Call for Member Comment: Best Practices for Internships & Best Practices for Volunteers in Archives

The SAA Council is seeking member comments on Best Practices for Internships as a Component of Graduate Archival Education and Best Practices for Volunteers in Archives. Both documents are now slated for their first periodic review since being approved in 2014. This initial call for comments will be used to determine if a review committee is needed to prepare substantive revisions to either or both of these best practice documents.

Best Practices for Internships as a Component of Archival Graduate Education is a suggested set of guidelines for graduate students, archival educators, and archivists serving as intern supervisors. These guidelines also refer to the nature of work, compensation, communication, agreements, and evaluations in archival internships as well as unpaid internships to post-graduate internships. SAA defined this set of overarching recommendations common to most good programs so that academic programs can use these to shape internships that meet their unique missions and pedagogical goals. 

Best Practices for Volunteers in Archives is a set of suggested guidelines for archives institutions and organizations that engage with volunteers. There are many opportunities for volunteers to assist in increasing access to the archival record. Volunteers require a significant commitment on the part of the hosting institution, however, as organizations must invest a great deal of staff time and expertise to create and manage a volunteer program.

The SAA Council welcomes member feedback on both best practices documents. Please review and submit your thoughts in the comment box below or by emailing saahq@archivists.orgDeadline: Wednesday, August 1.

6 Comment(s) to the "Call for Member Comment: Best Practices for Internships & Best Practices for Volunteers in Archives"
RWoody says:
Comments Regarding: Best Practices for Internships

A new comment I've not seen yet is: This document is predicated on internships being offered "as a component of graduate archival education", yet many internship opportunities offered and promoted by SAA are not in partnership with an academic authority who can provide educational benefits and proper oversight to an internship experience. I would like to see this clarified and addressed in the best practices. I have two suggestions: 1. If this document remains strictly tied to "internships as a component of archival education" I recommend that having an academic advisor be a REQUIRED feature of all internships promoted by SAA; and/or 2. This document is opened up to cover ALL internships and gathers additional checks and balances in order to safeguard interns who are in situations where they are receiving internship experience but not under the purview of an academic advisor.

Comments I agree with and want to expand upon:

I agree with Neely2014: “I suggest we consider making it mandatory, to discuss these guidelines with host institutions prior to the start of an internship, to ensure the experience is clearly beneficial for all parties.”

Many host institutions, especially those outside of established cities on the east coast, are often ran by volunteers and/or professionals not in close association with the archival field. It would benefit SAA membership, interns, and organizations if the host institutions received support from SAA and/or archives professionals. Providing education to host institutions in these circumstances should be considered a priority as they need additional professional assistance to understand: 1. What their (as the host institution) needs are in archival terms; and 2. What's reasonable and lawful to ask interns to do.

I agree with mattfrancis: "As others have already mentioned, due to the level of work produced by graduate interns, academic credit alone should not be viewed as fair compensation for internships. Most interns are not only having to pay tuition for the academic credits that they receive, but there are often other additional costs that an intern must shoulder, such as transportation. Finally, it should be noted that many labor studies scholars have researched and written on how reliance on unpaid internships help perpetuate structural inequalities in our society and professions due to how the financial realities place less of a burden on individuals from more affluent backgrounds (and it should also be considered what this means for SAA’s committment [sic] to increasing diversity within our profession)."

Unpaid internships are still considered a requirement within archives graduate work - a tradition that is becoming increasingly outdated. It is known that unpaid internships perpetuate inequality as those who aren't affluent cannot afford to spend money AND give away unpaid time to an unpaid internship. This is a known cause of our professional homogenization, and further sustains a lack of diversity and representation within the field. As diversity is a stated SAA priority, I would like to see this substantially addressed.

As kwmorse states: "Echoing @matienzo - The problem with considering course credit as appropriate compensation for work done during an internship is problematic specifically because schools offering internships for course credit usually (always?) require the intern to pay tuition for those credits."

Not only is the internship unpaid, the student must pay money for the internship opportunity. This isn't compensation. This is pay to play - an unfair and unreasonable practice, and one that shouldn't be supported by SAA. 

Listed on this page (https://www2.archivists.org/standards/best-practices-for-internships-as-...), end of the statement: "In response to one comment suggesting that only paid internships are acceptable (i.e., granting of academic program credit is not acceptable), the drafting group determined that this position is untenable given the ways in which graduate programs currently are organized."

