Twitter at @courcore.

AWEsome Organizers! Carli Lowe

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Archivist Carli Lowe standing in front of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library.

How and why did you get involved as an AWE Fund Organizer?

I saw a message on an SAA listserv looking for people to get involved in creating a mutual aid fund. I related to the issue of contingent labor in archives as someone who worked in short-term and contract-based positions while I was in my MLIS program. During this time I also had many conversations with mentors who would tell me about their experiences moving all around the country, from one contract position to the next, in their first years post-graduation. Having been fortunate enough to land in a long term position right out of school, I feel some sense of obligation to use the privilege to my stability in service to others, especially because I could have so easily ended up on the other side of things. It’s also one concrete thing I felt I could do to help at a time when so many things feel so nebulous.

What is one cultural shift you would like to see come out of this crisis?

I hope society as a whole is awakening to the importance of solidarity among workers, regardless of the type of work we do. The system as it exists leaves too many people vulnerable. It is set up to benefit a tiny sliver of society while the rest of us struggle. The only way to change this is to work together, not for individual benefit, but for the uplifting of us all.

What is one public policy shift you would like to see come out of this crisis?

I would love to see widespread adoption of the Do Better Labor guidelines for grant-funded positions. One of the points in this document, the importance of providing support for the end-of-project transition, seems especially important right now.

 What’s an archival item you’ve worked with that you love to share with people, and why?

I love documents that reveal processes. When I worked at the Freedom Archives I processed a collection documenting the organizing of the movement to protect the I Hotel in San Francisco. At SJSU, I’m working on a small collection documenting the organizing of the Survival Faire, which was the precursor to the first Earth Day. Documents such as these help us to understand not just what happened, but how it happened. Sometimes we even get to learn about mistakes people made along the way, and how they responded to them. With that information, we can decide what parts of the process we want to replicate, and maybe how to avoid repeating mistakes of the past.

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Document: Survival Faire News Release (29 January 1970)

What’s one thing — archives related or not! — that you’re proud to have created or accomplished? 

I created a project at SJSU called Spartans Speak on COVID-19 to collect personal accounts from the campus community about their experiences during this crisis. The response from students and faculty has been inspiring. I am humbled by the stories people are entrusting to the University Archives, and honored to play a part in ensuring these stories are preserved. I am also grateful to the archivists who created the first of these types of projects and allowed me to learn from their materials as I developed a project for the SJSU campus.

BioPic2019Cropped2Carli Lowe is the University Archivist at San José State University, working to ensure that archives are responsive to present needs and prepared for future challenges. 

Call for Crafters: Persistent Stitches’ #Auction4AWEfund!

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Calling all crafty archivists and crafters who support archival workers! The crafting collaborative Persistent Stitches and the AWE Fund Organizers have teamed up to host an online silent auction July 1-4, 2020.

As the covid-19 pandemic unfolds across the United States, many cultural heritage institutions and other organizations that employ archival workers have reduced staffing, pay, and hours, throwing many households into financial chaos. Administered through the Society of American Archivists Foundation, the Archival Workers Emergency Fund was created to provide mutual aid grants of up to $1,000 to U.S. archival workers in acute financial crisis. Since it was launched on April 15th, the fund has provided cash assistance to 88 individuals. We anticipate that, as the economic impact of this crisis continues, many more colleagues will be in need of aid. If you are a crafty archivist or a crafter who would like to support archival workers with your creativity and labor, please consider donating your work to our silent auction!

The deadline for submission of items for auction is Monday, June 15th at 11:59pm ET (UTC -5). 

The auction will accept all handcrafted items (excluding food or bath/body products for health and safety reasons). Examples of the type of items you might think of crafting:

  • Greeting cards
  • Knitted scarves, hats, shawls, socks …
  • Crocheted baby blankets, washcloths, pocketbooks …
  • Jewelry
  • Original artwork in any medium
  • Quilted wall hangings, table runners, pot holders …
  • Cloth napkins, pillow cases, aprons, tote bags …
  • Toys
  • Pottery
  • Woodwork
  • Poetry chapbook, graphic novel, short story collection …

… please let your creativity shine! 

We ask that the item(s) be completed at the time of submission to ensure prompt delivery following confirmation of the winning bidder’s donation to the Archival Workers Emergency Fund. 

Crafters should submit their items using this online form and will receive an email follow-up to confirm their donation details. Items will be posted to the auction site with a minimum bid. We will contact crafters after the auction closes and the donation is verified, so that they may send their item(s) to the donor(s).

Please direct questions to auction coordinator Anna Clutterbuck-Cook at persistentstitches@gmail.com

Thank you for considering a donation to the auction,
and please share the call widely!

Artwork CC-BY-SA 2020 C. DeSimone.