Let's Talk About the Annual Meeting

The Annual Meeting Task Force has been busy organizing, finding good sources for information, and conducting research, so it’s high time we reported to you, the members of SAA and started this conversation about where we go from here!  If you’re wondering what our charge is, please see the our page on the main SAA website (http://saa.archivists.org/4DCGI/committees/SAATF-AM.html?Action=Show_Comm_Detail&CommCode=SAA**TF-AM&Time=-1866235686).  It’s a big one…  But, in a nutshell, we have been given two years to look at a number of aspects of SAA’s annual meeting, come to some conclusions about what seems to still be working well, what needs to be retooled, and what should be scrapped altogether, and then make our recommendations to Council.  The four major areas of our investigations are:  meeting model, meeting content, online access, and social responsibility. 

The impetus for this investigation came from many sources.  Council, and Executive Director, Nancy Beaumont, address many individual issues each year related to the annual meeting:  selecting venues and hotels, signing contracts, addressing evolving needs like wifi connectivity in our meeting places, signing vendors, responding to requests for new groups who will then need meeting times and spaces, etc.  Combined with member feedback via surveys, individual comments, and discussions on social media, the time seemed ripe for a careful re-examination of the whole annual meeting concept and structure, by an appointed group; it was more than Nancy and Council could take on, in addition to their other duties.  We know that this is a major interest out there, because Vice President, Jackie Dooley received 55 applications to be on this task force, and had the unenviable task of picking the final 27 of us to serve. 

The task force has had one face to face meeting in Chicago of the main TF members, including the chairs of the four subgroups.  It was very helpful to have a full day to raise issues, get to know each other, and talk with SAA staff about likely sources for the background information we will need.  But, true to current modes of communication, this may be one of the few times we will all meet in this way.  Just as we are looking at options like online or virtual conferencing, we will be sharing ideas and information with each other online most of the time.  As we submit interim reports – or come upon interesting examples of new conferencing techniques, we will post them here on this site for everyone to look at – and discuss.

This is called the News section of our website, but we hope it will function as a blog.  If you see something here that sparks your interest, please do comment.  SAA members just log in and post comments.  Not an SAA member?  We’re curious about your opinions, too, as many members have posted on private blogs that their concerns about the annual meeting have kept them from joining SAA, or renewing their membership.  Very soon, you will see a link to your right (“How to post comments if you’re not a member”) for instructions.  In the meantime, just know that non-members can create an SAA “profile” with which to comment here  (check first, you may already have one!)  We’d love to have some of you back to the annual meeting, and your comments will be valuable in making it a better experience for everyone.

So, here’s a question to start off our conversation:  we hear over and over that the most valuable experience for many annual meeting attendees is the opportunity to network with fellow archivists.  This can be at receptions, in the hallways, or at social events away from the meeting.  Believe us, we’re dying for the results of the member survey, due back soon, to see if this impression is validated by survey data.  Nonetheless, when you are making your plans to attend a meeting, do you, instead, justify any financial support you receive by citing sessions and workshops you will be attending?  Have you – or could you envision – making those same requests for support by citing the networking opportunities the annual meeting affords you?  We really want to know what you think, and your responses will help shape our discussions about the structure and content of the meeting.

If you have made it through this long post, thanks for your patience.  Now – what do you think?

DeBol2782 says:
Annual Meeting


Others have mentioned the costs and the problems that many of our employing institutions cannot afford to help provide travel.   As a hearing-handicapped individual, SAA has been helpful in the past with arranging headsets for me, but these only work from the sessions that are being recorded.  So one of the biggest benefits for me has been videoconferences where I can view and see sessions in realtime and boost sound.   I noticed that one of the comments was about pre-recoded sessions; the more I think about this, the more attractive it is.    Many sessions have three people essentiall reading papers or following along a powerpoint presentation; that could easilly be pre-recorded, or online for downloading and the session could be question and answer, moderator, etc.   The heart of many conferences is education in addition to networking.   Many of our sessions have appeal to other occupations (museums, historical societies, oral hitorians, etc.) and a rich annual meeting website would be extremely useful.

