One important aspect of SAA’s Strategic Plan is to educate and influence decision makers about "the vital role of archives and archivists." For many archivists that work begins at “home"--within their institutions and with their resource allocators.
In his SAA-published book Many Happy Returns: Advocacy and the Development of Archives, Larry Hackman suggests that advocacy is a core part of the work of an archives and the archivists who staff it. He writes, “Every archives needs to build allies and supporters among key decision makers responsible for core organizational functions, such as budget, personnel, legal counsel, development, communications, information technology, and facilities and building services. In most cases, the internal audience is the most important one for any archives because over time the members of this audience will have the greatest impact on the condition of the archives’ organizational infrastructure.”
In his incoming presidential address in August 2015, SAA President Dennis Meissner noted that "when we advocate for our profession and our repositories, all of the stories that we tell and the arguments that we make should be solidly grounded on a bedrock of data. Not the data that we’ve traditionally captured: the number of collections, cubic footage, processing efficiency, and so forth. I’m instead thinking about data that speak to the archival value proposition: economic impact, audiences served, outcomes achieved. For our advocacy stories to be compelling, we must be able to reference slices of these data.” (View his complete incoming presidential address here or read more in Archival Outlook, January/February 2016, pg. 2.)
Raising awareness for archives has been an ongoing concern for the profession. In 1984, the SAA Task Force on Archives and Society commissioned a study, “The Image of Archivists: Resource Allocators’ Perceptions,” conducted by Levy and Robles. The report concluded that, “Archivists need to develop skills to deal with resource allocators in terms they will respond to. They must identify the appropriate people to reach and educate. Lobbyists have honed these skills to a fine art. They involve documenting need and appropriateness of requests, eliciting the aid of allies, knowing how to sell, knowing how and when to communicate achievement.”
All advocacy efforts start at home. Read on to discover how you can promote advocacy efforts within your institution.
May 1 Is MayDay!
Protecting our collections is one of our fundamental responsibilities as archivists. It’s easy to put off emergency response planning as we devote our attentions to tasks with more immediate “payback.” But on May 1 – this year and every year – you can do something (even if it’s something simple) that will make a difference when and if an emergency occurs in your repository. SAA’s MayDay resources can help you plan. Get started!
Resources and Toolkits
Visit this handy collection of resources and toolkits to help you get started with advocacy efforts within your institution.