Not music to my ears
I read the job description for the recently-opened Associate Archivist at the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra (which is available at the SFSO website in PDF form, or at Archives Gig), because I know the previous incumbent and hey, it’s San Francisco. Since you’re reading this here, you know I wasn’t exactly happy with what I read. Let’s take the job responsibilities first:
Assist all departments in maintaining the organization’s records management program by identifying existing and newly created records, and executing a retention policy to archive and destroy records according to operational needs.
Manage on-going digitization of archival material for reproduction and reference purposes.
Act as liaison to the IT Department for the maintenance and management of archival databases and born-digital records.
Partner with the IT Department to develop enterprise-wide data lifecycle management standards and policies.
Process non-current and semi-current records of the organization. Maintain Inventories and catalogs of on-site and off-site archival material.
Provide information/reference/research services to the SFS staff and public. Assist on in-house special projects including exhibits and the oral history program.
Represent the organization in promoting its historical heritage to the community, including, but not limited to, curating exhibits, addressing in-house and community groups, and offering slide presentations.
Keep current with and participate in the archives community, networking regularly with other archivists.
A lot of new archivists get suckered into these kind of positions because they think they’ll get to do a lot of different things and expand their skill set with a lot of responsibilities. What they don’t know is that they won’t get credit for anything they do. I’ve worked in a few of these positions, and I know. I’m not even going to to get into the assumption that the most junior person on the archives staff is supposed to be the liaison to the IT department, other than to say it’s a situation that’s all too common. Strike one.
Moving on to the qualifications:
Masters of Library Science, History, or related field and 2-3 years experience in an archive or manuscript repository or a bachelor’s degree with 3-5 years experience in an archive or manuscript repository.
Experience with Records Management and Documents Retention procedures and policies.
Strong computer skills: Windows, Microsoft Office, Microsoft Excel, Adobe Photoshop Elements, FileMaker Pro, Inmagic Presto, familiarity with HTML, XML, and FTP software. Knowledge of Microsoft SharePoint and MSSQL a plus.
Experience with digitization projects and workflow with a demonstrated understanding of the value of metadata associated with digital archival assets.
Excellent verbal and written communication skills.
Certification through the Academy of Certified Archivists preferred.
Basic knowledge of arts and culture, with an interest in classical music.
Ability to work well with diverse personalities.
Strong organizational skills.
Ability to lift and shift boxes weighing up to 15 lbs.
All pretty standard (if, ahem, diverse) requirements. It’s pretty obvious they’re looking for a “computer-savvy” person, which is fine. Then you get to “Certification through the Academy of Certified Archivists preferred.” There’s another blog post (or ten) to be written about the Certified Archivist racket, but for the purposes of this post I’ll simply say that expecting archivists straight out of library school – who have probably put themselves in significant debt to get their degree(s) and been working for free in crappy internships so they’ll have some experience on their resume – to shell out the money and invest the time studying to become Certified Archivists is laughable if it weren’t criminal. Strike two.
And now, for the final strike. Buried at the end of the second paragraph, as a clause attached to the introduction to the job requirements is this zinger: “…this regular, part-time position…”
Really? You want all of those skills, and you want to give your new employee all of that responsibility, for a part time job? Strike three.
As if that weren’t enough, there’s a glaring omission in this posting of a) salary or b) a benefits package. I know that institutions often have rules that prevent them from posting specifics of salaries or benefits in job listings, but in that case there’s usually some sort of boilerplate language like “Salary dependent on experience and qualifications” and “Excellent benefits package.” I’m guessing that the reason salary and benefits aren’t mentioned here is because the former isn’t very good and the latter don’t exist.
I know times are tough for cultural institutions, whether they’re archives, libraries, museums or symphony orchestras. But that’s no excuse to exploit your employees (or potential employees).