Monday, June 8, 2015

RAO Opportunity: Communications Liaison

The RAO Steering Committee is seeking applications for the RAO Communications Liaison position. The position description is included below and details the essential functions of this volunteer opportunity. To apply, please send a resume/CV and a brief letter of interest that describes your skills and experiences to Lisa Sjoberg ( and Rachael Dreyer ( by Monday, June 22, 2015. Please let us know if you have any questions.

We look forward to receiving your applications!

All best,

Lisa Sjoberg, RAO Chair
Rachael Dreyer, RAO Vice-Chair/Chair Elect

Position Description for RAO Communications Liaison

The communications liaison is appointed by the RAO chair, with the advice of the Steering Committee, for a term of two years, which may be renewed indefinitely. The communications liaison serves as a member of the RAO Steering Committee. The communications liaison is responsible for issuing two newsletters annually to the Section membership. The communications liaison is also responsible for using various communication modes, such as the Section listserv, Facebook, and SAA publications, to communicate with the membership about news, events, and other items of interest to the Section. To do so, the communications liaison collaborates closely with the web liaison and interns to distribute consistent, clear messages to the Section membership and to the archival community more broadly. Specific duties of the communication liaison include:

·         taking minutes at steering committee meetings and distributing them for review and approval,

·         soliciting content for the RAO newsletter,

·         creating and distributing the RAO newsletter,

·         soliciting and posting content for the RAO blog,

·         distributing announcements and messages to the RAO membership through a variety of channels including, but not limited to, RAO listserv, Facebook, Twitter, RAO Blog, etc.

Desired knowledge base:  Knowledge of publishing platforms, such as Microsoft Publisher or InDesign. Experience with social media tools, such as Facebook and blogs, is beneficial though not required.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Wanted: Hot Topics and Cool Demos

The 2015 RAO Program Committee seeks Hot Topics and Cool Demonstrations for provocative conversation and deep thinking at the SAA Annual Meeting in Cleveland, OH.  On Thursday, August 20, 2015 from 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm, RAO will host its fourth annual Marketplace of Ideas and seeks purveyors of hot topics and cool demonstrations to sell their wares to a savvy audience of RAO archivists.

What is an RAO Hot Topic?
An RAO hot topic is an issue, a concern, an idea that has sparked recent attention in RAO circles.  It can be something that seems novel or cutting-edge; it can be an enduring issue that is garnering new attention or approaches. 

What Makes an RAO Hot Topic HOT?
An RAO hot topic can be provocative and even fractious; it can also be surprising and funny. Above all else, a hot topic should engender passion, engagement and excitement.   

What is an RAO Cool Demo?
An RAO Cool Demonstration is a presentation of an approach or technique that has enhanced services, simplified processes, or transformed workflows and approaches. It could be a simple fix or adaptation, or a reinvention of the wheel.

What Makes an RAO Cool Demo COOL?
An RAO Cool Demo should be widely applicable to RAO archivists and simple enough to explain in a low-tech manner in a short period of time.  Think of it as an app that works without a mobile device.

Make a Proposal…

Applying to purvey hotness and coolness is simple and easy:

1.  Draft a brief description of the demonstration or hot topic and explain how and/or why it relates to reference, access, or outreach archivists and their work. 
2.  Come up with a working title.
3.  Determine who will lead the demo or moderate the discussion (this may be you, so talk to yourself).
4.  Please go to this Google form to complete the online proposal application.
5.  Deadline to apply is May 15, 2015.
6.  All applicants will be notified about the status of their proposal by June 15, 2015.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

RAO Hot Topics Blog Series: Exploring Solutions to Providing Access to Born Digital Materials

By: Mary Manning, University of Houston, SAA RAO Section Past Chair

While great attention has been placed on best practices (although somewhat nascent) established for accessioning, processing, and preserving electronic materials, it seems that comparatively very little attention is given to how we provide access to these materials. Solutions for access to born digital materials lag behind. Yet these resources are preserved and processed precisely so they can be used by researchers, just like their analog counterparts.

