While I've been really enjoying our discussions in class each day, trying to relay them into blog posts that convey not only my enthusiasm but also relatable information about archives has been challenging. And truthfully, we covered archival appraisal (deciding what to keep, what to toss, and what to...everything else) two days ago and I was enthralled, but I have yet to compose a post on that information. But it is coming soon, I swear. In the meantime, today we talked about some pretty juicy information that I feel like most folks can relate to. Here goes...
Chapter eight in our reading talks about security issues and disaster planning. Our group will be touring preservation spaces at the Georgia Archives (including the conservation lab) and talking about all things disaster on Monday with the conservators as our guides/discussion leaders, so our instructor Tim honed in on questions of security today. As in most of our class sessions, we divided time between discussing case studies in groups and with the class, and discussing the actual readings from Hunter. The two situations we were put into involving security were: (1) what happens when you observe a researcher stealing materials, versus (2) what happens when you observe a volunteer stealing materials. What is your priority? What is the best approach? Do you approach the "culprit" at all? How can you approach them if you aren't sure about the theft? In either case - the priority seems to be stopping the materials from leaving the archives. That was universally agreed upon in our class. But, how do you go about it? Our various groups explored different options and their respective ends. In terms of the researcher situation, it seemed that most favored a moderate approach was giving the researcher the benefit of the doubt on the first offense. Most folks felt the same approach would also work with volunteers. In the end, a more direct approach was recommended for the latter - because a dishonest staff person or volunteer poses a far more dangerous threat to the protection of the collection than a researcher who may or may not come back (depending on the archivist's recommendations following an "incident"). I thought this was an interesting revelation and prompted most people in the room to assume a more assertive role than many would have liked (me included). The one thing we all recognized and felt strongly about was at the core of the situation - protecting the stuff. If that protection involves directness, I think that most of us are now willing to take on that new role when confronted. Having the opportunity to to assume - as I said in the last post, a role of authority - made us all realize and assert our level of responsibility in this situation.
I think the security questions made us all think that we should be more vigilant with the collections we currently play a role in managing. I know that was the impact I felt. They emphasized the importance of implementing good policies (using standard forms and agreements, checking identification, making sure no outside materials come into the archives) on the front end, and making sure everyone abides by them -- students, faculty, scholars, average joes - everyone. I wouldn't say this leads to second guessing, but these exercises certainly made me appreciate the policies we have in place at the Russell and the team of staff that I have in place to back me up in situations where I have to confront visiting researchers. Hopefully, I never confront one of the situations that we covered in class, but if I do I am grateful (in advance!) that we have such excellent groundwork in place. If I do, then I feel more prepared. So - win/win. I'm lucky I work for a great place with supervisors with TONS of experiences handling everything under the sun. Like many of our sessions in class, I found today showing me how much I have learned already from working in the archives, mostly from my colleagues, which builds my confidence as an archivist.
I would be remiss not to mention the fabulous reception we had tonight at the Auburn Avenue Library in Atlanta with all of the intern supervisors! It was great - with amazing food and great company. Next week, we will each spend three days at an internship in the Atlanta area, applying some of the knowledge we have amassed in the last several days. I found out that I will be at the National Archives (right next door to the Georgia Archives, so I already know where to park!) but haven't been filled in on the details yet. Hopefully I'll find out tomorrow and be able to fill you in this weekend. Meantime - thanks to everyone who put together the reception AND to our fabulous instructor Tim who has prepared us for the week ahead.
Your Archivist in Training,
PS -- My apologies for no new pictures!! I meant to take them at the reception at least, but got wrapped up in mingling and forgot - so I pledge to take more photos during my internship next week!