Friday, May 13, 2011

Oral Histories Subpoenaed

Oral histories collected from members of the IRA and paramilitary loyalist groups in the 1990s have been subpoenaed by the UK.
These histories are held in Boston and are supposed to be sealed for 30 years. The possible release of these tapes could be a huge roadblock to future oral history efforts, and creates questions about how much secrecy archivists can promise to interviewees.

Monday, April 4, 2011

National Archives Openings

The National Archives of Ireland is currently recruiting for several Assistant Archivist positions.When I first saw this I was very excited! I've been waiting for a good opportunity to pop up.
Unfortunately, these positions are through FAS (the Irish Training and Employment Authority).  That means these jobs are intended for people currently on the dole.  The duties include:

"Assisting in the re-housing and cataloguing of archival records.Creating box- and shelf lists and schedules of records using modern ICT software... Person specification: 3rd level degree and 3rd level qualification in archival science both essential. Must be orderly and methodical in work practices, with attention to detail"

The person who takes this job is expected to work 35 hours a week for nine months for absolutely no wages. Granted, if I thought I would be unemployed for the next nine months, maybe this would seem like a sweet deal. And I'm sure the National Archives is benefiting from not having to pay these workers. They are recruiting for 9 Assistant Archivists, so they will be able to get a good bit of work done all right (they are also looking for people to work on their census website). I'm not saying that this won't be good experience for someone who needs to build their sills, but 9 months full time and no pay -  god, how depressing. Is that really all this country is willing to invest in its archives?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

What's in a Name?

Is it appropriate to use the title "Archivist" in recruitment postings for paraprofessional positions?

If, for example, a job listing describes archiving tasks as side duties (archiving here most likely meaning the filing of inactive records), and the job requires no sort of post graduate degree or certification in Archives Administration, should the job be advertised simply as "Archivist," or should it include a qualifying word such as "technician," or "clerk"? 

The Oxford English Dictionary describes "paraprofessional" as:

a person to whom a particular aspect of a professional task is delegated, but who is not licensed to practise as a fully qualified professional.

 Some job listings offer extremely low wages, but justify this by saying they do not require a Master's Degree.  I would argue these jobs need to be clearly identified as paraprofessional positions.  For example, you would never see the following recruitment ad:

Wanted:  Lawyer

Duties:  Complete legal paperwork

Qualifications:  No law degree required

Instead, you would see an ad for a Paralegal.  This is a separate occupation from being a lawyer or solicitor.  It does not require the same amount of education. 

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics the average wage for an Archivist in the US is $46,000, with the lowest 10% earning just $27,000.  These statistics are calculated from employer-submitted data.  Clearly, if we do not educate employers this issue, they will continue to declare they employ "Archivists" while they actually have "Records Clerks."  This drives down the median wage statistics and gives us all less leverage in salary negotiations.  The situation in Ireland is a little less dire, as the Central Statistics Office only lists wages for broad groups, such as Managers and Professionals.  Archivists fall into the category of Professionals, who earn on average about 50,000 Euro per year.  These statistics are also based on employer-submitted surveys.

 Being an Archivist is a profession, and should be recognized as such.  Most public sector employers understand the lingo, with NARA frequently posting "Archives Technician" positions.  However, most private institutions haven't quite caught on yet.  If we don't address this issue, who will speak up for us?