What are our colleagues doing to provide access to born digital materials? What are the largest barriers to providing access? Are best practices for born-digital access taking shape yet? If so, what are these best practices? Is there a roadmap that archivists can follow to guide them to their desired destination of providing access to these valuable resources?
There are two groups that I know of who are working hard to answer these questions. The first is a research study while the second is an RAO working group.
A research study being conducted by the research team of Rachel Appel (Bryn Mawr College), Alison Clemens (Yale University), Wendy Hagenmaier ( Georgia Institute of Technology), and Jessica Meyerson (University of Texas at Austin) comprise the first group. These archivists note that archivists “lack empirical data that might empower those working with born-digital materials to map the landscape of born-digital access efforts and to work together to design future access solutions.” They hope to begin to help fill that gap by documenting existing trends, challenges, and forward strides in providing access to born-digital materials—in terms of both policy and practice.
Through a mixed-methods study (a survey conducted in fall 2014 and semi-structured interviews conducted in spring 2015), they aim to gather data and uncover insights about what types of institutions and professionals are working to provide access—and where, when, and how. They hope to highlight not just what those institutions and professionals have accomplished already or what they're tackling right now. Their study also “endeavors to capture the landscape they envision for access in the future.”
Anonymized data from the study will be made available to the profession, along with analysis of current trends and possibilities for further research. During a session at the 2015 SAA Annual Meeting, the research team will share a brief analysis of the findings and facilitate a hands-on hackfest to begin designing achievable best practice models for access. SESSION 110, Born-digital Access Hackfest: Collaborative Solution-Building for Current Challenges, is scheduled for 8/20/2015, 11:00:00 AM to 12:00:00 PM, and the research team hopes to see you there. I know I will be there.
The second group working to answer the questions is the Access to Electronic Records Working Group, which is co-chaired by Rachael Dreyer and Amy Schindler. Greg Kocken is the leader of the initial research subgroup, Alexis Adkins and Jarrett Drake are the leaders of the bibliography subgroup, and Stacey Lavender is the leader of the survey subgroup. The RAO Steering Committee approved the formation of the working group in June 2014, with the charge to investigate and share current best practices for providing access to electronic records.
The initial research subgroup went to work immediately as the work of the other bibliography and survey groups depends heavily on the initial research group’s findings. Members investigated current best practices, current strategies/technologies, and challenges. The subgroup’s work included surveying the professional literature from 2002 to 2014 from the U.S., Great Britain, and Australia to identify current technologies in use to provide access to electronic records.
The bibliography subgroup is working on an annotated bibliography and has been considering where and how to present the bibliography online, access points, the audience, scope, and other questions. The subgroup has already found that with the limited resources addressing access specifically, their work will dig into related works and broader topics to compile the parts related to access.
Additional information about the Access to Electronic Records Working Group’s efforts is available at
As the research study group noted, to date, we, as a profession “lack empirical data to empower those working with born-digital materials to map the landscape of born-digital access efforts and to work together to design future access solutions.” However, this research study group and the RAO working group are making great strides mapping out that landscape, by gathering, analyzing, and making available information to the rest of us looking for solutions for providing access to born digital materials.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

RAO Hot Topics Blog Series: Michiana Memory

By: Alison Stankrauff, Indiana University South Bend, RAO Steering Committee Member

In May 2014, Indiana University South Bend Archivist and Associate Librarian, Alison Stankrauff collaborated with Joe Sipocz, Manager of Local & Family History Services at the St. Joseph County Public Library, and George Garner, Tours and Collections Coordinator of the IU South Bend Civil Rights Heritage Center. They worked together and were awarded a 2014 Indiana Memory Digitization Grant for their project proposal entitled St. Joseph County African American History Collection. 

As part of this project, the website Michiana Memories ( was created.  

The two institutions, Indiana University South Bend and the St. Joseph County Public Library have paired the rich content from their African American historical collections together to make a resource that tells a more representative story of the South Bend, Indiana area. This is an area that has been under-documented in general – as a smaller blue collar “rust belt” Midwestern city. In particular the area’s marginalized communities have not had their voices heard; this project remedies that.

Some of the items available on the website include photographs from the Dr. Bernard Streets Collection, which includes photos from the 1880s until 1999; a nearly complete run of The Reformer; a South Bend African American newspaper printed 1967 to 1971; and historical documents and studies on race and housing in South Bend. A more detailed list of items included in the website is available here: .

