Preliminary Recommendations to SAA Council

The members of the Communications Task Force, Dara Baker (Chair), Brad Houston, Eira Tansey and Beth Kaplan (Council Liaison), were appointed in August 2012 with a mandate to “advis[e] the SAA Council on practical ways to enhance SAA's communications with a focus on three areas: intended audiences, content/messages, and tools/channels.”

The CTF has reviewed SAA’s myriad communication channels and tools including “Archival Outlook,” “In the Loop,” The American Archivist, the SAA website and its various components, SAA listservs, and SAA’s use of social media including blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Flickr.

As a Task Force mandated to address communication, we are asking for your feedback on recommendations to improve, streamline, and possibly amend the communication channels you use from SAA. We offer you a first look at our recommendations; these have not been vetted by the SAA Council, though they are fully aware and supportive of the work of the Task Force. This is a chance for you to be heard and let us know your thoughts on how SAA communicates. Please keep in mind that these are preliminary—your feedback can and will have an impact on the report that the CTF submits to SAA Council in August 2013, so please participate.

Dara A. Baker, Chair, Communications Task Force

All comments and suggestions are welcome. We’re specifically interested in finding out:

● Is there a recommendation(s) you like? Please tell us why.
● Does any recommendation(s) cause a negative reaction? How so?
● What would you like to see that is not included on this list?
● Tell us about other issues, tools, trends, you think the Task Force should consider
● How would you recommend that a particular communication channel be used?

You can reach us through any or all of the following means:

● Post comments here to the microsite at the end of the blog
● post comments to Beth Kaplan’s guest blog at Off the Record.
● Send us an email:
● participate in a Twitter conversation using hashtag #saactf

And please don’t forget to take our quick (4 minute) survey:

The deadline for submitting comments is May 4, 2013.


Recommendations (1st Look)

Recommendation 1: Enhance “Archival Outlook”

Archival Outlook provides an opportunity for members to participate in the organization through brief, commissioned articles and profiles. We suggest two low-cost improvements: Transition AO to an electronic publication with an annual “opt in” option to receive a print copy (at no extra charge), and, reformat the existing electronic AO so that readers can link to and cite individual articles.


Recommendation 2: Sharpen “In the Loop”

ITL provides timely information but it has suffered from scope-creep over the last year or so. We suggest that SAA focus on brevity and clarity in ITL, employ use of “view more” and “view less” to ensure a concise visual flow, consider a less conversational writing style, and dispense with the Miscellaneous section. One option would be to move some of the content in ITL to the SAA website or blog (see below), and use ITL to provide links to the fuller content.


Recommendation 3: The SAA website: tweak now, overhaul soon

The SAA website is due for a major overhaul. We see this as a very high priority, one that is supported by data from the Member Survey and ample anecdotal information. We strongly advise that the Council allocate the resources necessary to undertake this thorough revision- even if it comes at the expense of other programs. Just as important, the Council needs to identify and allocate ongoing resources (not one-time funds) to expand SAA’s technological capacity over time. In the short-term, members would be well-served if SAA could solve the dual log-in problem on the website, and reorganize content for basic usability, such as increasing visibility of the Search box and links to social media, and moving most frequently used content toward the top of the homepage.


Recommendation 4: Consider an official SAA blog

We would like to see SAA launch an official blog to complement, but not replace, the existing unofficial “Off the Record” SAA leadership blog. A “News” link on the homepage could link to the blog, which would corral the content currently on the homepage, freeing up real estate on the homepage to showcase important information about the organization and resources for members and potential members. An SAA blog would provide more functionality than the current homepage, affording members the ability to customize the ways in which they receive information from SAA -- a significant need, according to the Member Survey.


Recommendation 5: Emphasize aggregation of relevant content

Any tool that makes it easier for members to use all of the rich content produced by SAA and its component groups would be a hit. We would like to see an aggregator built into the SAA home page (or blog) to pull together, highlight and contextualize social media accounts used by the organization and its component groups. This could be as simple as a list, or something more sophisticated (see, for example, the New York Times’ Twitter feed and blog aggregators. Other aggregators could be used for Twitter, RSS feeds, and for new and/or less-widespread communication channels.


