Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Tour of the CBC Library and Archives!, further reflections on going to school as an archivist

Through my program, I have the chance to take a tour of the Library and Archives of the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) in Toronto. I'm quite excited about this as I've long been a fan of the CBC and think that they are one of Canada's interesting institutions. Apparently this event is so popular that I might not get a chance to see it. If I do end going in October, I expect to make a post about it here.

I am now a few weeks into my studies at "Information School" and it is a fairly interesting place so far. I wasn't sure how to compare it with other kinds of professional / graduate programs. It isn't as expensive (though the tuition level is steadily approaching the cost of most Canadian law schools) or competitive as medical or law school, so this makes for a more collegial atmosphere. Presumably, I think that archivists (and librarians etc) are often very collegial and interested in cooperation - these are professional characteristics that interest me.

On the other hand, the professional aspect mean that there is a fairly strong careerist undercurrent to most classes, which can be strongly articulated by mature students in particular though I think most people share it to some degree. While I enjoy some of my readings, about the social and political politics of classification (there was some great medical examples too, but archives/library methods also determine the limits of knowledge in some interesting ways), I'm still a bit ambivalent about the whole process. The pendulm tends to swing between stimulating academic/theoretical reflection (e.g. "What is the underlying theory of archives?") and rigidly, professional workshop type training (er, hard to express but certainly something that comes to mind).


Anonymous said...

I hate to be the voice of doom, but.... archivists/librarians are collegial because they ALL understand how frustrating it is to have to constantly justify their existence not just to those that fund them, but also to the general public. "Archives? Whatever. If it's not available online, I don't need it." TRUST ME (anonymous as I am), this happens very very very often.

It has been kind of painful reading your posts - the Archivist that resigned from the small religious archives is an all-too-common casualty. I was once optimistic about a career in archives - publishing, conferencing, etc. but the reality.. the day-to-day work in an archives can be soul-shattering. I speak as a lone archivist (currently) though even working for a major institution with a team of professionals was difficult. Constant budget cuts, constant justifications, people thinking you are having "fun" at work because you get to work with old documents (yeah, right, writing grant applications and telling a volunteer just to jam that deteriorating file back into the non-acid-free box because there is no money in the budget to purchase any more supplies this year), it is hard. Very hard. Keep your eyes open, and remember that all that theory you have to read is often useless when applied to a real-world situation.

Kratz said...

I recently got my MA in history, and am looking for a career in archives. No such luck so far here in the states, so I recently decided to try my luck in Canada. Do you know of any archivist employment posting sites, like the one the Society of American Archivists has? Thank you so much, and good luck to you!

Accidental Archivist said...

I'll be awarded my MA in history in about three weeks and frankly, I'll be surprised if you are able to find well paying work in the field with that. Thirty or forty years ago in Canada, archivists often had simply graduate history degrees or were librarians. These days almost all job listings that I've seen here - and I've read dozens - require a Master's degree in information studies/archival studies and the like. With that warning, I can suggest a few places you may look for work:

The Arcan-l Email discussion list:
this is the email list for the Association of Canadian archivists. Browsing through the archives of this list may prove quite interesting.

The Archives Association of Ontario
also has an email list.

The Faculty of Information Studies (University of Toronto) has a JobSite which sometimes lists archivist jobs.

These are the main places to look - there are also other provincial associations you may be interested in.

Kratz said...

I've already run into some of the problems you stated, although my main issue has been lack of experience (most jobs want two years, and I only have one). Another issue I may be having is that my degree is not in public history, it is in 19th century American history. I didn't decide that I wanted to be an archivist until after I had already begun to write my thesis. I'm considering going to another school to get a second MA in public history, but don't really want to add more to my already substantial student loan debt. Right now, I'm just interested in any job, whatever the pay is, that will get me the desired experience to get that high profile job at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. (an unrealistic dream, I know).

Thanks for the input on Canadian archivist jobs. Good luck in the real world!