Wednesday, September 17, 2008
If you are interested in this issue, either for or against it, I encourage you to comment in public forums (including this one) and respond to the subcommittee's request for comment when it is made later in the year.
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
Even if you didn't sign on to the original submission, there is still time to express your support or provide feedback! Please comment here or send an email to Christine Di Bella at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Saturday, July 26, 2008
Request to Appoint a Task Force to Examine the Issue of SAA Accreditation of Graduate Archival Education Programs
Society of American Archivists
August 25, 2008
Request to Appoint a Task Force to Examine the Feasibility of SAA Accreditation of Graduate Archival Education Programs
A group of SAA members was inspired by a recent discussion on the Archives and Archivists listserv to work together to call for renewed attention to a pressing issue. The group prepared this submission and is comprised of:
Christine Di Bella (primary contact)
Christina V. Fidler
Marcy J. Gascoine
Megan A. Hibbitts
Additional SAA Members Signing on in Support:
Jeannette A. Bastian
Allyson Eddy Bravmann
Sharon E. Brock
Mary Edsall Choquette
Susan E. Davis
A.S. Elizabeth Fairfax
Claire C. Galloway
Russell D. James
Jeffrey V. Moy
Lisa Pasquinelli Rickey
Peter K. Steinberg
Christina J. Zamon
Other Archivists Signing on in Support:
Jeremy B. Dibbell
In his SAA presidential year, Mark Greene has called for a renewed examination of our professional identity as archivists. Education and training are central to archivists’ professional identity – and the issues of status in society, pay, and working conditions to which it is inextricably connected. Yet SAA has never taken a lead in officially sanctioning graduate archival education or other types of professional preparation, ceding that role to other professional organizations like the American Library Association and the
SAA has not always intended to remain on the sidelines. At various points in its history, SAA has led or participated in efforts to formalize graduate archival education, often with the end goal of developing a formal accreditation process. The Fall/Winter 2000 issue of the American Archivist, a special issue devoted to graduate archival education, included a previously unpublished paper from 1983 by Frederic Miller examining the history of SAA’s efforts since the 1960s to formalize and possibly accredit graduate archival education. He noted that SAA, after developing guidelines for archival education, was on the brink of beginning an accreditation program, but abandoned it for a variety of reasons. Miller called for a renewed effort (in 1983), characterizing clarification of the issue as essential to archivists’ continuing quest for definition and status. In a contemporary article in the same issue, Luciana Duranti indicated that the SAA strategic plan presented to the SAA leadership in 1999 contained objectives that "are revealing of an entirely new approach to graduate archival education." One of these was that "SAA will explore the feasibility of accrediting graduate archival programs as the next step in developing rigorous professional archival education." The summary report from the SAA 2001 Planning Conference listed pursuing accreditation as a priority objective. Despite these suggestions that the accreditation issue was gaining momentum, no listing of SAA strategic objectives, annual reports, or Council minutes indicate that this issue has received further attention from any official body within the organization since that time.
We believe it is time for SAA to formally revisit this critically important issue by appointing a task force to examine the desirability and feasibility of accrediting graduate archival education programs.
Accreditation of graduate archival education programs has been considered by SAA at various critical points in SAA and the archival profession’s history. We believe that we are again at a critical point, as evidenced by a number of interrelated factors.
In their report on the findings of the A*CENSUS, Elizabeth Yakel and Jeannette Bastian concluded that "graduate archival education is currently the primary form of entry into the archival profession and was the primary form for a majority of the archivists under fifty years old." At the same time, student membership in SAA is growing; of the over 5,000 current members, around 20% are student members. In addition, as of January 2008, SAA had 29 student chapters, over half of which were established after 2001. While this increase can be partially attributed to SAA’s increased services to students, it points to the growing number of people entering the field through academic preparation, and also suggests an increased obligation on SAA’s part to meet student members’ needs. As Yakel and Bastian noted, there are "wide disparities in both the depth and the quality of the archival education currently offered by master’s programs." Formal guidance in choosing appropriate educational programs is one of this constituency’s greatest needs.
