Final Forum on Advocacy, Day 2

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.


Final Forum on Advocacy, Day 1

The “Supporting and Building Emergent Archival Programs in the Northwest” grant is wrapping up as the project comes to a close this June. On March 21-22, project participants met in Portland, OR, to review the project and assess areas in which is has been more or less successful in helping them effectively advocate for archives programs on their campuses. They were joined by colleagues known throughout the region for their effective work on advocacy: Terry Baxter of the Multnomah County Archives, Michael Paulus of Seattle Pacific University, Jeremy Skinner of Lewis & Clark College, and Janet Hauck of Whitworth University.

Clearly, a project that focuses a group of institutions on working on advocacy together is an effective method for jumpstarting these efforts. The chance to share ideas, support one another, and to engage in some friendly competition has assisted participants.

It’s also apparent that advocacy must be part of normal operations, not an extra. As Larry Hackman suggests in Many Happy Returns: Advocacy and the Development of Archives, not advocating is no longer an option. It probably never was, but economic conditions now mean that a program that does not advocate is vulnerable not to suffer at budget time, but to be eliminated.

During a half-day of presentations and discussions, participants and guest speakers reflected on their experiences and shared the following:

  • Know what topics your collections can support. Have a ready “menu” of offerings for courses and other venues, so that when opportunities appear, they can more easily be ready for them.
  • Connect to the overall goals in the curriculum. Michael Paulus focused on how original source research can support critical thinking, reading, writing and other skills essential to a liberal-arts education. He’s used this framework to promote special collections at a liberal-arts college to very good effect. Show how the archives program provides rich experiential learning opportunities; they are a valued component of the liberal-arts education.
  • Connect with assignments so that students have a reason to be interested in archives and special collections. Students really have no reason to be interested in archival materials unless they have an assignment to complete. If your instruction sessions are currently show-and-tell, evolve them into active learning opportunities.
  • Understand that not all projects have to be elaborate and that there are lots of no- to low-investment, creative approaches. Jeremy Skinner focused on low-cost book collecting to support an exhibit program to show that not all projects require big financial investments.
  • Internal advocacy in the library is an important place to start. Ensuring that all members of the reference staff are aware of the archives as an accessible resource is an essential step. Otherwise, they are unlikely to think of the materials, search for them, or refer end users to you.
  • Apply for teaching and learning grants with faculty so that you have outside support for collaboration. These grants may be available from your institution. Janet Hauck has made significant use of this tactic.
  • Involving students in collecting materials for the archives is one possible activity that can build collections and student engagement. At Linfield College, students got involved in documenting the Oregon wine industry through oral history and digitizing selected materials for the institutional repository. These projects, among other things, have led to establishment of the Oregon Wine Archive at Linfield and the hiring of the College’s first archivist.
  • Tap into college- or university-wide initiatives like diversity, civic engagement, and development and show how your archives program can support them. Civic engagement projects can be particularly compelling in smaller towns.
  • Terry Baxter advised that it’s important to be more people-connected than stuff-focused. We often focus too much on the stuff—but it’s really all about people. Jeremy Skinner echoed that, saying that it’s more important to focus on what people are interested in then on what you think are your most important and interesting collections.
  • Become indispensible! At Whitworth University, Janet Hauck vowed that she would make herself indispensible to the campus. The result? In ten years, she has gone from a part-time temporary position to a full-time tenure track position and the use of the archival collections has grown by leaps and bounds.
  • Say “yes” a lot. In the Hackman book, a case study of the Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives in Butte, Montana, shows the value of saying yes more than you say no. The result? The Butte archives has become a truly essential resource for that community, and the community recently supported a bond measure for a much-needed $7.5 Million facility renovation in a town that has few resources.
  • Create a successful research experience for students. At Whitworth, Janet Hauck spends quite a bit of time selecting materials for classes to use that clearly fulfill the assignment their professor has given. As a result, the students gain familiarity with archival materials and with primary-source use without first getting frustrated by search challenges. The time and effort she spends pays off with increased use and essential connections with the curriculum.
  • Connections and personalities play a big role in program support and development. Develop and nurture those connections.
  • We can engage in many things deliberately, but have to admit that serendipity plays a significant role in creating major advances. Linfield can point to initiatives that have played roles in its success, but also admits that the alignment of stars plays a role as well.
  • The most effective events that can draw in new audiences start with fun: music, food and beverages, and a topic that interests a number of diverse individuals. Terry Baxter spoke about the Portland Archives Crawl, a wildly successful event in its third year. Thanks to popular television shows like the History Detectives and Who Do You Think You Are?, archives are no longer obscure and have many chances to attract the attention and support of diverse audiences.

Along with all the successes and good outcomes that participants and speakers reported on and discussed, there were also some challenges and barriers discussed.

  • Both participating institutions and the guest speakers admitted that connecting with faculty is difficult. Faculty at small colleges face significant time pressures and more demands on their time than ever before; archivists likewise juggle countless tasks and priorities. But it’s essential to gain the interest and attention of faculty and to beyond the history department. Finding good materials to support curriculum can be challenging but it well worth the investment. The archivist is best off preparing plug-and-play assignments, making use of the collections rather easy for faculty, taking materials out to faculty rather than asking them to come in.
  • Time management is difficult in either part-time positions–those where the individual has other duties for a portion of FTE–or where the management of the archives is a team responsibility rather than that of an individual. However, these part-time positions are the norm rather than the exception, and may have significant other benefits, as documented in Mary Manning and Judy Silva’s recent article on archivist/librarians.[1] A key solution here is to carefully prioritize and to explore what functions can be addressed on other ways. Seattle Pacific University, for example, stores the vast majority of its materials in an off-site facility. Materials are delivered to campus as needed, freeing up library staff for other tasks. Michael Paulus also spoke eloquently about the value of consortium for taking on tasks that don’t have to be done locally.
  • Sometimes we invest energy in the wrong people on campus—people who lack power and resources to help us advance the program. Choose allies carefully, and make sure that you have more than one so that a change in personnel doesn’t leave you scrambling.
  • If an archives program has been mothballed for some time or so understaffed that it was unable to support either curriculum or collecting on campus, re-establishing trust in the repository is the first and often long-playing challenge that the archives has to confront.

