Kathy Marquis 2016-01-16 07:40:13
The dynamic Kathy Marquis has enjoyed a long career in archives working at a variety of institutions including the Bentley Historical Library, the Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America at Radcliffe College, MIT, Minnesota Historical Society, and, most recently, the Albany County Public Library in Laramie, Wyoming. Over the years she been a stealth force in SAA, Midwest Archives Conference, New England Archivists, and the Public Library Association. In August, Marquis was named a Fellow of SAA and shared these words of wisdom. SAA: What drew you to the archives profession? KM: In 1975, my women's history professor at the University of Michigan brought us to the Bentley Historical Library for an introduction—the same kind of intro that I later taught myself as reference archivist there. Mary Jo Pugh encouraged me to come back to do research for a paper and when a page job opened up, I knew it was fate! Mary Jo was one of the first official Reference Archivists in our profession, and I learned so much from her in the two years I was there. I loved the collections and especially working with the researchers. I would say I was as drawn to reference as I was to the profession as a whole. I loved helping to de-mystify access to the letters and diaries and boxes of records. OK, I spent a lot of time doing retrieving and photocopying, too. . . . By the end of the two years, I was ready to move to Boston where I got jobs in a diverse range of archives, as well as my MLIS from Simmons College. SAA: Humor and whimsy have figured into your professional activities: "Raiders of the Lost Archives" skits, the archival haiku contest, and the 2009 SAA conference session "Archives After Hours (The Light, Literary, and Lascivious Side of Archives)." Talk about your experiences with these projects. KM: If I can get away with it, humor is my first level of communication with anyone—so why not about archives, too? I think it's so important not to take ourselves too seriously. Even at the annual meeting, no one can think about electronic records or MPLP all day! It's great to share a laugh over silly stuff, or our shared frustrations, and then get back to solving problems. SAA: What's the one thing you wish everyone knew about archives? KM: How engaging they are! Whether someone needs the answer to a vital question like proof of their mom's naturalization or a great topic for a school paper, chances are they will never have realized how archival collections are like windows into peoples' lives. I've seen people sit down with a collection and not realize it's closing time until we tell them. When I've taught intro sessions I focus first on making personal connections to the materials, then focus on details like how to find and use collections once I know they're motivated to find out more. SAA: You worked in archives and in libraries. Are roles converging? KM: I think they always have. Libraries led the way in standardizing approaches to description and we followed. Now archivists are leading the way in aggregate descriptive practices. In my field of archival reference, the overlap has always been marked. Listening, consulting, educating and reaching out to new users—the similarities in approaches have always been greater than the differences. When I took my most recent public library job, I was pleased to discover that my hunch about all this overlap was indeed true. SAA: Your husband is Mark Greene and you are both accomplished authors. Are you part of each other's "editorial cabinet"? KM: I love the idea of an editorial cabinet! Mark is much better than I am at getting his writing out for colleagues to review before he submits it. But I value his opinion very much, not only because he's been a journal editor, but because we have similar outlooks on the value of access—and accessibility—of both archives and in how we write. And I love telling him, "Too many footnotes!"
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