Saturday, August 28, 2010

Annual Meeting - DC2010

Wow, where does the time go? It’s been two weeks since we wrapped things up at the DC2010 meeting, so it’s about time to share with everyone what happened at the annual section meeting.
First, a big thank you to all the members who attended the section meeting on Friday afternoon. The true value of the section comes from everyone adding their voice and participating. Because of that spirit of involvement, we had some great discussions, and we look forward to a productive year.

Following a warm welcome from our outgoing chair Amy Schindler, we were visited by Christie Peterson, a member of the program committee for the 2011 annual meeting in Chicago. Christie shared with the group the plans for the coming year and how to craft and submit your proposals for sessions. Please see the SAA website for the most up-to-date details. The deadline for submissions to the 2011 program committee is October 1; all those interested in submitting proposals to the RAO Steering Committee for possible endorsement should forward a copy of their proposals along to RAO chair Jim Gerencser by October 1 as well.

Next, Doris Malkmus shared information about the ongoing efforts of the National History Day Committee. This topic generated a healthy discussion about valuable resources, possible collaborators and other stakeholders, and personal experiences. The report of the committee is available at the SAA RAO website, and those interested in sharing their knowledge and ideas with the group are encouraged to contact Doris or co-chair Shawn Hayes.

Shannon Bowen-Maier then took the stage to update everyone on the work of the Reference and Processing Collaboration working group, which was created in response to the results of work done by the 2007 MPLP Task Force. The report of the working group is available at the SAA RAO website, and again, all those interested in sharing their ideas with the group are encouraged to contact Shannon or co-chair Dan Santamaria.

Information about the RAO Internship Program was next conveyed by Amy Schindler. Two RAO interns - Benjamin Bromley and Jessica Miller - were selected among the pool of candidates who applied last year. Receiving positive feedback from both Ben and Jessica on their experiences, as well as from the RAO Steering Committee about the value of the interns’ contributions, RAO will again be advertising for interns to participate in activities of the section this year. Expect an announcement on September 1.

Kate Theimer offered a report about the pilot 23 Things for Archivists project, which took place during the winter and early spring. A copy of the report can be found at the SAA RAO website. Comments from participants in the project were generally quite positive, and plans are underway for how best to offer this or a similar program in the future.

Jill Severn provided a quick update on the Skills Survey and encouraged everyone to take the time to fill out this survey in the coming weeks. She and Jessica Miller will be assessing the information they’ve gathered through the survey beginning in the fall.

Following brief remarks by Jim Gerencser, the section then split up into five discussion groups on the following topics: a) How do the R, the A, and the O relate to one another, as well as to other functions like description and acquisition?; b) What should the RAO Section be doing in the short and long term?; c) RAO: Headed for divorce, or stronger than ever?; d) How do we define “citizen archivist,” what is the role of the “citizen archivist,” and how do we work with them?; and, e) How can we develop skills for teaching undergraduates and other audiences about primary sources? After about 30 minutes of lively discussion, brief reports were shared regarding each group’s ideas. These reports will be shared on the RAO Blog in the coming days and weeks.

SAA Council Liaison Brenda Lawson shared information about the current activities of Council, particularly with regard to the proposed dues increase and other items that are up for vote at the annual business meeting.

Todd Kosmerick made an announcement about the availability of ARL SPEC Kit 317 on Special Collections Engagement.

Jennifer Schaffner shared some interesting initial findings from a survey conducted by RLG/OCLC Research. More detailed information about this survey will be forthcoming.

Nancy Melley made a pitch for everyone to have a look at the grants being offered by NHPRC and encouraged anyone interested to contact her or her NHPRC colleagues with questions about these programs.

The meeting ended with Amy Schindler passing the mantle of leadership – in this case, an 8-track tape of REO Speedwagon – to incoming chair Jim Gerencser, and Jim thanked Amy for her very active and successful year as chair of RAO.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Agenda for 2010 RAO Meeting

The almost surely final agenda for the Reference, Access, and Outreach Section's (RAO) annual meeting on Friday, August 13th at 1pm is available on the section's SAA page. The major change is the addition of the small-group discussion topics and a call for suggestions either in advance in the comments section or at the meeting.

Discussion topics will include:

1. How do reference, access, and outreach relate? Further, how do they relate to their archival neighbors such as description and collection development?

2. What would you like to see the section doing in the short and long-term? Are there new initiatives, projects, or deliverables you believe the section should undertake?

3. RAO: Headed for divorce or stronger than ever? They've been together over 30 years! The Gore's have ended their relationship, should R, A, and O move on as well "following a process of long and careful consideration"?

4-5. Attendee choice(s). Taking inspiration from the THATCamp movement, and since we won't have another THATCamp Austin 2009 organized to coincide with this year's meeting, we're taking suggestions for small-group discussion topics. How this will work: To propose a topic in advance, suggest a discussion topic in the comments here by 11pm on Thursday, August 12th. Discussion topic suggestions will also be accepted at the meeting when anyone who has an area or topic of interest will have 1 minute to suggest a topic for discussion. After all suggestions are shared, the room will vote and the 1-2 discussion topics with the most support will break out for discussion groups of their own (along with #1-3 above). The only topical requirement is that your suggestion should relate to reference, access, and/or outreach in some way. Want to talk further about an interesting session from earlier in the meeting or begin brainstorming for a future session proposal? This is another place to have those conversations. We're looking forward to your suggestions!

Visit the RAO News blog for background on the 2010 discussion groups or to get a sense of the discussions at RAO's 2009 meeting when the topics were mission, MPLP, NHD, metrics/user studies, Web 2.0, and advocacy. Each discussion group will briefly report to the larger group and fuller notes will be shared after the meeting.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Reference/Processing Collaboration Group Reports

You may have read about the work of the Reference/Processing Collaboration Group in recent section newsletters and discussion list posts. As co-chair of the group, I thought I would provide some context for why we exist and what we want to accomplish. The group was formed in 2007 as the MPLP Task Force and charged itself with exploring the impacts of basic/lite/customized/minimal processing, or MPLP, on public services in archives and special collections. We wanted to know if archivists whose repositories who were engaged in these practices had seen their reference traffic change in volume or character. We began by searching for online resources and by conducting a small survey of RAO members in 2008. The results were quite enlightening and encouraged us to continue to explore the topic. One of the main action items that emerged from the survey was the creation of a best practices guide for MPLP.

After much administrative wrangling and the exploration of a variety of publication options, the group emerged last winter in the form in which it currently exists. Our final goal is to produce an interactive, web-based resource that will help archivists understand not just the "nuts and bolts" of how to apply MPLP, but its theoretical principles and implications as well. We want to provide a forum for discussion as well as a source for a range of ideas about the application of MPLP to a variety of archival functions, its utility in various repository types, and the contributions that MPLP has made to archivists and archivy.

To hear more detailed reports about what we've been up to, attend the section meetings for Manuscript Repositories, College and University Archives, Description, or RAO at SAA's annual meeting in Washington, DC. A representative from our group, Jill Severn, will also be presenting a report during the Congressional Papers Roundtable meeting. If you aren't able to make it to Washington, check the RAO web site here for online version of the report. We look forward to hearing your perspectives and feedback about the direction of the project.