Dennis Meissner, Candidate for Vice President/President-Elect

Professional Experience: Head of Collections Management, 2006–present; Archival Processing Manager, 1999–2006; Manuscripts Processing Supervisor, 1988–1999, Minnesota Historical Society; and prior positions.

Education: Graduate coursework, American history and archives administration, University of Minnesota, 1978–1980. BA, Hamline University (1976).

Honors: Distinguished Fellow, Society of American Archivists, 2008. Recipient, NHPRC Archival Research Fellowship, 2003–2004.

 Professional Activities: Society of American Archivists: Member since 1980; Council, 2010–2013; Encoded Archival Context Working Group, 2007–2010; Financial Advisory Committee, 2009–2010; Publications Board, Chair, 2003–2007; Technical Subcommittee on Descriptive Standards, Chair, 1999–2001; AAT Roundtable, Chair, 1995–1997. Midwest Archives Conference: Nominating Committee, Chair, 2009–2010; President, 2007–2009; Investment Advisory Committee, 1998–2000; Archival Issues Editorial Board, Chair, 1995–1998; Invested Reserves Planning Committee, 1989–1991; Secretary-Treasurer, 1985–1989. Other: Networking Names Advisory Group, OCLC Research, 2008–2009; EAD Advisory Group, RLG, Chair, 2001–2007. 

Presentations and Publications: Many SAA and MAC workshops, presentations, papers, and consultations on archival processing, description, collection management, and business records. Publications: co–author with Mark A. Greene, “More Product, Less Process: Revamping Traditional Archival Processing,” The American Archivist (Fall/Winter 2005) and “More Application while Less Appreciation: The Adopters and Antagonists of MPLP," Journal of Archival Organization, 8:3 (2011); co–author with Kate Cruikshank, Caroline Daniels, Naomi L. Nelson, and Mark Shelstad, “How Do We Show You What We’ve Got?: Access to Archival Collections in the Digital Age,” Journal of the Association for History and Computing III:2 (August 2005); co–author with RLG EAD Advisory Group, RLG Best Practice Guidelines for Encoded Archival Description (Research Libraries Group, August 2002); “First Things First: Reengineering Archival Finding Aids for EAD,” The American Archivist (1997); "Online Archival Cataloging and Public Access at the Minnesota Historical Society," Archival Issues (1992); "Corporate Records in Noncorporate Archives: A Case Study," Midwestern Archivist (1990); "The Evaluation of Modern Business Accounting Records," Midwestern Archivist (1980).




Question posed by Nominating Committee: One of the goals of SAA’s Strategic Plan is advocating for archivists and archives. What role does SAA play in advocating for the archival profession to institutions, communities, and the American public?

I believe it to be almost self-evident that SAA, as the national and best-resourced US archival association, has a large and prominent role to play in advocating for the archival community. Having said that, however, I do believe that the direct role that SAA plays as as an autonomous agent is considerably less important than the supporting role that it plays as a partner with other archival advocates, including local and regional archival associations, individual archivists, and archival repositories.

In the same sense that all politics is local, the best and most effective advocacy efforts are local as well. SAA can take center stage when national legislation or executive actions directly affect the well-being of archives and archivists. But for the great majority of situations, in which the case for archives and archivists must be painstakingly and repeatedly prosecuted in statehouses, county boards, and host institutions, the work has to be shouldered by local archivists and their local allies. Not only because they are the ones present in those locales, but because it takes local voices—constituents—to engage local power centers.

Having made that distinction, SAA still has a very important role to play in both contexts. The national stage is obvious and generally involves key SAA leaders and staff. But the much larger sub-national arena requires a different sort of engagement from SAA, and the success of that engagement will require three things: collaboration, accountability, and evaluation.

Collaboration will require a steady engagement with local associations and individual archivists—to train, to advise and coach, and to supply informational resources. Accountability demands a robust standing committee to ensure that the ongoing collaboration for advocacy has the tools and resources it needs, that these efforts are scrutinized and enforced, and that communication is effective. Evaluation guarantees that good will leads to good results, and that those results are widely shared and repeated within the organization and across the American archival community.

This is how SAA can address its crucial advocacy strategic initiative so that it marshals its limited resources, ensures practical results, and builds a capacity for advocacy across its membership. We have a prototype for this organizational structure in place with the recently chartered Committee on Advocacy and Public Policy. But we need to keep building out the CAPP so that it has the authority and resources to follow through on this work and be accountable for it, and so that it can partner with Council, educational outreach, publications, and the rest of the leadership structure to make certain that the strategic primacy of advocacy is never diminished.