Recommendation 6: Use social media to build on the success of Off the Record

SAA members have made it abundantly clear that they want to get to know their elected leaders better and to engage with them more directly. At less than a year old, OTR has provided a much needed space for this conversation. This is a first step and it raises the bar for future elected leaders. Twitter provides another effective means for elected leaders to listen to and participate in timely discussion of SAA issues, as exemplified by Jackie Dooley’s and other elected leaders’ active presence on Twitter.


Recommendation 7: Make more extensive use of blogs for the SAA Conference

By all accounts, the San Diego host committee’s blog was a great success and provided an excellent model for future host committees to adopt. Why not make a blog a requirement for all future host committees? We’d also love to see a Program Committee blog populated by attendees’ session reviews and comments. The Midwest Archives Conference provides a very well-received model that SAA could adopt.


Recommendation 8: SAA’s Twitter use - more than a broadcast channel

Building on the recommendation of the 2011 Communications Technology Working Group, we recommend
that SAA continue to expand its Twitter use to a more interactive model, as well as using it for promotion and to broadcast announcements. We’ve noticed that SAA staff members have started to use signed tweets to respond to comments and questions posed by the membership on Twitter. This is an effective and not too labor intensive way to respond to a growing Twitter community. The goal is to make SAA’s Twitter feed more of a two-way communication channel while preserving its current functionality.


Recommendation 9: LinkedIn carry on without expending resources; Flickr and Facebook, low cost reevaluation.

We believe that SAA's LinkedIn presence works as designed, no changes are recommended at present. Should be revisited in 6 months or as the LinkedIn portal changes.

Facebook and Flickr are two communication channels that SAA has not fully embraced. SAA should evaluate whether these communication channels are an asset to SAA, and if so, how best to maximize their use. One suggestion is to use Facebook to enhance the host committee and program committee blogs and to use it to as a social network tool for SAA conferences and other conferences that SAA members attend.




Again, please POST/ EMAIL / SUBMIT / TWEET your comments BY MAY 4, 2013. Thank you for your help!

Members of the Communications Task Force
JCassedy says:
Communications Plan

The Communications Task Force ideas were well written.  A very nice job.  Made me want to comment.  Thanks!

I agree with the previous commentator who saw items 1-3 as the best ideas to come out of SAA's discussions on communications.  I am not a reader of blogs, but perhaps an aggregator as mentioned in item 4 would be useful to encourage reading of pertinent material.

What thought has been given to "broadcasting" SAA Meeting sessions?  Would this effect our web-cloud-digital infrastructure? It may prove useful to set up a system of bloggers from each session, as not all sessions are tweeted about equally.  An aggregator will also be useful to bring session blogs to the attention of folks unaware of what may have happened in various sessions.

Resources do need to go to stenghten the SAA Website.  An aggregator would be a useful addition to a revamped website.  Would we need to consider upgrading our technical infrastructure, or would the material all be on the cloud?

I wonder if anything more can be done with Facebook.  One individual seems to think Twitter mainly references Facebook.  Is this true?  How much use is being made of YouTube?  Could sessions be recorded and placed on YouTube, and then links aggregated by the SAA Web Site.

But- Again- Great Job!  Many Thanks!

jjfloyd says:
Good work overall, especially regarding Archival Outlook

I think your proposed changes to Archival Outlook are fantastic.  I tend to read through AO when it comes out electronically, and by the time I receive the print copy I’ve already gotten what I need from the publication.  I would likely choose to not ‘opt in’, and I believe a large portion of the membership would follow me, leading to a significant financial savings.  Additionally allowing greater access to individual articles within AO would allow the membership to more widely share relevant articles to various stakeholder groups. I am an advocate for widening access to recent articles, and don’t feel that I’m losing one of my membership benefits of having exclusive access. My membership in SAA stems from my desire to be actively engaged in the profession and this will not be altered if AO does not live behind a paywall.