[1] Manning, Mary, and Judy Silva. “Dual Archivists/Librarians: Balancing the Benefits and Challenges of Diverse Responsibilities.” College & Research Libraries xx (March 2012): 164-175.

Linfield College Follow-up – week 2

Work has been completed at Linfield College, signaling the end of on-site work for all institutions involved with this grant. At Linfield, activities this week revolved around advocacy, including meetings with Dean of Faculty/VP for Academic Affairs Susan Agre-Kippenhan, library staff, and Interim Co-Dean of the School of Nursing Pam Wheeler. All were brought up to date on grant activities and took part in discussing future activities.

This final week also saw Linfield College take advantage of NWDA’s hosting services for Archivists’ Toolkit. AT was set up and the first seven (of 42) manuscript collections entered. In addition, four project documents were completed and will be posted to the project website.

I’d like to thank Susan, Rachael and the rest of the Nicholson Library staff for their hospitality during my six week visit. It’s been a pleasure and a privilege meeting and working with everyone.

Linfield College Follow-Up – Week 1

Today marks the end of week one of Linfield College’s follow-up visit. Since the original visit last July, the Archives has accomplished much, including the hire of a new, part-time archivist – Rachael Woody. Rachael and University Library Susan Barnes Whyte have reviewed all project document drafts prepared by the Consulting Archivist and made suggestions for changes that will be included in the final documents. Rachael has also continued to re-organize the archives storage and work areas, necessitated by the installation of a new compact-mobile shelving system last summer.

Work this week has centered on completion of the policy and procedure documents, a visit with a potential donor, and discussion of various grant opportunities. Next week we’ll concentrate on advocacy and outreach opportunities, including a presentation to Library staff, particularly the Instructional Librarians, and a visit to the Portland campus.

Submitted by Linda M-K


Seattle University follow-up visit #2

Submitted by: Elizabeth Knight, Consulting Archivist

Hello everyone, I am back at the stunning Lemieux Library and McGoldrick Learning Commons this week on my final follow-up visit.

Since my previous visit in July, the work team here of Mary Linden Supelveda, Rick Block and Jeff Winter have created and uploaded an additional 8 NWDA finding aids and MARC records, bringing their total to 29. Seattle University recently particpated in Washington Archives Month activities held at the downtown branch of the Seattle Public Library. The Secretary of State produced a great poster for Archives Month which features the theme: Fairs and Festivals, and a photograph from the SU Archives is front and center! They are also featured in a Passport to History, 2011-2012 booklet which is a directory of Archives and Historical Institutions in the Puget Sound Region. Good work, Seattle U, on contributing to this event and making new friends in the local archives community.

This week we have focused on implementing Archivists’ Toolkit and developing an efficient accessioning and processing workflow using AT. Seattle University is an early participant in the new Orbis Cascade NWDA-hosted Archivists’ Toolkit instance. It is working well and is now populated with copious Resource Records, Subject and Name Records, and Accession Records.

I am working closely with University Librarian John Popko to finalize the program development plan, which describes the priorities and tasks to be undertaken over the next couple years to keep the archives program here on track. An Outreach and Advocacy Plan has been completed as well.

I will be on site Monday and Tuesday next week to finish up the plan, an Archives Manual, and have a wrap-up/next steps session with the staff here involved in the grant project. So, I’ll have one more report from Seattle University for you next week.

Pacific University follow-up – week 2

Today signals the end of my follow-up visit to Pacific University in Forest Grove. It’s been a productive two weeks with lots of accomplishments:

• 28 finding aids, most at the collection-level, have been uploaded to NWDA;
• 385 robust accession records – 78% of the total collection – have been created in Archivists’ Toolkit (AT);
• 3 project documents have been finalized, including the collection survey, accession and description manual, and advocacy and outreach suggestions (all will be uploaded to the project website within the next few days);
• several work study students have gained experience in accessioning and entering data into Pacific’s instance of AT; and
• Archivist Eva Guggemos and I had a fun and productive day at the 2nd annual Portland Archives Crawl last weekend.

Thanks go to Eva and University Library Marita Kunkel, plus all the others working the Library, for their hospitality and assistance. It’s been a pleasure working with everyone.

Submitted by Linda M-K

Pacific University follow-up – week 1

It’s great to be back at Pacific University where the fall colors are beginning to turn. Much of this week was spent reviewing progress since the original visit, including 3 more resource records ready to upload to the NWDA database and learning that an off-site researcher has been contact with staff as a direct result of a finding aid on NWDA. In combination with work completed this week, Pacific now has 18 finding aids on NWDA and 76% of its holdings have a robust accession record in Archivists’ Toolkit (AT). Work has also continued in developing the accession and description manual which will be ‘tested’ with a work study student next week.

Tomorrow is the 2nd annual Archives Crawl sponsored by the Portland Area Archivists. Archivist Eva Guggemos and I will be at Multnomah County Library (Central ) with an exhibit of materials from and about the Pacific University Archives. Hope to see you there!