Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Calling all Archivists and Archives Users...What Do Archivists Do?

Volunteers guided by a professional
archivist process papers at the
Winchester Archives in Massachusetts.
Calling all Archivists and Archives Users...

Many librarians and other information professionals are finding themselves in positions that require them to justify their jobs. In a weak economy, many see the library as a soft service and see librarians as service professionals who can easily be replaced by volunteers. The many tasks of a public librarian are often not visible to every patron and can easily be dismissed by those who don't even use a library. A blog post called "What Do Public Librarians and Library Staff Do," written in support of professional librarians, gives us a bullet list that describes the workload of a public librarian in order to shed light on the role of this information professional. Within the list is a section called "Archives and Special Collections." It lists two tasks related to the care of these materials:
- Digitisation and digital preservation, making sure information will be accessible in future;
- Storing and conserving media (including old/rare books);

I thought that we could greatly improve on this particular section of the document. I am requesting that all community archivists who work in public libraries, historical societies and the like add their thoughts. Also, those who use public libraries who are readers of this blog may have something to contribute. Genealogists and other researchers, how do public librarians and local archivists help you get the information you need? From one on one research assistance, to community documentation and collection development, to arrangement and description, to preservation, to running local history events, and more...what do local archivists around the world from day-to-day? 


  1. I am going to think on this a while. You are definitely right that we could greatly improve upon the just-two bullets on the original list!

  2. To me, Archives are mostly about Cultural Memory. Preserving & providing access to records that provide information about cultural memory. In my area, they also help teachers to teach about/ through primary documents, which is becoming a larger part of education.

    What do we do? More then I could list here.

  3. We do indeed do a lot! But that is not always obvious to everyone. Please see my next blog post. I'd love for you to add to the list I've begun...