Summer 2020 Archival Workers Emergency Fund Survey Summary

Prepared by Lydia Tang, Katharina Hering, Alison Clemens, Bridget Malley, and Amy Wickner on behalf of the Archival Workers Emergency Fund Organizing Committee. Comment on this report in Google Docs.

Introduction

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 awefund@gmail.com.

Methods

Survey Instrument

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).

Limitations

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.

Survey Summary

General reflections

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.

It should be noted that since the survey closed, a wide variety of free and low cost professional development offerings have been produced by professional organizations such as the Society of American Archivists, the Association of Moving Image Archivists, the Digital Library Federation, and others. Mentoring programs are currently available through the Society of American Archivists, New England Archivists, Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference, ARCL’s Rare Book and Manuscript Section, and other organizations.

COVID-19’s lasting impact

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.”

Conclusion

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.

Appendix I: Survey

Appendix II: Survey Question Responses

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.

  1. Archival tasks

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.

Bar chart showing results of Question 1: As an archival worker, I — (please select all that apply). Results are listed below.

Results (n=145):

  • 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.

  1. Gender identity 

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.

Results (n=142):

  • 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.

  1. Age range

Why we asked this question: To determine whether any relationship exists between age group and the impact of COVID-19 in respondents’ work environment.

Donut chart showing results of Question 3: I am — (age range). Results are listed below.

Results (n=145):

  • 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
  1. 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.

  1. Work status

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.

Bar graph showing results of Question 5: Before COVID-19, I was — (check all that apply). Results are listed below.

Results (n=145): Percentages below add up to more than 100.

  • Full-time – 126 responses (86.9%)
  • Part-time – 12 responses (8.3%)
  • Temporary/Contract – 11 responses (7.6%)
    • Note: one respondent wrote in “term”
  • Student worker/Graduate assistant – 2 responses (1.4%)

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.

  1. Health insurance

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.

Donut chart showing results of Question 6: Pre-COVID-19, did you have benefits (such as health insurance, retirement, family care resources, and paid leave) through your employer? Results are listed below.

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.

  1. Union representation

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.

Donut chart showing results of Question 7: Are you a member of a union? Results are listed below.

Results (n=145):

  • 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.

  1. State

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%)
  1. Repository type

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.

Bar graph showing results of Question 9: What type of repository do/did you work? (select all that apply). Results are listed below.

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%)
  1. 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.

Donut chart showing results of Question 11: Has your repository closed to the public? Results are listed below.

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. 

  1. When did your repository close to the public?

Why we asked this question: To provide organizational context for respondents’ experiences.

Donut chart showing results of Question 12: If yes, approximately when ddi your repository close to the public? Results are listed below.

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).

  1. Where do you work now?

Why we asked this question: To understand the range of working conditions among archival workers who remained employed.

Donut chart showing results of Question 13: Where do you now work? Results are listed below.

Results (n=145):

  • 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.

  1. 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.

Bar chart showing results of Question 14: How have your income and/or benefits been impacted due to COVID-19? (Check all that apply). Results are listed below.

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%)

Observations: 

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.
  1. 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.

Donut chart showing results of Question 15: Do you have concerns about COVID-19’s impact on your future work status or employment prospects? Results are listed below.

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.

  1. 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.”
  1. 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.

Bar chart showing results of Question 17: Beyond gainful employment, what support would be beneficial to you at this time? (Check all that apply). Results are listed below.

Results (n=113): We summarize free-text responses with answers to the following question.

  • Professional development – 89 respondents (78.8%)
  • Mentoring – 34 respondents (30.1%)
  • Technical capacity (equipment) – 29 respondents (25.7%)

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.

  1. Additional comments

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.”
  1. Projecting when to return on-site

Why we asked this question: To learn when repositories would re-open to archival workers.

Donut chart showing results of Question 19: If you are still employed and are currently working from home, when do you expect to return on-site? Results are listed below.

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.

  1. 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.

Donut chart showing results of Question 20: When do you estimate that your repository will open to the public? Results are listed below.

Results (n=145):

  • 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%)
  1. 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.

Donut chart showing results of Question 21: When do you estimate that your repository will return to a pre-COVID-19 budget? (In terms of ability to hire and retain staff and operations). Results are listed below.

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.

  1. 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”
  1. 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.

Bar graph showing results of Question 23: Are there aspects of the current COVID-19 world that you expect to see continue into the future for archives? (Check all that apply). Results are listed below.

Results (n=141): Percentages add up to more than 100. These responses were all free-text.

  • Partially remote work – 117 responses (83%)
  • Online reference assistance – 99 responses (70.2%)
  • Online programming (curator talks, behind-the-scenes interviews, etc.) – 99 responses (70.2%)
    • Total includes 2 respondents who wrote free-text responses on remote outreach and exhibits.
  • Online primary source instruction – 67 responses (47.5%)
  • 100% remote work – 6 responses (4.3%)
  • Increased digitization – 6 responses (4.3%)
  1. Additional Comments

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.

Research questions

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
  • Age group
  • Race or ethnicity
  • Gender
  • Temporary / non-temporary nature of positions
  • Full- or part-time nature of positions
  • Union membership
  • Union representation (regardless of membership)

Methods

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.

Results

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
  • Age group
  • Race or ethnicity
  • Gender
  • 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
  • Union membership
    • 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

Conclusion

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.