Crafting Your Archives Elevator Speech

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This post was authored by guest contributor Anna Trammell, Archival Operations and Reference Specialist at the University of Illinois Archives Research Center/Student Life and Culture Archives, and current member of SAA’s Committee on Public Awareness (COPA).

Elevator_040611I’m at the airport waiting to board a plane when a fellow traveler strikes up a conversation. After we’ve commiserated about the shortcomings of the airlines and swapped details on destinations and reason for travel, I know what question is coming next: “So what do you do?” If you’re a new professional like me, you may remember your earlier responses to this question. Mine probably ended up somewhere between a frenetic rattling off of responsibilities and an apology. As the boarding began, I knew that my co-passenger had no idea what I did and was probably pretty certain I didn’t either.

Every encounter like this, whether it is with a stranger who you may never see again or another member of your own organization, is an opportunity to serve as an advocate for archives and archivists. We do really interesting things that will appeal to a wide variety of people. We can easily find ways to engage the public when given even the briefest opportunity to talk about our work. If I had a better response in my airport encounter, that interaction would have likely had no impact on my own position or institution. But I could have made that person aware of what archives are, what archivists do, and why our work is important. Having an effective elevator speech prepared can help make sure you clearly articulate this.

So what does a good archives elevator speech look like? Here are some tips to keep in mind as you begin to think about crafting your own brief pitch:

Skip the Details

An elevator speech should be concise (about 30-60 seconds). That doesn’t give you much time to grab the listener’s attention. Because every word counts, you won’t have time to dive into the particulars of your job. Keep it general. Hopefully, your successful speech will result in follow up questions from your listener, allowing you time to dive into more specific information about your own institution and role.

Focus On Your Listener

Consider your audience and adapt your speech accordingly. Are they wearing a Cubs baseball cap? Maybe you can grab their attention by mentioning that even sports teams rely on the work of archivists. Did they tell you that they are a student at a nearby university? Perhaps they’d be interested in the ways universities preserve student organization records or alumni papers. Listeners will remember a story, especially if it relates to their own interests. Find a way to center your speech on them.

Make it Personal

What really excites you about being an archivist? Engage your listener by sharing your enthusiasm about a particular aspect of archival work or your excitement over the ways archivists are tackling new demands in the 21st century.

SAA’s Committee on Public Awareness (COPA) created this handy guide to get you started.

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Need more inspiration?

In 2007, SAA hosted an Elevator Speech Contest as part of American Archives Month. Lisa H. Lewis had the winning entry with this 28-word speech: “Archivists bring the past to the present. They’re records collectors and protectors, keepers of memory. They organize unique, historical materials, making them available for current and future research.”

On #AskAnArchivist Day 2017, Colleen McFarland Rademaker of the Corning Museum of Glass shared a video of her elevator speech:

Do you have an archives elevator speech? Tell us about it on Twitter using #ArchivesAWARE!

What Are You Reading?

This post was authored by guest contributor Vince Lee, Archivist at the University of Houston, and current member of SAA’s Committee on Public Awareness (COPA).

As archivists and information professionals we read a lot. Whether in school or coming up within the ranks, we read publications to learn and to keep abreast of what our colleagues are doing within the field. Through study groups, discussion groups, or on our own, we’ve run across certain books that have deeply affected us within the profession. These books make us question, reevaluate, and, in some cases, debate in a constructive way the status quo within the archival field.

“Photographs: Archival Care and Management” by Mary Lynn Ritzenthaler and Diane Vogt-O’Conner

I’ve encountered a few such books that have affected me profoundly. As a student pursuing my MLIS, Mary Lynn Ritzenthaler and Diane Vogt-O’Conner’s 2006 book Photographs: Archival Care and Management was an indispensable reference that opened my eyes to the handling and management of photographic materials. As a practicum student inventorying photographic materials at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit and at the University of Michigan’s History of Art Visual Resources Collection, I found myself continually returning to this book for guidance. In fact, since library school, this beautifully illustrated book is one I have kept on my archival bookshelf—its wisdom still resonates.

