2013 Report of SAA Executive Director Nancy Beaumont

August 17, 2013

2013 SAA Annual Membership Meeting
August 17, 2013

Report of SAA Executive Director Nancy Beaumont

It is my pleasure to provide you with a “State of the Association” report for Fiscal Year 2013 (from July 1, 2012, through June 30, 2013).

FY 13 was very much about rethinking how we do things.  Rethinking how we present information, for example. 

  • The Annual Meeting Task Force came forward with many good ideas for both tweaking, and making fundamental changes in, how we develop and implement the Annual Meeting, leading to Council adoption on Monday [August 12] of “Principles and Priorities for Continuously Improving the Annual Meeting.”
  • The Communications Task Force conducted an environmental scan and brought forward to the Council a set of recommendations for improving and enhancing the ways in which SAA communicates with members and others.  On Tuesday [August 13], the Council adopted a directive to staff to implement the ideas of the task force as feasible.
  • The Publications Board launched a number of e-publications in response to members’ requests for information presented in alternative formats.
  • And the Finance Committee has been discussing how we might present financial information in a more user-friendly way.

Rethinking how we present information, yes, and rethinking SAA’s goals and strategies to position the association to meet archivists’ needs in the future. 

Strategic planning isn’t for everyone, but like it or not it’s a critical aspect of the governing body’s role in imagining and planning for the future of an organization.  SAA has accomplished a great deal since implementation of its 2005 strategic plan, but it was time to take a fresh look and the SAA Council started that process in January 2013.

You learn a lot about people during strategic planning.  You learn about their fondest hopes and dreams, their deepest fears and pet peeves – and sometimes you learn about their loathing of strategic planning….  What I’ve learned about the Council and the organization’s members during the past six months of brainstorming (and commenting) and retooling (and commenting) is that you’re both comfortable thinking big and (in most cases) willing to be practical.

To establish the basis for its strategic thinking, the Council adopted a new Vision and Mission and developed a set of Core Organizational Values that in turn guided development of Goals and Strategies.  Those values set a very high bar for SAA and have at their core some major themes, including:

  • Collaboration and participation,
  • Diversity,
  • Continuous Improvement,
  • Transparency,
  • Nimbleness, and
  • Fostering a culture of creativity and experimentation.

You’ve seen and commented on the Goals and Strategies, and most recently had several opportunities to comment on draft Actions.  The Council will be adopting the full Strategic Plan soon, and we hope to develop effective ways of updating you on progress toward the strategic goals via a “dashboard” of some sort.   

The planning process was informed along the way by the work of the Annual Meeting Task Force, whose subgroups researched such aspects of the conference as:

  • Site selection and contract requirements,
  • Social responsibility concerns,
  • Online access and delivery of meeting content, and
  • New approaches to meeting content and structure.

You may have noticed some changes implemented in time for this meeting in New Orleans.  On the site selection front, we have issued requests for proposals based on the task force’s recommendations for the 2015 to 2017 meetings.  And some of you may have heard a rumor about the 2015 meeting.  It’s true – we’re going to Cleveland!

The planning process also was informed by the early work of the Communications Task Force, created in June 2012 to advise the Council on practical ways to enhance SAA's communications with a focus on three areas: intended audiences, content/messages, and tools/channels.  As I mentioned, the group’s very thorough research and recommendations will be implemented as feasible based on our human and technology resources.

In May, the Council created a Task Force on Member Affinity Groups to consider the most effective structures to encourage flexible, inclusive, and participatory opportunities for the membership.  Are our current models for sections and roundtables, for example, as effective as they might be?  The task force’s final report is due in August 2014.

In FY 13 we took care of several governance matters as a means of increasing transparency.  Most notably:

  • The Governance Manual underwent wholesale review and revision by intrepid second-year Council members Terry Baxter, Beth Kaplan, and Bill Landis, ably assisted by staff member René Mueller.
  • We established bylaws for all roundtables so that members are aware of how these component groups are governed.  Those of you who belong to multiple roundtables are no doubt pretty referendum-weary by now….
  • And Treasurer Mark Duffy discussed with the Finance Committee and staff how we might refine the presentation of financial information to ensure that it’s as transparent as possible for all members.

The Digital Archives Specialist Curriculum and Certificate Program – or DAS – was launched in October 2011 in direct response to our previous strategic priority of Technology.  Thanks to the remarkable efforts of the Committee on Education, its DAS Subcommittee, and Education Director Solveig De Sutter, the DAS program grew significantly in FY 13:

I reported last year that 1,100 registrants had attended a DAS course offering (including webinars) in FY 12; today I can report a total of 2,174 DAS registrations as of the end of FY 13.
The program grew from 370 individuals pursuing the DAS certificate to 808.  Fifty-four individuals have completed the nine-course requirement for the certificate.  And 13 individuals sat for the first comprehensive examination here in New Orleans last Wednesday [August 14].

