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.
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.
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.
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
The AWE Fund was first approved by the SAA Foundation on April 8, 2020. Since then, we’ve been working on a variety of projects. Many of us focused on working with the Foundation to raise and distribute money from the fund, but we’ve also – to name two initiatives – surveyed archival workers about their pandemic experiences and hosted virtual panel discussions about archival labor.
Our organizing committee is also planning our first book club discussion for one of our February meetings, and our second craft auction is accepting entries for sale through Feb. 1!
We know it can be difficult to jump in to an existing group, but we’d love to have you join us, suggest new ideas, or even just drop in to a meeting to see what we’re up to!
This doc in our Google Group has more information about keeping up with the organizing committee.It also has contact info if you have questions, want to drop in to a meeting, or otherwise work with us!
(Currently, that’s my – Sarah McLusky‘s – contact info, but if you join us and discover a sudden urge to share the AWEsomeness of the AWE Fund with the world, it could one day be yours!)
Calling all snowbound and stir-crazy archivists and crafters who support archival workers!
As we head into what is projected to be a difficult and hearbreaking season, in the midst of the raging COVID-19 pandemic here in the United States, the AWE Fund Organizing Committee has, once again, teamed up with the crafting collaborative Persistent Stitches to host a reprise #Auction4AWEfund online auction to benefit the Archival Workers Emergency Fund.
Our July 2020 auction raised $2,165.50 for the fund, with 24 crafters donating 62 items to the auction … we’d love to this amazing group of craftivists back for round two, and hope to see new crafters and their work as well! The auction coordinators are accepting submissions to the auction between now and Monday, February 1st at 11:59pm ET (UTC -5).The auction will take place February 5-10, 2021.
Between April 15 – December 15, 2020 the Archival Workers Emergency Fund approved 161 applications for assistance and disbursed $140,875 in cash grants to archival workers across the country who had been plunged into financial distress due to COVID-19. Initially approved by the Society of American Archivists for a pilot period ending on December 31, 2020 the fund has proven viable and clearly met a need in our community. Therefore, the AWE Fund has been approved for an extension until June 30, 2021 … and we want to ensure the fund will continue to be able to meet the needs of all qualifying applicants with cash assistance as swiftly as possible. You can help!
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). Crafters will be responsible for shipping within the United States.
As we prepare to bid good riddance to 2020, now is a good time to give to the AWE Fund. If supporting archival workers through this time of crisis is not enough inspiration – which for hundreds of you (over 800!!) it has been – now there is also a tax incentive. To encourage giving in 2020, the IRS is allowing people who don’t usually itemize their taxes to take up to a $300 deduction for donations to qualifying organizations. This includes gifts to the AWE Fund through the SAA Foundation, as long as you make them before December 31, 2020.
Since its inception, the AWE Fund has distributed funds to over 160 archival workers, serving as both a buffer against financial precarity and a statement that our community has each other’s backs. With the extension of the AWE Fund’s pilot period to June 30, 2021, and the continuation of the crisis that makes it necessary, we continue to be grateful for the individuals and organizations that have contributed time, money, and energy to making the fund sustainable.
Alongside fundraising efforts meant to aid archival workers impacted by COVID-19, the Archival Workers Emergency Fund Organizing Committee created a survey to quantify and document the impact of the pandemic on the archival field. This anonymous survey was open from June through July 2020, with the intent of collecting responses prior to and immediately after the change in the fiscal year. The survey asked several demographic questions and personal outlook questions regarding the situation at the time as well as the path ahead for archival workers in a COVID and post-COVID world.
The survey was distributed via social media channels and received 145 responses; not all respondents answered all questions. Survey design and distribution limit what we can definitively say about COVID-19’s impacts on the archival field. However, analysis of the results suggests that status as a full- or part-time archival worker and union representation during the pandemic are both factors that merit further research.
The summary below presents key takeaways. Full information and analysis on survey questions is available in the Survey Question Responses section of the report. We also investigated relationships between several variables using Chi Square tests of independence (see details in Appendix III).
A follow-up survey is planned for late fall 2020. To share feedback on this survey or to suggest questions for a future survey, please contact us at email@example.com.
The anonymous survey consisted of 23 questions with a mix of multiple choice, yes/no, and free text answers. Questions were aimed at gathering demographic data (such as age, gender, and race/ethnicity), information about respondents’ work status (employed or not, working from home or other locations), data on repository responses to COVID (closures, expected reopenings, budget), and qualitative data on respondents’ perception of their current work situations as well as their expectations for the future. We received a total of 145 responses.
The platform for the survey was Google Forms, which provides some basic data analysis functions. We distributed the survey primarily via the Archival Workers Emergency Fund Organizers’ Twitter handle. The survey remained open from June through July 2020. The majority of respondents completed the survey within the first three days of the survey’s initial release.
