Council Adopts Best Practices for Volunteers in Archives, Revised Terms of Participation for A&A List

Meeting in two four-hour sessions immediately preceding ARCHIVES*RECORDS: Ensuring Access in Washington, DC, the SAA Council adopted "Best Practices for Volunteers in Archives" based on a recommendation from the Standards Committee following two member comment periods.  As noted in the Standards Committee’s support statement for the motion:  "‘Best Practices for Volunteers in Archives' provides basic guidance for archives institutions and organizations about the use of volunteers to ensure a positive and productive experience for all parties involved. As a complement to ‘Best Practices for Internships as a Component of Graduate Archival Education,’ this document provides a necessary and appropriate context for volunteers as distinct from student interns and distinguishes the work of volunteers from that of paid staff."

The Standards Committee’s discussion paper for its recommendation included the following analysis:  “In order to be relevant to the widest variety of archives organization[s], these guidelines are not overly prescriptive but rather outline general principles that should govern the use of volunteers. This satisfies the concerns of members that the guidelines should not place an undue burden on small or community-based organizations that are run by volunteers, while balancing the need to ensure that volunteers do not displace paid staff.  The guidelines recommend compliance with applicable legislation or bargaining agreements governing volunteer activities, where such exist.  They also stress the need for equitable practices in recruiting and working with volunteers and for providing a safe work environment.

"In addition to concerns about volunteers displacing paid staff, members also expressed concern that the work done by volunteers might not comply with accepted professional practices and thereby undermine the integrity of the profession. The guidelines address this issue by recommending that professional staff provide training, oversight, and regular review of the work done by volunteers."

The document will be reviewed every three years in conjunction with review of "Best Practices for Internships as a Component of Graduate Archival Education," adopted by the Council in January 2014.

The Council also adopted revised "Terms of Participation for the Archives and Archivists List" based on the recommendations of a short-term working group appointed to survey list participants and suggest ways in which administration of, and participation on, the list might be improved. The revised "terms" notes that list behavior should be guided by the newly adopted SAA Code of Conduct and includes categories of posts that are prohibited from the list (e.g., discussion on the list of the listserv itself and the behavior of individual posters).  Additionally the revision removes the exception for general humor posts.

The Council agreed that SAA will continue to host the list as a general archives forum that is not restricted to SAA members, and that it will review and evaluate the outcome of the changes in the Terms of Participation at its May 2015 meeting and determine at that time the continuing value of the list.

In other actions, the Council:

  • Adopted an issue brief prepared by the Committee on Advocacy and Public Policy, in collaboration with the Science, Technology, and Health Care Roundtable, on the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act.
  • Agreed to seek member comment on a draft "Principles and Priorities for Planning Joint Meetings with Other Professional Organizations," with further consideration of the document at the November 2014 Council meeting. Watch the SAA website for the call for comments in the coming week.
  • Approved, in principle, establishment of a Joint Working Group on Issues and Awareness with the Council of State Archivists and the National Association of Government Archives and Records Administrators.  SAA President Kathleen Roe will work with the two organizations to finalize a description of the group.

Council members also met with three guests:

  • Institute of Museum and Library Services Associate Deputy Director Robert Horton provided information on the newly formed Coalition to Advance Learning in Archives, Libraries, and Museums;
  • Intellectual Property Working Group member Bill Maher, who has represented SAA at the World Intellectual Property Organization’s Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (WIPO/SCCR) meetings, provided an update and his perspectives on the committee’s progress; and
  • National Coalition for History Executive Director Lee White discussed the current status of archives-related legislation and funding.

Minutes of the August 11-12 and August 16 Council meetings will be published within 60 days and made available on the SAA website at:

The next meeting of the SAA Council will take place from Sunday, November 9, to Wednesday, November 12, in Chicago.  To suggest agenda items, contact SAA President Kathleen Roe ( or Executive Director Nancy Beaumont ( Agenda items are due four weeks in advance of the meeting, or by Friday, October 10.