Randall C. Jimerson’s “Archives Power: Memory, Accountability, and Social Justice”

As a practicing professional, Randall C. Jimerson’s Archives Power: Memory, Accountability, and Social Justice holds another special place on my bookshelf. It has inspired me in the ongoing importance of the work that archivists do in documenting the history of underrepresented groups. For me, that has been in working with Houston’s LGBTQ community. In an increasingly tumultuous world, where “fake news” is an issue and the press is under attack, where the #MeToo movement has demonstrated the widespread prevalence of sexual assault and harassment especially in the workplace, and where governmental deregulations are increasingly pursued at the expense of the rights of others, it’s important that archivists play an active role not only in documenting but providing information, uncomfortable as it may be, to hold government and institutions accountable for their actions. Jimerson’s 2009 book reminds us that archives and archivists play critical roles.

“Teaching with Primary Sources,” edited by Christopher J. Prom and Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe

While these two books have impacted me personally, the SAA Publication Board’s One Book, One Profession reading initiative is designed for collective impact. Launched two years ago, the program invites the entire profession to read selected titles written by members and published by SAA, and to engage in conversation through in-person and virtual book discussions.  For 2016–2017, the selection was Teaching With Primary Sources—how we can use our collections to enhance information literacy and, in a way, counter “fake news.” The current selection is Through the Archival Looking Glass: A Reader on Diversity and Inclusion, which talks about not only what we collect, but also representation and the lack thereof within the profession. Sometimes the silences or gaps within our collections, and also in the profession, say just as much—if not more—than what is actually collected and how we as archivists are perceived.

“Through the Archival Looking Glass,” edited by Mary Caldera and Kathryn M. Neal

Book discussions not only serve to stimulate conversation among archivists and information professionals, but can also serve to raise awareness and showcase archival holdings at our institutions. Gulf Coast Reads is an annual regional reading initiative that promotes select titles by authors whose works delve into historical events and themes relating to the Texas Gulf Coast region. Programs are designed around the book and a call is extended for digitized images from regional archival collections that supplement the book or its themes, such as early historical images of flight, World War I, African American history, and the Women’s Suffrage Movement. Collective contributions of digitized images by area repositories are maintained by the Harris County Public Library in the greater Houston area for a limited duration (typically through Archives Month in October). In addition to stimulating discussion, the presence of contributed images alert readers who may also be researchers and archives users to potential collections of interest.

Gulf Coast Reads

Books influence us in myriad ways, from our formative years as students to practicing professionals within the field. Our archival collections have the power to influence, just like books. What are some of the books that have affected you professionally? Perhaps made you reevaluate and take stock of where you are as an archivist? Let me know what you are reading!

Giving It a Try: #AskAnArchivist Day

 

This post was authored by guest contributor Caryn Radick, Digital Archivist, Special Collections and University Archives, Rutgers University Libraries, and current member of SAA’s Committee on Public Awareness (COPA).

In late September, my colleague and I declared this would be the year that Rutgers Special Collections and University Archives would participate in #AskAnArchivist Day! Although most of our social media outreach happens on Facebook and Instagram, taking part in #AskAnArchivist Day would would give us a ready-made opportunity to expand our social media reach further into the Twittersphere.

How we prepared:

Given our late declaration, we had to scramble. We decided to do the following:

  • Reach out to our libraries’ communications office about our participation to see if they could offer suggestions and/or support.
  • Leverage our Instagram presence by preparing posts that could go on Twitter throughout #AskAnArchivist Day using Later.
  • Look for “fun/interesting facts” to post about Rutgers’ collections throughout the day, but to set “office hours” for our participation.

The results of those decisions helped us prepare the day:

  • The communications office offered suggestions (like making videos) and promoted the chat on the Rutgers University Libraries web page and through social media.

  • Using Later let us schedule some posts, in case we got pulled away from our Twitter account during non-office hours.
  • We enjoyed gathering the fun/interesting facts, particularly making a video demonstrating how our dumbwaiter works.

During the office hours (1-2:30) we spent a lot of time interacting on Twitter, but most of our tweeting was with other #AskAnArchivist Day participants. Questions from researchers or people interested in archival life were few. This “are we just talking to each other”? observation came up on Twitter as well. I’d be curious to know which archives have high non-archivist engagement and how they achieve it.

After the session was over, we compiled some quick statistics about the day on Twitter. Our preliminary tally indicated we got about 150 likes and 13 new followers. We later learned that we had made the “What’s Trending” section of the Rutgers Today newsletter (with a tweet about President Obama’s chair from when he attended Rutgers’ commencement).

