Tuesday, August 18, 2009

RAO Mission Discussion Group

The Reference, Access, and Outreach Section's annual meeting included breakout sessions for members to discuss issues of interest or concern to them. This is the first post sharing notes from those discussions. We hope those in attendance as well as those who could not attend will share further thoughts, suggestions, and reflections on these topics in the comments. This feedback will then be used by the Steering Committee in formulating the section's agenda and priorities as we move forward. If you have any thoughts on the small group discussion format or the annual meeting, feel free to share your thoughts here or with a member of RAO's Steering Committee.

Notes from RAO Mission Discussion, Notetaker: Jan Blodgett

Members of the discussion group made the following suggestions

General issues and concerns

RAO should broaden its focus to encompass all three aspects - Reference, Access and Outreach.- we need to find ways to support and explore both practice and philosophy for all.

Current activities around National History Day and MPLP are good but limited- don=t interest all members.

There is an interest in more focus on the theoretical underpinnings and philosophies of reference and outreach (a recognition of a dearth of new writings on archival reference)

Concern was expressed around the trend in libraries, particularly academic libraries, to eliminate reference departments . Archives were seen as still very much needing traditional reference services, user education - a need for staff presence and meditation for users.

2.0 - we need to be able to step back and look at Web 2.0 activities to evaluate - thinking in terms of research questions such as why are we doing this, what are the rationales, how do people learn best, etc.

Dealing with old perception as reference being objective - of not doing any interpretation - that anyone familiar with finding aids can do reference. There is a tendency within the archival profession to see working with materials as core and with users as ancillary - how can we change that and highlight core skills for reference? Can we find ways to help processing archivists right better finding aids/more meaningful descriptions based on reference experiences? Can we educate our colleagues on how the role of interacting with endusers is now critical?

How can we identify and define a training process for reference that shows that there is a body of knowledge that undergirds reference work?

What do we know about intergenerational learning?

One task of access work is keeping content within a context

Need more discussion and sessions on exhibits - why we do them, how to do them

There is a concern about the vagueness of RAO meetings -are we too broad - should we divide the group or retain a general public services pervue

Outreach and Advocacy are different - we need to be clearer about the distinctions (promoting institutions vs profession).

What is Access - how does it fit with descriptive practices

Is there a conflation of access and outreach with online finding aids?

Potential collaboration with other sections

Privacy and confidentiality & Security - we could be adding user needs to balance their discussions

Electronic Records - how to do reference with electronic records as those collections grow (developing skills with datasets and propriatary data formats, teaching users how to access)

Museum archivists & Congressional Papers roundtable -helping with artifacts, idea of recordness of objects, exhibits, public programming

AASLH and AAM - joint meetings or speakers from or workshop B ask Council for help on being collaborative

Membership - have RAO members willing to answer questions - not necessarily as long term mentors but open to taking questions from newbies

Ideas for Projects to consider

Would like to see more on how reference archivists are dealing with changes in different types of repositories.

Developing or encouraging a reference immersion program similar to ones done by librarians.

Pre-Conference workshop on reference/user instruction

Session or pre-conference workshop on working with diverse users - how to serve and how to attract into profession (include in diversity people with a range of research experience, age groups, etc), consider what barriers we create

Provide a place for examples of online tutorials, case studies (less formal than Interactive Archivist) - a wiki?

Developing tools for assessing new ways of reference - or continuous assessment as we encounter new technologies

Come up with a fun slogan ala Macho Archivists for RAO archivists

Develop a mission statement with goals for the next few years attached to give steering committee guidance, outline to follow.

Guidelines for reproduction & financial issues (publisher contracts)

Have a pre-conference get together for RAO members - visit repositories or have meal together

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