Erin Lawrimore, Candidate for Vice President/President-Elect

Erin Lawrimore

University Archivist
We must identify and give language to the root evil of white supremacy and reckon with our role in sustaining that evil—a process that will take time and effort. Only when this is done can we attempt true reparative action and move toward becoming a genuinely inclusive organization.



I currently work as the university archivist at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, a position I have held since 2011. Additionally, I am a lecturer for San Jose State University’s School of Information. Previously, I worked at North Carolina State University (2008–2011) and the University of Tennessee (2003–2008).

I initially joined SAA as a student member in 2001 when I began my MS in information studies at the University of Texas at Austin. Since then, I have served in numerous capacities with SAA component groups, committees, and task forces. These include chairing the Description Section (2009–2010), co-chairing the Awards Committee (2011–2013), serving on the Annual Meeting Task Force Online Accessibility Subcommittee (2011–2013), and serving on the Committee on Public Awareness (2014–2016). Currently, I am the blog editor for the Accessibility and Disability Section.

From 2016–2019, I served as a member of the SAA Council. In 2018–2019, my fellow Council members elected me to represent them on the Executive Committee and the Foundation Board. During my time on the Council, we eliminated unpaid internship from the Job Board, developed a program giving section leaders direct access to a small pool of funds, endorsed the Protocols for Native American Archival Materials and stated that many of the initial criticisms were rooted in white supremacy, and shined a spotlight on archivists and archival projects that challenge traditional historical narratives and use archival resources to support justice initiatives.

Additionally, I serve on the North Carolina State Historical Records Advisory Board and the North Carolina Community College Archives Association Board. I also work with numerous local community-based archives to provide resources and training. In these roles, I specifically seek to use my experience and resources as a university archivist to support the work of small, underfunded archives.



Valuing differences and providing fair treatment and equal access are important. But simply providing people with a seat at the table does not make an organization “inclusive.” An inclusive organization uses an anti-racist, anti-oppressive framework to acknowledge its current and past wrongs and to actively ensure historically marginalized communities have the power to make and influence decisions.

In my work as university archivist, I seek not to hide past harms done by our institution, but to amplify hidden histories to tell a fuller story. This is difficult and purposeful work, but work that is essential, particularly given the history of my university, which was founded as a segregated school for white women in 1891 and now is recognized by the US Department of Education as a minority-serving institution where 48% of students are BIPOC. I do this with the recognition that, as a white woman, this is not (and should not be) a comfortable process. I must acknowledge the ways I benefit from the system of white supremacy that remains pervasive today, and I recognize I am not always the person who should be telling these stories. I work with faculty and students to amplify hidden histories, make resources available, and actively document our community through a lens of reciprocity. As university archivist, I acknowledge that I stand in a position of power, and I know that voices that were silenced in the past could remain silenced without explicit effort to uncover them. I believe it is my responsibility as an archivist to do this reparative work and to fight against the systems that perpetuate oppression.

In his 1977 article “Secrecy, Archives, and the Public Interest,” Howard Zinn wrote, “the rebellion of the archivist against his normal role is not, as so many scholars fear, the politicizing of a neutral craft, but the humanizing of an inevitably political craft… Our choice is to follow the politics of the going order, that is, to do our job within the priorities and directions set by the dominant forces of society, or else to promote those human values of peace, equality, and justice, which our present society denies.” Archives and archival work are not and can never be neutral. There is value for everyone in learning a fuller history and in acknowledging how and why these histories were hidden—including the role of archivists in contributing to historical marginalization and erasure.



Among SAA’s strategic goals is to meet members' needs by delivering outstanding service, fostering a culture of inclusiveness and participation, and being proactive and responsive. Identify one factor that undermines diversity, equity, and inclusion in SAA and describe what programs and/or projects you would implement to overcome this barrier.


SAA’s Statement on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion defines “diversity” broadly, encompassing “socio-cultural factors related to individual and community identity, including the attributes mentioned in SAA’s Equal Opportunity/Nondiscrimination Policy” AND “professional and geographic factors, reflecting the Society’s desire for broad participation from archivists working in various locations, repository types and sizes, employment classifications and rank, and professional specializations.” In my experience, this broad definition too often allows us to skirt around candid, necessary discussions about white supremacy.

While SAA’s current Strategic Plan contains a commitment to “continuous proactive steps to ensure that marginalized members of our organization are seen and cared for,” this work could be improved through development of an action plan focused specifically on anti-racist and anti-oppressive action. This action plan would critically explore the legacy and impact of white supremacy on our profession and our organization, use member feedback to develop specific, measurable actions that SAA can take toward dismantling white supremacy, and state a clear, continous commitment of time and funding to ensure this work is sustained through leadership transitions and that the organization is held accountable for carrying out this work.

When I served on the SAA Council, we began each meeting by reviewing the specific goals and strategies outlined in the organization’s Strategic Plan and discussing progress (or lack of progress) toward achieving them. A trained facilitator was brought in to help us think through and review the Strategic Plan. If we want to focus on “fostering an open and inclusive culture,” we should start with ourselves, prioritizing the time and funding for experts in cultural humility and organizational DEAI efforts to work with the Council and membership on an actionable plan, developing a vision of what this work looks like within SAA, and centering this plan in all conversations. An actionable plan focused specifically on dismantling the legacy and impact of white supremacy on our organization and profession would serve as a clear message to guide us across all decisions—across component groups, across leadership transitions, across the goals and strategies of the Strategic Plan.

I am wary of plans and statements that come without funding or clear paths of action and accountability. A statement of values and aspirations without reflective examination, deep engagement, and action is not effective. Committing to developing this type of action plan would allow us to more readily and clearly center questions of accessibility and inclusivity in Council meetings and all other organizational decisions now and in the future, just as the Strategic Plan is currently placed in the forefront to guide the group’s conversations. We must identify and give language to the root evil of white supremacy and reckon with our role in sustaining that evil—a process that will take time and effort. Only when this is done can we attempt true reparative action and move toward becoming a genuinely inclusive organization.



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