Danna C. Bell 2014-07-22 11:22:24
I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. —Maya Angelou I’ve been wrestling with what I should write in my final column as SAA president. I thought about reprising my final MARAC column and discussing what it takes to be a leader. I thought about covering what the SAA Council and staff did this past year. I considered revisiting hot topics, such as advocacy, employment, or diversity. But then I heard about the death of Maya Angelou and saw the above quote on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media outlets. Seeing that quote made me think about our discussions at the May Council meeting. We talked about the Archives and Archivists listserv and the concerns readers voiced about the growing lack of civil discourse. We reviewed a draft Code of Conduct for conferences and other SAA spaces to ensure members’ safety, security, and ability to express themselves—be they on- or offline. We explored ways to welcome members of diverse communities to SAA and to the profession as a whole. It’s disconcerting to me that we need to create regulations to ensure that people have a positive experience when participating in SAA. However, as Angelou notes, we may not remember the words that were said or the actions that took place, but we do remember how we felt. If we don’t provide a place where people feel safe to share feelings and ideas—even if they’re not the same as the majority—we are creating an inaccessible organization where diverse ideas and viewpoints are not accepted and change is impossible. I don’t want SAA to be that kind of organization. We need to hear from all our members, be they new professionals or those with thirty-plus years in the archival trenches. We need to hear from scholars and the “accidental” archivists who learned their craft in professional development courses offered by SAA and regional archival associations. We need to hear conservative and liberal viewpoints. We need to hear from SAA Fellows who helped move our association and profession forward, and from future Fellows who are conceiving new directions for SAA. And, most importantly, we need to be able to listen to one another and work to find solutions and positive experiences together. I hope that someday we don’t have to legislate to protect the rights of people to speak their truth without the worry of someone threatening them. I hope that someday we can have reasoned discourse with the acceptance that we all have different opinions and can accept that it may be impossible to change a person’s mind. We all come at issues with different lenses. The person you disagree with may have a brilliant idea that will help solve a problem at your repository. That person may post an article that leads you to learn more about a repository that’s hiring someone with your skillset. That person may be able to help you master the technology you need to digitize your collection or participate in a Twitter chat. And the feeling that comes from that success will be unforgettable. It’s hard to believe my presidential year is coming to an end. I’m grateful to so many people who have given me ideas, support, pats on the back, shoulders to lean on, moments of intense laughter, and the occasional push to get me going. This has been an amazing year. Thank you for the honor of serving as your president!
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