2014 Report of SAA Executive Director Nancy Beaumont

August 16, 2014

Society of American Archivists
2014 Annual Membership (Business) Meeting
Saturday, August 16, 11:15 am – 12:30 pm
Marriott Wardman Park, Washington, D.C.
Report of SAA Executive Director Nancy P. Beaumont


Thank you, Danna.  It is my pleasure to provide a summary report of SAA’s activities in Fiscal Year 2014.


[Slide 1: Strategic Plan]

The Strategic Plan for 2014-2018 that the Council adopted in January served as the framework for the Society’s priorities and work plans throughout the fiscal year.


[Slide 2: Goal 1.1.]

Goal 1.1. is to promote the value of archives and archivists to various audiences.

SAA doesn’t have a million dollars or more a year to spend on a lobbying firm or paid advertising or PR counsel or additional staff.  But we now have two volunteer groups dedicated to promoting the value of archives and archivists to various audiences and educating decision makers about the importance of archives and archivists. 

The Committee on Advocacy and Public Policy is concerned with influencing public policy decisions of government at all levels. 

The brand-new Committee on Public Awareness, created in May, is focused on influencing opinions among the general public and stakeholder groups other than legislators and regulators.  The two committees will collaborate to ensure a coordinated approach to SAA’s priorities and communications.  COPA met for the first time in mid-July and, as you’ll soon be seeing everywhere, SAA members are COPA’s #1 target audience.


[Slide 3: Goal 1.2.]


CAPP’s current focus is on preparing briefs and talking points that address issues outlined in SAA’s Advocacy Agenda.   In FY 2014, the Council adopted well-thought-out and well-presented issue briefs on the Presidential Records Act, FOIA, and, in collaborations between CAPP and the Intellectual Property Working Group, Orphan Works and Section 108 of the Copyright Act.  At this conference the Council adopted a brief on the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) developed in collaboration with the Science, Technology, and Health Care Roundtable, and in the works is a joint statement – with CoSA and NAGARA – on ensuring adequate funding of government archives and archival programs.

Bill Maher, past president of SAA and current member of the Intellectual Property working Group, represented SAA steadfastly and well at two sessions of the World Intellectual Property Organization’s Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights, placing SAA at the international table on critical copyright issues.

SAA’s Education Department worked with content experts David Carmicheal and Jelain Chubb to offer at DC 2014 a very-low-cost full-day pre-conference workshop on advocating for archives, and we hope to make available a webinar on the topic in the fall.  Projects for FY 2015 include development of an advocacy toolkit, in collaboration with several component groups, and provision of additional practical resources on the website.

As you’ll hear from Kathleen in a few minutes, the linchpin to progress toward Goal 1 will be widespread member involvement in promoting and advocating for archives and archivists.  You are your legislators’ constituent.  You have the most direct access to your users and resource allocators.  You are the most important medium because you’re in the best position to carry forward a compelling message based on your knowledge and passion for what you do.  SAA’s job is to craft plans and messages and provide low-cost, low-barrier tools and training for you to use in your own advocacy efforts.


[Slide 4: Goal 1.3.] 


In working toward the third priority within Goal 1 – that is, providing leadership in ensuring the completeness, diversity, and accessibility of the historical record:

  • The Diversity Committee issued a call for case studies on Diversifying the Archival Record and sponsored a forum on the topic at this annual meeting;
  • And the Council will set aside a few hours at its November 2014 meeting to have a “mega issue” discussion about what SAA might do to address this priority.


[Slide 5: Goal 2.1. and 2.2.]


Goal 2 is all about providing content, via education and publications, that reflects the latest thinking and best practices in the field – via methods that are accessible, affordable, and keep pace with technological change.

To that end, we implemented 112 face-to-face courses and workshops during the year, serving the needs of 2,729 attendees.  Eighty-eight of those courses were related to SAA’s Digital Archives Specialist (DAS) curriculum.  We now have 835 individuals pursuing a DAS certificate and 89 individuals who have been awarded a DAS certificate.  The numbers are kind of staggering, really….

DAS isn’t the only game in town, of course.  The Committee on Education has also completed revisions and updates of four popular non-DAS courses and has under development two webinars – one on records management for archivists and one on EAD 3 – and a new Council-approved curriculum on arrangement and description.

On the publications front:

Trends in Archives Practice is SAA’s new open-ended series of modules featuring brief, authoritative treatments that fill significant gaps in archival literature.  Each module deals with a discrete topic relating to the practical management of archives and manuscripts in the digital age.