The survey was approved and determined exempt by the Michigan State University Institutional Review Board (IRB STUDY00004607).
We begin by acknowledging the following biases in our data collection. Data interpretation should be considered in light of these biases. While we carefully crafted our questions, the survey was a learning experience for us, and we produced an imperfect survey instrument. We thank respondents for sharing their experiences with us and for their patience as we grappled with how to summarize and share our findings.
The distribution method made it difficult to estimate the total distribution or a response rate. However, we can say that our respondents represent a small portion of archival workers. Therefore, the takeaways of the survey can indicate potential areas of impact but shouldn’t be assumed as definitive data. For comparison, the 2004 Archival Census and Education Needs Survey in the United States (A*CENSUS) estimated a population of just under 12,000 individuals based on the membership lists of 59 archival associations and other sources. A*CENSUS received responses from 5,620 individuals. The 2017 Women Archivists Section Salary Survey received 2,170 complete responses but did not report an estimate of the percentage of the population reached.
The majority of respondents identified as white and female. This reflects the majority demographic of the archival profession but also suggests that we could explore additional avenues for reaching out to and documenting the impact on archival workers of color in future surveys. The survey was primarily promoted on Twitter, and future efforts to reach a broader population might benefit from promotion on additional social media platforms and professional listservs.
The majority of respondents worked within academic archival repositories. Unfortunately, since the majority of authors of this survey are also archivists employed by academic institutions, our survey questions were unintentionally tailored to that type of repository. Some respondents, particularly corporate, private, and independent archivists, expressed that aspects of the survey were challenging to apply to their circumstances. We hope to develop more inclusive survey questions to better support and reflect the experiences of corporate archives, private archives, and independent archivists in future efforts.
Archivists experienced the impact of COVID-19 in multiple ways. There has been an immediate impact on employment conditions at different repositories, and respondents anticipated long-term impacts on both workers and repositories. At the time of the survey, nearly one third of respondents across repository types indicated that the pandemic had not affected their pay or benefits (42 responses, 28.9% of respondents). Furloughs affected 17 respondents in both non-profit and for-profit organizations, and mainly in academic or corporate archives or historical societies. Just two respondents had been laid off, both from museums. This small group may only be the tip of the iceberg, given broad closures, layoffs, and furloughs of museum workers this spring and summer.
Archival workers beginning careers or approaching the end of their working years experienced the impact of COVID-19 most acutely in terms of job layoffs and furloughs. Respondents in the 18-24, 65+, and 45-54 age groups most often experienced impacts to pay and benefits (by percentage of responses). However, workers across all age groups were affected in some way. Some portion of respondents across most age groups had been furloughed. Women and non-binary workers have been more affected (by percentage of respondents) than men. 16.7% of respondents of color and 24% of White respondents reported some kind of effect. Among respondents, the pandemic has affected the working situations of 38.5% of temporary workers, 25% of non-temporary workers, 23.3% of full-time workers, 58.3% of part-time workers, and 32.2% of workers without union representation. No workers with union representation reported that their pay or benefits were affected. To explore potential interrelationships, see Appendix III.
Responses also revealed a variety of institutional crisis responses and adjusted budgetary priorities. In free-text responses, only two respondents indicated that their employers prioritized staff retention in their budget. Others reported that they did not know whether or not they would be able to retain their positions and that there was “a lack of transparency from senior management about how and when those budgetary issues will have an impact on my employment.” Some respondents who had kept their jobs, pay, and benefits wrote about feeling disrespected or left out of institutional decision-making.
For detailed results and observations from each survey question, see Appendix II.
What kind of support would help archival workers right now?
In response to a question about what short-term support would be beneficial for archival workers (see Questions 16 and 17, Appendix II), an overwhelming majority (78.8%) indicated professional development opportunities, 30.1% indicated mentoring, and 25.7% indicated better technical equipment. Several respondents indicated that they wanted better guidance from their institutions and professional organizations on how to operate and reopen safely: “It feels like everyone is trying to figure it out on their own and we’re not having discussions about this as a profession,” wrote one respondent.
Other suggested support included trauma-informed mental health and emotional well-being resources, professional studies on safely operating in a COVID-19 environment, and fundraising to establish permanent positions.
The majority of respondents (73.1%) reported that they were concerned about their future work status and/or employment prospects. Respondents were also concerned about the future of their departments and institutions, an inability to fill open positions, and budget cuts for non-personnel costs. One respondent wrote: “My concerns are for the larger institution’s functions as I’ve basically lost my entire budget for anything beyond my salary (supplies, acquisitions, displays, etc.).” Others worried about the impact of the crisis on the archival job market and workers. One respondent stated, “I have concerns for recent graduates.”