Dean DeBolt, University Archivist/University Librarian, University Archives and West Florida History Center, University of West Florida, Pensacola.


tiffanyarchives says:
Networking and job hunting

I agree with most of the comments that have already been posted.  The hotel is too expensive and some of the cities are too expensive. 

Attending the sessions are important because I learn new things and that is why my employer sends me.  But the most important thing at the meeting is networking. Maybe we could have a speed networking event.  I am not new to the profession so I know more people and it is easy for me to meet people, but new archivists may not feel as comfortable.  This way they can meet other people without it feeling awkward. 

My other issue is with the Career Center (I think that is what it is called.) I know most of the ads are put up there from SAA, so not all employers are at the event.  I wish employers could conduct interviews at the meeting if they wanted.  Right now the Career Center is not set up to do this.  I believe ALA and the Texas Library association have on-site interviews as an option.  If an employer puts up an ad while at the meeting, they should set up a time they can at least have informational interviews with potential candidates.  I think this would benenfit the employer and the potential employee greatly.  I just feel like it is an under used part of the meeting.  I really like that people can get their resumes review and get advice.  I know the Career Center can work.  I got a three month volunteer position at a museum because of an ad in the Career Center.  (Yes, I know volunteer isn't a job, but it got me experience in museum archives I needed and was told it was why they looked at my resume at my current job.)  Maybe others have ideas. 

I also want to applaude the SNAP Roundtable for organzing the lunch buddy program.  Great way to network! 

JCassedy says:

Venues always seem to be in the same cities.  Chicago, Washington, New Orleans, etc., at the same old chain Hotels- Hyatt, Hilton, Sheraton, etc. 

Would highly recommend that some thought be given to having conferences in other smaller cities- Portland, Sacremento, Albuqueque, Kansas City, Des Moines, Providence, Buffalo, etc.  Just about all mid-size Cities have some sort of mid-level convention meeting facilities.  The use of smaller hotels- some local, some economc chain hotels (Holiday Inn Express, Hampton, etc.), perhaps "spoked" to a central meeting center would certainly help to reduce costs.  It's amazing the comfortable sleeping facilities one can obtain- with free wifi, and free breakfast, for relatively low cost (sometimes less than a $100 for a double).

If we are using smaller venues and cities, then certainly I suspect that City officials would be happy to participate.  Certainly SAA member dollars would be more widely disbursed throughout these towns rather than the neo-colonial, extractive, "all inclusive" hotels.  Cheaper for SAA members, more dollars for local cities and venues.

As previously noted- it's time to have some sort of Protective language for SAA, here's an example-http://www.hotelworkersrising.org/media/modelprotectivelanguage.pdf

There are a large number of Meeting Planning Services or help pages- I can list a few- http://conferencing.uwex.edu/confplan.cfm, http://www.inmex.org/, http://meetingsnet.com/green/ (Has a search engines for conference facilities in various cities, etc.)

It's a tough job to plan SAA's annual meeting.  But I am looking forward to hearing about what comes up.




rpotance says:
newbie archivist opinion

I'm not in a position to persuade any repository to pay for me to go to the annual meeting because I don't have an employer.  I know I'm not the only SAA member in this situation.  Which brings me to my point: is there anything SAA could do to help un(der)employed archivists get to the Annual Meeting?  What we currently have is a system in which only gainfully employed archivists can afford to go to the Annual Meeting and because of the networking opportunities those people have a huge advantage over the unemployed in getting future jobs in the field while the unemployed fall farther behind.  

Does the conference have to be held in a hotel?  Would it help to reduce costs if it were held in a convention center near a hotel?  Could SAA could get the government to subsidize registration costs for unemployed archivists on the basis that it would help them get a job and reduce the amount governments have to pay out in unemployment benefits?  Is there a way SAA members could attend the conference virtually, thereby saving them from having to pay travel expenses?  Does the meeting have to be held during the summer, which is the height of toursist season in most of the country?  Would it be less expensive to move it to another time of the year?  These are just some suggestions which you may or may not have already thought of.

swoodland says:
meeting location for annual conference

I have found as my budget diminishes for conferences that the recent costs for the conference hotel, as mentioned already, are a problem.  Many of my colleagues have stopped attending, making it harder for me personally to find a roommate. 