The modular approach enables SAA to be more agile in the development phase and to provide the information in “chunks” at an affordable price.  As the modules are developed, readers are encouraged to mix, match, and combine them in ways that best meet their needs.  Nineteen modules are now in various stages of production.


In addition, Publications Editor Chris Prom and the Publications Board have begun implementation of a plan for publishing the Archival Fundamental Series III.


2014 also saw publication of Conceptualizing 21st Century Archives, by Anne Gilliland.


[Slide 6:  2013 Joint Annual Meeting]

[Slide 7:  2014 Joint Annual Meeting]


And, of course, in FY14 we convened again in New Orleans, this time to celebrate the city’s renaissance since our 2005 visit, and we did lots and lots of planning for ARCHIVES*RECORDS: Ensuring Access – our largest annual meeting ever!


[Slide 8: Goal 3.1.]


Every professional association is—or should be—in the business of advancing the profession it serves.  That concept is addressed in the specific subset of ideas captured in Goal 3.

To address identifying the need for new standards, guidelines, and best practices and leading or participating in their development:

  • SAA developed Best Practices for Internships as a Component of Graduate Archival Education (adopted in January 2014) and
  • Best Practices for Volunteers in Archives (adopted by the Council at this meeting).  These guidelines serve to clearly define the relationship between volunteers and archival organizations to provide a more positive and rewarding experience for all parties.
  • The Committee on Ethics and Professional Conduct recently issued a call for ethics case studies that will assist members in their professional growth.
  • The Standards Committee’s technical subcommittee on Encoded Archival Description will soon issue EAD 3, and the Archival Facilities Guidelines technical subcommittee is hard at work on a revision of that important set of guidelines.


[Slide 9: Goal 3.2.]


Our long-standing professional journal is at the top of the list of the ways in which SAA fosters and disseminates research, and Journal Editor Greg Hunter and the Editorial Board continue to publish the best and the brightest.  In the category of no deed goes unpunished, though….  In early April we received a termination notice from MetaPress, the hosting service since 2007 for The American Archivist Online.  We’ve assembled a group led by Paul Conway to find the best possible alternative to MetaPress to ensure uninterrupted – and, we hope, improved – access to the electronic version of the Journal.

For the past few years, the Journal Editorial Board has hosted lively brown bag lunch discussion groups to explore a forthcoming and provocative Journal article.  Two such groups met in New Orleans and again during this conference.

Participation in SAA’s Research Forum has increased each year since its inception in 2007, thanks to the efforts of Nancy McGovern and Helen Tibbo, and this year more than 150 people were preregistered for it.  Each year many of the presentations are published on SAA’s website as proceedings of the Forum.

And we’ve steadily increased participation by Annual Meeting presenters in posting their materials on the conference website.  Please encourage speakers to send in their abstracts and slide presentations!


[Slide 10:  Goal 3.3.]


We’re attuned, perhaps more than ever before, to the importance of “relevant partnerships and collaborations” – and it’s becoming more natural and, well, automatic, for us to think in these terms.

Our efforts in FY14 with external organizations focused on this Joint Annual Meeting (a true collaboration of the three sponsoring organizations) and on formation of two new joint task forces with the Rare Books and Manuscripts Section of the ALA:  One on Standardized Holdings Counts and Measures for Archival Repositories and Special Collections Libraries and the other on Standardized Statistical Measures for Public Services.

Somewhat loosely related to this goal is the work of the Dictionary Working Group, which has been engaging the professional community in identification and development of new terminology and review of existing terms in the process of building the new Dictionary of Archives Terminology.  I hope that you’ve noticed – and maybe participated in – Word of the Week, which premiered on July 23.  More than 700 subscribers already have igned up for the weekly e-blast.


[Slide 11: Goal 4.1.]


The strategies laid out for Goal 4 are challenging, beginning with facilitating effective communication with and among members.

We’ve been busy improving access to many of our communication vehicles based on the excellent recommendations of the Council-appointed Communications Task Force:

  • The new mobile design of our biweekly e-newsletter In The Loop has been well received by readers. Both open rates and click rates are the highest they’ve ever been and, according to Mail Chimp, are open rate are well above average!
  • Last winter we launched the digital edition of Archival Outlook, making it easier to share the newsletter’s content. At the same time, we removed the embargo of recent issues; AO is now open to all when it’s published.  So pass it along!
  • Matt Black, our tech guy, has continued to refine our Sched.org-based conference website and this year launched a native app for the conference that we hope you’ve found useful.
  • As I mentioned, more than 700 individuals already have subscribed to the Word of the Week email blast.
  • And work on redesigning the website continues, with a goal of completing it early in calendar year 2015.


