Blog Entry 16: Advocacy as SAA Strategic Initiative

As many of you know, SAA is currently reviewing and revising its strategic plan for 2013-2018.  For all who made comments for the most recent draft of SAA’s Strategic Plan, the SAA Council would like to extend its thanks. This process is never easy, but it is made easier by having an involved membership who truly cares about the future of both SAA and the profession. In many ways, the archives profession is at a crossroads, and it is becoming clear advocacy will be playing a larger role as we work to ensure awareness and support for our profession and its work. We have to educate the public that the preservation of archives is in the best interest of our society. Advocacy is also a personal interest of mine, and I would like to thank the Roundtable for this opportunity to share some recent updates and activities undertaken by SAA. I will finish with Council’s strategic planning efforts and where things currently stand, as well as asking for your ideas and input!

First, SAA is regularly involved with a number of advocacy actions, taken on behalf of the SAA membership. These actions include: 

  • Signed on to a letter thanking the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee for its February 4 letter to the Office of Information Policy (OIP) at the Department of Justice posing important questions regarding OIP’s role in government-wide FOIA policy implementation, compliance, and enforcement (February 2013);
  • Signed on to a letter asking President Obama to bring renewed attention to issues that continue to plague government-wide implementation, compliance, and enforcement of the FOIA (February 2013);
  • Signed on to a letter urging the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence to fix a provision in the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) that cuts off all public access to cyber threat information before the public and Congress have the chance to understand the types of information that are withheld under the bill, thus undermining the right to know under FOIA (March 2013);
  • Signed on to a letter in support of a petition to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) filed by Public Citizen regarding the FDA’s FOIA deletions policy (March 2013);
  • Signed on to a letter in support of reintroducing legislation, the Congressionally Mandated Reports Act, that will require the Government Printing Office to maintain a website that the public can use to search, sort and download all congressionally mandated reports for free (March 2013);
  • Signed on to a letter urging President Obama to appoint a White House-led steering committee to spearhead classification reform, as recommended by the Public Interest Declassification Board (April 2013);
  • Signed on to a letter in support of HR 1133, the Presidential Library Donation Reform Act, which was recently passed by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and would require quarterly reporting of entities that have contributed large sums towards a presidential library (April 2013); and
  • Signed on to a letter thanking the Department of Justice for providing data from its recently released report on FOIA cases filed and decided in the previous year in an open, machine-readable format, which is viewed as a major step toward more openness and accountability (April 2013).

In addition, SAA representatives (including Nancy Beaumont, Danna Bell-Russel, Kathleen Roe, and myself) have been working with representatives of NAGARA and CoSA, to develop collaborative advocacy efforts on behalf of our three organizations. These efforts include the coordination of lobbying efforts and communicating with the federal funding agencies in addition to long-term discussions of the future. Certainly, recent events threatening the State Archives of Georgia as well as issues over the Boston College oral history project demonstrate the need for grass roots advocacy efforts as well as national leadership. At this point in time, many of SAA’s efforts are ad hoc, dependent on the tireless work of dedicated archivists. The strategic plan will provide long-term guidance for how SAA can more effectively coordinate our advocacy efforts.

SAA Council developed 4 major goals related to advocacy and is now working to finalize tactics (how) and specific activities (what) falling under these categories.  The broad goals are:

  • Promote the value of archives and archival practices to society at large
  • Educate and influence decision makers about the importance of archives in the success of their organizations and constituencies
  • Strengthen the capacity of those who work with archival materials to articulate the value of archives
  • Continue to enrich the profession by expanding opportunities for a more diverse membership

Again, Council is currently refining the how and the what—selected specific activities currently included in the draft plan are developing and providing resources for advocacy activities for local, regional, and state communities; developing webinars and workshops for SAA members; the continuous improvement of American Archives Month; and compiling and providing access to “stories” and testimonials based on the shared values of archives. There is much to do, so let’s get started!

What else would the Roundtable like to see included? From May 16-18, Council will be meeting in Chicago to further discuss what SAA would like to accomplish.  If you have any ideas, please send them to me at


Tanya Zanish-Belcher, Senior Librarian

Director, Special Collections & University Archivist

Wake Forest University