Steering Shares: Helen Kim

“Steering Shares” is an opportunity for the WAR Steering Committee to introduce themselves to you! WAR Steering Committee Member Helen Kim is the Archivist at Visual Communications, an Asian American media arts nonprofit in Los Angeles. Helen holds a BA from the University of California at Santa Barbara, and her MSIS from the University of Texas at Austin School of Information. She was elected to the WAR Steering Committee last year and currently serves on SAA’s Appointments Committee.

What drew you to archives?

Before my archivist life, I was working at a community-based nonprofit in Little Tokyo, which is in Downtown Los Angeles.  I volunteered at the Los Angeles Public Library Little Tokyo Branch, and thought about pursuing public librarianship. At the same time, I was volunteering with the Little Tokyo Historical Society, working on a book that took photo contributions from community members. I first learned about archives and archival materials from that experience. When I applied to school, I wasn’t sure which direction I preferred. That quickly changed at orientation, where Dr. David Gracy’s excitement for archives pushed me over to the archives side. (I should add that he’s the professor that Christine referred to her in post. He’s responsible for creating many archivists!)

Why did you get involved with WAR?
Women’s issues in the workplace have always interested me, and WAR seemed like a great opportunity to further explore issues like management, professional development, and work-life balance.  So far, I’m really enjoying hearing everyone’s ideas and perspectives, particularly from WAR’s live-tweets.  I look forward to more!

What’s your favorite memory from an SAA conference?

My favorite memory is from my first SAA conference in Chicago. Seeing and meeting so many archivists all over the country was a thrill, and I loved hearing the diverse range of projects people presented. But the best memory from that first conference might be of the Texas Round-Up, the alumni get-together, where very spirited professors and staff led everyone in singing the school spirit song, “The Eyes of Texas.”  I’ve got to make sure I learn all the words before this year’s conference in D.C.!HKim


Missed the Live Tweet on Scholarship and Professional Development? Catch up!

In case you missed WAR’s live tweet on February 7 – Working a Third Shift: Publishing, Presenting, and Promotion – we captured the tweets using twarc. View the conversation here!

Any other thoughts from the discussion? Please share!

February Feature Book Review– Wonder Women: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection

by Rachel Dreyer

Debora Spar’s Wonder Women: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection (published in 2013 by Sarah Crichton Books) first provides a primer on the feminist movement, helpful for grounding the discussion of the issues that still challenge women today. Subsequent chapters address body image, “hookup” culture, marriage, fertility, career choice and achievement, and aging. Readers should feel comfortable skipping around to chapters that best interest them, as several of Spar’s chapters read like a review of Women and Gender 101. Yes, body image issues plague even educated women; yes, contemporary hookup culture can be both liberating and limiting for young women; yes, divorce inordinately affects women’s re-entry to the workforce after years of staying at home with children; yes, society reacts more harshly toward women as they age as opposed to men. These conclusions are nothing new, but they do serve as important reminders of still-pervasive sexism.

wonder-womenAs an early-career archivist with five years in the information profession, to my mind, the most engaging chapters involve women and work. Spar discusses women who opt out of careers that were firmly placed on a successful trajectory until family responsibilities loomed larger, but also (thankfully) clarifies that opting out isn’t always possible for women because of financial reasons. Women who love their jobs or who can’t afford to stay home will remain in the workforce, while women in the upper echelons of the social strata often have more of a choice about staying in their careers or opting out—but that many choose to leave because of the financial stability and earning power of their husbands. There’s a fascinating side to the argument of opting out/staying in that involves the American class structure, here, but Spar doesn’t prod this facet too deeply.

Spar’s arguments suggest that women choose careers that allow them certain flexibilities for future life choices, or they elect to follow career paths that preclude certain life choices due to the demands that “success” will require. The latter choice may mean that women leave the workforce as marriage, children, and family become more important, while the first choice might mean that women’s earning potential is lower from even the start of their careers. Instead of calling for governmental intervention, or blaming men and workplace culture, Spar urges women to acknowledge the choices they might want and the impacts that these may have on their career paths, a clear admission that there is no “having it all.” The implied message is that women can be happier with what they have if they harbor no illusions about the impact of family and life choices on career success.

Ultimately, what does Spar suggest to help remedy the issues that restrict women’s career success? Spar reminds us that biology is a legitimate factor, one that the feminist movement has tended to downplay, in determining the choices that women make regarding sex, childbearing, and childrearing. Biology matters, Spar argues, and to overlook its influence doesn’t equate eliminating the disparities in workplace structures for women. Spar also urges women to “redefine the meaning of choice.” By this, she means that women need to be aware of the multitude of options that they encounter and the benefits and trade-offs that each involves; in short, “having it all” is a technical impossibility, but women can have most of what they want if they give up certain things. Women need to decide what matters most to them and let go of caring so deeply about what isn’t a priority for them.

Good advice, if you can take it! And that’s really the challenge, isn’t it? Amidst so much societal noise and pressure that urges women that we can have it all, that we are wonder women, accepting that difficult choices must be made and their consequences accepted, is just one of the difficulties we face in our identities as modern working women. Spar gives us some good points to consider as we maneuver within our daily lives, but it isn’t what we want to hear—it’s not the panacea of “You go, girl! You can do it all!” It’s about re-evaluating what “all” means to each of us and coming to an acceptance of the constraints we as women place on ourselves.

Interested in writing a review? Contact us!

