Making contact with new SAA members from Canada and all other international locations is the responsibility of the District 11 Key Contact group. At the moment, the District 11 group consists of three Key Contacts: Kira Baker, Sara Griffiths, and Scott Schwartz. This blog post is a combined post from all three of us and together we hope to convey the experience of being a Key Contact for SAA’s international members.
SG: My name is Sara Griffiths, and I serve the SAA Key Contacts Subcommittee as both the District Representative for International and Canadian members (District 11), and the Key Contact for the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec. Currently I work as a lone arranger for Royal St. George’s College, a private boys school in the Annex neighbourhood of Toronto, and previously have completed a few short term contracts with small non-profit organizations. I grew up in California but have lived in Toronto for over 20 years and started archives work after graduating from the University of Toronto’s iSchool in 2013.
SS: My name is Scott Schwartz, and I serve the Key Contacts Subcommittee as the International Key Contact for all countries other than Canada. Currently I work as the director for the University of Illinois’ Sousa Archives and Center for American Music and the University’s Archivist for Music and Fine Arts. I also teach archives administration and archival arrangement and description courses for the University’s School of Information Sciences. My previous archival positions were at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History where I cared for the American music collections, and East Tennessee State University and West Virginia University where I cared for the music collections of Appalachia. I have been an archivist and ethnomusicologist since 1987.
KB: I’m Kira Baker and I am the Key Contact for Western Canada, encompassing the provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. My current employment is as the Reference Archivist for the City of Vancouver. Originally from the West Coast, I earned my graduate degree from the University of Toronto’s iSchool in 2015. After working a few years in Toronto, I moved back to Vancouver to take up my current job.
Why I became a Key Contact:
SG: Initially I was asked to be a Key Contact and as a US citizen really felt that I would enjoy being a contact point for my fellow Toronto/Ontario/Canada archivists to an American archives professional organization. Seemed like a good fit, and so far I have known a bit about most of the cities where Annual Meetings have taken place so could provide some travel guidance or additional information about the location. I can also speak to what might be distinctions in approach or philosophy between Canadian and US archives and archivist roles. In essence I enjoy meeting new archivists and talking about our work. I also enjoy promoting the various professional development opportunities and programs offered by SAA, both those I have taken and in general—there is a lot of learning available through SAA and sometimes the Canadian archives community is not aware of what is available, so it is nice to be a conduit for that information.
SS: When SAA first started its Key Contact Program in 1996, I became one of their first key contacts as a way to become more actively involved in the work of the Society. Prior to my involvement as a key contact representative, I was essentially a wallflower who attended meetings and carefully read each issue of the American Archivists when it came out. When the call for volunteers for this new membership program was announced in 1995, I immediately volunteered to join this exciting new opportunity to become more involved with SAA because I enjoyed meeting new people. I was quickly assigned to be the District 3 representative for Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, and the District of Columbia as well as serving as the key contact for Virginia. While some of my archives colleagues thought I was taking on too much responsibility for such a large membership district, I loved every minute of my time meeting new and seasoned members of SAA. The following year the SAA President appointed me chair of SAA’s Membership Committee, a position I held until 2005. During this time, I worked closely with the other members of the Membership Committee, SAA’s Key Contacts, and Council to develop and fully fund the Donald Peterson Travel award for students and new professionals to attend SAA’s annual meeting. We also established SAA’s annual meeting Career Center and its mentoring program, and formalized a leadership development practice for the Committee to provide new members opportunities to become more actively involved with the leadership of SAA. After stepping down as the chair of the Membership Committee, I continue to support SAA by serving as its international Key Contact Representative to help support our organization’s growing and exceptional international archival community. All of this work allows me to continue learning about the diverse work of my preservation colleagues and allows me to meet SAA’s next generation of leaders of our archival profession.
KB: My own experience as a new (student) member to the SAA really made me appreciate the programming that was not only welcoming students and new professionals, but also encouraging their participation and leadership within the organization. The SNAP Section group, mentorship program, and first-timers being paired up at the Annual Meeting are all examples of how those just starting their archival career can become familiar with the SAA and meet other professionals. When Sara asked me to help as a Key Contact for SAA members in Canada, agreeing was an easy yes.
How my role has evolved:
SG: After being a Key Contact for a couple of years, I took on the District Rep role. Basically this means that each month I coordinate sending new member information to the Key Contacts in District 11—that would be Scott and Kira. We’ll typically have anywhere from two to eight new members split across all international and Canadian locations. So I now have a dual role, which is fine and I enjoy that. I believe that it is possible to do both in District 11 as our full list, even
monthly, has significantly fewer contacts than most other districts. I’ve always contacted new members via email. I believe I have developed better introductory letters as time has gone by, in terms of providing a more personal touch if I can.
SS: My role as a member of SAA’s Membership Committee and its Key Contacts Subcommittee has come complete circle. After twenty-five years of involvement with the Key Contact Program, I tend to serve more as a mindful memory aid for the new leaders of the Membership Committee when questions are raised about how and why the program got its start. I am often allowed to sit in on Committee discussions during our annual meetings. However, now I prefer to carefully and quietly listen to what is being discussed and I try my very best to remember that they are the new future leaders of SAA. Essentially, I want to give them the same opportunities that were afforded to me years ago to grow my own leadership skills. My involvement with the Key Contact Program continues to allow me to be actively involved with SAA for the betterment of the archives profession, and it is my hope that my life-long commitment to SAA and the Key Contact Program can serve as a good example of what any new member of SAA can do when you choose to be actively involved with its leadership.
KB: I especially enjoy the Key Contact role when I have a new student member to reach out to. I also joined our fellow Association of Canadian Archivists (ACA) Membership Committee and became Chair last summer. Overall, representing international membership doesn’t have the same regional relationships to that of the other SAA membership districts within the United States and sometimes sending out cold-emails can go unanswered. However, as volunteers for the Membership Committee, Sara, Scott and I are sincere in offering to be a friendly point of contact to SAA members here in Canada and abroad.