#3: In Which Some Associations are Explored

There are, at a glance, dozens (possibly hundreds) of professional organizations for LIS professionals. The scope grows slightly narrower, however, when it comes to museum and archive related organizations, which are of particular interest to me, with my personal goal of a historically-oriented career. When it comes to those key areas, two organizations that jumped out at me from the listings were the Society of American Archivists (SAA) and the American Alliance of Museums (AAM).

Of the two, SAA is probably the better known. In their own words (available in the “about SAA” section of their website, www.archivists.org) their mission is to promote “the values and diversity of archives and archivists. We are the preeminent source of professional resources and the principal communication hub for American archivists.” They also write that they help archivists to “achieve professional excellence and foster innovation to ensure the identification, preservation, and use of records of enduring value.”

The benefits of being a full member (which costs between $50-250 a year depending on your income) include the opportunity to hold office or appointed positions in the Society or to vote in elections or on any matter that comes before the Society as a whole. You can also become a member of sub-units of the Society, and you are eligible for a number of services and benefits. These services include access to The American Archivist journal, the Archival Outlook newsletter (containing latest news on the field), discounts on titles from the SAA bookstore, registration for the SAA Annual Meeting (which they describe as “the premier educational and professional networking event of the year”, and registration in continuing education workshops around the country. Members can also enter into the mentoring program as well as section and roundtable memberships. Students get all of the same benefits (for $50 a year) except that they cannot hold any elected offices.

SAA’s publications, as mentioned above, include The American Archivist, a semi-annual journal that discusses developments in the field. They also issue the Archival Outlook, which is published bimonthly and covers the work of the SAA’s various subgroups and reports on news that is relevant to the profession. Additionally, they have a bookstore full of guidebooks on best practices and ethics (which, again, are sold at a discount to members). In terms of the organization’s main activities or priority’s, they are largely focused on keeping abreast of changing technology, promoting diversity, and promoting public awareness.

Unlike the SAA (which has been knocking around since 1936), the AAM has effectively only existed for a year. It is the product of a massive overhaul of an older organization, the American Association of Museums. Possibly because of its comparative youthfulness, the AAM’s website is somewhat less informative. Nevertheless, they do state their mission fairly clearly in the “About Us” section of their website, aam-us.org. It is to “nurture excellence in museums through advocacy and service.” They further add that they support more than 20,000 museums by developing standards, providing resources and career development, and advocating for museums.

The benefits of being a Professional member of the AAM (a status that costs $90 a year) include online access to professional resources, professional development programs, access to 22 different professional networks, and a membership card that allows the member free admission to the various museums who are members of the AAM. They also offer career development resources and programs, the opportunity to present at their annual meeting, mentoring opportunities, means of staying informed (newsletters and magazine subscriptions), and discounts on development programs, attendance at the Annual Meeting, and on products in their bookstore. Members are also eligible for fellowships. Student memberships (costing $50) include all of the above benefits, except for the access to professional networks and a subscription to the print version of Museum Magazine (they still have electronic access).

The AAM has several publications, including the AAM Press, which publishes professional literature for/about museums that are sold in the organization’s bookstore, several e-newsletters, Museum Magazine, which addresses issues and challenges that face modern museums, and Exhibitionist¸ a peer-reviewed journal. Among their chief activities are programs such as the Center for the Future of Museums, which they describe as monitoring “cultural, technological, political and economic trends of importance to museums,” equipping “museums to help their communities,” and building “connections between museums and other sectors.”

My reasons for choosing these two organizations, as previously mentioned, are because they relate to the two fields in which I am chiefly interested. They are also both at the national level and, in my view at least, represent authorities within the field – which is something I can respect. In all likelihood I will ultimately end up joining one or the other of these organizations, probably based on which field I eventually decide to concentrate on. Their benefits seem broadly similar and, at least at a glance, genuinely are benefits that would be of considerable use to me in the future.

… If nothing else, I love the idea of gaining free admission to all those museums. 


#2: In Which Some Goals are Described

At this point I’m feeling fairly open about my career possibilities. I do not have a specific, thoroughly planned end goal – I know only that I am interested in preserving and managing historical information, whether it is in the form of an archived document or a museum artifact. Which type of institution I’d prefer to end up at isn’t entirely clear to me, yet. All I know is that I want a chance to work with the tangible vestiges of history and to (hopefully) help pass some of my love for and fascination with history on to other people.

Even in the absence of a carefully constructed career plan, I do have some goals when it comes to skills. For one thing, I obviously want to learn techniques for preserving materials. On a related note, I want to learn something about duplicating material so that even should preservation fail the content will not be lost – digitization is consequently of some interest to me. I want to learn about designing and using information systems that make the material accessible to people and I also want to learn something about getting the word out so that people want to access material. I want to learn more about how both archives and museums are run so that maybe I will actually be able to narrow my career choices. Ultimately, I probably want to learn rather more than the curriculum requires me to before I graduate.

