Alison Clemens, Candidate for Nominating Committee

Alison Clemens

she/her or they/them
SAA must move beyond stated commitments and toward making actual structural changes. I hope to play a role in selecting anti-racist candidates who will take an intersectional approach to leading SAA in this important work.



I am an archivist at Manuscripts & Archives (MSSA), Yale University, where I manage MSSA’s accessioning and processing program, teach instruction sessions, and serve on committees dedicated to archival description and access to cultural heritage. I’m interested in user experience in special collections; uniting technical services with front line user services; and the ongoing education, development, and support of cultural heritage workers, broadly conceived. I have a strong interest in incorporating anti-racist and anti-oppressive practices into all aspects of my work, and I’ve been especially honored to convene the Abolition in Special Collections group of the Abolitionist Library Association, to charge and work on a reparative description project at my university, and to serve on the SAA Archival Workers Emergency Fund Organizing Committee.

My leadership work with SAA thus far has been in chair positions on the Membership Committee and its Mentoring Program Subcommittee, the Manuscript Repositories Section (MRS), the Committee on Education, and the Archival History Section. I was especially pleased to have worked on a project within the MRS to provide résumé and cover letter reviews for MRS members. I brought that experience to the SAA Membership Committee, where my colleagues on the Career Development Subcommittee are implementing a new virtual career center to provide résumé review services remotely, rather than just at in-person SAA Annual Meetings. In the Rare Books and Manuscripts Section (RBMS), I serve on the Diversity Committee and have served on an RBMS conference planning committee, as RBMS web editor, on the RBMS membership committee, and on a task force to outline core competencies in special collections librarianship. I have been glad to have helped coordinate the RBMS Diversity Committee’s reading group and to have led the Diversity Committee effort to provide DEI-focused feedback on the ongoing revision of the RBMS security guidelines.



My perspective on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) extends beyond archives, but I’ve tried to scope it to the field for the purposes of this statement. I’ll address my own perspectives on DEI work in this statement. In the question posed by the Nominating Committee, I’ll address how, specifically, I’d bring that perspective to the committee’s work.

Within SAA, my primary—but not exclusive—interest in DEI pertains to how SAA can support archives workers. I believe SAA has an obligation to build and support a more racially and ethnically diverse profession. I have also been troubled by the transphobia and ableism I’ve witnessed in our profession. In my conversations with students, new professionals, and other colleagues, I’ve heard from numerous folks about the ways in which the profession has not been welcoming to or inclusive for them. Changing this is imperative and requires dedicated, thoughtful, and creative attention to making tangible, impactful changes. SAA must move beyond stated commitments and toward making actual structural changes. I hope to play a role in selecting anti-racist candidates who will take an intersectional approach to leading SAA in this important work.

I’d like to share a bit about my own perspectives and practices pertaining to DEI. I am a white woman and make it an ongoing priority to incorporate anti-racist and anti-oppressive practices into my work. I do my best to seek, implement, and model inclusive facilitation practices. I recognize that I have my own perspectives that are forged by my various identities, and I try to take seriously the perspectives and lived experiences of my colleagues. I try to take feedback and criticism with a grateful and open heart. I take my mentorship and leadership responsibilities seriously; I am grateful for the opportunities I have been given in this profession and try to extend those opportunities to others, especially to those new to the profession or organization. I care deeply about setting people up for success, which can be challenging in a complex and bureaucratic environment like SAA or Yale. I would be honored to leverage my perspectives and experiences in service of the SAA Nominating Committee.



According to the SAA Council Statement on Black Lives and Archives, "The labor of dismantling white supremacy and structural racism in archives, and beyond, does not rest solely upon our Black membership and other people of color. White archivists, who comprise a vast majority of the field, have a responsibility to disavow racism daily in society and in our profession." How do you interpret the Nominating Committee's role in decreasing structural racism in the field to make it more equitable for BIPOC archives workers?


As the body that assembles the leadership candidate slate for the SAA election, the Nominating Committee’s work is tightly scoped yet tremendously impactful. If I am elected to the Committee, I intend to work with my fellow Committee members to build a diverse slate of candidates. I want to recognize BIPOC leaders through their inclusion in that candidate slate, specifically, and I also want to identify and select leaders with thoughtful approaches to or experience in diversity, equity, and inclusion work, particularly as it relates to labor, professional development, or organizational belonging. I want to prioritize BIPOC candidates for SAA leadership roles, specifically, while also recognizing that BIPOC archivists cannot and should not be expected to do this work without the support and labor of white archivists. I also want to consider queer, trans, or disabled candidates, specifically, and want to extend opportunities to new leaders. I have observed that the same people often serve in leadership roles with SAA, and I would want to balance recognizing an ongoing commitment to the organization with a desire to bring in, support, and grow new leaders. Identifying and fostering new leaders would serve those leaders and the organization by a) providing development opportunities for those leaders, b) bringing new perspectives to the organization, and c) ensuring the ongoing vitality and member-responsiveness of SAA.

I recognize that this moment in SAA is a potentially pivotal one, as the Society will soon be poised for some administrative changes due to the retirement of its Executive Director. I expect that the coming year and the years immediately following will be moments that are ripe for organizational change. I also recognize that our profession—and the world—is encountering a series of crises (e.g., COVID-19 and its impact on labor and workplaces, the ongoing promotion and reproduction of white supremacy, the climate crisis) to which we will need to respond in adept, creative, and thoughtful ways. I hope to serve a role in identifying leaders who are poised to meet these challenges in service of our profession and its workers.



Slate of Candidates

The Nominating Committee has slated the following SAA members as candidates for office in the 2021 election:

Vice President/President-Elect



Nominating Committee