Thanks for your work,

Jeremy Floyd

matthewsnyder@n... says:

I agree most strongly with recommendation 1. AO should have gone digital a while ago. And "mission creep" for "In The Loop" is putting it mildly. It should be cut down greatly. There's a lot there that's repeated over and over. Boil it down to what's truly new for that week, and the rest should go on the website. Generally, if it's going out via ANY social media avenue, it had better be timely and substantive.

Regarding the website, eliminating the double-login problem alone would go a long way toward making this user happier. If that requires a website overhaul, so be it. I agree with previous commenters that fewer blogs and tweets rather than more is better. Let OTR develop a little longer before starting any more blogs. 

Faundeen says:
Preliminary Recommendations

All of the recommendations appear sound, but I especially like No. 2.

jennyj says:
In the Loop:  I like this

In the Loop:  I like this email, and second the proposal to move some of the content to the SAA web site, or even social media avenues.  Perhaps this is a communication method where content alternates, for example, A) Council and Education updates, B) Publications and Advocacy.  Then the content rotates on an ABAB schedule.

SAA web site:  My biggest pet peave is the dual look and feel.  It would be great if all the pages could finally be migrated to Drupal and everything would have the blue and white look, and we wouldn't have any pages in the old design.

Great suggestions.

Jennifer Johnson

laurielfrodo says:
Agree with 1-3

I strongly agree with recommendations 1-3. Personally, I wouldn't take advantage of a lot of the other recommendations with blogs and tweets. Knowing I can find all pertinent SAA information and news succinctly in one or two places is easier for me to navigate than multiple resources. Thanks for allowing us to give feedback on this!

DeBol2782 says:
Communications Suggestions

I support most of the suggestions.   The only problem here is that the entire purpose of communications is to provide news and information.  Personally I find myself being blogged and twittered to death.  I would rather see all of this tied together into one website or portal (here I think of places like Business Insider or Huffington Post, which combine news, columns, blogs, announcements).  I think it would be more effective to have "one stop" an Archival Insider website/portal.



maconrad says:
Too much emphasis on blogs

The recommendations are very blog-centric. A short well-crafted blog post is a good thing, but very few folks have the ability to consistently produce such posts. 

Karlene20 says:
Great ideas - maybe hire a Social Media guru?

I think these are all great ideas and I especially like the mention of aggregating all of the SAA relevant social media. But I think some of us who have incorporated social media into our workflows can tell you, it takes a lot of time. Especially if you have a blog(s), Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Pinterest, etc. If SAA were to be more active social media participants, who would be doing this? Or who would be corralling those who were posting, blogging, and tweeting? Maybe hiring someone full or part-time to manage this or suggesting an alternative staffing option should be considered along with the other great recommendations.

akeysnorman says:
Great recommendations

I think all of these recommendations are spot-on, just a few additional endorsements or suggestions:

#1: I like the idea of AO going online, and especially like the idea of making it possible to link directly to an article. I would also like to see the newsletter being accessible to all immediately, without the three-issues backlog. This makes it much easier to share publications with current and/or potential employers who may not be archivists and therefore do not have access to the newest publications.

#3: The website currently is difficult to navigate, and a redesign should be a priority. As information professionals, we need to better represent ourselves and our ability to structure information in such an important mode of communication.

#4: I like CAGeorge's suggestion of using the official blog to promote the work of sections and round tables. That will help to bring out good content that otherwise can be obscured in the daily barrage of the listserv.

