Posted by: stackedfivehigh | October 15, 2011

Finishing up SAA 2011

My excuse for this taking two months to finish is that I lost the notebook full of my notes. We won’t go into how directly in front of me the notebook was when I found it. I’m going to wrap up my thoughts on SAA 2011, because I’m heading to MARAC’s conference this week. I have a wild and crazy plan to blog about the conference while I’m there. We’ll see how well I stick to that.

So, a few more items of interest from Chicago. First, I went to a session called “What ARMA can teach us beyond records management.” This session focused on the difference between the records management industry and the archives industry, considering how each industry approaches business management and tries to “sell itself.” ARMA really highlights the business value of records management, and emphasizes business training for its members more than the archives industry/SAA. Understanding the strategic values and goals, the management “buttons”, the objectives of management and the company; these are the important business tools that records managers are trained to find and utilize so that the needs of the records management program are met. The ARMA conferences have a preponderance of workshops and sessions that focus on how to write a business proposal, how to communicate with upper-level executives, create strategic plans for programs, and align program plans with the corporate vision.

These are excellent points – by contrast, many organizations view archival holdings as “old stuff” with questionable value. If they don’t need it at hand, how likely are they to need it again, except perhaps for legal compliance? The ability to sell the value of an archives program is of great importance to the entire industry, and I agree with the speakers that an increased emphasis on this, and teaching business skills, should be part of the SAA conferences. As an aside, the prohibitive cost of ARMA was mentioned in the session – the annual ARMA conference (which does not offer a student price) would run me about 5 times attending the SAA conference.

One of my favorite sessions was about mobile technology and the archives. The speakers all used different technology, and some were not entirely successful, but it was great to see new outreach being tried in the archival field. One of speakers had used QR codes extensively on a college campus, both marketing materials and exhibits. The use of a QR code on a flyer which would bring the reader to a website with more extensive information that can be kept up-to-date is useful. Even more so, I thought the use of a QR code to link a viewer at an exhibit to more detailed background information was brilliant. These can be used to connect to an audio file, as well, providing a personalized audio tour of an exhibit or collection.

Another speaker had used 4square to try increasing interest in the archives at a university. This was a bit less successful, and the speaker believed the rural location of the university had much to do with that. With a more urban setting and more off-campus activities, tying the university’s archives and library services into 4square could very well be an effective marketing tactic.

And, of course – there’s an app for that. Duke University has an app. Who doesn’t, right? Within that app is a section for the archives’ digital collection. This is a great tool. First, it was visually appealing, the design was great. Different objects in the collections could be highlighted, bringing attention to the value of the archives. It could also be updated, but the app content and design were being managed by an external company. This does lead to delays in implementation, but the quality of the company used also increases the expertise in how the app is managed.

These were a few of my favorite sessions, and I’m looking forward to what MARAC has to offer later this week. I’ll be going to my first professional workshop, where I will spend the entire day learning about managing electronic records.

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