I'd prefer meeting in smaller cities in parts of the country where we have never met, where there may be a cluster of big-enough hotels, and people could stay within walking distance of the conference venue.  I understand some of the downsides: it may be more difficult to put together a host committee, it may be more difficult to find direct flights (and flights might therefore be more expensive), it may mean the finances of how SAA pays for the conference rooms have to change, but ultimately I agree that attending in person is critical to getting the most out of the conference in every way - the sessions, the networking, and the spontaneous connections that happen in your brain when there's great input at a conference.

Thanks for your work on this committee!

Susan Woodland

Senior Archivist, American Jewish Historical Society

ktheimer says:
Idea of new activity during the conference

Just saw this posted by the NCPH on Facebook and think something along these lines would be a great idea to include in our future meetings:


A new offering at the annual conference: the Digital Drop-In on Thursday afternoon from 1:30-4:30. Stop by with your questions for our "genius bar" of experienced digital historians who will be offering suggestions on the following topics:
Blogs, Choosing a platform for your digital project, Digital collection and preservation, Creating media for web and mobile consumption (3-4:30 only), Mobile web and mobile apps, Digital projects in museums and libraries, Omeka, Digital oral history projects (1:30-3 only), Project conceptualization/management/ outreach, Scholarly research/communication/ publishing, Social media, Software development management (3-4:30 only), Spatial/mapping projects, Teaching digital skills (1:30-3 only), User-generated content (1:30-3 only), ViewShare (3-4:30 only), Web design (1:30-3 only), WordPress, Teaching history with digital tools (1:30-3 only), Zotero

ktheimer says:
Cost of conference hotel

This is off topic, but I'd like to encourage, wait, no, plead, with you to try to make lowering the cost of attending the meeting a priority. This year's "special" rate for SAA members at the confernce hotel is $199 a night (not including additional taxes). For most members and their institutions, that's pretty damn expensive, and is even more so if you want or need to attend any of the events that take place before the offical start of the conference, such as the Research Forum or Roundtable meetings. I've been told the government per diem rate for hotels in San Diego is $130. 

I know we all have the option to stay at other hotels but many people prefer the convenience and comraderie of staying at the conference hotel. But $200 a night is getting just too crazy expensive for most of us to do that. 

I know there are a lot of issues to juggle, but please don't forget how important this one is. 

lgoodley says:
conference hotel costs

I'll chime in to say, yes! The hotel is extremely expensive and I often stay at neighboring hotels that are more reasonable. Maybe it will be a good thing to challenge the current model, so that changes can be made to that model! I would posit, from conversations with my colleagues, that many people do pay the high cost, or use all of their yearly travel allowance, because the annual meeting is important for our careers and we must go.  

One suggestion is to consider using a service that will organize the conference.  I know there is a cost associated with this, but it might be worth it to let the experts do the legwork.  I believe the midwest archivists use such a service.

marqu897 says:
cost definitely on the radar!


Not to worry - the cost of the meeting is absolutely on our "to look at" list.  Maybe SAA is too big to be hosted by one hotel?  Maybe conference centers will be in our future?  All these issues have been raised and will be researched by the task force members.  Keep those questions and comments coming!

Kathy Marquis

carvann says:
Conference costs

The high cost of rooms at the convention hotels does raise concerns for SAA.  SAA must meet a minimum number of room reservations at the convention hotel or it ends up paying for the costs of meeting rooms.  The convention hotel makes its money off the people who stay at the hotel and the hotels are loathe to offer steep discounts.  Increasingly, though, people are looking for and finding cheaper accomodations at hotels that are very close to the meeting site. If this trend continues, it would threaten our current meeting model.    An alternative would be to meet at a hotel in a smaller market where rates are cheaper, but our attendance at smaller cities is always lower.   It seems people like to meet in larger venues and then complain about the high costs of doing so.  IOW, it's a dilemma.

It would be nice to get feedback from more people as to whether the costs of accomodations are a major problem.  They are for me and for many of my colleagues. 

Carl Van Ness

jasfcartw says:
Two items: 1)response to question 2)Social responsibility

My name is James Cartwright. I do not like that my login is displayed as my name. I want my name used.