We’re also gratified that 12 local, state, and regional archival organizations – nationwide – and the Association of Research Libraries have signed up to co-sponsor DAS courses.  Clearly the DAS curriculum is meeting a pent-up need – one that the Council identified as early as 2005.

DAS isn’t the only thing going on in Education, however.  In 2013 we had 26 offerings on other topics, ranging from DACS and EAC-CPF to Grant Proposal Writing and Reappraising and Deaccessioning Archival Materials.

For FY 14, we’ve already scheduled 57 programs, are in the process of finalizing another 16, and are working with 24 additional interested co-sponsors to bring courses to their locations, including the Illinois and Kentucky SHRABs.  In all these areas, we’re very, very grateful to our instructors for their commitment to SAA’s professional development program.

On the member communication front:

  • We continued to work with component groups to manage their member communications via their discussion lists and microsites. Several groups expanded their communication capabilities via external websites and social media. 
  • We’re using RSS feeds from the main SAA website that incorporate the component group microsites so that all members are notified when additions are made to the sites.
  • We increased use of Facebook and Twitter – and I think made good progress in crafting our messages to be more suitable to those mediums.  Of course we had a very active Tweeter in Jackie Dooley, and we’ll be challenged to remain THAT engaged….
  • Our member communication efforts certainly were enhanced by Jackie’s active engagement in Off the Record, a leadership blog that launched just before the 2012 Annual Meeting.  I know that Danna is excited about continuing the tradition that Jackie has established.  Stay tuned as guest bloggers share information and pose questions for discussion and feedback.
  • And, of course, just in time for this meeting is our brand new Sched.org conference app, thanks to the efforts of our new Web and IT Systems Administrator Matt Black.  We hope the app has enhanced your conference experience and facilitated networking.


Last year I reported that we had begun discussions with the Association of Research Libraries about collaborating on a grant proposal to pursue expansion of SAA’s Mosaic Program.  We had approached ARL based on the good work done by a subgroup of the Diversity Committee in imagining what the Mosaic Program might become, a vision that was adopted by the Council a couple of years ago.  ARL’s Diversity Office (and Diversity Officer Mark Puente) have  considerable experience with implementing diversity programs.  We were delighted that the Institute of Museum and Library Services granted our collaborative effort more than $487,000 to pursue expansion of the Mosaic Program to include scholarships, internships, and leadership development.  Please help spread the word about the August 23 deadline for program applications!

In addition, the Diversity Committee has been working on a call for proposals for case studies on diversifying the archival record, which will be posted and made available free via the SAA website.  Watch for that call – and please consider submitting a case study.

Advocacy and Public Awareness took a back seat in FY 13 as we focused on strategic planning and governance.  Of course, they figure prominently in our new Goal 1 – and we will simply have to do better in addressing them.  A strong start in that direction was a decision by the Council this week to create an Advocacy and Public Policy Committee, the charge for which will be developed in the next two weeks.  Stay tuned….

I needn’t go into detail about the challenges of dealing with the United States Congress these days.  Suffice it to say that we were once again active in efforts to restore funding to the NHPRC and NEH.  We signed on to numerous communications issued by the National Coalition for History and Open The Government.org on issues of mutual interest and concern and worked to rally SAA members to support the Georgia Archives.

We promoted for the third year our I Found It In The Archives!public awareness initiative.  You met the winner of our national competition, Misty Hurley of Nacogdoches, Texas, at Plenary 1.  We’ve had mixed feedback about the initiative and will be looking carefully at how it might be made simpler and more effective.

If you’re interested in learning more about the basics of public relations for archives, please take a look at the American Archives Month page on the SAA website, which includes an abundance of information about media relations, writing press releases, developing a campaign, and so on.  We hope that you’ll find some ideas to implement for American Archives Month in October – or whenever you can during the year – to increase public awareness of your institution and of archives and archivists.

As SAA Treasurer Mark Duffy will describe, FY 13 was a successful year financially.  Participation in the DAS program exceeded our wildest expectations and the 2012 Annual Meeting exceeded the budget in terms of number of attendees and vendor support. 

And despite tough economic times, SAA membership reached a new high of 6,189 on June 30, up a modest but positive 2% from the same time last year.  We saw growth in every category of Active membership – from ID 1 through ID 7 – and particularly at the lower salary levels.  Institutional membership grew as well.  But we also saw a nearly 10% drop in student members on the heels of a similar decline between FY 11 and FY 12.  Students remain an important part of our membership, of course, and we’ll be exploring whether this continuing decrease reflects a smaller universe of archival students, dissatisfaction with or lack of awareness of SAA, or some combination of these factors.

