Talya Cooper, Candidate for Council

Talya Cooper

Digital Archivist, The Intercept

“Above all, the organization must continue to advocate for improved working conditions and job stability for archives workers, particularly those in contingent positions.”



  • Digital Archivist, The Intercept, 2016–present.
  • Archive Manager, StoryCorps, 20072016.


  • MLIS, Pratt Institute.
  • BA in Anthropology, Barnard College.
  • Fellow, Oral History Summer Institute, Columbia University, 2011.


  • Society of American Archivists: Oral History Section, Steering Committee (2015–2017). 
  • Writers Guild of America East: The Intercept Union, Organizing and Bargaining Committee Member.


  • Anonymity, co-author with Alison Macrina (ALA Editions, forthcoming 2019.)


  • Society of American Archivists: “Resisting Surveillance: Data Privacy Best Practices For Archivists" (August 2017); Special session presentation (August 2015). 
  • Archivists Roundtable of New York Symposium: “SIDToday and SID Tomorrow” (2018).
  • Bitcurator Users' Forum: “The All-Seeing Eye: Archives and Surveillance” (April 2017).



As a governing leader of SAA, how will you use your three years on the SAA Council to provide value to SAA members, to increase opportunities for participation for all members, and to ensure a welcoming and inclusive environment in which SAA members can share, learn, and grow together?


Two through-lines have crossed my career as an archivist. The first is the percentage of my daily work that has little to do with what I learned “archiving” comprised in grad school. The second has been engaging with the key conversations within the field regarding the balance between providing ethical access to materials, and the privacy and security implications such availability could have. Such unconventional working conditions and emergent ethical challenges mark many of my peers’ experiences in the field. As a member of the Council, I hope to elevate and address these concerns.

In two positions titled “archivist,” my responsibilities have included managing staff, news research, UX design, project management, data analysis, and soldering mic cables—but no finding aids. The skill sets defining an “archivist” diversify, while finding permanent archivist positions continues to prove challenging for many. We cannot expect archives program graduates to spend decades bouncing between grant-funded project positions. SAA must work more expansively to educate and support professionals at all stages of their careers to apply the skills they’ve acquired to contexts outside of the universities or cultural heritage institutions where many hope to find work. SAA must welcome people who have diverged from what might once have been a typical archives career but who, because their work is still informed by archival training and theory, still consider themselves archivists. We must avoid stigmatizing any such archives-adjacent work as less valid or important. Above all, the organization must continue to advocate for improved working conditions and job stability for archives workers, particularly those in contingent positions. Having recently led my workplace’s successful unionization campaign, I feel well-equipped to represent and address labor issues within the field to Council and to the larger body of SAA.

I also feel that SAA and its members can make significant social impact—and self-advocate for archivists—by entering broader societal dialogues about digital ethics. In recent years, SAA has taken up important conversations about our roles as stewards of data in a time when data is a commodity—one which has been handled irresponsibly by the billion-dollar corporations to whom we’ve entrusted it, willingly or unwittingly. Questions we have discussed among ourselves and our donors for years regarding the risks and rewards inherent in making information available online have become front-page news. SAA must not merely facilitate these discussions within the organization but also represent archivists’ informed opinions about these issues to the wider world. Our presence within this landscape both allows us to ensure archivists’ needs are represented, but also serves to remind outside organizations—and potential employers—of the knowledge archivists hold and the roles we can play, outside of whatever outdated dusty-library stereotype they might hold.

Finally, as a Council member I would commit to continuing the vital work the organization has begun in the past few years to consider the profession’s lack of diversity and inclusivity, and to figure out how to decolonize our archives and ourselves. Whether in the form of educational materials for grad schools or for conferences or continued conversations in person and online, we must embed this process into our profession.


Slate of Candidates

The Nominating Committee has slated the following SAA members as candidates for office in the 2019 election:

Vice President/President-Elect


Nominating Committee