Relevant, Vital, Necessary

My various research endeavors as an undergraduate had exposed me to plenty of academic journals, but never a practitioner journal. In fact, the task of finding one intimidated me somewhat. I not only wanted to find a journal that would meet the needs of the assignment, but find one that would be beneficial to keep tabs on during my professional career.

I started by browsing the various professional societies relating to library and information science provided to our class. While doing this, I found myself looking most in-depth at the Society of American Archivists. When I first was accepted into the Master of Library and Information Science program, I planned to follow the archives track, much to the chagrin of some of my mentors who informed me of the profession’s competitiveness and less-than-ideal job market. Although they did convince me to keep an open mind about my focus in school, I still find myself interested in archives and the issues surrounding them.

The SAA produces a practitioner journal The American Archivist.

According to their website, the journal “seeks to reflect thinking about theoretical and practical developments in the archival profession, particularly in North America; about the relationships between archivists and the creators and users of archives; and about cultural, social, legal, and technological developments that affect the nature of recorded information and the need to create and maintain it.”

A quick browse of the Table of Contents from The American Archivist shows that the journal upholds its mission. The most recent issue has titles like “Minutes, Migration, and Migraines: Establishing a Digital Archives at a Small Institution”, “Not Waiting for Godot: The History of the Academy of Certified Archivists and the Professionalization of the Archival Field”, and “The Notion of Ramification of Archival Documents: The Example of the Fonds Related to the Brazilian Political Movement Araguaia Guerrilla”. Positioned one after the other, a reader of American Archivist can discover the challenges of a small-scale digital archive, learn about their field’s professionalization, and even about the records anti-military political movement. Clearly, breadth is not an issue of The American Archivist.

Archival outreach on Facebook?? I wish I had free access from the comfort of this coffee shop!

The journal’s articles tend to take on a variety of issues, problems, or questions that have arisen in the archive profession and posit theoretical solutions or recommendations for future work in the field. For example, in the article “Open-Access Publishing and the Transformation of the American Archivist Online,” authors Paul Conway and William Landis tackle the “significant movement to provide free and unfettered access to scholarly and professional literature” (Conway and Landis 483). This notion also relates to the tension between economic needs and preservation goals associated with the digitization of archives. How is it possible to mediate? Conway and Landis sum up their discussion by saying that The American Archivist needs “to remain relevant, vital, and necessary for the archival community” (505).

Why am I choosing to cite and discuss an article from 2011? Wouldn’t an article on open access or digital resources from the past issue or two be most relevant?

I cite Conway and Landis because The American Archivist has maintained itself as an open-access journal, sparing the six most recent issues. A step in the right direction. This is clearly their way of reconciling the ability to generate funds with being progressive in the digital realm. In order to have unlimited digital access to the recent issues, one needs a subscription (that’s rather pricey on a student budget). Luckily, Crown Library has physical copies so I can examine new articles in full-text there.

Overall, this examination of The American Archivist solidified my interest in archives, even if does not end up my profession. Archivists are dealing with the same challenges other information professionals are in terms of digitization and the changing appearance of libraries and information centers.

Are archives staying relevant, vital, and necessary? I think so.

**P.S. October 1st is #AskAnArchivistDay on Twitter! Use the hashtag to reach professionals across the world!**

Paul Conway and William Landis (2011) Open-Access Publishing and the Transformation of the American Archivist Online. The American Archivist: Fall/Winter, Vol. 74, No. 2, pp. 482–505.

Shirley Carvalhêdo Franco (2015) The Notion of Ramification of Archival Documents: The Example of the Fonds Related to the Brazilian Political Movement Araguaia Guerrilla. The American Archivist: Spring/Summer 2015, Vol. 78, No. 1, pp. 133–153.

Mott Linn (2015) Not Waiting for Godot: The History of the Academy of Certified Archivists and the Professionalization of the Archival Field. The American Archivist: Spring/Summer 2015, Vol. 78, No. 1, pp. 96–132.

Joseph A. Williams and Elizabeth M. Berilla (2015) Minutes, Migration, and Migraines: Establishing a Digital Archives at a Small Institution. The American Archivist: Spring/Summer 2015, Vol. 78, No. 1, pp. 84–95.

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