The North East Group met on 29th of October (only taken me a month to write this up!), to discuss the volunteer theme set out by the North West group.
We found fairly similar themes occurring. Some variations of these were that group members would not have gone on to become archivists if they hadn’t gained volunteering experience. As with the North West group it was recognised that taking time out of education or full time employment to volunteer is difficult. However, we did note that it’s a valuable way of discovering what you are interested in within the sector. It was found that Archive and Records Management courses can affect why people take time out to do volunteer work. For example, one of our participants worked in records management but was told they weren’t eligible for the course because of their lack of experience in archives. They then had to take time out to fulfil this requirement through volunteering.
There were a lot of opinions about work with volunteers, and the different types of volunteers that get involved in archive work, such as social volunteers, as discussed by the North West, volunteers with specific subject interests, those gaining new skills for their CVs, volunteer groups like NADFAS, and retired archivists! This led us to chat about how they all bring different skills and expertise that can enhance our work, but also the other side to this that they may be a hindrance to an archivist trying to get specific work completed. We talked about how volunteers are managed within institutions and the difficulty of offering training to everyone and being available to help and be hands on all the time.
We also discussed the “devaluing” of the profession and came to similar conclusions to the North West.
Another interesting side was the role of Community Archives and the volunteers that run them. We discussed how these archives are enriching and can benefit from professional guidance. Specifically, we talked about the West Yorkshire Archive Project http://nowthen.org/ and how they reach out to these communities to offer advice, while these are run purely through volunteer involvement. This discussion extended to the issues of Community Archives and their sustainability because most are created and led by volunteers.
The Cardigan Continuum North East will be meeting on the 29th October (next Tuesday) at 6pm ish in Brown’s, Leeds. Brown’s is in The Light building which is just on the Headrow about a 7 minute walk from the Station and there are parking facilities in the building. They serve food and drinks:
(There is a table booked under Rebecca Bradley if you want to ask when you arrive)
We will be carrying on the discussion from the North West group focussing on volunteering and internships in the records keeping industry. You can find their report here.
Everyone is welcome! Sorry for the short notice about the venue!
If you have any questions, or just want to let me know you’re coming, please get in touch at Rebecca.Bradley@networkrail.co.uk
Thanks to Maria for the following report….
The North West group met on 7 October and had a wide ranging discussion on the subject of volunteers, interns and the impact of associated issues on the profession. It was generally agreed that it was important to differentiate between people volunteering as a social activity or as a contribution to society (social volunteers), and those volunteering in order to gain experience in order to become archivists.
The enormous contribution made by social volunteers to huge numbers of projects across the archive sector was acknowledged, but it was noted that such projects required input and commitment from a professional archivist. There is no way in which such volunteers could ever replace a professional archivist and we need to make sure that that is recognised. There was also a note of caution that some social volunteers can feel a very personal connection to the archives and their ideas and aims may sometimes be at odds with those of the archivist – a situation requiring tact, and one which can be avoided if the purpose of a project and the role of the volunteers are clearly defined right from the start (a luxury not always possible where volunteers are inherited or come with the archive).
From the perspective of those volunteering in order to gain experience, it was noted that people simply can’t afford to devote large chunks of time to volunteering. At a time when students are having to fund themselves through university, and benefits for unemployed people are increasingly limited, there are few people who can afford not to be earning money. It was suggested that volunteering was easier to manage (and combine with paid work) if it was one or two days a week. It was also felt that more emphasis should be placed on the quality and variety of work undertaken while volunteering, rather than the time spent. The idea that everyone needs to spend a year volunteering was felt to be misleading and has possibly grown out of the fact that few people go straight from their degree to an archive course, so, by necessity, have to wait a year. Some questioned why the universities insist on practical experience – is it to show your commitment, is it to ensure you really know what you’re getting in to, or does it benefit you while studying?
The issue of interns was discussed, and it was generally agreed that the recent ARA statement was helpful. There were, however, questions about how it would be enforced and who would enforce it, and as long as internships are mainly unpaid, the issues already discussed about finances remain. The idea of linking internships to places on university courses was floated, as a way of ensuring positive outcomes for the intern and reducing the chance of the intern simply being used as free labour.
From the perspective of archive services, there were strong feelings that they shouldn’t rely on volunteers of any kind to maintain their basic functions. The risk that professional archivists can end up spending all their time devising and managing projects, while volunteers do the actual work was highlighted. This state of affairs makes it easy to overlook the skills and experience the archivist brings to such projects, and we need to ensure that we don’t sell ourselves short – if we don’t value our own skills, we can’t expect others to. While it is a good idea to have a clearly defined document setting out what a volunteer can expect from an archive and what the archive expects in return, it was generally agreed that a ‘job description’, requiring specific skills, should come with a salary.
Our final, and rather gloomy, thought went back to the subject of money, and the very real risk that archivists in the future would be drawn from a small pool of those who could afford to go to university and work for free. If that were to be the case, we would miss out on a genuinely diverse and inclusive workforce.
- Most thought-provoking encounter (the idea, article, book, news story, technology or whatever from outside the field of archives and records management that has had the most impact in making you think about what you do in a different way this year)
- Most promising newcomer (a development from outside the field that has occurred in 2013 that you think is most worth keeping an eye on)
After a lengthy absence, Cardigan Continuum North West is back.
We’ll be meeting at Leaf in Liverpool on Mon 7 Oct at 6.30pm and the subject for discussion will be volunteering, internships, devaluing of the profession – in short everything that was covered by the recent debate on Archives-NRA.
To refresh yourself on some of the issues raised, go to https://www.jiscmail.ac.uk/cgi-bin/webadmin?A1=ind1308&L=ARCHIVES-NRA and look at the messages about Interns and the messages about the Vacancy for Archives and Records Management Intern.
Our meetings are friendly and informal and open to everyone with an interest in archives. It’s a great opportunity to meet like-minded people, discuss those things you’ve been thinking about, and realise it’s not just you!
I hope everyone had a good summer and thank you for all your contributions to the Summer Reading Challenge and subsequent Twitter Chat. I’m afraid I missed the later so wasn’t able to add that it was thinking about Mabillon which saved the archivist hero in my book as he battled through a snow storm!
Anyway as we start again after the break, we have decided to think about trends in archives and records management. The two texts under consideration are as follows;
Bruce Dearstyne, Wellsprings of Change for RIM and Kate Theimer, My Version of Trendswatch 2012: The Archives Edition
We will meet to discuss them face to face on 8th October at 6.30pm in the Arts and Humanities Staff Common Room, Foster Court, University College London (directions), which remains our current base until we find a new place we like better. Then again, we will also have a Twitter chat on this theme on Monday 28th October between 8 and 9pm. The questions under consideration on Twitter will be as follows, but for the face to face meeting, anything goes, so we will undoubtedly end way off topic as usual.
- Do you agree with the trends identified in the two texts? If not, why not?
- Can you think of any other trends that you think are important?
- Are there any trends that span both a RIM and an archive perspective?
- Does identifying trends help us? If so, how?
So come along, join in and start trend setting!
I hope your Summer and your reading is going well and thank you for all your comments and thoughts so far. The Twitter chat to discuss the reading challenge will be held on Monday 26th August (the Bank Holiday) from 8 to 9pm and the questions will be as follows;
- What book(s) did you read and did you enjoy it/them?
- In what way did it relate to archives/records?
- To what degree was the portrayal of archives/records accurate?
- What does our reading tell us about the way archives/records are perceived by the general public?
- If you were going to write a (fiction) book about archives/records, what would the plot be?
That’s about it for now and I hope you will be able to make it on the 26th.