Announcing the Archival Workers’ Collective

It’s hard to imagine that the Archival Workers Emergency Fund (AWE Fund) was established two years ago this month! In March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic was ripping throughout the world and archival repositories were quickly shuttering. While some workplaces transitioned their employees to work remotely, archival workers on social media were reporting furloughs and layoffs due to the closures. Within a matter of days, a grassroots organization came together to prepare a proposal for the SAA Foundation to establish the Archival Workers Emergency Fund

The Fund proved to be an incredible rallying point for the archival community to show up for each other. The Organizing Committee led two craft auctions where archivists flexed their creativity and generosity. We convened panel discussions on mutual aid, salary transparency, and the intersection of disability with archival labor issues. Nearly 1000 individuals, 26 SAA Sections, and 11 organizations contributed to the fund, raising over $140,000 to help nearly 200 archival workers in need. 

The Society of American Archivists sunsetted the Archival Workers Emergency Fund at the end of 2021. This marked a turning point for organizing committee members. Without the administrative infrastructure for fundraising and financial disbursement that SAA provided, we had to think critically about what we do, how we do it, and if we as an entity continue forward or not. We held two online open calls in December and January to connect with our colleagues and collectively re-envision our role going forward. Stripping away the fundraising element, the core spirit of the AWE Fund was – and remains – fundamentally the care and advocacy for each other as fellow archival workers. Thus, we are re-organizing as the Archival Workers Collective.

What does this mean?

We’re operating in the spirit of the Archival Workers Emergency Fund Organizing Committee, but with a broader and more flexible scope. Maybe someday we’ll get back to fundraising and mutual aid, but in the immediate future, we will be focusing our activities on advocacy, research, and programming work addressing labor issues within the archival profession.

What will we do?

We will continue to develop periodic surveys and conduct research relating to archival labor issues.

We have organized panels and other programming and can continue it going forward. 

We will signal boost and partner with individuals and other groups that are active in this area.

What’s next?

We will be drafting a charter and creating new, updated communication channels.

Get involved!

Subscribe to our blog, Twitter feed, and/or Google group to hear about future events. If you’d like to participate in our organizing calls, join us

Future of the AWE FUND Community Forum January 28, 2022

The sunsetting of the AWE Fund on December 31, 2021, was a moment of transition. To discuss questions and ideas, we’ll organize an online community forum on January 28, 2022. Do we have the capacity and know-how to carry the AWE Fund forward as a mutual aid organization independent of SAA? Does solely focusing on the distribution of monetary support to our colleagues remain the most pressing need to dedicate our time and attention to? If not through distribution of funds, how else can we address the ongoing precarity entrenched in our profession? How can we join forces with other solidarity and mutual aid initiatives established by LAM workers?

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

On January 28, 2022, at 11amPT/1pmCT/2pmET, please join us to talk about what the AWE Fund has meant to you and add your perspective as we imagine our next phase. Register for the Zoom link. You can also follow us on Twitter (@AWEfund2020), sign up for our mailing list, or join the AWE Fund Organizing Committee.

Envisioning the Next Steps

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

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

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

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

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

Coffee for Colleagues September 2021 Update: A Moment of Transition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In solidarity,

The AWE Fund Organizing Committee

AWE Fund at SAA 2021!

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

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

We look forward to seeing you (online)! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

AWE Fund, One Year Later

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

Dear friends,

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

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

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

Birthday fundraising campaign

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

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

Panel Discussions

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

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

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

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

In solidarity,
Members of the AWE Fund Organizing Committee
awefund@gmail.com

Join the AWE Fund Organizers!

See? Archives Dino (my contribution to the 1st craft auction) thinks you should join us, too.

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!)

#Auction4AWEfund … Take 2!

#Auction4AWEfund logo with “Take 2” added in blocky red letters.

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!

Submit your hand-crafted items to the auction today!

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

  • Greeting cards, bookmarks …
  • 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 …

You also can check out the items we featured in our first auction for inspiration. Please let your creativity shine! 

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.

Please direct any 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.

Bye, 2020

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.

Are small monthly gifts more your style? Please consider setting up a recurring donation through our Coffee for Colleagues campaign.

You can find useful information about the AWE Fund, including how to apply for funds, at our linktree.