Nancy P. Beaumont 2017-11-13 11:29:36
Did you know that it takes nine feet of tubing to make one trombone? That’s just one of the many interesting facts revealed about all manner of things on the Science Channel program How It’s Made. Dozens of episodes have detailed the manufacture of cheesecakes, power steering pumps, umbrellas, and walking canes, among a host of diverse products. I have very little mechanical ability and the words “some assembly required” terrify me, so I’m not sure why I’m so attracted to this show. Perhaps it’s the systematic, orderly nature of production that is so appealing. All of the parts fit together perfectly, on time, every time. Things don’t always (ever!) work that way in the association environment. Ours is a messier, less predictable place, where ideas and personalities and perspectives collide and combine to produce value. Leadership turnover, technology upgrades, and continuously evolving issues demand learning, re-learning, and un-learning assumptions and skills and requirements. We try to bring some measure of order and direction through plans, budgets, and policies, but the only thing we can depend on is that disruptions (like passage of discriminatory legislation in a state that’s slated to host an SAA annual meeting) and distractions (like the disappearance of public information from government websites) will emerge with regularity. These variations make it easy to indict the association model as a poor way of doing business. It’s certainly true that our “factory” lacks precision and efficiency. It does, however, accurately reflect the key component with which we work: People. This volatile and variable ingredient ensures a never-ending supply of great opportunities and daunting challenges. The people factor also ensures a robust economy of ideas in which competing perspectives and solutions can be explored and debated. Deliberation may seem chaotic at times, but the turmoil of ideas banging together is a necessary by-product of human exchange. Sure, it can get personal and political, but it can also produce extraordinary value. Consider how sound public policy decisions, practice standards, credentialing, and consumer education are among the valuable end-products of the association process. How these end-products are made may not be as orderly as an assembly line in a pristine, computer-controlled factory environment. But ours is a process that is as productive and valuable as can be expected from any endeavor involving human beings. Professional associations like SAA add value for their members by leveraging human capital through consensus. Not unanimity, but consensus. No one who deals with people should expect to operate that kind of process in the same way that paper cups, countertops, chain saws, or candy canes are made. From all of us on the SAA staff: Safe and Happy Holidays to you and yours! In Gratitude . . . Thank you to Fynnette Eaton, who served as the first president of the SAA Foundation from 2014 to 2017. Fynnette has nurtured the growth of the Foundation from its earliest (pre-“Foundation”) days. During her time as president, the Foundation awarded its first three Strategic Growth grants, replenished the Mosaic Scholarship fund, and raised the profile of the Foundation’s work among SAA members. Fynnette will stay on as a Foundation Board Member, and SAA is grateful for her personal and professional investment in the future of the archives profession. Thank you to Greg Hunter, professor in the Palmer School of Library and Information Science at Long Island University, who served as Editor of The American Archivist from 2012 to 2017. Greg’s commitment to encouraging and fostering first-time authors has expanded the diversity of perspectives shared and engaged a new generation of writers in archival scholarship. During his tenure, Greg oversaw the journal’s move to a new online platform and submissions management system, an expanded number of reviews in each issue, and the debut of a new feature section, “Archives in Translation.” SAA appreciates Greg’s six years of service in continuing and enhancing The American Archivist’s position as a leading publication in the archives profession.
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