The substantial net gain from the fiscal year was designated by the Council to the Technology Fund, where it will be used to upgrade our association management software system (that is, our membership database and e-commerce function).  The new Strategic Plan acknowledges the importance of our technology infrastructure in meeting our goal to be an agile association that delivers outstanding service. 

With the Spring/Summer 2013 issue of The American Archivist we debuted a responsive new design.  By moving from footnotes to endnotes as part of that redesign, we’re well-positioned to move into e-reader publication. Subscription revenues for the journal increased by nearly 7% in FY 13.

Archival Outlookattracted both more member-written articles (i.e., nearly 100 members contributed to the publication in FY 13) and a nice uptick in paid advertising.  Ad revenue exceeded budget by $14,000 thanks to the addition of a half-dozen new advertisers.

Relentlessly, In The Loop has brought you news and information about SAA and the wider world of the profession via your email inbox every other week.  We hope that you’re opening and scanning this resource.  The value of this communication tool, too, is being recognized by our industry partners, as we now have four paid ads per issue.

As many professional associations are experiencing (notably the American Library Association), sale of print books continued to decline in FY 13.  The good news is that we saw this trend developing and took steps to develop Trends in Archives Practice, a new series of e-publication modules.  The first three modules update Kathleen Roe’s classic Arranging and Describing Archives and Manuscripts.  In the pipeline are four modules on Digital Preservation Essentials and three modules on Rights in the Digital Era.

It’s clear from the Member Needs Survey that some members want technology-driven options for receiving information.  We must all understand, of course, that “electronic” does not mean “free,” as there are significant expenses associated with creating and producing content even when it’s distributed online.

We produced several new publications during the year:

  • In March, we launched the first installment in the new SAA Sampler Series with the Law and Ethics Sampler, compiled with an introduction by Lisa Mix.
  • In the spring we converted two existing publications, Cal Lee’s I, Digital and Verne Harris’s Archives and Justice, to e-reader formats.
  • Describing Archives: A Content Standard was revised by the Technical Subcommittee on DACS and made freely available via the Standards Portal; the print version was launched in June.
  • And just in time for this conference, two print books:  Perspectives in Women’s Archives, edited by Tanya Zanish-Belcher and Anke Voss, and Exhibits in Special Collections, Libraries, and Archives, by Jessica Lacher-Feldman.

We’re very grateful to all these authors and editors for choosing to publish with SAA.

And we’re especially pleased that Christopher Prom of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, hit the ground running in February 2013, beginning a three-year term as Publications Editor.

SAA’s Annual Meeting occurs near the beginning of our fiscal year, and in FY 13 we had the good fortune to meet in beautiful, sunny, temperate San Diego.  A total of 1,577 paid registrants and 49 exhibitors joined us for that conference, making it the second largest West Coast meeting in SAA’s history.

As for ARCHIVES 2013, we’re pleased once again to be partnering with our Council of State Archivists colleagues and to have returned to New Orleans.  Many thanks to those of you who volunteered your time for one of our six service projects earlier this week – our small attempt to give back to this remarkable community.  Registration for this meeting totaled more than 1,650 and we were supported by 54 industry partners in the Expo Hall. 

And speaking of volunteers:  Among the many volunteers who commit significant time, energy, and expertise to your professional association are SAA’s Council members.  Four of them are retiring from the Council today – but I hope that all will remain actively engaged in SAA for many years to come.

My thanks to Donna McCrea, for her poise, her commonsensical approach to leading and governing, and her wisdom beyond her years….

My thanks to Dennis Meissner, for his hard-won wisdom and his balanced leadership perspective.  With apologies to Meissner and Greene (or Greene and Meissner, depending on who’s within hearing distance), I’d sum up that perspective as:  More progress, less fussing.

My thanks to Kate Theimer, for challenging the Council – and challenging me – to think differently.  We will all benefit from her persistence for years to come.

And my thanks to Jackie Dooley, for her boundless energy and enthusiasm and her positive outlook, and for helping me understand as never before how at least some “description” folks think….

Each of these individuals has committed time and intellectual energy to serving SAA for your benefit.  Please join me in thanking them!

Typically I would also thank the SAA staff for their outstanding work throughout the year. But this year, they crossed me. I took a week off in early July, and while I was gone they announced – via the SAA website – that I would soon be celebrating my 10th anniversary with SAA.  That’s akin to revealing my age!  They’re very, very sneaky people…..  

And they’re also very talented and very committed to serving you and SAA.  I would add to this handsome group our partners at Conference and Logistics Consultants – Paul Henning, Allison Perrelli, and Jacqui Dixon – who, since our 2004 annual meeting, have had it all under control.

I’m grateful for and honored by the hundreds of calls, email messages, and notes that I received in July from SAA members – a good many of whom I’ve never met – as a result of that unapproved announcement on the website.  You make me want to come back every day, and to continue our work together, with open minds in a culture of participation, nimbleness, creativity, and experimentation!    

Thank you.