Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Archives Camp

I was the worst library school with a specialization in archives student ever.  I didn’t participate.  I didn’t read any of the professional literature.  I never went to any of the conferences.  I didn’t take any of the really important archives courses (Appraisal?   Nah.  Description and Arrangement?  Who needs that?) 

I’ve never been big on “theory” – I learn by the doing of the work.  And, in grad school, I had a job where I was doing the work so I didn’t pay much attention to the classroom learning part of archive-y things. 

After I graduated, I continued on as a working archivist – learning more and more on the job and becoming, I think, a pretty good archivist.  I was dedicated to my job, to the work, to my organization.  I was content.
And then something changed. 

I began to explore what it meant to be a professional in the archival field.  My view of what it meant to be an archivist evolved from being about the doing of the work – just git ‘er done – to the responsibility that I, as an archivist, had to the larger profession.  I began reading archival literature – and confessed to the librarian on our staff, who also taught my Intro to Archives class in grad school, that I should’ve been paying more attention in school.  He laughed.  I kept on reading. 
Earlier this year, my supervisor’s supervisor passed along information about an archives leadership program.  It was one of those emails sent to lots of people.  It was just an FYI message.  The kind that you glance at and then delete it because you have two million other things to deal with. 

The fact is –  for the past two years information about that same program was tacked up in the room where I signed in every morning.  I used to read the blurb, roll my eyes, snort in derision, and then get down to the doing of real work. 
That changed this year. 

This year, I applied.  And was accepted. 

That’s why I find myself at the University of Wisconsin at Madison spending an entire week in a classroom for eight hours a day with 24 fellow archivists.   
I am at sleep-away archives camp.    

It is everything that I dread. 
Lots of new people.  Introductions sprinkled with fun, zany facts about yourself.  Group exercises.  Lectures.  Eating with strangers.  Sharing work experiences.  Not getting a strategically positioned chair – which here is less about hearing and more about staring out at the lake beyond the classroom window.   Writing on white boards (okay, I don’t dread that one so much!)

I always worry about these kinds of things.  Will I be included in meal plans?  Will I make friends?  Will I fit in?  To know me is to love me – or at least tolerate me politely – but it takes time.  And we only have six days! 
There are 25 people in class.  24 + 1.  12 partners + 1.  Will I always be that +1?

It is the end of our fourth day here, our third full day of class.  I can tell you that, except for once, I have not been the +1.  I have been invited – and have invited – to meals.  I have given away pamphlets that I picked up at the visitor’s center (hey, a girl with pamphlets can make friends anywhere!), I have made friends – which is essential when you need to roll your eyes at someone during class. 

I fit in.

No comments:

Post a Comment