Most respondents expected a lasting impact of COVID-19 on professional practices at and beyond their institutions. The majority expected that there will be more opportunities to work remotely and provide online reference assistance. While acknowledging massive challenges, some also saw opportunities: “However, the rapid acceptance of zoom has opened up the opportunity to perform outreach and have more feasible and effective donor conversations on a global basis, and I expect that to be a lasting change.”
Speaking to a more immediate need, one respondent highlighted the urgent need to raise funds for nonprofits “to retain employees or else we’re all headed to unemployment/working in fields just to make ends meet.”
Survey results reveal that archival workers across repository types, job responsibilities, and demographic factors have experienced COVID-19-related impacts and anticipate long-term implications for their careers. Although gainful employment is a priority for archival workers, we encourage readers to also note other support that archival workers are seeking at this time, and make every effort to provide such resources.
Results also indicate that position type (full- or part-time) and union representation bear relationships to archival workers’ experiences during COVID-19. To learn more about these relationships, we recommend more detailed surveys on these topics that recruit a larger sample; alternative study designs such as 1:1 or group interviews and workshops; and delving into previous research and data sources on archival workers, full/part-time positions, and union representation. What we have learned from archival workers during COVID-19 suggests that these are areas of focus for structural intervention.
Each section of this Appendix is organized in the following format:
Why we asked this question
Results (list, graph, and/or chart)
Any additional observations
Each question has an n number included, which indicates the number of responses to that specific question.
Why we asked this question: To verify our intended audience of archival workers and see if workers performing particular kinds of archival labor were more impacted. Respondents could choose more than one category and provide more information in a free text field.
Create and maintain metadata/finding aids/catalogs – 133 responses (91.7%)
Process collections – 121 responses (83.4%)
Provide reference – 114 responses (78.6%)
Provide instruction and outreach – 102 responses (70.3%)
Supervise student workers and interns – 94 response (64.8%)
Liaise with donors – 80 responses (55.2%)
Do preservation and conservation treatments – 72 responses (49.7%)
Supervise staff and faculty – 44 responses (30.3%)
Free-text responses indicated that respondents also perform records management, digitization, digital preservation, collection development, systems/tech support, and research.
Observations: While we expected that people with job duties relying on access to collections and public services might be disproportionately impacted, job duties did not seem to diverge strongly between respondents who were and were not impacted. We expect that institutional decisions about whether or not to furlough or lay off workers reflect local management and repository environments, rather than targeting specific job tasks.
Why we asked this question: To determine whether any relationship exists between gender identity and the impact of COVID-19 in respondents’ work environment. This question was open-ended.
Women (includes respondents who self-identified using the following terms: woman, cis woman, cis female, female/woman, she/her/hers, female, F) – 110 responses (77.5%)
Men (includes respondents who self-identified using the following terms: man, cis male, male) – 29 responses, 20.4%)
Genderqueer – 1 response
Non-binary – 1 response
Observations: Several respondents questioned the need for this information.
Why we asked this question: To determine whether any relationship exists between age group and the impact of COVID-19 in respondents’ work environment.
18-24 – 1 response
25-34 – 46 responses (31.7%)
35-44 – 46 responses (31.7%)
45-54 – 24 responses (16.6%)
55-64 – 25 responses (17.2%)
65+ – 2 responses
Prefer not to say – 1 response
Race and ethnicity
Why we asked this question: To determine whether any relationship exists between race or ethnicity and the impact of COVID-19 in respondents’ work environment.
Results (n=135): We report results in alphabetical order, exactly as entered in the survey.
African American – 2 responses
Asian – 1 response
Asian American – 2 responses
Black – 2 responses
Hispanic – 2 responses
Interracial – 1 response
Latina – 1 response
Mixed race – 2 responses
Multiracial – 1 response
Native American – 1 response
Pacific Islander – 1 response
Caucasian – 20 responses
W – 1 response
White – 93 responses
White – non-Hispanic – 2 responses
White Latina – 1 response
White/Latino – 1 response
White/Western European – 1 response
Observations: Several respondents questioned the need for this information.
Why we asked this question: To determine whether any relationship exists between types of positions and the impact of COVID-19 on respondents’ work environment, and to capture responses from archival workers with multiple jobs. Respondents could choose more than one category and use a free text field to provide more information.
Results (n=145): Percentages below add up to more than 100.
Observations: We received responses from temporary/contract workers in nearly all age groups, but more than half were age 25-34 (6 respondents). Results also suggest it may be helpful for a future survey to separately collect information about the full-time/part-time and temporary/non-temporary nature of positions.
Why we asked this question: To understand whether archival workers have employer-provided benefits, and how this relates to the impacts workers experience during COVID-19.
Results (n=145): 131 respondents (90.3%) indicated that they had benefits such as health care, retirement, family care resources, and paid leave through their employer. 12 respondents (8.3%) indicated that they didn’t have benefits through their employer. Two respondents described other situations:
“The state I live in requires part time workers to be compensated a certain amount of paid time off per hours worked; other than this state required minimum, I have no other benefits through my employer”
“Benefits are available through my employer but I’m on my spouse’s health plan due to lower premiums”
Observations: We acknowledge that this question was broad and didn’t particularly allow for granularity in this concept, which is something we’ll keep in mind for future surveys.