Now that we’re a couple weeks in, I’m starting to have the slightest inkling of some other certification that I might want to pursue – the certificate in archival administration, for example, seems worthwhile, as does eventually taking the test to become a certified archivist. I’m not absolutely certain of any of this yet because, at this point, I have barely got my toes wet when it comes to understanding the scope of this discipline and exactly what part of it I want to focus on, but I do know that I want to do all I can to stay competitive. And besides, wouldn’t it be great to have seven letters after my name? Kris Kniffen, MA, MLIS, CA. Hard not to crack a grin over that arrangement.

To return (on a slightly more serious note) to the question of being competitive, I also now have the goal of engaging in at least one internship or practicum during my time here – both because it’s something I know employers will want to see, and because it’s something I dearly want to do. I can’t wait to start doing real hands on work, and a practicum/internship is definitely an exciting way to do it. It also ties in to another goal, which is to network with other people in the field and maybe even enjoy a little mentoring along the way. I’ve always been shy, so this is going to take some doing – but more and more I feel like getting to know people now, while I’m still in school, would be too great an opportunity to pass up. Even if I do have to suffer a few butterflies.

Ultimately, the goal that is at the heart of all of the others is to stay engaged, stay active, and to stay excited about the future that I’m building for myself. And as far as that one goes… so far, so good.

Introduction: In Which Some Assumptions are Made

Welcome, fellow students, to my LIS 6010 blog. I should start by saying that I have never before been a writer of blogs, and that I could have carried on not being a writer of blogs with very little remorse. I say this not because I strongly dislike the notion of blogs in general, but because I myself do not enjoy making them. I know this with great clarity thanks to the 80 minutes I just spent attempting to customize the page you see before you.

Customization is a lie.

Still, here we are. Might as well make the best of it.

The silver lining to my frustration over grappling with how the blog looks (stop telling me it’s a customizable header when you won’t let me put up my own picture, you filthy liars) is that I think I will at least enjoy what it says. I look forward to my first baby steps into the world of Library and Information Science, and to sharing them with all of you – which brings me to the meat of our first topic.

The question of what assumptions and beliefs I hold about LIS professions was a bit of a puzzle even to me. When I first read those lines in the assignment description, I had to lean back in my chair for a while and have a good think. What were my assumptions? I had never sat down and clearly articulated them to myself, let alone anyone else. After a few minutes, however, a few sprung to mind:

1. LIS Professions are part of “The Dream.”

“The Dream” that I refer to is the one that I’m sure many other people fresh from their undergraduate studies share – the desire to actually work in the field in which you have just been trained. In my case, that field is history, and I have entertained absolutely no ambition to enter a career that didn’t involve history since I first entered high school. My assumption/assertion/belief is that LIS is the less boringly conventional embodiment of that dream. Whenever a newly met adult has politely asked me the classic question of “What are you taking in school?” their response to my answer has always been “Oh, so you want to be a teacher!”

No. No I do not.

At least, not in the conventional sense. I certainly value education and anyone who contributes to it, but I don’t want to preside over a classroom – I want to sort through the tangible traceries of history and do my best to promote and present it to the widest public possible, not just a small group of students. I want to be in an archive somewhere preserving and sharing someone’s diaries and letters, or in a museum planning an exhibit.

So, there it is. My fist assumption is that LIS professions are going to give me the career I’ve been dreaming about.

2. LIS Professions are Everywhere

My second belief/assertion is that LIS professions cover an immense range of career possibilities and that there isn’t just one LIS profession worth paying attention to. The more I listen and speak to my LIS professors and fellow students, the more intrigued I get by the seemingly endless possibilities. Aside from my already arrived at interests in archives and museum work, there is also the ever-expanding world of digital content to keep in mind. And it doesn’t even come close to stopping there – there are also LIS professionals in places I would never have considered, like hospitals and big business.

Essentially, my belief is that LIS Professions are more far-flung than even I – already a fan of the field – had imagined. I also now believe that I have a lot more to learn about exactly how big the world of library and information science professionals actually is.

3. LIS Professionals are Essential – and Powerful

Though it is impossible to say this without sounding especially dramatic or pompous, I think it safe to define LIS Professionals as “keepers of knowledge,” which is as crucial of a role as it is a powerful one. I believe that LIS Professionals, by preserving and promoting knowledge so that anyone can have access to it, fulfill a role that is critical to the well-being of any and all societies. LIS Professionals can shape memories and ideas through what information they choose to make available. Professionals such as archivists can, in a very real sense, shape history by deciding what records and papers to keep and what to dispose of. As such, they hold incredible power – and, as Spider-Man has taught us, with great power comes great responsibility. For LIS Professionals, that includes such critical responsibilities as making sure that knowledge and ideas are free to any and all, and ensuring that voices from all walks of life retain the ability to speak to us for generation upon generation.

To sum up this last thought and bring this entry to a close, I will simply say that embarking on a career in Library and Information Science guarantees that we will all be doing something that truly matters.

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty excited about that.