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archives society of alberta
NEWSLETTER
March 1997    Volume 16 Number 4

A WORD FROM THE EDITOR

ARE YOU PULLING YOUR WEIGHT?

by Jim Bowman

When I moved to Alberta almost four years ago, I was impressed with the competence and dedication of the professional organization here. Its educational program was the envy of other provinces; its members engaged in lively and sociable debates on archival theory and practice; and its public awareness programs like Archives Week kept the profession in a high profile.

But, I also observed what I can only term "burnout". The ASA's excellent programs were being managed by a small cadre of dedicated volunteers, many of whom had served on the Executive or on committees since its founding. Not surprisingly, I observed a certain amount of tiredness, cynicism, and inability to come up with new ideas.

This problem can be explained with a simple statistical analysis of our membership. According to our membership directory, as of October 31, 1996, we had 129 individual members. Of these, only about 40 actually work with archives on a full-time basis -- the others are only interested in archives, or their involvement with archives is secondary to other professional duties such as museum, library, or records management.

Our Society has six Executive positions, and, at present, seven committees or task forces. If each of these bodies consisted of five members, there'd be enough volunteer positions for all 40 "full-time" archival workers. Some committees would like to have a few more members, and some volunteers participate in more than one body. Participation in February's Joint Planning Meeting suggests that only about 17 people are actually managing the ASA's business and programs, including some "part-time" archival workers.

If you derive your livelihood from working with archives, you have probably benefited from some of the ASA's programs: its excellent educational program, public awareness activities, advisory services, the Newsletter, the Web site, the ANA database .... But if you've never contributed to your profession's volunteer administrative structure, then I think I can fairly say, you're not carrying your share of the workload.

Participation in the ASA can be fun. Travel and communications expenses and meals are paid for by the Society. Participation gives you an insider's view of the archival world. It gives you a chance to improve the way things are done. It gives you a warm and fuzzy feeling that you're making the world a slightly better place. It gives you a chance to exercise your interpersonal and organizational skills. It impresses employers and looks good on your résumé.

This year, there will be three vacant Executive positions, and most committees will be seeking new members as well. In May 1998 the position of President will be vacant. If you're approached to join a committee or the Executive, please consider it seriously. And if you're in a position to recruit volunteers, consider the rejuvenating potential of bringing in new people, even if you don't know them well.