Response to “Honest tips for wannabe archivists out there”

I really like the ArchivesNext blog.  This is just a quick post to say that.  For example, I think Kate did a nice job summarizing a debate that went on over Twitter in a recent post and reiterating some really important points.  The debate was around loving the “stuff” of archives and libraries versus loving helping others have access to the “stuff.”  Apparently at the ACRL’s Rare Book and Manuscript Section 2012 conference someone said (and then this was subsequently tweeted):

If you love ”the stuff,” you’re closer to getting a job in archives and special collections.

Well, Kate respectfully disagreed, replying:

If you love books/old stuff, collect them. If you love helping people have access to information, become a librarian/archivist.

I think there is an assumption that people come into the (archival, and perhaps preservation?) profession specifically to deal with old stuff and shy away from people and technology.  I’m not totally sure that’s true; I wonder what the results would be of a survey of incoming students to library and information schools around the kinds of materials and collections they saw themselves dealing with in the future.  Really, what percent of these folks honestly think archives are musty old inaccessible places?  My hunch would be that many majored in history and used archives in their undergraduate research and thought that could be a good career path.  But, I didn’t see many fellow students thinking they would only work with paper archives.  Perhaps that’s a product of the incredibly tech-friendly atmosphere of UM’s School of Information, though.

In any case, there ARE old materials out there, and that old (paper) stuff needs curators.  Who are we to imply that we can’t enter this profession loving the stuff and setting up a dichotomy of loving the stuff OR loving providing access to the stuff/loving helping people/loving technology.  I think a healthy dose of loving the “stuff” of your collections can help you help your patrons much better, in a library or an archive.  I, personally, love interacting with people and it’s partly why I went to an information school:  I adored teaching but did not want to teach full-time.  I wanted to be a part of academia, facilitate scholarship, facilitate education and I saw that an information school would help me gain the skills to do that.  I also love science (and STEM) resources, so it’s a dream of mine to help patrons who are interested in those resources.  I love stuff AND people AND technology!  And that’s okay 🙂

On the topic of technology, I think it’s incredibly useful to feel comfortable with technology, if not well-versed in technology.  But, not everyone does.  My school was excellent at providing exposure to technology to students, but for people graduating with a bit more uneasiness around technology or for those who have been in the profession for a while and the technology has drastically changed, I think it’s the onus (or great pleasure?) of the organization to support its staff in pursuing professional development opportunities to become a bit more fluent in whatever useful technologies are out there.

Kate’s post also had a really nice list of advice for those pondering the archives profession and the comments section added to that discussion.  I encourage you to read it!

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