Beth Kaplan, Candidate for Council

Professional Experience: University Archivist and Co-director, University Digital Conservancy, University of Minnesota, 2005–present. Interim Director, Archives and Special Collections, University of Minnesota, 2003–2005. Archivist, Charles Babbage Institute, University of Minnesota, 1999–2005. Collections Archivist, Iowa State University Archives and Special Collections, 1998-1999. Assistant Archivist, MIT Institute Archives, 1995-1998. Processing Assistant, MIT Institute Archives, 1994–1995. Intern, John F. Kennedy Library, Audiovisual Department, 1993–1995.

Education: Coursework toward MLIS, Simmons College Graduate School, 1998–1999. MA, History and Archival Methods, 1997. BA, History, University of Massachusetts Boston, 1995.

Professional Activities:  Society of American Archivists: Chair, College & University Archives Section, 2008–2010. Co-chair, Program Committee, 2005. Reviews Editor, American Archivist, 2000–2004. Member, Nominating Committee, 2004. Member, Program Committee, 1999. Midwest Archives Conference: Co-chair, Program Committee, 2001. Assistant Editor, MAC Newsletter, 1998-2000. Member, Program Committee, 1998. New England Archivists: Reviews Editor and Member, Editorial Board, New England Archivists Newsletter, 1998–1999.

Presentations: “Re-conceiving the Notion of University Archives in a Digital Age: Institutional Repositories for University Archives,” SAA, 2007. “Capturing Collaboration: Web 2.0 for Archivists,” SAA, 2006. "Documenting Internet2: Electronic Records Programs for Small Scale Collecting Repositories," MAC, 2005. "Electronic Brains, Archival Minds: Archivists and Information Technology," SAA, 2003. "Something to Declare: Practical Approaches to Postmodernism and Archives," SAA 1999. "Race, Ethnicity, Diversity: What exactly are we talking about?" SAA, 1996. "Archivists, Historians, and the Concept of Visual Literacy," SAA Graduate Student Session, 1995.

Publications: "Making Better Professionals: Reflections on the Writings of Helen W. Samuels," Controlling the Past: Documenting Society and Institutions--Essays in Honor of Helen Willa Samuels, Chicago, SAA, 2011. “Developing Electronic Records Capacity in the Small Collecting Repository: The ‘Documenting Internet2’ Project,” co-author with Dharma Akmon, RLG DigiNews, 2006. “‘Many Paths to Partial Truths’: Archives, Anthropology, and the Power of Representation,” Archival Science, 2003. “We Are What We Collect, We Collect What We Are: Archives and the Construction of Ethnic Identity,” American Archivist, 2000. “’Mind and Sight’: Visual Literacy and the Archivist,” co-author with Jeffrey Mifflin, Archival Issues, 1997.

Awards: Fellow of the Society of American Archivists, 2006. Research Fellow, NHPRC 2002. 

Question posed by the Nominating Committee: SAA has developed three strategic initiatives: technology, diversity, and public awareness/advocacy. If elected to Council, how will you work with SAA groups and members to move these forward?

Technology, diversity and advocacy—first articulated as strategic priorities in 2005—are now substantially embedded in SAA culture in a variety of creative and interwoven ways. Evidence of this progress is not hard to find: see, for example, SAA’s stepped-up collaboration with COSA and NAGARA to advance PAHR, the lively campaign to publicize American Archives Month, the recently published recommendations to improve conditions for archival staff and researchers with physical disabilities, the ongoing development of protocols for Native American archives, the launch of online elections, the implementation—at the SAA office and by each SAA Section and Roundtable—of a much improved online content management system, an increased emphasis on open access to SAA publications and resources, the integration of blogs and Twitter feeds into the annual meeting, and the general expectation that SAA leaders will speak out as visible, vocal advocates for the profession and its underlying principles. This all represents impressive progress, evidence of the extraordinary effort and dedication of SAA members, staff and leaders. The archival community should be proud of these advances.

So what can Council members do to support and maintain the momentum, to enhance and encourage work already underway or envisioned? Council isn’t the only means to achieve this, but its members can certainly play a key role in facilitating what seems to me an eminently doable priority: an increased focus on engagement with two key populations within SAA. Those are emerging leaders, especially those newly ensconced in leadership roles with SAA Sections and Roundtables; and long-time members, including many Fellows who have contributed substantially to the organization in the past but are falling away as their priorities change and as SAA (quite rightly) works to attract new members and to meet the needs of new professionals.

New SAA Section leaders, for example, face a daunting task when they take office. In order to accomplish anything in a year long term, they must quickly master what can be a very confusing array of procedures, policies, and administrative channels. Council members, who know the organization well, who have relatively long terms of service, and who are charged with serving as liaisons to Sections, should make immediate contact with “their” Section chairs and officers, to offer assistance or provide information, and should continue to be hyper-responsive throughout the year as active Sections move forward on their goals. It is extraordinary how much this type of engagement can matter to a Section chair facing a seemingly insurmountable roadblock. And regular communication with Sections and Roundtables—perhaps in the form of relevant updates to the listservs and newsletters—might lead to a more creative use of a Council member’s allotted time on the typically-crammed group agenda at the annual meeting.

At the same time, we must re-focus efforts to engage the “lapsed” leaders, a great, under-tapped resource, who are critical to our future as an organization. A few recent models—most notably the wildly successful Research Forum series, demonstrate that there is an appetite for participation from this cohort.  But more is needed or to sustain and engage them, or SAA will be the poorer. Again, Council members seem to me well-positioned to increase communication through their liaison activities and begin to develop additional strategies.

New leaders and old hands are equally critical in SAA’s quest to advance in the key areas of technology, diversity, and public awareness. If elected to Council, I pledge to dedicate myself to the support and to the engagement of our members, at all levels.