Save the Date: Live Tweet on Friday, February 7th


Clear your schedules, everyone! SAA’s Women Archivists Roundtable will host a Twitter chat on Friday, February 7 (that’s tomorrow), from 12pm to 3 pm (EST). The group will be discussing professional development activities including publishing, presenting, and professional societies. Follow @WomenArchivists on Twitter, and use #SAAwar to participate in the discussion.

Excited to hear your thoughts, questions, and ideas!

Steering Shares: Christine Anne George

“Steering Shares” is an opportunity for the WAR Steering Committee to introduce themselves to you! WAR Steering Committee Member Christine Anne George is the Archivist & Faculty Services Librarian at the Charles B. Sears Law Library at SUNY Buffalo. Christine holds a BA from Bard College, JD from St. John’s University School of Law, and her MSIS from the University of Texas at Austin School of Information. She was elected to the WAR Steering Committee last year.

What drew you to archives?
My love of history brought me to archives, although I hadn’t thought I would become an archivist. I started doing research in archives as a college student because one of my professors made archival research a mandatory part of his class. For the remainder of college and through law school, I found reasons to keep returning to archives to research. I went to library school to become a law librarian. On a whim I took an archives class with a popular professor. All it took was that one class and I was hooked.

Why did you get involved with WAR?
I’ve been really lucky to have some great mentors both as a student and a professional. I guess I saw WAR as a sort of “big sister” within SAA where members who have been there before—so to speak— can pass on their knowledge with those who are up and coming. It’s something that I really want to be a part of. WAR also presented an opportunity for me to once again work with some fantastic women from my time as an information school student (shout out to my former classmates and fellow steering committee members Bethany Anderson and Helen Kim).

What’s your favorite memory from an SAA conference?
2012_SAA_ChristineMy favorite memory is from the 2012 conference in San Diego. My friend, the aforementioned Helen Kim, wanted to win the first SAA Photo Contest, and I was trying to help her find the perfect shot. While trying to convince a fellow Longhorn at the UT Roundup to strike a pose with a Hollinger box she had won, I took the box to demonstrate. Ever quick with her camera, Helen captured the moment. The photo (“Christine George conquers the Hollinger box”) won the contest which goes to prove that you never know what’s going to happen at an SAA conference and beware of friends with cameras.

Three Questions: Kate Theimer

Kate Theimer is the author of the popular blog ArchivesNext and a frequent writer, speaker and commentator on issues related to the future of archives. She is the author of Web 2.0 Tools and Strategies for Archives and Local History Collections and the editor of A Different Kind of Web: New Connections between Archives and Our Users. She is currently editing a series of books for Rowman & Littlefield on innovative practices in archives and special collections. Kate served on the Council of the Society of American Archivists from 2010 to 2013. Before starting her career as an independent writer and editor, she worked in the policy division of the National Archives and Records Administration in College Park, Maryland. She holds an MSI with a specialization in archives and records management from the University of Michigan and an MA in art history from the University of Maryland.


What interested you in becoming an archivist?

When I arrived at the University of Michigan’s School of Information, I was interested in museum informatics, not archives. But at that time they really didn’t have any faculty in that area, so I took the Intro to Archives class with David Wallace. And that was that. David wove a compelling narrative about the purpose of archives throughout that class, reinforcing the importance of the records for accountability, memory, culture, and social justice. He introduced the rich theoretical background as well as the practical side of managing archival collections. After that I had several classes with Margaret Hedstrom and one class on appraisal with Terry Cook, so my impression of archives as a field full of rich challenges only grew.

Who has influenced you in your career?

Well, the trajectory of my career has taken me away from traditional archival work, so my influences are rather non-traditional. When I started out blogging and writing about archives, I looked for role models and sources of inspiration who I thought showed authenticity, good humor, expertise, confidence, and a real passion for what they did. The people I wanted to emulate were teachers, in a way, making their subject matter approachable and interesting for a broad range of people.

I wish I could say I had wise archivist mentors, guiding me along my path, but my mentors when I started out were people like Tim Gunn (of “Project Runway” fame) and Ina Garten (the “Barefoot Contessa” of cookbooks and cooking shows, who also left a job in D.C. to pursue a different path). These and some other blogging role models showed me how to develop a distinctive style of writing and presentation that was deeply grounded in the subject matter, but not overly formal. Serious, but not stuffy.

What contributed to your success?

Well, luck had a lot to do with it. I started writing about Web 2.0 at a time when it was a relatively new topic for archivists. I chose the topic because it was something I wanted to learn about, and by writing about what I learned, I was able to develop a resource that was useful for others. I’m a social person, and I love to connect with people and share information, which has made Twitter a natural platform for me to use. I also enjoy writing, and I can do it relatively quickly, which is a big advantage for work in both social media and traditional publishing. Being active and engaged on social media has led me to make connections across the archival profession, with archivists of all ages and backgrounds around the world, and also connections with people in related professions who are interested in the same kinds of issues and questions I am. I have been lucky that my interests and talents are a good match for the world of sharing via social media.

“Three Questions” is an ongoing series of interviews with women who are leaders in the profession. The interviews, limited to three questions, will highlight women in the field who have made an impact, whether through their role in management, mentoring, research, or other leadership capacity. This series of interviews responds to WAR member’s interest in promoting women in leadership roles, as identified in WAR’s survey of its membership in August 2013. WAR welcomes suggestions for future interviewees – please contact us with your ideas.