Why we asked this question: At the time of the survey and to the organizing committee’s knowledge, little documentation exists that tracks union membership and representation across the archival field. (The SAA19 Archivist Salary Transparency Open Spreadsheet asked about union representation but also received a small number of responses.) Some archivists within their particular institutions align with an existing union, but there currently is no sector-wide archival union.
No, I do not have access to a union – 118 responses (81.4%)
Yes – 22 responses (15.2%)
No, I have access to a union but choose not to join – 5 responses (3.4%)
Observations: Further documentation of union representation among archival workers is worth pursuing, as the benefits of representation are well documented across many industries. Workers in a bargaining unit benefit from union efforts, even if they choose not to pay dues.
Why we asked this question: We include drop-down options for U.S. states and territories because the AWE Fund is open to archival workers living and working in those places.
Results (n=142): The survey received responses from workers in 35 states, with the most responses from workers in the following states:
New York – 18 responses (12.7%)
Massachusetts – 17 responses (12%)
California – 12 responses (8.5%)
Illinois – 9 responses (6.3%)
Michigan – 6 responses (4.2%)
Pennsylvania – 6 responses (4.2%)
Why we asked this question: Funding sources, structure, and operations differ among types of repositories, and we hoped to understand impacts for workers in a variety of repository types. This multiple-choice question borrowed categories from the AWE Fund application form and provided respondents with a free-text box to specify other work situations.
Results (n=145): Percentages add up to more than 100. Free-text responses indicate that respondents also work(ed) with an artist’s estate, medical organization, foundation, and digital humanities project.
Academic – 74 responses (50.3%)
Note: 1 respondent wrote in “college archives”
Museum – 21 responses (14.5%)
Non-profit – 21 responses (14.5%)
Government – 16 responses (11%)
Corporate/for-profit – 15 responses (10.3%)
Public library – 12 responses (8.3%)
Historical society – 8 responses (5.5%)
Other repository – 5 responses (3.5%)
Independent/consultant – 2 responses (1.4%)
Has your repository closed to the public?
Why we asked this question: To determine the extent to which archival repositories had closed to the public as a pandemic safety measure, as well as whether any relationship exists between closures and the impact of COVID-19 on respondents.
Note: Starting here, question numbering in this report will be off by one relative to the survey instrument, as we accidentally omitted a Question 10.
Results (n=145): In alignment with national and some state-wide lockdown orders, most archival repositories closed to the public.
Closed – 129 respondents (89%)
Partially closed – 13 respondents (9%)
Open – 3 respondents (2%)
Observations: This question seemed to cause confusion about whether it refers to being open to serve the public or to staff being able to work on site. To clarify that we were asking about being open to the public, a desirable follow-up question would have asked what the public is allowed and expected to do while on site (such as reading room access, health compliance, and procedures). The three respondents reporting their repositories were open consisted of an independent/consultant archivist, a government worker, and academic/digital humanities worker who all later indicated that they are working entirely from home. This may indicate that respondents worked from home while their repositories re-opened, or that they interpreted the question as asking, “Are you currently working?” The repository profiles of respondents whose work sites partially closed included academic, religious, government, non-profit, and public library. Of these 13 respondents, 6 respondents were working partially at home and partially on site.
When did your repository close to the public?
Why we asked this question: To provide organizational context for respondents’ experiences.
Results (n=137): The majority of respondents (130 responses, 94.9%) reported that their repositories closed in March. Outliers include a government repository (closed February), some academic and corporate repositories (closed in April), and corporate repositories (were never open to the public).
Where do you work now?
Why we asked this question: To understand the range of working conditions among archival workers who remained employed.
At home only – 94 respondents (62.8%)
Note: 3 respondents wrote in “At home” with additional context
A combination of home and on-site – 29 respondents (17.9%)
Note: 3 respondents wrote in details of their home/on-site working arrangements
I am not working – 14 respondents (9.7%)
On site only – 8 respondents (5.5%)
Observations: Those working on-site-only included academic, religious, public library, and museum workers at repositories that closed in March and reopened by late May.
How have your income and benefits been impacted?
Why we asked this question: To elicit more information about the range of impacts that workers experienced. Respondents could choose more than one category and could use a free text field to provide more information.
Results (n=145): Free-text responses also note that the pandemic has affected job prospects and that a small number of respondents are working reduced hours with no reduction in pay.
