Fellow: Merrilee Proffitt

Merrilee Proffitt, senior program officer at OCLC Research, will be inducted as a Fellow of the Society of American Archivists (SAA) during a ceremony at the Joint Annual Meeting of the Council of State Archivists, the National Association of Government Archives and Records Administrators, and SAA in Washington, DC, August 10–16, 2014. The distinction of Fellow is the highest honor bestowed on individuals by SAA and is awarded for outstanding contributions to the archives profession.

Proffitt graduated with a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of California at Berkeley. While pursing that degree, she discovered her passion for archives working as the office manager for the Regional Oral History Office (ROHO) at the Bancroft Library at Berkeley. Throughout her career, Proffitt has been a trailblazer. While serving in positions of increasing responsibility leading up to director of digital archive development at the Bancroft Library, she was a key project team member for a number of the library’s pioneering digital projects, including the California Heritage Collection, an online archive of more than thirty thousand images illustrating California’s history and culture, and the Japanese American Relocation Digital Archives, which provides documentation of the experience of Japanese Americans in World War II internment camps.

In 2004, while working at the Research Libraries Group (RLG), Proffitt was part of a team that authored the RLG Best Practice Guidelines for Encoded Archival Description, a guide that went on to receive the 2004 C.F.W. Coker Award from SAA. “This important initiative in archival description, which involved a two-continent collaboration, would never have come together without [Proffitt’s] knowledge, energy, enthusiasm, and diplomatic skills,” one supporter wrote.

In her current role at OCLC Research, Proffitt leads the research project Mobilizing Unique Materials, an initiative that seeks new collaborative methods that will allow the unique materials found in libraries, archives, and museums to be “effectively described, properly disclosed, successfully discovered, and appropriately delivered.” In the process of shaping and executing this initiative, she’s authored papers on the scholarly and teaching impact of digitizing collections, as well as organizing events that help shape a new professional point of view, such as the conference Past Forward! Meeting Stakeholder Needs in 21st-Century Special Collections.

One of Proffitt’s supporters noted that she has an “unstoppable quest to improve the profession. She has the intelligence to identify areas in which archives can improve, and the indomitable will to move an archival agenda forward. . . . Proffitt has been the kind of person on whom others rely to get a job done, but to whom they also turn when they want to learn.”

Proffitt is one of five new Fellows named in 2014. There are currently 179 Fellows of the Society of American Archivists.