#9: I was not aware that SAA had a Flickr presence, and now, having looked for it, I'm not really finding anything, aside from the efforts of individuals and round tables. Obviously there's an issue here! I think focusing on blogs and Facebook would be a better tool to promote SAA's efforts.

gjackson61 says:

In general, I agree with the recommendations.  However, I would not be averse to seeing Archival Outlook disappear and its resources applied somewhere else.  I haven't read it for years.  As for Twitter and Facebook, while I use them for social interaction,  to keep up with hobbies and when I have time, I've not found them to be a particularly useful tool, professionally.

trink68 says:
Communications Task Force

1. I agree with the comments regarding Archival Outlook even though I still prefer paper.  This is the direction that the younger generation is moving and we want to be able to address their needs as we move forward.

2.  I like In the Loop.  However, I agree that it is too dense and there is really too much information.  Whether it is through ITL or another means, getting informationout tot he membership quickly is critical.

3. Some improvements have been made to the website, but it is definitely visually unappealing and difficult to navigate.  I agree with other comments that finding pertinent information can often be really frustrating.  As a consequence, I do not use it as much as I probably should, as I get frustrated in trying to find thngs.

5. Aggregation would be great.  It would allow pertinent and related information to be found be members who might not find it otherwise.

cdibella says:
good recs - my two cents

I think these recommendations are pretty much right on target, so my comments are mainly to reinforce or expand on a few of the points.

Archival Outlook - personally, I would be happy to see this publication go away entirely, but I understand why people like it, both as a bit of light reading and a less intimidating publishing venue. I rarely do more than glance at it. An online version that's user-friendly that has the side benefit of allowing me to opt out of the print and not have a stack of unread AOs lying around the house sounds great to me.

In the Loop - I'd prefer this weekly email to be focused solely on SAA stuff and leave the news aggregation and items of general interest to other platforms. Even though I can't think of the last time I read it on something other than my phone, the mobile-unfriendly format has never particularly bothered me, but I guess that's because I never get too far into it. Most of what's there I'm likely to have heard of through Twitter or Facebook first, but I see the value in collating the SAA-specific information and sending it out on a regular basis to reach people who don't use those platforms.

Aggregation - in general, I prefer to get SAA news from SAA and more general archives and profession-wide news from other sources. Maybe this is because I don't perceive SAA as doing a good job with this kind of thing and if they did it better my opinion might change, but in general I say aggregation of SAA stuff (including whatever the sections/roundtables/constituent groups are doing)- yes; aggregation of general archives stuff - no.

Website - I use the SAA website all the time to look for continuing ed. information, Council news, membership stuff, etc., but it really is terrible. It's hard to find many things and I can't believe how many years it's had that dual login/two different looks to the site thing going on. Please fix this as soon as possible.

Social media - I'm a fairly passive user of social media, but I do use it every day and appreciate that SAA is making attempts in this area. But if you're going to do it, you have to be prepared to engage, not just broadcast information. If you post a blog post that people comment on positively or negatively (and especially when it's negatively), you need to respond and participate in that discussion on that blog post. If a twitter user @replies to something you've posted, you need to reply, and hopefully answer the person's question in that venue. Just posting links to content people can find elsewhere doesn't make it useful to people. (Frankly, I unfollowed @archivists_org on twitter for a long time because of this; I refollowed a few months ago and have definitely seen an improvement over what it was before, though I still think more should be done.)

Also, I know it's tricky to make a distinction between institutional and individual presence and commentary in these venues, but it may be worth setting up SAA Council personas on Twitter/Facebook/blog and having Council members respond to issues out of that so that there's a better sense of what is an official SAA Council take on an issue and what is an individual person's opinion.

Thanks for all your hard work on this. It's exciting to think that some changes in this important area may be coming soon!

Christine Di Bella

Gordon Daines says:
Preliminary recommendations

I think that this Task Force has done an outstanding job in identifying key areas that SAA can improve communication. I think the most important issue that needs to be tackled is the website. I concur with what has been said about user testing and think that SAA needs to use its resources to develop a well-designed, easy to use site. The content currently there is great but the site is not very user friendly.

astankra says:
Thanks for the Opportunity to Comment


I appreciate this opportunity to comment and share some thoughts…. I am particularly interested in:
Recommendation 4: Consider an official SAA blog

Recommendation 5: Emphasize aggregation of relevant content

These – and the other Recommendations – would really, really enhance connection to – and communication with – our professional organization.