No impact: My pay and benefits are the same as pre-COVID and I am still working – 103 responses (71%)
I was furloughed (temporary suspension or reduction in pay) – 17 responses (11.7%)
Total includes 2 respondents who wrote in that they will soon be furloughed
My pay was/will soon be reduced – 15 responses (10.3%)
Total includes 2 respondents who wrote in that they anticipate pay cuts
My employer-provided benefits have been reduced – 8 responses (5.5%)
My contract has ended/will end soon – 5 responses (3.4%)
Total includes 1 respondent who wrote in that their contract was completed prior to COVID
My future contracts have been canceled – 3 responses (2.1%)
I am on paid leave (no obligation to work while receiving pay) – 3 responses (2.1%)
I was laid off – 2 responses (1.4%)
Impacts across age groups:
One respondent aged 18-24 had been laid off (100%).
Twelve respondents aged 25-34 reported furloughs, layoffs, the end of contracts, and constraints in the job search (26%)
Nine respondents aged 35-44 reported furloughs and pay or benefit reductions (19.6%)
Twelve respondents aged 45-54 reported furloughs, pay and benefit reductions, and the end or cancellation of contracts (50%)
Eight respondents aged 55-64 reported furloughs, pay and benefit reductions, and the end of contracts (32%).
Two respondents aged 65 or older had lost work, pay, and/or benefits (100%)
Impacts across gender:
Five men reported furlough and pay or benefit reductions (17.2%).
Thirty-two women reported furloughs, layoffs, pay and benefit reductions, end of contracts, and cancellation of future contracts (29%).
One non-binary respondent reported impact on the job search (50%).
Impacts across race or ethnicity:
Both respondents identifying as African American and one of two multiracial respondents had been furloughed, while one of two respondents identifying as Hispanic experienced a pay reduction.
In all, 16.7% of workers of color reported a pay and benefits impact.
Nearly a quarter of white respondents reported pay and benefits impacts (31 respondents, 24%), including furlough, pay or benefit reduction, layoffs, end of contracts, cancellation of future contracts, and reduced hours.
Concern about future work status
Why we asked this question: To gauge respondents’ outlook about their future work, particularly how optimistic or pessimistic they are about future work status.
Results (n=145): A majority of respondents (106 responses, 73.1%) reported concerns about COVID-19’s impact on their future work status or employment prospects.
Comments on concerns about future work
Why we asked this question: This free-text question asked respondents to expand on their concerns about future work status and employment prospects, or lack thereof.
Results: Several respondents reported that their employer has prioritized staff retention. There were wide reports of budgets being slashed. There was strong speculation that this will be a tough job market, due to both hiring freezes and smaller budgets to make new or replacement hires. Respondents anticipated that salary and benefits will be reduced, while contracts end and future contracts are canceled. Many respondents expressed concern and feelings of precarity; outliers were those in administrative positions or with tenure. The following comments reflect major themes:
“My employer has prioritized staff retention in the revised budget. My concerns are for the larger institution’s functions as I’ve basically lost my entire budget for anything beyond my salary (supplies, acquisitions, displays, etc.). But overall I am very fortunate for not being in a position to be concerned about my work status and salary.”
“I’m mid-career and not necessarily certain I want to stay with this organization for the next 25-30 years. Although I am incredibly fortunate in current circumstances, I am afraid that the lasting effects of COVID-19 will make it that much harder for any of us in the field to be mobile and find meaningful work in organizations that can also take care of us. I feel deeply the struggle of younger/new professionals, and really anyone in the GLAM field who has experienced negative employment impact in this crisis.”
“There will be fewer jobs available. I am afraid that I will not be hired again. I am not old enough to retire, and can’t afford to anyway.”
“My contract ends in February, but very few places are still hiring. I am currently 4/4 in applying to jobs that shortly thereafter announce a hiring freeze.”
Beyond employment, what would be useful to you?
Why we asked this question: To gauge areas in which AWE Fund organizers could develop programming and advocate on behalf of workers. In addition to organizing and maintaining the fund, we have been looking for other ways to support archival workers.
Results (n=113): We summarize free-text responses with answers to the following question.
Observations: Given the majority interest in professional development, we see a need for future surveys to elicit more detail about the kinds of training that would be useful.
Why we asked this question: To elicit more detail about the kinds of support (such as professional development, mentoring, and technical capacity) respondents would find beneficial.
Results: This summary includes free-text answers to Questions 16 and 17, which focused on funding to retain employees, guidance for safe re-opening, advocacy for archival workers and work, opportunities to build skills, and support for workers who have experienced COVID-related impacts. The following comments reflect major themes:
“Trauma-informed mental health and emotional well-being resources”
“Fact based guidance on best practices for materials handling and patron use so we can reopen safely. It feels like everyone is trying to figure it out on their own and we’re not having discussions about this as a profession. Our spaces and procedures are different, but there’s a lot that could be broadly applicable..”
