Today I begin a new series of posts that will allow us to get to know our Executive Board leadership. I've asked each Board member to answer a few questions and provide a photo. Our first contestant is Colin Reeve, the current Archives Month Chair.
What job have you had in the archival realm?
The job I have now, which is in Special Collections / University Archives at UNC Asheville, but it has morphed over time, as most jobs do. I had almost completed my MLIS at UNC Greensboro, when I started to volunteer in Special Collections, doing basic manuscript processing and creating finding aids, which at the time were created in Microsoft Front Page! The volunteer role became a part-time role, and at the end of 2013, I was lucky enough to land a full-time job. Since Gene Hyde and I are the only employees in Special Collections, although we do have a steady supply of great interns and student workers, we essentially do anything and everything: accessioning and processing collections, digitizing materials, providing reference services to students and other researchers, and teaching classes covering use of our collections and primary sources in general. I also have responsibility for the university archives and spent many months going through literally every document to assemble the archives into a logical order and produce finding aids.
What is your educational background?
I got my MLIS from UNC Greensboro. My undergraduate degree is in Quantity Surveying, a quaintly British and Commonwealth job that, in simple terms, covers the management of construction material quantities and costs. I spent many years doing that, which interestingly, did give me my first experience of working with a records retention and disposition schedule, years before I worked in an archive.
What’s your favorite part of your job, and what do you consider to be the most important?
The favorite part is “finding stuff out.” By that I mean learning things myself through helping others find what they are looking for. Most of what I know about Asheville and Western North Carolina was learned through questions asked by other people. The most important part is the other side of that equation: connecting people to the information they’re looking for.
Tell us something you’re particularly proud of from your job or institution.
It’s probably making the university archives accessible. They are a rich resource, not just of the school’s history but also Asheville’s history, that historically (pun intended) were not used because they were essentially hidden. The increased accessibility also coincided with the university’s 90th anniversary, so we were able to use the archives not only for blogs and exhibits that we did but also to support the entire campus in the anniversary celebrations.
What advice would you give to someone pursing a similar career?
Be prepared to go where the work is. I may get criticized for saying this, but library schools are creating more graduates than there are libraries and archives jobs, so there’s too many people chasing too few jobs. Also, many of the archives in NC are operated by a small number of people on tight budgets, so vacancies come about through people leaving rather than new positions being created. At least, that’s my take on things.
Who has been key to shaping your professional outlook?
Firstly, there’s my colleague Gene Hyde, but, and this is really left field, also a playwright called Stephen Poliakoff. He wrote a drama called Shooting the Past for the BBC that was set in a photo library and covers such things as the need to preserve the past, the importance of understanding your collections, and how collections can tell seemingly ordinary, but at the same time, important stories. Plus, there’s an evil American, who is ‘reformed’ by the Brits!
What do you hope to accomplish during your time in SNCA leadership?
Not to leave things in a worse state than they were before I got involved! There’s been some great work done by previous Archives Month chairs, and there is a fear of tarnishing their legacy, so my first hope is have a successful Archives Month. This year's theme is “water,” so I’m hoping that archivists across the state will participate and encourage people to discover what exciting materials there are to be found in our archives. Then SNCA needs to be told all about it so we can publicize the archives, the collections used, and make more people aware of the important stories.