Debbie Bahn, Lisa Speer, and Meg Tuomala 2018-01-19 12:51:32
We are eight months away from the 2018 Joint Annual Meeting with the Council of State Archivists (CoSA), the National Association of Government Archives and Records Administrators (NAGARA), and SAA at the Marriott Wardman Park in Washington, DC, August 12–18. Since the 2018 Program Committee’s first meeting last July in Portland, we’ve been working to ensure that the program content will be diverse, inspiring, informative, creative, and innovative. Archives on the Hill New this year is Archives on the Hill, scheduled for Tuesday, August 12, in which participants will visit Capitol Hill and meet with selected House and Senate members and staff to discuss issues affecting the archives community. The event is being developed by a working group with representatives from CoSA, NAGARA, the Regional Archival Associations Consortium (RAAC), and SAA. Archivists will be selected based on their attendance in Washington, DC, as well as their proximity to key legislators’ districts. In advance of the event, they will receive training in advocacy. The members of the working group are: Chairperson Jim Corridan, CoSA; Rachel Chatalbash, RAAC; Nancy Fortna, NAGARA; Sarah Koonts, CoSA; Kaye Minchew, NAGARA; Dennis Riley, SAA; Kathleen Roe, SAA; and Philip Skroska, RAAC. About the Process In the spirit of this year’s theme, Promoting Transparency, we’d like to provide a glimpse into the program committee’s process and work. Starting in July, the Program Committee (composed of two members from CoSA, three from NAGARA, and eight from SAA) began thinking about content for 2018. We chose Promoting Transparency as the theme, and, in September 2017, published a call for proposals and education sessions, as well as a Google spreadsheet to connect those interested in collaboration. Submissions closed in November. A total of 185 education sessions and 20 poster proposals were received—a record number of submissions! The process is competitive; about a third of proposals will be selected. In early January the Program Committee met at the SAA offices in Chicago to decide what sessions will be part of the 2018 program. Before this meeting, each committee member read, made comments on, and ranked every proposal. Committee members recuse themselves from commenting on and ranking proposals from their institutions and from those that may present a conflict of interest. SAA staff compiled our rankings and comments for the meeting. The highest-ranking proposals are automatically selected for inclusion in the program. The lowest-ranking proposals are taken out of the pool; however, each committee member has one “save” to use at their discretion. This isn’t an automatic “yes,” but rather a chance to discuss and evaluate the proposal as a group. Proposals that fall in the middle are the ones we discuss. It’s challenging, but this process ensures that all proposals are carefully considered and evaluated, and the committee’s limited time together is put to good use. Another aspect that makes this process successful is confidentiality and trust. Committee members must feel they can speak openly and candidly on proposals. As a group we have agreed that all discussions regarding proposals are kept confidential, and we honor this agreement. Creating a Schedule Once sessions are selected, the committee sets the concurrent session tracks, i.e., the education sessions. This is the fun part! A typical Joint Annual Meeting has about 70 sessions—10 concurrent sessions in seven tracks. This year we plan to devote one track exclusively to records management topics. To draft the program, we use sticky notes to arrange sessions into tracks and rooms by topic, popularity, etc. We do our best to thoughtfully consider what sessions shouldn’t happen at the same time and what attendance will be at each session. This is an energizing process where we really start to envision what the meeting will be like and how you will experience it. It’s exciting! At the end of this meeting most of our work (until August) is done. We collaborate with SAA staff to notify proposers of our decisions, and work through a small number of revision requests and speaker substitutions. After the programming and logistical work is complete, we begin to truly get excited for our time together in August. The processes put into place by the SAA staff and previous committees help us to deliver diverse, inspiring, informative, creative, and innovative content. We hope that this glimpse into the work is enlightening—and perhaps inspires you to volunteer to serve on the Program Committee. We look forward to seeing you in DC this summer!
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