“Knowing that my colleagues who are worse off have resources”
“Advocacy for value of curation of collections”
“Access to workshops (learning and practicing with ArchivesSpace, metadata creation, etc) and just someone to talk to within the field itself to help me make the most of the job I have now, and navigate the job market in the future, so that I can find my first full-time position.”
Projecting when to return on-site
Why we asked this question: To learn when repositories would re-open to archival workers.
Results (n=145): A plurality of respondents (65 responses, 44.8%) anticipated returning to on-site work by August 2020. The next largest group (40 responses, 27.6%) did not know when they would return, while 21 respondents (14.5%) estimated that they would return between September and December 2020.
When will your repository open to the public again?
Why we asked this question: To learn when repositories would re-open to people who are not archival workers.
By August 2020 – 34 responses (23.4%)
Total includes 3 respondents who wrote free-text descriptions of phased re-opening beginning in August.
September-December 2020 – 38 responses (26.2%)
Total includes 2 respondents who wrote free-text descriptions of phased re-opening beginning in September.
In 2021 – 15 responses (10.3%)
Unknown – 45 responses (31%)
Total includes 1 respondent who wrote in that although they anticipated a phased reopening, they did not know when it would begin.
Not applicable -11 responses (7.6%)
Will not re-open – 2 responses (1.4%)
Repository return to “normal” budget projections
Why we asked this question: Observing that many archives implemented budget cuts and hiring freezes in response to the pandemic, we asked this question to gauge archival workers’ outlook on when the situation would change.
Results (n=145): The majority of respondents expressed uncertainty, answering “Unknown” or writing free-text answers about dependencies and lack of information (82 responses, 56.6%). Others anticipate a return to pre-COVID budget in 2021 (11 responses, 7.6%) or 2022-2025 (38 responses, 26.2%). Three respondents (2.1%) do not anticipate a recovery. 10 respondents (6.9%) reported no budget impact.
Creative approaches to fundraising
Why we asked this question: Observing the seemingly automatic application of austerity measures by archival repositories and/or parent organizations in response to the pandemic, we asked this to elicit alternatives that raise or sustain funding for archives and workers.
Results: In general, respondents were not privy to fundraising approaches. Approaches include outreach to alumni (for academic archives), grant applications, sponsorships, and changing program priorities. Several noted lack of communication about funding, and budget reductions without fundraising. The following comments reflect major themes among responses:
“emphasis on digitization, scaling back other programs”
“Unknown. There is no transparency regarding funding or future plans.”
“We’ve rescheduled our annual fundraiser, which would have taken place in March. We’re applying for many more grants than we would normally.”
“nothing creative — just stopping all unnecessary spending and operating lean”
“corporate sponsorships at least for programming and tip jars for streaming outreach and programming”
“producing and selling T-shirts, potential online auction”
Additional comments on future archives work post-COVID
Why we asked this question: To learn how archival workers imagined the future and what they anticipated would be the virus’ impacts on the field over the next 3-5 years.
Results (n=141): Percentages add up to more than 100. These responses were all free-text.
Why we asked this question: To elicit responses that did not fit into other questions.
Results: Additional comments addressed disparate impacts of pandemic response on archival workers; mental health; job prospects; learning, improvising, and adjusting to new working conditions; and employers taking advantage of the crisis. The following comments reflect major themes among responses:
“Childcare is a major concern right now. It’s 100% the reason I am applying for telework — I have no one to watch my child when I go back to work.”
“I feel that [one of my reports] was made a scapegoat to take a brunt of furlough days—six weeks! Admin said it was because [they] had a lot of public service tasks in [their] job. No one else had that amount of furlough. Other staff whose sole [responsibility] is public services […] were not furloughed.”
“Lots of software solutions emerged really quickly for meetings and sharing. It then became apparent that many staff rely on smartphones for home internet access and we had to overcome a lack of suitable hardware for doing data entry projects from home.”
“This is going to impact the job market in our field for years to come. I’m expecting to see a massive increase in the number of temporary/contingent and grant-funded “project” positions that are really being used as stop-gap measures for permanent, ongoing work for which there isn’t a budget.”
“Our institution is considering partial onsite employment, to begin soon, but are prioritizing staff with more seniority and prioritizing certain functions rather than thinking about who actually has work they can do from home (these don’t line up: the people with seniority who fulfill those functions can do more of them from home, and those who don’t require direct physical access to materials to do any part of their regular jobs). This is frustrating, because I’ve been left to do busy work without any consideration of what my job actually entails, and it makes me fully aware of how little the institution thinks of my work. This has had, and will continue to have, a detrimental affect on my mental health.”
“This pandemic will be devastating to the archives profession. At this time, SAA membership should clear the table of all priorities except one: saving our profession. We need to raise our salaries, promote the importance of the work we do, and get our professionals back to work.”