[Slide 12: Goal 4.2.]


Work to create opportunities for members to participate fully in the association has taken on several forms:

The Council adopted a Code of Conduct originally proposed in the spring by two SAA members.  The Code is intended to create a safe space for members and others as they participate in SAA meetings, events, and online spaces.

The Council charged a Task Force on Member Affinity Groups to look into options for strengthening affinity groups to ensure that they allow for member participation and meet member needs.

We explored child care options for this conference to ensure opportunities for parents to attend and participate.  We’ll be looking into co-op and other options for Cleveland next year.

To make SAA annual meeting content more accessible to members, we posted audio recordings of past conferences from 2006 to 2012, making them freely available, and we negotiated provision of MP3 downloads of this conference for just $30 – considerably more reasonable than the $149 for CDs in past years.


[Slide 13:  Goal 4.3.]


We have worked to enrich the association and profession with greater diversity in membership and expanded leadership opportunities:

  • Via the IMLS-funded Mosaic Program in conjunction with the Association of Research Libraries.  You’ve heard about the five Mosaic Fellows in the current cohort and I hope you’ve had a chance to interact with them at this conference.
  • We continued to provide the Mosaic and Forman scholarships and the Pinkett Minority Student Travel Award.
  • And Kathleen Roe’s process for appointing individuals to various boards and committees for the coming year gave careful attention to the need to continue to include diverse voices.


[Slide 14:  SAA Foundation]


On the operations front:

We dedicated time and resources to ensuring a successful Annual Appeal for the SAA Foundation, resulting in the largest-ever yield from the appeal.  The new Foundation Development Committee began drafting both short- and long-term goals for fundraising, and the Finance Committee began work on granting guidelines.  You’ll be hearing a lot more from the Foundation in FY15!


[Slide 15:  Membership]


As SAA Treasurer Mark Duffy will describe, FY14 was a remarkably successful year financially.  Participation in the DAS program and in the 2013 Joint Annual Meeting far exceeded our expectations, even as book sales continued to decline.  We ended the fiscal year with 6,179 members, just 10 shy of our highest month in FY14.  But the big news, in case you missed it in the run-up to this conference, is that as of July 30, SAA membership totaled 6,224, the highest in our history!

What makes me especially proud of that number is that it’s not due to the actions of any one person or group.  It’s due to SAA sections and roundtables that are connecting with their members through good communication and innovative activities.  It’s due to committees and boards and working groups that are developing products and services, issue briefs and standards.  It’s due to a Council that is willing to wrestle with big issues like jobs and diversity and to lay out a strategic plan.  And it’s due to SAA’s 12 staff members, who are completely committed to this organization’s success….

We’re just scratching the surface of SAA’s very ambitious strategic plan.  When I look at our membership and financial numbers, when I hear the ideas of our committees on public awareness and standards, Publications and Editorial Boards, Business and RAO sections, Issues and Advocacy and SNAP roundtables, I’m convinced that we’re on our way to achieving the goals set out in the plan.

As is my tradition, I’d like to say a few words about the four Council members who are retiring today.

Terry Baxter:  Baxter, Baxter, burning bright…. Your unique world view keeps us on our toes.  Just when I think that I know what you’re going to say on an issue, you tap into a well-reasoned contrarian view that inevitably surprises me.  I hope you keep surprising all of us….  See you in Portland!

Elisabeth Kaplan:  To brilliant and fashionable Beth Kaplan, passionate advocate for excellent, technology-based communication, transparency, and seeking member input on all matters, thank you!  And thanks for helping me keep things in order….

Bill Landis:  To Bill Landis, aka Pogonippy, who has the unique ability to think really, really big and the willingness to dig into the finest details.  Our unmatched liaison to component groups – it’s not a coincidence that Bill’s assigned groups are among the most active and productive.  To Bill, our Intelligentsia addict, thank you!

Danna Bell:  And to Danna Bell – she of kind heart, amazing ability to synthesize and cut to the proverbial chase, and uncanny knack for keeping meetings running on time – thank you, Danna!

We hope to be working with all of you on SAA’s strategic issues – the Strategic Plan that you all developed – for a long time to come.

It is my privilege to serve as SAA’s executive director and I thank you for the opportunity to address you today.

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