Greetings ARCHE Archives Council Members from the ARCHE Archives Advocacy Committee!
As we move from this incredibly long cool spring into full summer, how many of us can honestly say that we remember what we did last October? Think back, and if you can fight the fog of pollen and the haze of allergy medications, you may dimly recall a survey accompanied by repeated pleas from the Advocacy Committee to please stop whatever you were doing RIGHT NOW and complete it. After inwardly groaning about yet another survey and the fact that you had a million other things to do that did not involve answering a long list of questions, you set to work and opened the survey link. And you may even recall that feeling of satisfaction having answered the last question and clicking on “submit,” knowing that this would FINALLY satisfy the Advocacy Committee and stop the “gentle reminders.” Ah yes, good times. So, whatever happened with the survey anyway and what has the Advocacy Committee been doing since the ARCHE Archives Council last met? We’re glad you asked!
Just to refresh your memory, the Archives Advocacy Committee is interested in asking a big question; that is, how can archivists demonstrate the collective impact of archival work measurements that are understood by stakeholders outside of the profession? We believe that archives have a demonstrable economic, social, and political value that can be articulated via quantitative and qualitative data collection. To show a wide impact, archival data collection works best when gathered collectively across a commonality like geographies, subjects, or communities. This is a large undertaking, and the data needed for collective impact statements means we need to ask ourselves a new and different set of questions. The questions in the survey point to new ways of thinking about our value and how we might articulate it to stakeholders for the purpose of developing strong ties to our community and our external stakeholders. This collective advocacy effort is not meant to replace internal advocacy but to energize it and provide additional frameworks supporting our archival institutions.
So what did we discover? Here is a brief snapshot of some of the most interesting results:
- Who Are We?
- 19 members completed the survey.
- 14 archival facilities are part of a college or university, and all but two of these are embedded within the library of that institution (e.g. The Georgia Archives stands alone and is part of the University System of Georgia; the Department of Museums, Archives, and Rare Books at Kennesaw State University reports to Academic Affairs)
- 2 repositories are part of non-academic museum/libraries (Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum; Atlanta History Center)
- 1 is affiliated with a seminary
- 1 is a subject-specific research library (Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American History and Culture)
- 1 is a program serving public libraries across the state (Georgia Public Library Service).
- 15 members have director or archive manager positions. Of the remaining members, the positions represented are processing archivist, access archivist and public services coordinator.
- Our Collections
Many of us have common collecting areas including women, LGBTQ community, religious/non-profit followed by persons of color, businesses and prominent personalities. In addition, our repositories collect in the areas of African-American community development and history, civil rights, and audiovisual materials related to Atlanta history. Collectively, these collections could be said to represent a major font of Atlanta’s history and could be used to make connections to external stakeholders.
We asked a number of questions about patrons with the goal of assessing collective impact in a number of areas. We learned that ARCHE archive institutions engage in 33,857 reference transactions and 17, 804 patron visits per year (whew! No wonder it seems like there’s never enough time in the day!)
The results from the questions asking about patron demographics (i.e. how many are NOT from the metro-Atlanta area) were mixed. Some track this information, others do not. What we do know, however, is that most of our patrons do not tend to stay for more than a day. This does not mean however that we should discount their spending activity and engagement with local businesses; indeed, we suggest this might be an area in which ARCHE Archives members could more actively engage.
So what happens with all the research requests and requests for scans and copies of our materials? Where do they go and what do they become? The survey asked about scholarly research products like books, articles, and documentaries and commercial or creative products including commercial films or television, marketing campaigns, exhibits produced by external entities, photos for interior decoration. Not surprisingly, we collectively support the production of books, articles, documentaries and exhibits.
But we also contribute to products that may be more commercial in nature, such as interior decoration for restaurants or exhibits for businesses or corporations. Besides a check for our troubles and possibly a mention on a plaque, our contribution to the success of the business is largely invisible.
- Community Connections:
One of the ways ARCHE archive institutions contribute to their communities is by supporting allied institutions and programs. Over half (57%) reported supporting historic preservation projects; 33% support community development projects and 10% support public policy initiatives. In addition, a little more than half of the respondents indicated they work with their institution’s development officer; this is an area worth investigating to see if these numbers could be revised upwards. In addition, even though the majority of respondents do not currently have endowed collections, most indicated that their institution has named buildings, rooms and/or programs. These may present opportunities to begin to build the archives “brand” with internal and external stakeholders. Collectively, the group submitted a list of 66 names that appear prominently within their institution as the name of colleges, schools, buildings, programs, exhibit halls and centers. Clearly each of these individuals or families have connections to the institution that may provide as yet untapped advocacy opportunities.
- Business Impact:
ARCHE archive institutions also leave a footprint by their expenditures. Besides providing employment for staff and administrators, these institutions expend budgets on preservation supplies, digitization and reprographics, storage (digital hosting and physical storage), software licenses, consulting work (project archivists; IT consulting). Collectively, we spend approximately $72,500 per year in the daily course of business. This is another area in which we can make connections between what we do and our economic impact.
Where do we go from here? Amanda and I will be following up with some members to clarify responses or to ask about blanks in the survey. We then will focus on one or two of these areas of inquiry during our ARCHE Archives Council meetings or perhaps with smaller focus groups outside of the meetings.
We hope you are as excited by some of these results as we were. Stand by for more to come!
May 22, 2018