For some reason, the online portal of the American Archivist labels the closing remarks that J. Frank Cook delivered at the 1982 annual meeting of the Society of American Archivists (SAA) as a presidential address.  Being accustomed to finding these presidential addresses published in the subsequent fall or winter issue, I set about reading and summarizing the article by Cook in the Winter 1983 issue, assuming that Edward Weldon had not delivered the customary presidential address at the end of his 1981-1982 term in office.  Only after completing this task did I realize that in the Spring 1983 issue, Weldon’s speech is published.  So enjoy this extra post, and come back next time to hear from Weldon.

Cook served at the archives of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, first as assistant archivist (1965-1970) and then as director (beginning in 1971).  As a means of reflecting on his performance, Cook listed the six pledges he made upon his nomination as vice president of SAA and commented on his accomplishments within the preceding year:

  1. strong appointments — necessary to depend more heavily on volunteers due to budget cuts, so it was vital to select great people
  2. certification — advocated for it for archivists, for education and training programs, and for repositories, but recognized that “the trend is away from certification because of the financial burden in these hard times, opposition to additional regulations, and the possibility of professional associations being charged with restraint of trade by someone denied certification” (10).
  3. politically independent, well-funded National Archives and Records Service (NARA would become independent of the General Services Administration in 1985)
  4. electronic records — pledged to assist “efforts to collect, preserve, and access the records created by technologically innovative information systems” (10).
  5. publish proceedings of the Annual Meeting — I can’t find evidence that this ever happened
  6. hold more annual meetings on college campuses — the 1981 annual meeting had been held at Berkeley, and that was the last time a meeting was held on a college campus

The remainder of Cook’s remarks were organized around three Ps:

  • Planning
  • Professional Associations
  • Professional Affinity Groups (PAGs)

Planning: Cook appointed a Task Force on Goals and Priorities for the Archival Profession, which was given this mission statement:

“To identify, analyze, and report to the Society of American Archivists and the archival profession on major archival needs and the relationships and relative priority of these needs and to suggest how these needs might best be addressed in a coordinated fashion” (11).

He emphasized there needed to be greater cooperation among archivists as well as with clients, records creators, and “those who are inventing the innovative systems in which the records are being stored and accessed” (11).  Cook also asserted that archival theory needed to be adapted “to fit all the myriad forms in which the stuff of history is being cast and all the manifold ways our society goes about obtaining access to its history” (11).  He listed two possibilities to address concerns for the future:

  1. Committee on Education and Professional Development was investigating the development of an archival institute to handle professional training
  2. better coordinated advocacy among archival and other related professional groups

Professional Associations: Cook contended that SAA needed closer relationships with other related professional associations — such as the National Association of State Archives and Records Administrators.  The best I can tell, the first time SAA held a joint meeting with the National Association of Government Archives and Records Administrators and the Council of State Archivists was in 2006 (and again in 2010, 2013, and 2014).

Professional Affinity Groups: There had been discussion about disbanding PAGs in favor of committees or sections, a problem Cook summarized as follows:

“we simply have too many committees, task forces, liaison groups, and PAGs for efficient management by Council” (13).

But Cook pledged to keep working to make the PAG system effective.  He did emphasize the importance of having PAGs actually accomplish rather than merely exist, and he explained that the SAA Council would be dividing itself into three sub-committees to streamline reporting procedures:

  1. PAGs
  2. task forces
  3. standing committees and representatives

For the modern connection, you can check out the recently proposed changes to SAA affinity groups.

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