Shannon O'Neill, Candidate for Nominating Committee

Shannon O’Neill

Curator for Tamiment-Wagner Collections
What is the justice work that SAA is undertaking? What is the justice work that we want SAA to undertake? Where does SAA, as an organization, need to move back and allow its members to lead, and where does SAA need to move up and push for real structural changes?



I am the curator for the Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, a repository within New York University Special Collections that documents social movement activism. Before I joined NYU, I was the director of the Barnard Archives and Special Collections, and I was an archivist at both the Atlantic City Free Public Library and the Los Angeles Public Library. I received my master's of library and information science at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and I am currently pursuing a second master’s in public history at NYU. Prior to becoming an archivist, I worked in numerous service industry and caretaking roles.

My most recent professional work has focused on interrogating the role of the curator. I’m interested in confronting extractive curatorial impulses in favor of relationality; recognizing abundance and redistributing it; and actively challenging the white supremacy, racism, ableism, and heteropatriarchy embedded in archival work and archival education. Related to this, I am a co-editor on a special issue of the Journal of Critical Library and Information Studies on radical empathy in archival practice, and a co-author—along with Jehan Roberson—of “Lessons for Archival Practice from Queer Resistance: Care, Intimacy, and Slowness,” in Grabbing Tea: Queer Conversations on Archives and Practice (both forthcoming, 2022).

In the last ten years, I’ve given time to autonomous archival projects. I was an early Interference Archive volunteer who helped construct their first catalog; I am now collaborating on developing the Organizers’ Resource Library (a digital archive of mutual aid work); and since the uprisings of the summer of 2020, I’ve participated in the Abolition in Special Collections Working Group. Following my graduation from UCLA in 2008, I’ve been an on-and-off-again member of SAA. I recently recommitted myself to the organization, however, and—last year—I served on SAA’s Appointments Committee.



Each candidate prepared a diversity statement according to SAA guidelines.

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Access (DEIA) are every day agreements that I make with myself: to be in right relation with others, to name and interrupt oppression, to hold myself and others accountable, and to commit to processes of learning justice and unlearning oppression. As a white, cis-gender, queer person, I know that white supremacy has benefitted—and continues to benefit—me. As a first-generation student, who has straddled class, and presently lives in the privilege of financial stability, I think critically about capitalism and its influence on archives and archiving. And as an individual who lives with chronic illness, I’m aware that we can and should prioritize care over productivity in our workplaces. DEIA has largely been coopted by institutions, and I want to undermine the bureaucratic turn it has taken. DEIA is not about checking boxes in the interest of organizational optics; the justice work we take up should be ongoing. DEIA should be our shared, radical vision—not one articulated to us from a board room.

My work is framed by a feminist ethics of care, and I’ve been grateful to work with others in the service of justice within our profession. At Barnard, I advocated for eliminating unpaid internships, and fostered—along with Martha Tenney—a well-paid fellowship program that flourishes today. At NYU, I was a part of the Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Belonging, and Access in Collections Working Group; collaborated on a Community Agreements statement for the Special Collections Department; was a co-author of the Harmful Language Statement that now accompanies our archival collections’ descriptions; and I’ve participated in continual reparative description work with my colleagues in Archives Collections Management.

In the last fourteen years as an archivist, I haven’t always gotten it right, and I’m grateful for the loved ones who have called me in. In this way, I acknowledge that I don’t have all of the answers. I believe our collective knowledge and experience is far more powerful than my individual knowledge alone. To this end, I will come to this work with openness, humility, a practice of deep listening, and I aim to ask: What is the justice work that SAA is undertaking? What is the justice work that we want SAA to undertake? Where does SAA, as an organization, need to move back and allow its members to lead, and where does SAA need to move up and push for real structural changes?



The primary role of the Nominating Committee is to identify rising and experienced leaders from within SAA and the archival profession who can bring fresh and diverse perspectives to SAA leadership. Describe how you interpret this core responsibility and how you will work to identify candidates who demonstrate commitment to the SAA Strategic Plan and SAA’s robust commitment to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA).


Black liberation worker and activist organizer, Ella Baker, gives us the concept of “spade work.” Spade work is the small, countless—and sometimes fruitless—act of deep digging that is necessary for building community power. It is the uprooting that allows for growth. We might imagine the Nominating Committee as a form of “spade work;” the Nominating Committee is a space where we, as an organization, can establish the future of SAA in an effort to bring about progressive changes. This is work that should be done horizontally and collaboratively, and—if on the Nominating Committee—I propose that the Nominating Committee work more directly with the membership to identify potential candidates, in particular candidates who are committed to dismantling systemic oppression. This could be accomplished through listening sessions, surveys, or direct outreach. As others have stated, I think it’s imperative, too, that the Nominating Committee reject traditional credentialing of candidates—for example, refusing emphasis on resumes, job titles, or institutional affiliations.

The last two-and-a-half years have been exceedingly challenging, and marked by immeasurable grief and pain. If the pandemic has solidified nothing else for me, it has been a reminder that care work is a necessary strategy, tool, and practice for community survival. Our predominantly white profession is marked by the interlocking oppressions of racism, ableism, gender discrimination, labor inequities, and health disparities. Coupling this with looming climate collapse, it is clear that we need one another now more than ever. If we care so much about our work, then we must also care for each other. We cannot, according to our core organizational values, be committed to “advancing the public standing of archivists” without uplifting archival workers. What is the infrastructure for our collective care, and how will SAA commit to being a partner in building that infrastructure? SAA’s Work Plan on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility offers us a start, and it is the Nominating Committee’s responsibility to select a slate of leadership candidates who will not only carry out this work plan but who will also further it, question it, and move its dial ever-closer to an organization that is situated—first and foremost—in transformation, justice, and care.



Slate of Candidates

The Nominating Committee has slated the following SAA members as candidates for office in the 2022 election:

Vice President/President-Elect


Nominating Committee