Alison Stankrauff
Archivist and Associate Librarian
Franklin D. Schurz Library
Indiana University South Bend
P.O. Box 7111
South Bend, Indiana 46634
(574) 520-4392


Jenny Swadosh says:
All great, timely

All great, timely suggestions.

Recommendation 1: I strongly support pushing Archival Outlook toward a digital format. It would save printing and shipping costs, and make content easier to share. 

Recommendation 3: Please take your time with the website redesign and make sure it works. I spend an inordinate amount of time trying to find documents and statements on the site, only to give up and resort to keyword searches, which I must then sift through in order to find what I want. At least once I've had to leave the site and employ a search engine to locate a public page. Please consider that sometimes this sort of problem isn't a design issue as much as it is an organizational issue. I hope no offense is taken by this observation.

Just a general statement/request about social media: If SAA is going to expand its use of social media, please make sure that vital information is also pushed out through non-social media-based modes of communication, such as In the Loop or the section/round table listservs. There are some of us who don't wish to sign up for every platform under the sun, or we may wish to maintain a separation between our professional and private lives. Of course, this will shut us out of some discussions. This is a given and to be expected. 

CAGeorge says:

Recommendation 2: I agree with this. In the Loop does have some valuable tidbits, but that information is buried under so much information that (to me at least) is useless, I don’t bother reading it most of the time. If there was a way to cut down on the amount of information within one email or to link out, I’d be thrilled.

Recommendation 3: Please overhaul the website. It may not be the worst ever, but it definitely needs work

Recommendation 4: With the official blog, I’d really like it if that blog could highlight blog posts and publications from the various Roundtables and Sections. There are issues that come up in sections that may have broad appeal, but unless you’re in the section or following them on some form of social media, it’s hard to know what’s going on.

Recommendation 6: Although Off the Record has filled a leadership conversation void, I think that the focus should be on continuing to build up the blog before branching out. Perhaps having more frequent posts by more leaders is the way to go. Especially since not everyone is on Twitter.

akmay says:
Tighten it up!

Organizations everywhere are having this same problem. There are so many outlets for information, and you want to use ALL THE THINGS to reach all the people. So you end up with accounts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Flickr, YouTube, Google+, MySpace (okay, maybe not MySpace)... you have a blog, another blog, an email list, an RSS feed, a website, an intraweb, and So Much More. And you're overwhelmed.

You can't update all of these sites with everything all the time, so you end up siloing information and people miss things. The solution, one that my organization and many others have found, is to CHOOSE ONE and master it. Maybe two, if you have a lot of demand. Drop the Flickr and YouTube accounts and post photos and videos to Facebook. Make the front page of the website into a blog with headlines and teaser text, and add the option that people can subscribe to that feed with RSS. Use "If This Then That" ( so that whenever something new gets posted to the blog and therefore the RSS, it updates the Facebook page. Build from there.

Just tighten it up. Take a breath and decide what really needs to be in In the Loop. There's so much to share, and you're excited, I know. But my eyes glaze over whenever I see that much text in one email. I am physically unable to read it all (sorry, I have a slight case of the Millenials).

Thank you, Communications Task Force, for taking a good hard look at this problem and giving Class-A recommendations. I hope that we have the strength to implement them.

DemonBrat says:
Rec. 7: I definitely support

Rec. 7: I definitely support making a blog “mandatory.”  It’s a way to interact with the host committee and get questions answered fairly quickly.  It would also be a great way to identify places of interest in the immediate area of the conference as well is in the greater “city” area.  Local residents could also posts tips and recommendations.