“It is astounding to me that our most vulnerable staff, largely BIPOC [Black, Indigenous and people of color], may get laid off in the future, and yet there is no at least symbolic gesture from senior management about sacrifices they personally would make (nominal paycuts or working on the front lines, for example). They seem more interested in jockeying for power during this crisis.”
“I will be much more productive if our archive remains closed to walk-ins, and focus on virtual and phone reference and research assistance.”
Appendix III: Chi Square analysis
This appendix reports exploratory analysis of July survey data using the Chi Square test of independence. Results suggest that full/part-time nature of positions and union representation and membership may have statistically significant relationships with whether or not archival workers have lost work due to COVID-19. However, small sample size and low statistical power prevent drawing conclusions from the current survey data.
We investigated the following question using Chi Square (χ2) tests of independence: Is there a statistically significant relationship between any of the following variables and whether respondents have lost work due to COVID-19?
Type of archival work
Type of repository
Whether repositories have closed to the public
Race or ethnicity
Temporary / non-temporary nature of positions
Full- or part-time nature of positions
Union representation (regardless of membership)
We re-coded several categorical variables in order to work with frequencies:
Whether respondents have lost work due to COVID-19: Re-coded responses to Question 13 (How have your income and/or benefits been impacted due to COVID-19?) into two categories. The new category No consists of all respondents who only answered, “No impact: My pay and benefits are the same as pre-COVID and I am still working”; Yes consists of all respondents who answered this question otherwise.
Race or ethnicity: Tested this (1) based on race or ethnicity as written in response to Question 4 (where “Asian” and “Asian American” and “Black” and “African American” are each separate values) and (2) based on whether or not someone identified only as “White” or “Caucasian.”
Gender: Re-coded responses to Question 2 (Gender) into categories Women, Non-Binary, and Men, acting on the assumption that respondents answering “Male” or “Female” to a question that explicitly asks about gender are cisgendered. Included “genderqueer” in the Non-Binary category, while recognizing that respondents may not necessarily consider these terms to have a part-to-whole relationship.
Temporary / non-temporary nature of positions: Re-coded responses to Question 5 (Work Status) such that Temporary includes anyone who answered “Temporary/Contract” or “Student Workers/Graduate Assistants” or wrote that they held a term or temporary position. Non-Temporary consists of all others who answered.
Full- or part-time nature of positions: Re-coded responses to Question 5 such that Part-Time includes anyone who answered “Part-time” or “Student Assistant/Graduate Assistant” or wrote that they were working part-time. Full-Time consisted of all others.
We created contingency tables and calculated χ2 and effect size (φ) by hand, obtained p values using a Chi Square Distribution Calculator by David M. Lane, and used GPower to calculate post hoc power and sample size required to achieve sufficient statistical power.
Type of archival work and Type of repository do not lend themselves to Chi Square analysis due to question design. Subjects could check multiple values in their answers, and responses do not lend themselves to re-coding.
Chi Square tests of independence do not allow us to conclude that there is a statistically significant relationship between these variables and loss of work (p > 0.05):
Whether repositories have closed to the public
Race or ethnicity
Temporary / non-temporary nature of positions
Chi Square tests of independence using the Yates correction for 2✕2 contingency tables suggest that there is a significant relationship between whether or not respondents lost work due to COVID-19 and the following variables. However, low post-hoc statistical power indicates that the survey sample is too small to draw conclusions about archival workers in general.
Full- or part-time nature of positions
χ2(1) = 5.276, p = 0.0216, n = 145, φ = .191, 1 – β = .50
A sample of at least 271 is needed to achieve 1 – β = .80
χ2(1) = 7.383, p = 0.0066, n = 145, φ = .205, 1 – β = 0.50
A sample of at least 262 is needed to achieve 1 – β = .80
Union representation (regardless of membership)
χ2(1) = 14.186, p = 0.0002, n = 145, φ = .313, 1 – β = .0.52
A sample of at least 213 is needed to achieve 1 – β = .80
Results suggest that there should be further investigation on potential relationships between position types (full- or part-time), union membership, union representation, and whether or not people have lost work due to COVID-19. Options for continuing research include detailed survey questions about these topics, recruiting a larger sample of respondents, and alternative study designs. Prior research and existing data sources on archival workers, full/part-time positions, and union representation and membership may suggest more leads to follow.
The sobering reality is that COVID-19, and the economic consequences of this pandemic, will be with us for months — likely years — to come. Regular, monthly donations will make it possible for the AWE Fund to be a reliable source of assistance for our colleagues in crisis for as long as it is needed. For the price of a steaming-hot seasonal latte or a pot of pu’erh you can help us ensure that our colleagues on furlough can afford groceries, our colleagues between jobs make rent, and our colleagues whose hours and benefits were cut can stay on their health insurance plans.
Our goal for September is to reach $1,000 in recurring donations — just 200 cups of coffee or tea!
One thousand dollars represents one additional fully-funded grant the AWE Fund can distribute each month to a colleague in crisis.
