In putting together the list of writings by Mark Greene, I came across his 2007 inaugural presidential address.  He chose to kick off his SAA presidential term by delving into the identity of the archival profession.  He took inspiration from Maynard Brichford’s incoming presidential address in 1979.

Where Brichford wrote of “Seven Sinful Thoughts,” Greene wrote about “Five Frustrating Foibles” that he asserted are “diminishing our professional identity and our future” (2).

  1. We are too resistant to change.  Greene contended archivists are too comfortable with the “guardian” approach and, therefore, are reluctant to question established methods and practices.  Instead, he encouraged us to be agile in our processing and willing to modify our approach to finding aids, concluding, “we must make boldness and innovation hallmarks of our profession.  Change for the sake of change is chaos.  But change based on creative assessment of our mission and circumstances is energizing, inspiring, and essential” (4).
  2. We (still) don’t put our users first.  Greene asserted there’s a prevailing notion “that archivists are guardians and servants of the materials, not facilitators and servants of our researchers” (5).  He suggested users could gain greater involvement in collection development, appraisal, prioritization of processing or digitization projects, and annotations of finding aids.
  3. Frankly, my friends, we whine too much.  Greene summed this one up very well: “We must accept that our fate and future is in our own hands, and that improving our stature requires strong advocacy, led by each of us at our own institutions and led at a higher level by the national association, based on pride, strength, and clarity of message rather than grumbling, weakness, and the assumption that our importance is obvious” (7).
  4. Advocacy is not fully integrated into our daily and professional work.  Greene explained that advocacy needs to be a routine part of the archival profession and that “we must advocate for a profession that has a compelling and clearly understood institutional and social purpose” (8).
  5. We pay too much attention to the trees and too little to the forest.  Greene quoted Max Evans, saying, “‘we must be inoculated against the disease of mindless itemitis'” (9).  Greene asserted archivists suffer from this same malady, appraising at a very granular level out of a fear of disposing of a key document.

Greene concluded part of the forest archivists need to consider is our overall mission and goals.  He contended part of the solution is greater diversity and inclusion within the profession.  He parted by providing his vision of archives:

  • “Creativity should replace craft as we examine our daily work;
  • “Users should replace collections as we ask ourselves ‘why’ we do things a certain way;
  • “Pride in our role within our institutions and society should replace prickly sensitivity to perceived slights;
  • “Advocacy should replace insular navel-gazing about our practice;
  • “Commitment to professional unity should overtake the pull of fragmentation; and
  • “Change is the order of the day” (11).
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