“Digitally scanned, cataloged, and presented together online, our combined archives document the history more completely than each of our institutions could do on our own,” said Sipocz. Stankrauff concurs. “Institutions partnering really help make history more representative and rich. This partnership helps to make that happen." 

The Michiana Memories collection will also be included in the Indiana Memory ( and Digital Public Library of America collections (

The project had a big public kick-off event the evening of February 3rd at the Civil Rights Heritage Center on South Bend’s west side. Attendees had a chance to use the website and enjoy community and academic presenters such as Ball State University’s Dr. Nicole Etcheson ( speaking on Southern Indiana’s soldiers of color during the Civil War.

This event was also tied into the South Bend 150th anniversary celebration ( – the city’s year-long birthday party, which is full of community events through all of 2015.

Stankrauff, who is active in local history and a member of the Civil Rights Heritage Center ( faculty advisory committee, is excited by the impact this collection will have on the community. “This project helps to tell the full story of Michiana,” she notes. “It adds the voices and stories of local African Americans and activists to show the amazing and important history we all share.” The project began in January 2014, when Sipocz contacted Stankrauff and Garner about applying for the grant. The fact that the three organizations were working together and combining their resources and skills was an important part of the grant's success.

“African American and civil rights history get lost all too often,” said Garner. “To have a state of the art website that allows easy access to this history for Michiana’s schools, for its universities, and for researchers across the United States is a huge accomplishment. When we honor the history of all our communities, we prove that South Bend is a city that honors its diversity.”

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

RAO Hot Topics Blog Series: Using Assessment to Build Outcome-Based Information Literacy Sessions

RAO Hot Topics Blog Series

Using Assessment to Build Outcome-Based Information Literacy Sessions

Greg Kocken, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, SAA RAO Communications Liaison

I still remember my first experience getting in front of a group of undergraduate students tasked with helping them develop archival information literacy skills.  In all honesty, I likely walked away from that session learning more than those students.  Delivering my first information literacy sessions, I relied heavily (admittedly, too heavily) on utilizing PowerPoint.  This is how I was taught to teach information literacy, but I soon realized that this approach was not effective at connecting with students.  My only evidence, however, was anecdotal.  It quickly became apparent that I needed a stronger assessment strategy. Nearly four years ago, I began utilizing modified versions of two surveys distributed through the Archival Metrics Project, the Teaching Support survey and Researcher Questionnaire.[1]  I developed one survey to distribute to the instructors I worked with and another for the students who attended instructional sessions I delivered. Although my responses from students were generally very positive, once I discontinued my use of PowerPoint, I observed a noticeable increase in the overall positive responses from students.

These surveys were simply a preliminary step towards developing outcome-based information literacy sessions.  An effective assessment strategy is constantly evolving.  In addition to these surveys, I now conduct post-session meetings with instructors, develop and review assignments designed to gauge comprehension of archival information literacy skills, and participate in a peer evaluation process.  This holistic approach to assessment allows me to constantly improve the information literacy sessions I deliver. 
This assessment strategy has greatly improved my performance as an instructor, and allows me to make stronger connections with students.  Over the years, like other archivists who deliver information literacy sessions, I learned several things through an evolving assessment strategy.  First, a one-size-fits-all strategy does not work in archives.  When your goal is connecting with students across various disciplines, you must treat every information literacy session differently; there is no script.  Second, active learning opportunities are popular and effective.  When students have an opportunity to explore, engage and discuss archival materials they are more likely to retain information.  Third, exploring resource discovery tools is a necessary evil.  Instructors have repeatedly told me they want more hands-on experiences and less time discussing the nature of a finding aid.  In comparison to reading a 19th century pioneer’s letter, who wants to talk about the finding aid?  If, however, the goal is to help students not only understand the content but also the context of archives, then discussions of resource discovery tools is necessary.  Finally, I learned that the foundation for outcome-based information literacy sessions is a strong assessment strategy.

[1] Learn more about the archival metrics project online at

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Join the RAO Section Leadership Team!

The 2015 Nominations and Elections Committee for SAA’s  Reference Access and Outreach Section is accepting nominations for candidates to run for Steering Committee membership (2 positions) and Vice-Chair/Chair-Elect. Nominees must be current members of the Society of American Archivists and the Reference Access and Outreach Section to be considered by the committee.

