Fueled by a quite lengthy post on the A&A listserv this weekend, I would also like to reflect on the state of archives in the US.
As an audiovisual archivist and musician, I am most impacted by the future of audio preservation, covered by an interview in WNYC this weekend. Guests for the interview included Sam Brylawski, an author of the study and leading member of ARSC, and Jody Rosen, a music critic for Slate.com and senior critic for Rolling Stone. They reflect upon many aspects of audio preservation--degradation, problems finding resources for preservation, and copyright, to name a few.
Referenced in the A&A post, a blog post from the Derangement and Description author. I agree that young archivists are being slighted by some older archivists. I agree that we're doing a lot for little compensation.
But that's happening everywhere right now as older employees in every field stay longer to put off retirement and budgets of most institutions are being cut. Two former graduate student employees in our archives fought to get the part-time work they currently have, though they are expected to do work that requires more than a part-time commitment.
Newcomers into the field can turn this into a positive by going beyond what is asked of us, learning as much as possible and challenging ourselves to learn new ways of doing things. I learned basic audio engineering skills because we couldn't hire a consultant to set up our in-house digitization station. I also learned basic web design skills to create our archive's a/v webpages, and then my own website. Also, as this blog entry featured in OCLC "Above the Fold" states, spend time with people who challenge your thinking. Right now, I'm learning more about the entire digitization process as I serve on a consortial task force, set with writing a business plan for a new cooperative digitization service. I also network like it's my job, giving out nearly all of the business cards I received almost three years ago (I think I have enough for one more conference). Through networking, I've been able to get onto committees in two organizations, and have gotten free equipment for the archives.
There is a gap between long-time archivists and the new archivists, felt more in some associations than others. I feel at home in ARSC, encouraged on projects by freely given advice, and I'm asked for advice on other issues. The people I've met at ARSC who have been in the field longer recognize that us new archivists aren't trying to get rid of the old ways of the archives, but that we're together in this fight to preserve our collections, and the younger archivists' skill sets can be used to try new ways of doing the old methods.