Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Life As We Know It

Last winter the RAO Steering Committee discussed goals and planning for the section beginning at a draft document. While the conversation included goals that seem to show up in the planning documents for so many organizations - improving and varying communication, increasing member involvement, etc. - one issue that was a sticking point for many of us was the question of the section's mission. We came to a consensus that there is a need to define and relate RAO's three component interests to each other as well as other sections.

At the same time, Steering Committee members had received positive responses from members that the break-out small group discussions during the 2009 annual meeting were worthwhile and an attractive alternative to the usual conference session of presenters talking at the audience and planned a similar opportunity for the 2010 annual meeting. The Steering Committee agreed that at this year's annual meeting a part of the afternoon's agenda will be small group discussions about the R, A, and O. Keynote remarks from Jessica Lacher-Feldman from the W.S. Hoole Special Collections Library at The University of Alabama will precede the discussion and we look forward to what she has to say about what reference, access, and outreach mean to archives today to begin our in-person conversation. Update 7/8/10: Unfortunately, Jessica Lacher-Feldman will not be able to give a keynote talk at the RAO annual meeting.

We hope these discussions will give members the opportunity to interact with folks they wouldn't otherwise as well as get us thinking and talking about how the R, A, and O do or should function together within the section's mission and priorities. Frankly, I think a case could be made that the RAO Section might be better as - or simply acknowledge the fact that it has become - the OR Section.

Does an RAO still make sense? Did the archivists who organized the Reference, Access and Photo-Duplication Policies Committee (which makes me think RAO members with a sense of the section's roots may be passionate about RLG's "Capture & Release": Digital Cameras in the Reading Room report) have it right? Can a single section really lay claim to these distinct, yet related functions? Why is it that SAA has an RAO? Is it time to consider the OR (Outreach & Reference) Section? (If a DA (Description & Access) Section came to SAA, would another group step up and form a MA section or roundtable?)

Leading up to the annual meeting on Friday, August 13th at 1pm we hope to share a few posts with thoughts from other archivists on the R, A, and O. These may take the form of what reference, access, and outreach mean to archivists today, the relationships and intersections of the three, the section's mission, and probably more. RAO's webmaster Jan Blodgett shared some of her thoughts back in February and whether you will be in DC in August or not, I encourage you to share your thoughts there or elsewhere on this blog in the weeks ahead.

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