The drafting group states that "this position" aka "only paid internships are acceptable" is "untenable". In reply to this decision and statement of position, I counter that requiring students to pay for their internship experience (in order to received credit) is even more untenable. Paying for academic credit in order to receive an unpaid internship is a luxury - it is NOT compensation. 

In order to address this, I like kwmorse's suggestion of: "Compensation for Student Internships: Given the value of archives work and the skills possessed by archives graduate students, interns should receive compensation (in the form of an hourly wage, tuition waiver, or stipend) for their work commensurate with the qualifications required for the position. Graduate internships without compensation should be ..."

Conclusion: Unpaid internships is a practice that devalues the archives profession, even if academic credit is provided. I encourage SAA and its membership to remain vigilant in what we allow as best practice in our field. I ask SAA as job posters and promoters to implement this document as a means of vetting internship opportunities as there have been several questionable internship posts over the last couple of years. We need to do better.

I thank SAA for opening up comments on these guidelines, especially as it's 19 months past due for the stated January 2017 review. I look forward to seeing a more robust best practices document - one that is used by SAA and host institutions so that we may ensure the integrity of our profession.

Neely2014 says:
Best Practices for Internships as a Component of Archival Gradua

Thinking back to my experience as an internship supervisor, I would suggest that the Best Practice Guidelines, be given to, and discussed with, the host institution prior to the start of an internship.

It’s easy for archival professionals to gage what can and cannot happen, given the parameters of a proposed internship.  The gray area lies in the expectations of the host institution: their needs, which can be more expansive than originally outlined, and the fine line of not turning an archival educational experience into a substitute for unpaid work.

The guidelines as drafted, are broad enough to cover many types of internship opportunities.

I suggest we consider making it mandatory, to discuss these guidelines with host institutions prior to the start of an internship, to ensure the experience is clearly beneficial for all parties.

 

mattfrancis says:
Best Practices for Internships -- feedback on "fair compensation

 

In the text of the webpage that contains the PDF attachment for the Best Practices for Internships it states that after receiving comments the drafting group "added language specifying that unpaid internships are not acceptable, particularly as replacement for paid staff." Unfortunately, the attached document does not contain language reflecting this statement, and instead states: "Given the value of archives work and the skills possessed by archives graduate students, interns should receive compensation (in the form of academic credit or a stipend) for their work commensurate with the qualifications required for the position. Graduate internships without any form of compensation should be rare to avoid devaluing the professional nature of archival work."

As others have already mentioned, due to the level of work produced by graduate interns, academic credit alone should not be viewed as fair compensation for internships. Most interns are not only having to pay tuition for the academic credits that they receive, but there are often other additional costs that an intern must shoulder, such as transportation. Finally, it should be noted that many labor studies scholars have researched and written on how reliance on unpaid internships help perpetuate structural inequalities in our society and professions due to how the financial realities place less of a burden on individuals from more affluent backgrounds (and it should also be considered what this means for SAA’s committment to increasing diversity within our profession).

 

kwmorse says:
regarding course credit as compensation for internships

Echoing @matienzo - The problem with considering course credit as appropriate compensation for work done during an internship is problematic specifically because schools offering internships for course credit usually (always?) require the intern to pay tuition for those credits.    

How about rewording that paragraph (from BPfIaaCoGAE, page 2) as follows? -

Compensation for Student Internships: Given the value of archives work and the skills possessed by archives graduate students, interns should receive compensation (in the form of an hourly wage, tuition waiver, or stipend) for their work commensurate with the qualifications required for the position. Graduate internships without compensation should be ...

matienzo says:
Review of both documents

Regarding the Best Practices for Internships, the version linked from that page does not reflect any of the additional language regarding unpaid internships. The language instead appears to be much softer and identifies "fair compensation" as a target. A clearer definition for this would be useful. It is also inappropriate to view academic credit earned through internships as compensation (which is specified in the link draft on page 2), given that students within an internship likely have to pay for the credit hours they would be earning from their program. Finally, I'd remove the reference to Omeka itself (see top of page 2) and perhaps replace that with it relating to metadata guidelines for a digital collections project.

Regarding the Best Practices for Volunteers in Archives, recognition of volunteers choosing to work in archives as a means to complete court-ordered community service is also worth some degree of mention. In my view, this directly relates to points 2 and 8 in the recommendations. Clearer guidance here is welcome and worthwhile.

Morrisst says:
internship best practices

The guidelines correctly stress the professional nature of an internship.  While working with several interns, I included a review of the intern's resume. A project proposed to the internship faculty supervisor anticipated a "complete project" resulting in a finding aid or a simple digitizing project.

The guidelines look well done.