The second day of the Final Forum on Advocacy included not only project participants and guest speakers, but also an audience of about 25 interested persons. The half-day event focused not only on the project’s findings but the three tools for advocacy: advocacy goals, elevator speeches, and planning fun events.
Consulting Archivist Linda Morton-Keithley presented a framework for attendees to think about their overall goals for advocacy. First, think about who you want to reach and what you know about them. What is going to attract their attention? Also, think about what you have tried in the past that worked? Or didn’t? What are your strengths and challenges?
Consulting Archivist Elizabeth Knight introduced and presented examples of elevator speeches for advocacy. An elevator speech is a set of talking points that describe your archives program effectively and succinctly. Ideally, you have a variety of these at hand, ready at a moment’s notice, so that you can adapt them to the audience at hand to very briefly explain your program and capture their attention. She presented several examples of speeches, including:
- “The archives is a new space on campus for engaging students in original research, deepening ties with alumni, and involving the campus in capturing recent history.”
- “The archives is filled with unique and interesting stories just waiting to be told.”
- “Brain scientists say that when a person loses their memory, they lose their identity. Without the archives, the stories, people and history of this special place would fade.”
- “Archivists bring the past to the present. They’re records collectors and protectors, keepers of memory. They organize unique, historical materials, making them available for current and future research.” — Society of American Archivists Winning Entry (2007)
As part of the activities, participating institutions prepared elevator speeches, including:
- “The collective memory of an archives is gathered from many diverse individual memories. Without these collections, we could not understand the past.” Intended audience: Pastors of churches who are about to retire, urging them to write their memoirs or donate their diaries/journals/papers. Nolan Bremer, Cataloger, Professor of Religion (Emeritus), Concordia University (Portland, OR)
- “I hook people up with what they want.” Terry Baxter, Archivist, Multnomah County Archives (Portland, OR)
- “Archives connect us with our past and insure that our present will be treasured in the future.” Zoie Clark, Technical Services Assistant/Archivist, George Fox University (Newburg, OR)
- “The special collections in our archives provide students with unique perspectives and points of view that add value to the learning experience. Think of the archives as an extension of your classroom, laboratory or studio. An active learning space that offers students the chance to examine, analyze and critically reflect on unique materials and ideas.” Intended audience: Faculty. Jane Carlin, Library Director, University of Puget Sound (Tacoma, WA)
- “We collect original materials—things like photographs and handwritten documents–to use in classes and research. We’re always looking for new materials to add and new ways for people to use them!” Eva Guggemos, Assistant Professor Archives/Special Collections & Instructional Services, Pacific University (Forest Grove, OR)
- “Our university has over 100 years of great stories, and those stories are kept in the archives. What about your story (your alumni experience, your contribution to scholarly life, your department’s work)? Is it represented in our collection of stories? Intended audience: alumni, faculty, staff. Adrienne Meier, University Archivist, Seattle Pacific University (Seattle, WA)
- “Hey (Fr. Steve, Tim, etc.), you’ve done really great work for Seattle University. We need an official archive to document, preserve and share your legacy.” John Popko, University Librarian, Seattle University (Seattle, WA)
- “The archive connects the past and present, preserving materials and making them available for current and future research. The archive collects stories about the people and events that reflect the university mission and values.” Mary Sepulveda, Coordinator of Collection Development, Seattle University (Seattle, WA)
- “The Archives preserves and makes accessible the Linfield legacy. We provide students with experiential learning opportunities with primary materials while at the same time opening doors for them to new careers!” Rachel Christine Woody, Archivist, Linfield College (McMinnville, OR)
Elevator speeches are, of course, only effective if you use them constantly. If you find that you have not used your elevator speech, it’s time to leave the office and find someone new to talk to.
In the third and last portion of the advocacy forum, guest speaker Terry Baxter presented a framework for planning fun events that draw a diverse and large audience into your archives so that you can connect with them and enlarge your group of supporters.
- Effective events that promote your program to people who haven’t otherwise heard about you need to be fun, not didactic. Otherwise, you will attract the usual crowd of a few retired librarians and others who already know about and support your program.
- Events that will draw in large audiences of people who don’t know about archives need to have a big fun draw—music, food and drink, other fun activities. The Portland Archives Crawl has partnered with McMenamin’s to plan an event that includes significant musical entertainment.
- Use the space to draw people into conversation about them and their interests and show them how archives relate to that. Take inspiration from popular television programs that start with other peoples’ interests and link them with archivists and other cultural heritage specialists.
Supporting archival programs is always difficult, even in this purported “Golden Age of Special Collections.” Libraries are in general moving more of what used to be their core activities—collection development, materials preparation, materials circulation–to outside services, “to the network.” This is particularly true for the Alliance, whose strategic agenda includes initiatives for cooperative collection development, a shared ILS, shared technical services, and digital initiatives that include digital preservation and a shared digital repository. Northwest Digital Archives members already gain a suite of services to support bibliographic control and access to special collections and archives that includes not only finding aid creation, hosting and exposure, but other value-added services. NWDA members are relieved of a number of functions that are difficult to support locally.
For all archives, but particularly small programs at small institutions, the time is ripe to explore what else archives can support more effectively through a consortium. Supporting more functions related to the preparation of materials for research use—which can include processing, description, digitization, and more–through the consortium can free up personnel at institutions to focus on outreach, advocacy, and effective curriculum support. That, more than any other effort, may be what makes archival programs at small institutions both possible and maximally effective for the institution’s most critical missions.