First item, I find the annual meeting to be worth so much more than the sessions, even when they are very good. I enjoy meeting with everyone and having the opportunity of contacts. My situation is unusual in that we are so isolated in Hawaii, without SAA I would get very few--or none--opportunities of meeting archivists from the Mainland. So I made it a matter of negotiations when I started here in 1988, that I be given professional leave to attend SAA every year. Frequently, the institution has not helped other than to give me my regular pay, though of course in many years it has granted up to $1,000 toward my expenses. That sometimes does not cover anything beyond airfare. I appreciate the fact of an annual meeting. I really miss not meeting with you.


That leads to the second issue. I did not attend in Chicago because there was a call for a boycott of the hotel over a labor issue. I decided I would not attend in those circumstances. I did attend when SAA held the meeting at the Adams Mark in Denver many years ago while a strike was in effect against the hotel. I reconciled my attendance by staying in the other hotel with which SAA made arrangements. That arrangement made the experience disappinting. I missed the socializing of being in the hotel where everyone stayed. 


There was so much negative feedback because SAA continued the meeting at the Adams Mark that I assumed that SAA would avoid this mistake in the future by drawing up escape clause(s) in the event of a labor issue. Obviously, I assumed incorrectly.


Now it is past time to address this issue. The organization is umbrella to several groups which either hold beliefs similar to labor groups or represent labor groups. To name some: Human Rights Roundtable, Issues and Advocacy Roundtable, LAGAR, and Labor Archives Roundtable. Members of SAA within these groups should not be asked to put aside convictions in order to attend the annual meeting. Likewise other hotels could easily have owner/ management decisions which would impinge on the rights of individuals, not just the laborers. What would be the effect upon attendance if the owners of a hotel in which we scheduled an annual meeting gave a large donation to an organization determined to prevent any abortions in the nation? How many women members of SAA would feel comfortable attending the conference and thereby increasing the profits of the hotel? What if the hotel owners contributed a large sum to white supremacy groups? What would the majority of SAA members ask of the Society? In either of these two hypothetical situations, I would vocally object to continuing the meeting and would refuse to attend if the Society did not alter the arrangments.


James F. Cartwright

University Archivist

University of Hawaii

vagtsrac says:
Social Responsibility


Thank you for your comments about the annual meeting.  I am the chair of the sub-group that is looking at the social responsibility aspect of SAA's annual meetings.  Please know that we are looking very carefully at this issue and appreciate your thoughts on this matter.

Rachel Vagts

College Archivist

Luther College

Annual Meeting Task Force Social Responsibliity sub-group chair

grifsa01 says:
Last year was the first time

Last year was the first time I had attended an SAA Meeting, so I wasn't sure what to expect.  I found the sessions to be the biggest thing that I could say I was looking forward to, as it was explicitly described in the publications.  I didn't realize there would be so many organic networking opportunities that would come out of physically being at the Meeting.  Perhaps it is a stronger justification to cite sessions and educational opportunities, as they are clearly promoted and explained within the mailers.  If there was a bigger section on the networking that can happen at the Meeting, a better explanation of the networking events that were planned, and maybe an article or two about the importance of networking within the field, maybe it would make a stronger funding argument.

marqu897 says:
Networking as an annual meeting benefit

Good suggestion!  I will pass this on to the staff who are compiling the annual meeting program and website.  I think it's tempting to take for granted that networking is a vital benefit of the meeting - and that there will be lots of opportunities for it there.  But, as you say, if it were specifically promoted as a benefit of attendance, it will be easier to cite this when arguing for financial support.  Thanks for your comment!



jordon says:
I think it would be difficult

I think it would be difficult to make the networking argument.  For what it's worth, at a local organization I was involved in, we decided to provide more content-driven meetings (rather than purely social occasions), and we found that the types and size of our attendees grew substantially.  A colleague quipped that before we started doing this, "it was hard to ask for time off to go eat cookies with my friends."

marqu897 says:
Thanks for weighing in,

Thanks for weighing in, Jordon,  Don't be surprised if you find that great quote in our interim report - great capsulization of the dilemma!