Meet your Education Committee Chair: Stephanie Bennett

Wake Forest Z. Smith Reynolds Library staff portraits, Wednesday, June 17, 2015.  Stephanie Bennett.What jobs have you had in the archival realm?
Several! Before taking my current (permanent) position as Collections Archivist at Wake Forest University, I had two project jobs: one on a one-year project at Boston College processing collections from the backlog related to Boston area history, and the second a two-year project position to process backlog collections and staff the department during a time of flux. They've all taught me a lot and, while it was difficult to find more permanent work, I am glad my short-term positions gave me the opportunity to learn a lot on the job.

What is your educational background?
I have a BA in English (with minors in Politics and International Studies) from Wake Forest University. After a few years as a consultant (and a year on a cross-county road trip), I got my MSLIS specializing in Archives Management from Simmons College in Boston.

What is your favorite part of your job and what do you consider to be the most important part of your job?
The most important part of my job is describing as many collections as my team and I can. It's so important to let folks know what your institution has available, and providing even limited description can make a big difference.

I do like that work - writing beautiful metadata is such a joy - but my favorite part of the job is working with my colleagues and students to facilitate access. We all learn from each other, whether I'm learning about web archiving intricacies from our Web Services Librarian or I'm teaching students about the hierarchy of collections (it's cooler than it sounds?!) or talking about what they've learned while processing a person's materials.

Tell us about something you're particularly proud of from your job or your institution.
I'm proud of the collaboration that my colleagues and I do, whether it's within the library, within the University, or out in the community or North Carolina at large. My coworker Rebecca (past President of SNCA) created a Winston-Salem branch of Hop into History that has been a fun collaboration with area repositories at a local bar. And I've been working within the library to teach folks about University records and create more ethical descriptions. All that work will continue and change over time but our efforts are paying off now, too!

What advice would you give to someone interested in pursuing a similar career?
If possible, get an archives job before or at least during graduate school. Try as many tasks as possible, because what you like can be a surprise. Before I went to Simmons, I thought I might want to be a children's librarian! Collections archivist isn't so much like that, but I found it quite rewarding as I waded into all the tasks I encountered during graduate school. Relatedly, take some career assessments (whether free online or through another institution) and pay attention to all the work that you do (even positions outside of libraries) to get a sense of what your skills are and the tasks that you find rewarding. Knowing what brings you fulfillment will be useful no matter where you go!

Who has been key to shaping your professional outlook?
Every boss I've ever had has taught me important aspects to being a professional archivist. So much of what we do benefits from hands-on experience and practice. Reading, talking with mentors, and attending classes has encouraged me to improve my supervisory skills; I feel like a baby giraffe learning how to walk but one day it will be more natural, I feel certain! As for the literature, I'm grateful for recent work by Eira Tansey, Ben Goldman, (their project funded in part by SAA), and others who are examining how archival work intersects with environmental concerns and climate change's effects. I previously overlooked how our institutional and professional choices affect climate issues, but no more.

What do you hope to accomplish during your time in SNCA leadership?
As Education Committee chair, I'm very focused on providing opportunities for NC's archivists to learn more about their work. I'd like to provide some distance options for archivists without a great deal of institutional support or who may not have a deep background in managing historical materials. And NC is full of archives-adjacent graduate students - I'd love for our committee to connect a few more of them to SNCA and our resources.

This entry was posted in Newsletter and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.