Steering Committee members serve a two-year term, with the appointment beginning at the annual meeting.  The Vice Chair/Chair-Elect position is a three-year service commitment, with the elected person serving for one year as Vice Chair, succeeding automatically to the office of Chair for the following year, and concluding service with a third year on the Steering Committee as the Past Chair.

To nominate yourself or others for Steering Committee or Vice Chair/Chair-Elect, please visit

The deadline for submitting nominations is 12 p.m., March 1, 2015. The committee will review all nominations to select a fabulous slate of candidates for the 2015 election. If you have questions about the nomination process or about serving as a leader for RAO, please contact members of the 2015 RAO Nominations and Elections Committee for additional information.


2015 RAO Nominations and Elections Committee
Erin Lawrimore (
Alison Stankrauff (
Mary Manning (

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

RAO Hot Topics Blog Series: Reaching Out to Undergrads at UNCG

RAO Hot Topics Blog Series:

Reaching Out to Undergrads at UNCG

Erin Lawrimore, University of North Carolina-Greensboro, SAA RAO Steering Committee Member

Current SAA President Kathleen Roe kicked off her "Year of Living Dangerously with Archives" initiative at the 2014 annual meeting in Washington, D.C., by strongly encouraging all archivists to take bold actions in promoting the significance of archives and archivists to society. She stated that "if we are going to get beyond the point where archives and archival records are used in modest amounts, for a modest number of purposes by a modest range of users, then we also have to raise awareness of their value and importance."[1]

At the University of North Carolina at Greensboro's Special Collections and University Archives, we've taken Kathleen's challenge to heart. While we do have projects that are aimed at increasing awareness of our resources to University faculty, staff, and administrators, we're purposefully trying to increase awareness among our student body population (particularly undergraduates). While we certainly aren't the first archives to do any of these outreach activities, we are in all likelihood the first (and probably only) who will reach our student population. Some examples of our activities aimed at raising awareness among the undergraduate population include:

·         Pop Up Archives.  Like popular "pop up" restaurants, our "pop up" archives exhibits are well focused in terms of content and strategically planned in terms of location. We want to be where the foot traffic is. The university center, the student recreation center, and even the sidewalk outside of the library building are great locations for engaging students. Each exhibit is tailored for the location (history of athletics at the student recreation center), is up for only 90 minutes or so (timed to coincide with lunch or a change in classes to increase foot traffic), and is small enough to fit on a card table (making planning and transportation simpler).

·         Campus Tours for First-Year Classes. While many first-year students might not make use of the archives as a research resource, many are quite interested in learning about the history of the place that will betheir home for the next four years. To engage these students, we work with instructors teaching the University's Foundations for Learning (FFL) courses, which are required of all incoming students, to schedulea historic walking tour of campus during one of their class sessions. During the tour, we provide the standard facts about the University's history - but the piece that most students love most is that we also incorporate our three campus ghost stories into the general tour. In Fall 2014, we conducted tours for 18 FFL courses (approximately 250 students).

In addition to these types of targeted activities, we're taking an approach of "archives everywhere." We want our records and knowledge of our department's work to be spread across campus. We are using exhibit cases and bulletin boards in the library as well as in the university center to display reproductions of selections from our holdings. Our social media accounts are followed and retweeted/reblogged by the main University accounts as well as other accounts that reach large numbers of students (Admissions, Student Government Association, student newspaper, etc.). Our digital signage in the library building includes frequent references to University Archives and our current exhibits. And our promotional postcards, which include a historic photograph as well as links to our social media and digital collections, are available at all of the library's service points.

These approaches don't require a significant change to the work we've done in the past, but they do extend our reach far beyond the small percentage of students who physically come into the archives for a class. While we may have some students who graduate and remember only the "awesome ghost story the lady from the library told me," we've made an impression and, for many more, hopefully sown a seed of awareness for archives and the work of archivists.

[1] Kathleen Roe, "The Year of Living Dangerously with Archives" (speech, Washington, D.C., August 16, 2014), Society of American Archivists Annual Meeting, For more information on the "Year of Living Dangerously with Archives" initiative, see