It’s so hard to find good help these days…
I initially came across this terrible job posting via HigherEdJobs while researching what kinds of skills employers are looking for this season. I like to stay fashionable, ya know.
The first thing to grab my attention was the “Part-Time/Adjunct” status, which seems out of place for a position described as “responsible to develop and maintain the College Archive for Tacoma Community College… collect, process, promote, and provide access to the College’s archival resources… for reference and instructional services related to the Archive.” I know many community colleges rely upon adjunct faculty, but I haven’t encountered many job descriptions for adjunct professional staff.
The responsibilities listed in full:
- Collect and process archival material.
- Implement archives management software tool.
- Write DACS-compliant finding aids using EAD authoring software.
- Design and supervise digitization project for selected photographs, documents, and audio-visual material.
- Coordinate upload and maintenance of digital collections.
- Train and supervise work study student in work including processing, data entry, and scanning.
- Promote the Archive and develop the collections through outreach to college community, exhibit design, and social media.
- Offer information sessions to library faculty and staff on archives reference services.
- Work with faculty to develop class assignments using archival resources.
- Teach instructional sessions on archival research to students.
- Coordinate special projects or initiatives such as the College’s 50th anniversary celebration in 2015.
- Assume responsibility for Archive Advisory Committee and its activities.
Preferred skills included:
- Thorough knowledge of archival best practices for appraisal, preservation, arrangement, description, and outreach.
- Understanding of descriptive systems and principles, national standards, archival ethics, and digitization methodologies and metadata standards.
- Ability to offer instruction in archival research to faculty, staff and students.
- Ability to plan and coordinate work of volunteers, work study students, and interns.
- Ability to be innovative, creative and user-oriented in developing an academic archives program.
Minimum qualifications are a bachelor’s degree and one (1) year of archival experience, with MLS preferred but not required. This seemed odd to me since the duties outlined above (instruction, supervision, collection development, digitization, policy creation, appraisal, outreach) clearly fall into what I would consider the professional realm. And golly gee, it sure looks like a lot of responsibility for one person working part time!
Another detail which struck me is the position’s responsibility for coordinating “special projects or initiatives such as the College’s 50th anniversary celebration”. I recently assisted with a major anniversary celebration as part of a three person archives team, so I have a small understanding of the work involved (in short: never ending). The final red flag comes from the initial description, which seems to indicate that the future Archivist may be working with a relatively (or completely?) unprocessed set of collections.
I’m new to this game, so my first thought was not that I had found a terrible job posting but that I must be mistaken in my analysis. I dug deeper.
A link to the official job posting reveals the following gems:
“Part-Time/Adjunct” status is now listed as “Temporary”, a roughly equivalent but significant change, since adjunct in my state gives the impression that one’s contract may be renewed as needed. Also, adjuncts are sometimes eligible for benefits if they meet a sufficient threshold of hours. I’m not sure how this works out in Washington specifically.
Terms of Employment reads, “This is an hourly position scheduled to work varied hours up to 18 hours per week. The pay rate is $ 20.00 per hour. Some flexibility in scheduling is required to meet the needs of the department. A collective bargaining agreement exists and membership in the Washington Federation of State Employees or payment of a service fee may be required.” (Emphasis is my own, insert indignation here.)
Benefits “not applicable”.
But wait! There’s more! A June 2012 job posting for a Project Archivist at Tacoma Community College provides some telling insights into the work environment. The Project Archivist, eligible to work “varied hours up to 17 hours per week” at a rate of $16 per hour with no benefits, originally called for “archives management or library school graduate students”.
Responsibilities included “creating a college archives”, “identify materials well-suited to support the College’s 50th anniversary celebration in 2015”, deliver “a physical collection, cataloged and indexed; a digital repository of selected materials; and a set of visually-dynamic, publicly accessible webpages”, “develop a budget proposal”, and “provide guidance in design of a collection development policy”.
So to recap, the lucky employee who is hired for the November 2012 Archivist position will be inheriting a college archives which has been assembled from scratch by a lone graduate student working 17 hours per month for about three months. I don’t mean to disparage graduate students in anyway (I am one of them), but this seems like barely enough time to inventory 50 years of unprocessed institutional records much less process, digitize, and make sense of them in time for a major anniversary event. Maybe the previous incumbent accomplished amazing things in this tiny amount of time, I don’t know.
It seems to me that the 50th Anniversary is central to this whole debacle. I’ve seen it happen: a big milestone is on the horizon. Everybody starts to envision grandiose ceremonies, world-class exhibits, waterfalls of alumni donations. Suddenly, the institution realizes it has never invested any time or resources into preserving its own lofty history. At first, one might see a few over-eager volunteers (alumni, retired faculty, student workers), but eventually they will fall victim to the tedious slog of sorting through mountains of carelessly assembled papers and ephemera. In some cases, the institution might take an enlightened approach and recruit a full time archivist (more often than not, a fresh-faced MLS graduate). Or, if its particularly budget conscious, the institution might seek out the cheapest available consultant to do all the dirty work as quickly as possible.
Tacoma Community College has apparently combined the less admirable strategies of both approaches: give the candidate a pitifully inadequate time frame in which to handle a ridiculous workload, pay them next to nothing (seriously, this position would leave you eligible for about $200 a month in food stamps in Washington State), and offer no benefits. As a bonus, they can continue to undermine the professional aspirations and diminish the advanced skills of MLS graduates by seeking candidates who are barely qualified for most paraprofessional archives jobs. Yay!
On the plus side, I did realize how fortunate I am in my paraprofessional position (benefits, full-time permanent status, slightly higher annual pay, reasonable workload, and institutional support). Thoughts? Insights? Anyone moving to Tacoma?
P.S. The position closes Wednesday, November 28, so you’d better jump on it!