We also had three of our items posted on that day shared in the Upworthy Story about strange objects found in archives.

Lessons learned from #AskAnArchivist Day:

  • Figure out what you want to achieve and frame your day in a way that supports it.  For example, if our goal was to gain more Twitter followers and share info about our collections, we were successful. If we intended to interact with researchers and people who want to know more about being an archivist, then it was less fruitful.
  • Start planning early! This allows more time to decide upon and gather images, videos, and facts to share.
  • Think about your set-up for monitoring Twitter. We had multiple screens open and were working on two computers. Sometimes we got a little lost in the toggling, but having two people offering different perspectives was useful.
  • Vary the breadth of objects and media you plan to share. It is tough to predict what will generate the most likes and retweets, so mix it up.
  • Get a good sense of your Twitter statistics (number of followers, averages likes and retweets, etc) prior to #AskAnArchivist Day. This provides a good baseline for comparison.
  • Promote the event through other social media channels. We did this for about a week before the event and it seemed to generate interest.

What lessons have you learned from #AskAnArchivist Day? If you’ve participated for multiple years, what changes have you made since you started?

#AskAnArchivist Day 2017 Summary

 

This post was authored by guest contributor Anna Trammell, Archival Operations and Reference Specialist at the University of Illinois Archives Research Center/Student Life and Culture Archives, and current member of SAA’s Committee on Public Awareness (COPA).

 

#AskAnArchivist Day was once again a huge success, allowing archivists from across the country to communicate directly with the public about their work. #AskAnArchivist was trending in the United States from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm with 8,927 total tweets on October 4 from 4,077 unique users. An additional 759 tweets appeared on October 3 and 1,595 on October 5 (at last count). While the total number of tweets using #AskAnArchivist on Wednesday was down from last year, the number of unique users and hashtag use before and after #AskAnArchivist Day was up significantly.

The top tweet received over 2,300 retweets and 6,300 likes.

Other top tweets highlighted specific items,

provided a behind-the-scenes look,

and answered (almost) every preservation question.

#AskAnArchivist Day not only provided a forum for archivists to interact with the public, but it also encouraged dialogue between archivists. These top tweets are just two examples of these discussions:

Members of SAA’s Committee on Public Awareness used #AskAnArchivist Day to ask members of the profession about their outreach activities,

special visitors,

surprising archives positions,

and how they’d describe an archivist in 5 words.

For more #AskAnArchivist Day tweets, check out SAA’s highlights.

What was your favorite question on #AskAnArchivist Day? How did you promote #AskAnArchivist Day at your institution? Any suggestions for archivists wanting to participate for the first time next year? Let us know in the comments!

Thank you to all who participated in this year’s #AskAnArchivist Day and helped make it a success!

Gearing Up for #AskAnArchivist Day

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The members of SAA’s Committe on Public Awareness (COPA) have gathered in Chicago this week to review and rework our work plan for the next year. With #AskAnArchivist Day fast approaching (it’s this Wednesday, October 4th, in case you missed the announcement), we’re dedicating a chunk of time today to get ready our favorite day of the year.

Last year, the COPA members and SAA staff had fun creating promotional memes for the annual event…

…so we’re creating a few more today for a last promotional push.

Follow the official hashtag, #AskAnArchivist, on Twitter–we’ll keep sharing our memes (the good, the bad, and the ugly) up until the big day. And it looks like University of Chicago Special Collections is getting in on the meme fun this morning as well…

Think you can top these #AskAnArchivist Day promotional memes? Share yours on Twitter today and tomorrow to build up momentum heading into Wednesday!

Don’t worry, we’re not spending our entire in-person meeting creating memes. We’ve also come up with a number of questions that we plan to ask throughout the day on Wednesday so that COPA can join the conversation and hear about your archival outreach successes…and failures.

We’ll be asking/prompting:

“What’s an archivist?” elevator speech in 140 characters or less. Go!

What has been your favorite outreach event that brought people to your archives?

Any collections or repositories you’ve heard of that made you say “There’s an archivist for that?!”

…so get your answers ready, and be prepared for more questions coming from COPA! We’ll be using an added hashtag, #ArchivesAWARE, to make it easy to follow our questions.