While student numbers are rising, educational offerings in archives are on the rise as well. Just in the last year, two new graduate programs in archives have been announced, one at
The perceptions of employers of the value of archival education and training are certainly of concern for many archivists. As archivists we struggle to differentiate ourselves and our work from that of librarians, yet the only credentialing body commonly associated with our education programs is the American Library Association. Recent discussions on the listserv indicate a growing trend toward entry-level archivist jobs looking for an MLIS (or similar degree) from an
While SAA has offered guidelines for graduate archival education since 1977, no archival education program in the
Another factor that suggests it is time to reopen examination of accreditation is the progress of the Certified Archivist credential. SAA has considered three options for credentialing in the past: credentialing archival education programs, credentialing archival institutions, and credentialing individuals. In the archival field, only the third option has been implemented to any degree, through the
We recognize that accreditation of archival education programs is a complex and controversial issue, likely one of the reasons that its consideration has been postponed so many times. Formally reopening the issue will surely provoke negative reactions from some, even as it elicits support and excitement from many others. This diversity of opinion should not prevent SAA from exploring such a crucial issue, however; the most important issues we face, in the profession as in life, This diversity of opinion should not prevent SAA from exploring such a crucial issue, however; the most important issues we face, in the profession as in life, often engender the most vigorous debate.
We recognize that SAA itself is in a difficult position in relation to archival education. SAA offers its own slate of educational offerings, and these offerings send a mixed message as to their purpose and relationship to formal education. Are they intended to providing basic grounding in core archival work (titles such as "Understanding Archives: An Introduction to Principles and Practices" and "Arrangement and Description of Manuscript Collections") or advanced instruction related to specialized or emerging topics ("Preservation of 20th Century Visual Materials" and "Applying DACS to Single-Item Manuscript Cataloging")? A task force considering accreditation of graduate education would need to consider this issue as well.
As this submission implies, those of us writing this recommendation have strong opinions on accreditation, but we are not asking SAA to decide upon the issue itself at this time. We are merely requesting that SAA undertake a formal study of whether accreditation is desirable and feasible. We think that SAA and the archival profession have a lot to gain in doing so.
That the SAA Council appoint a task force to explore the desirability and feasibility of accrediting graduate archival education programs. Because of the broad applicability of the issue, we recommend that the task force be comprised of a cross-section of the SAA membership, as well as members with particular expertise in graduate archival education.
Education and training of archivists is central to SAA’s mission. At a time when archival education is the primary form of entry into the field and archivist preparation is becoming increasingly diffuse, it is in the best interest of SAA and the archival profession to reexamine the issue of accreditation of graduate archival education programs.
While the fiscal impact of implementing an accreditation program could be significant, the fiscal impact of appointing a task force to examine the feasibility of the issue will be minimal. There may be some costs associated with staff support for the task force.
 Frederic M. Miller, "The SAA as Sisyphus: Education since the 1960s," American Archivist 63 (Fall/Winter 2000):224-236.
 Luciana Duranti, "The Society of American Archivists and Graduate Archival Education: A Sneak Preview of Future Directions," American Archivist 63 (Fall/Winter 2000): 240.
 SAA 2001 Planning Conference Summary Report, https://www.archivists.org/governance/2001planning_conf.asp (viewed
 Elizabeth Yakel and Jeannette Allis Bastian, "A*CENSUS: Report on Graduate Archival Education," American Archivist 69 (Fall/Winter 2006): 349.
 "Pratt Institute Joins SAA as 29th Student Chapter," Archival Outlook (January/February 2008): 22.
 Yakel and Bastian: 365.
 According to the 2002 "Guidelines for a Graduate Program in Archival Studies," "By establishing these basic guidelines as minimum standards for archival studies programs, SAA also hopes to encourage the continued development of more extensive and more comprehensive programs, and by doing so, to improve the profession by better educating archivists."http://www.archivists.org/prof-education/ed_guidelines.asp (viewed on 23 July 2008).
 SAA’s "Directory of Archival Education" clearly states "SAA does not accredit archival education and training programs, institutes, or courses, and inclusion in this directory does not imply endorsement or approval by the Society" (http://www.archivists.org/prof-education/edd-index.asp, viewed on 23 July 2008).
 Martin Levitt, who proposed the resolution, is a PACSCL board member and Vice-President/President-Elect of ACA. In his March 2008 ACA Vice-President’s report, Levitt described this pending action as "something of a coup for ACA, because (optimistically) it may help to convince other consortia and regional archival organizations that it is time to follow suit." (
 Miller suggests this as one possible reason for the organization’s ambivalence toward accrediting graduate archival education.