Gwyn: Hi All—I’m Gwyn Hervochon, the Idaho Key Contact in District 9. Originally from the East Coast, I completed my MSLIS at the Palmer School of Library and Information Science at Long Island University in 2010, and then headed west for a temporary processing archivist position at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. I knew next to nothing about Idaho when I moved here in 2013 for my current position in Special Collections and Archives at Boise State University, but I’m so happy that I landed here in this vibrant city and beautiful state.
Gwen: Hi everyone, I’m Gwen Higgins. I am an archivist and assistant professor at the University of Alaska/Alaska Pacific University Consortium Library in Anchorage, Alaska. I am originally from the Midwest and got my MLIS from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. While in grad school I worked at the Wisconsin Historical Society and the UW—Madison Special Collections, before moving to Alaska to take my current position in 2014. I just started as the District 9 Rep, and I am so excited to be part of the Key Contacts program.
Heather: My name is Heather Hultman, I serve as the Key Contact for the state of Montana. I grew up in Idaho, but have lived in Montana for over 25 years. After completing an undergraduate internship, I decided archives were a great place to get lost in the past and 15 years later it’s still a great adventure. I earned my graduate degree from the University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee. I work as the Senior Photograph Archivist at the Montana Historical Society. My previous archival position was at the Montana State University Library, Merrill G. Burlingame Archives and Special Collections.
Sara: I’m Sara Piasecki, and I currently serve as the Key Contact for Alaska. I’ve been in the 49th State for eleven years now (unbelievable!) and am now working as a project archivist for the National Park Service Alaska Regional Office. I’ve held many positions in archives and special collections on the East and West coasts from the end of the last century to the present. I still enjoy what I do, and I learn something new every day.
Why I became a Key Contact/District Rep? What aspects do you most enjoy?
Gwyn: I was glad to accept the role of Idaho’s Key Contact in 2019 when the District 9 Rep reached out to me. After serving as Idaho’s rep to the board of Northwest Archivists several years earlier, I was interested in staying in the loop with archivists across the state. Although Idaho doesn’t have nearly as many archivists as some of our neighboring states, I always enjoy welcoming new members to SAA and appreciate the opportunity to connect to a growing professional statewide network.
Gwen: Because Sara Piasecki told me to. Mostly joking. I wanted to help make participation in SAA more accessible to new members. When I first joined SAA, I attended annual meetings but didn’t engage with any committees, sections, or other groups, because I wasn’t sure how. As I have become more active in SAA through committee membership and conference presentations, I wish I had gotten involved sooner. I am hoping that as District Rep, I can help demystify SAA a little bit and reduce the barriers to participation for new members in my region.
Heather: I was asked by a former colleague to be a Key Contact. After some thought, I felt that it would be a great opportunity to interact with fellow archivists on a different level, by providing me with a new opportunity to not only participate, but also give back to the SAA community. Some of the things I enjoy most about being a Key Contact are reaching out to new members to provide them with information about the organization. I enjoy it when they respond and share a little about themselves, their questions, and their interests. I like the opportunity to create and maintain connections with other archivists in my state as well as within SAA.
Sara: I became a Key Contact because Alaska feels like a small place where anyone can make a difference, and everyone has an opportunity to contribute in a way that fits with their interests, their work, and their personal style. I love having an excuse to cold-call new members, to tell them a little bit about SAA, and offer my help in getting them connected to the larger archival network.
What do you think is the most important role for Key Contacts?
Gwyn: I appreciate the personalized touch the key contact program brings to a large organization like SAA which might feel intimidating to some new members. Sometimes I hear back from folks who are grateful for a personalized email and sometimes I don’t but either way I think it’s worthwhile to reach out and make the initial connection knowing that questions, collaborations, ideas, etc., might happen further down the line.
Gwen: Reaching out to welcome new members helps them to form connections within SAA. Receiving a personal message from a Key Contact might make new members more likely to ask questions about getting the most out of their SAA membership. The committee as a whole, as well as Contacts and Reps of individual districts can explore new ways to reach out to the members they serve.
Heather: I think the most important role for Key Contacts is to reach out to new members to provide an individual or personal point of reference to someone who may not be familiar with SAA or other professionals in their state.
What have you learned from your work thus far?
Heather: My role as Key Contact has helped me become more aware of what SAA has to offer as well as how to access those resources in order to share them with new and existing members. It has also helped me step out of my normal comfort zone while sharing with someone new to SAA.
How has your role as a Key Contact evolved?
Sara: When I started as Alaska Key Contact, I admit I didn’t know as much about SAA as I probably should have. I have been more motivated to learn about the organization and the many opportunities and resources it offers. I’ve tried to tailor my initial outreach to new members to highlight aspects of SAA that I think might be most relevant to their current situations.
What would you tell those considering becoming a Key Contact or District Rep?
Gwyn: If you’re considering becoming a Key Contact, I’d say–do it! The time commitment is not overwhelming and it’s a great way to be helpful to new archivists and give back to the profession.
Sara: Go for it! It’s a really rewarding way to get to know your neighbor-colleagues.