See you Wednesday!

#AskAnArchivist Day 2017 participants list

 

A COPA Guide to SAA 2017

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Just one month to go until the annual conference in Portland!  As you plan your conference schedule, take a look at the Committee on Public Awareness (COPA)’s guide to all things public awareness-related at SAA 2017: https://archives2017.sched.com/committeeonpublicawareness.

To make it even more digestible, we’ve broken down the Sched list into the top 5 things you should check out.

1.) Be sure to catch our 2nd annual Advocacy Forum on Thursday at noon!  Our timely topic is “Archival Advocacy and Awareness Amid Social/Political Upheaval.”  This talk will be moderated by COPA chair Sami Norling and the Committee on Public Policy (COPP) chair Dennis Riley.

2.) Chat with us during our COPA office hours in the Exhibit Hall on Friday.  We’ll be there from 8 – 8:30 am and 12:30 – 1:30 pm.  We’ll be collecting your Federal Funding Impact Stories, ideas for Ask An Archivist Day 2017 (October 4, 2017), nominations for inspirational archives speakers and stellar collections, and soliciting contributions to this very blog!

3.) Still not sure what COPA does?  If you arrive early, join us for our meeting on Wednesday at 2:00 pm.

4.) Staying late?  Take advantage of all of The Liberated Archive sessions, happening throughout the day on Saturday.

5.) Finally, look at all of that green in the middle of our schedule.  There are so many great sessions highlighting archival outreach to the community this year.  You’re sure to find one which fits your particular public outreach interest.

See you in Portland!

Federal Funding Impact Story #5

Project: Music Quest

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Granting Agency: Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS)
Grant Program: LSTA Grants to States
State Library Administrator: California State Library
Grant Program: Eureka! Leadership Program
Institution: Contra Costa County Library
State: California
Congressional District: 11th California Congressional District
Grant Period: 2014-2015
Award Amount: $5,000
Institutional Match Amount: $5,000

Project Description
Music Quest was created to help supplement the lack of music programs in the lower income community in Pittsburg, CA by offering free music workshops for teens, which allowed them to learn the fundamentals of playing musical instruments, improve their reading and social skills, and to help them learn how to integrate music into their
lives.

What was the need for the grant?
The objective of implementing this program at the Pittsburg Library and Oakley Library was to offer lower income youth an introduction to music at no cost, which would enhance their understanding and knowledge of music and empower them to seek out other musical opportunities. After doing extensive research it was determined that music is a highly effective motivator for teens and as I have seen first hand it can change a teens life to learn to play an instrument.  After delivering the guitar and drum workshops, it was clear that the students were learning basic skill levels in guitar and drums and would be able to continue to play on their own. After these workshops, these students began to understand the power of music lessons and wanted to continue with instruction to further their skill and knowledge.  Some of the students were at the time of the workshop sessions homeless and despite their challenged living situation they attended every single workshop.  It became clear that when the teens were learning and playing the instruments they became inspired, motivated, and wanted to learn more.  They also connected with their fellow peers, bonded, and some formed lasting friendships and are still connected even now.

What has been the primary impact of this project?
Music Quest participants were evaluated on attendance plus participation and were given a survey at the end of the workshop series in order to gauge increased skill level, opinion of the workshop content and the instruction process. By observing the workshops and evaluating the surveys, the results proved that all of the teens that participated in the guitar workshops ended up with more than a basic understanding of the different parts of the guitar, tuning, and were able to learn chord progressions and drum beats. The program definitely had an impact on the local community.  Partnerships were made with the City of Pittsburg and Pittsburg High School, Freedom High School in Oakley. Local music instructors were chosen to give the lessons and spent many hours working with the teens at the library.  Local musicians visited the sessions and a special finale concert was put together for the community to gather together to see these amazing teens play instruments.

A total of 87 students participated in the Music Quest program over a one year span at the library.  After taking the music lesson workshops, these students began to understand the power of music lessons and wanted to continue with instruction to further their skill and knowledge. In addition, through the workshop survey, it was determined that all of the students that participated in the guitar and drum workshops agreed that music is a lifelong source of enrichment and became much more interested
and aware of music opportunities available to them such as careers in music, recording, and sound management.

Submission by: Kimberli Buckley, Community Library Manager, Contra Costa County Library