Rec. 8: Wait, SAA has a Facebook page?  Obviously needs to be publicized/used more!


rockivist says:
Readability and convenience

I think the recommendations put forth by the Communications Task Force are generally spot on.  I would add a few considerations:

1) All communications from SAA should put a premium on readability.  I find the current incarnation of In The Loop impossible to read due to the density of the text and other design problems. The content may be excellent, but never manage to read much past the first few entries.  It also doesn't format well on an iPhone, adding to the problem.  Readability is actually a strength of the SAA "extranet" - I find the drupal-based site easy to read.  Whatever the platform, design and readability need to be prioritized otherwise quality content will not reach the audience it deserves.

2) Many of the recommendations get at the idea of making communications more convenient for members and reducing many small but real barriers to communication.  Twitter posts that link to Facebook before linking to content is an inconvenience.  RSS feeds with titles only that don't give sufficient context to understand what a post is about is an inconvenience.  Archival Outlook trapped in a PDF is an inconvenience.  An In The Loop email that isn't smartphone-friendly is an inconvenience. All of these inconveniences may seem minor but they add up and have a negative impact.  As SAA evaluates current or new communication channels, it should ask: is this reaching members where they want to be reached and in the most direct and frictionless way possible?  

3) Others have noted that there is a potential connection Recommendations 1 and 4.  I will add to that idea: Archival Outlook should become the offical SAA Blog.  This would solve the problem of content needing to be addressable and shareable, and would make AO more timely.  And there are numerous precedents for blog content being compiled for print editions, should some members choose to continue to receive AO in paper format.

Thanks to the task force for such well-considered recommendations.  

Mike Rush c

rennatuten says:
Great Job! Great Recs!

Rec 1) Great idea to add the option. Does anyone else feel like they receive this publication rather late? I realize that AO and ITL are different animals but I'm wondering what kind of redundancies there might be in content and duplication of efforts between producing the two different publications as electronic resources. 

Rec 2) I really enjoy In The Loop the way it is; the only thing I might suggest to make it a little shorter is to limit each section to three headlines/stories with links to others. 

Rec 5) Yes, please! It would be great to see the content being generated from SAA and component groups all in one place. Aggregate! I've heard this idea thrown around for a few years now. Please implement.


Great job to those who worked on this!

mwiget says:
Agreed about the website

Agreed about the website overhaul that is needed (recommendation #3)--it can be very confusing navigating back and forth betwee the "old" and the "new" site, and better integration between the two would be really useful.  Finding a way to make certain of the content, such as the standards portal, easier to find, would also be good.  I often have to do a keyword search and hope for the best when I'm looking for something specific on the website, often a resource I want to share with other people.


Re: blogs in recommendation #7--I'm intrigued by a Program Committee blog, and I think this could add some transparency to the program committee's work about how sessions are chosen, as well as other topics related to programming (including as another avenue for panels to help find presenters when preparing sessions).  This could be done without costing the committee the necessary discretion it needs.

helrond says:
These are great - thanks to

These are great - thanks to all of you for your hard work!

I'm not sure about Recommendation 4 - seems to me it would overlap significantly with Archival Outlook and/or In the Loop. That's not to say it's a bad idea, just that it might not be the best bang for the buck.

I'm also surprised that A&A isn't addressed at all in these recommendations.

Lastly, in regards to the SAA website, I'd strongly advocate that any changes made to that site be based on usability testing with real users. This is something that can be accomplished pretty easily and at fairly low cost.

Again, thank you for this work!

elawrimo says:
Archival Outlook -- a print pub online or an online pub?

Regarding #8: My pet peeve is a Twitter feed that consists primarily to links to Facebook. Please stop doing that. :-)

That said, I think your recommendations are spot on. I *love* the idea of having to opt in to Archival Outlook. In fact, I think it would benefit from being an online publication only -- one that can readily incorporate links and multimedia, as opposed to simply being a PDF of a publication specifically designed for print. Even if the articles are broken into individual PDFs to allow linking to specific articles, you still aren't fully utilizing the online publishing format. You're doing the digital equivalent of the early printed books that were created to look like manuscripts. If the focus for AO shifts from being a print publication to being an online publication, you open up a host of new opportunities for how you distribute information.