Can you help us reach our goal by donating a cup or two (or more)?
After you donate, consider taking a selfie with a hot or iced beverage of your choice (self optional) and posting it to social media with the hashtag #Coffee4Colleagues and a link to this campaign! We are on Twitter (@awefund2020) but welcome the signal boost on Instagram and Facebook (and wherever else your archives and archives-supporting friends gather) too! Sharing with your networks really does help spread the word.
*If your budget currently cannot support a $10 donation your dollars still matter to us! We are working with Go Fund Me Charity to lower the minimum donation amount on our campaign page. So hang on to your wallets and watch for a campaign update. Thank you from the campaign team!
The Society of American Archivists (SAA) Council recognized the AWE Fund organizing committee’s efforts ahead of this year’s annual conference.
The SAA Council also acknowledged the ad hoc committee’s efforts during the SAA Annual Membership Business Meeting on Wednesday, August 5, 2020. In her remarks, SAA Executive Director Nancy Beaumont stated:
You’ve heard the story: a committed group of members brought to the SAA Foundation Board an idea to establish a fund to support archives workers who are unemployed or precariously employed due to the pandemic… The review group was established. Turns out that part was easy. The hard part was developing a rubric for evaluating applications, promoting both the availability of the fund and donations to it, compiling applications doing the emotionally challenging labor of evaluating them weekly, and then figuring out how to get funds into the hands of individuals experiencing precarity, all in the midst of a pandemic. It pretty much does take a village.
Nancy Beaumont, SAA Annual Business Meeting, August 5, 2020
SAA President Meredith Evans remarked:
We honor 22 individuals today who collectively are known as organizers of the Archival Workers Emergency Fund… These folks came together to propose creation of a fund to provide financial assistance for archival workers experiencing difficulty unanticipated financial hardship due to the pandemic their extraordinary efforts from proposing the fund to the SAA Foundation Board to raising more than $106,000 from nearly 800 donors to distributing the much needed funds to more than 140 archival workers leaves us in all, we thank them for their truly extraordinary efforts.
SAA President Meredith Evans, SAA Annual Business Meeting, August 5, 2020
The AWE Fund started four months ago as a proposal to help archival workers experiencing hardship due to to the COVID-19 crisis. Thanks to nearly 750 generous individual and organizational donors, the AWE Fund has distributed more than $123,000 to 143 archival colleagues in need to date. Thank you to the 26 SAA Sections that contributed more than $6,100 and to the SAA Foundation for the seed funding of $15,000. Thank you to everyone who contributed and if you are in need, please apply! Thank you, SAA Council, for this recognition of our community, creativity, and resolve in the face of a pandemic!
Society of American ArchivistsCouncil Resolution Honoring Organizers of the Archival Workers Emergency Fund
WHEREAS the Archival Workers Emergency Fund (AWEF) was established in 2020 by the SAA Foundation to provide financial assistance for archival workers experiencing acute, unanticipated financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic; and
WHEREAS the AWEF was created based on a proposal developed by an ad hoc group of concerned archivists led by Jessica Chapel and Lydia Tang and comprising Steven D. Booth, Alison Clemens, Anna Clutterbuck-Cook, Jennifer Coggins, Courtney Dean, Steve Duckworth, Carady DeSimone, Rebecca Goldman, Irene Hauzinger, Katharina Hering, Hayley Hinsberger, Valencia Johnson, Carli Lowe, Bridget Malley, Sarah McLusky, Rebecca Thayer, Lauren White, Jen Wachtel, Amy Wickner, and Katrina Windon; and
WHEREAS the ad hoc group also gathered resources relating to remote work, archival labor, mutual aid, access to unemployment benefits, and other relief efforts for archival workers based in the United States who are navigating rapidly changing conditions during the COVID-19 emergency; and
WHEREAS since the launch of the fund 740 donors have contributed more than $105,000 (as of July 2020), in addition to the SAA Foundation Board’s contribution of $21,000 in funding; and;
WHEREAS the AWEF Review Committee, comprising individuals from the ad hoc group and SAA Foundation Board members, has provided, as of July 2020, more than $121,000 to 141 applicants;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the organizers of the Archival Workers Emergency Fund be honored with a 2020 SAA Council Resolution for their work in creating a relief aid program designed to support archival colleagues affected by the COVID-19 crisis.
The AWE Fund was established by archivists to help archivists. We stand in solidarity with our Black colleagues. As we head into an extremely challenging fiscal year for memory workers and organizations, please consider supporting the institutions and organizations, listed on this Google sheet, that collect material related to Black history and culture and/or support Black archivists and librarians.
This list includes a mixture of standalone archives/libraries/museums, collections/programs housed within larger institutions, and consortia/collectives/groups. The list is not complete. Please leave a comment in the Google sheet with the name and website or contact info for any organizations you believe should be added.