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.

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.