Dennis Meissner 2016-01-19 17:43:12
Collecting Data That Demonstrate Value In my inaugural remarks at the 2015 Annual Meeting in Cleveland, I spoke to what I believe to be a necessary next step in SAA’s overall strategic effort to advocate more effectively for archives and archivists. The essential notion is that when we advocate for our profession and our repositories, all of the stories that we tell and the arguments that we make should be solidly grounded on a bedrock of data. Not the data that we’ve traditionally captured: the number of collections, cubic footage, processing efficiency, and so forth. I’m instead thinking about data that speak to the archival value proposition: economic impact, audiences served, outcomes achieved. For our advocacy stories to be truly compelling, we must be able to reference slices of these data. At first glance it may seem fanciful that we can gather this kind of information. But this data wrangling already is taking place in the professional associations of our GLAM siblings. The Center for the Future of Museums and the American Library Association have been busy identifying helpful and capturable Data points, convincing their member institutions to gather and contribute this information, and then creating the capacity and communication structure to evaluate, manipulate, and present the data in meaningful ways, including simple dashboards. It will be wonderful when we can take a brilliant story about our work to an employer, legislator, reporter, donor, or other stakeholder and share a data-derived graphic that gives weight to the words. To truly demonstrate value, rather than merely inferring it. I want us to be able to do this and I intend to stay focused on the goal long after my presidency ends. To that end, I’ve put together a small steering team to guide the planning phase for this long-term project. That team comprises Jodi Allison-Bunnell (Program Manager for the Northwest Digital Archives and Director of the Content Creation and Dissemination Programs at Orbis Cascade Alliance), Ben Goldman (Penn State University Digital Records Archivist), Erik Moore (Head of the University of Minnesota Archives and Co-Director of the University Digital Conservancy), Merrilee Proffitt (Senior Program Officer at OCLC Research), and Samantha Winn (Collections Archivist at Virginia Tech). These talented folks will determine how we identify, harvest, aggregate, assess, and present the data that can demonstrate the value of archives and archivists. We will partner with our museum and library colleagues who are a few steps ahead of us. We will develop a strategy aimed at rapid implementation. We will seek funding aggressively and creatively. Unfortunately we were passed over by one funder in our attempt to launch this planning phase. We’re quickly pursuing other sources (including SAA and the SAA Foundation) so that we lose no time in getting this endeavor off the ground. I’ll keep you informed as the project moves forward and will seek member input at all opportune times. To that end, I hope that you’ll advise us so that we pursue the right objectives with the most effective means. Please let me know what you think (at firstname.lastname@example.org), and don’t be shy about offering your valuable help.
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