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Assessment: What did you think of the book and this process? March 10, 2010

Posted by Kate T. in Administration, The Whole Book.

Now that we’ve come to the end, I’m interested in your reactions to both the book and to this “group read.” If you were writing a review of the book, what would you say? For what audience would you recommend it? What kind of follow-up do you think it calls for? Has it made you think about how you carry out your responsibilities in your own archives?

And, what did you think of this group read? Did the blog format work well for the material? Was the pace too fast, too slow, or just right? What could be improved? Do you think there are other kinds of professional readings that would benefit from this kind of discussion? And please, if you’re one of the people who hasn’t finished yet, feel free to comment and share your thoughts–what got you bogged down?

I hope the conversation on this blog about the book and the topics it raised will continue. There is no reason why people who are coming to this for the first time or who fell behind in the reading can’t continue to comment and be part of an ongoing discussion. If you haven’t already done so, you can subscribe to the comments for the blog (see RSS link at the bottom of the sidebar at right).

My thanks to everyone who contributed, and most particularly of course to Rand for being open to participating in this discussion and sharing his thoughts with us. One of my motivations for starting this project was to provide an incentive for me to work my way through the book and I’m very glad I did. I learned a great deal from the book and having people to discuss it with–even if only virtually–added even more to the experience.



1. Elena Danielson - March 10, 2010

I so appreciate your putting this discussion together. The book is too important for the profession just to read it in isolation, and then put it back on the shelf. Thanks, Kate, for your initiative on this!

2. Jim Cartwright - March 10, 2010

Did I get bogged down? that of course from me is rhetorical.

I was late finding out that the discussions had started. All I got in my email–my fault, I later discovered–was notice of new people joining. I didn’t get any messages, comments, etc., until the discussion was already on chapter five.

Even then, I felt the reading and discussion went far too fast. I’m getting paid to work in the Archives, not to do professional development reading.

The blog format seems to have been quite good in that we can comment or reply to a previous comment quite easily. For oldtimers who are newcomers to modern technology, however, a description of how blogs work and what we have to do to be current with all the posts would have been helpful.

3. Alison - March 10, 2010

I would definitely recommend this book to a varied set of potential readers… Definitely archivists – of all stripes (from lone arrangers at small shops like me to “big dogs” in big shops) and archival students… But definitely to folks in related fields – librarianship, museums, historians, etc. – and students thereof.

I’ve absolutely found this to be a most stimulating and thought-provoking read. It’s helped me to dig even deeper in my own thoughts, reading and writing that I’ve been doing lately on ethics – it’s “right on time”, so to speak…

I think that the pace was fine – I did the reading on my own time after work and the posting-of-comments on breaks at work… But I also see the benefit of perhaps taking it a bit slower…

I would definitely find other kinds of professional readings useful and beneficial in this same format.

I thank you, Kate, for setting this up – and it has been good to “meet” and talk with the rest of you too through this venue.

4. Joshua Zimmerman - March 10, 2010

I think the format was a great idea and a sure-fire way to keep up with and finish the book (it had been waiting for me since I purchased it at SAA in August along with many many others). Thanks a lot Kate for organizing this and opening the debate up each week. I think it was extremely successful.

I hope Rand will be making his students read this book. It brings together a lot of the points he makes in the classroom (memory, ethics, etc.). It’s a perfect graduate school book. It captures a lot of the cultural themes swirling around the profession. Ultimately, I think it will help archivists articulate their societal value and relevance to users and better yet, potential users and funders.

It was hard to take my archivist glasses off and read it like someone outside the profession would. There are some themes that other professions could grab onto. It would be interesting to know how it has been received outside the profession.

The pace was a bit fast as echoed above. I would suggest two weeks per chapter, enough to get it done but not enough room for procrastination.

I guess the logical next question is: what’s the next book? I think the blogscussion was a great model that should be replicated.

5. Kate T. - March 10, 2010

Thanks, everybody for sharing your reactions. I was torn about the pacing. I didn’t want to go too slowly for fear if it got too stretched out that we’d lose momentum. But I too was reading along at the same pace and it was challenging. Particularly since many parts of the book weren’t suitable for reading quickly. I had hoped that by announcing it early that some people might be able to read ahead (if they found out about it–sorry Jim!).

I should add that I liked Lincoln’s idea about adding the Resources page, and that’s another thing that people can continue to add to. That could be a good resource for people wanting to pursue these ideas further or build off of in specific directions.

6. Rand - March 12, 2010

Friends, Many thanks to all of you who have contributed to this discussion, and especially to Kate, for organizing it and prodding us along. I am particularly grateful to the hardy few who plugged along to the end, adding comments and ideas all along the way.

For those of you concerned about (or daunted by) the length of the book, I can only echo George Bernard Shaw, who reportedly (perhaps it’s an apocryphal story?) wrote at the end of a very long letter, an apology for writing such a long letter and then added — “but I did not have time to write a shorter one.”

You all have done me a great honor by taking my ideas seriously and debating them candidly. I especially appreciate those postings that pointed out my errors and failings, and I can only say that your feedback will help me avoid those mistakes in the future (when I will make new errors).

I do hope to see many of you at the SAA meeting in DC. Note that there will be discussions there about ethical concerns relating to the Native American Protocols, the proposed revising of SAA’s Code of Ethics, and the draft of an Archivist’s Values Statement currently being developed for consideration — as well as many other important topics!

I am looking forward to heading to Siena, Italy (in less than 2 weeks!) to teach for the spring quarter. Also, after the SAA meeting in August I will be going to New Zealand to speak at their archival association annual meeting.

Thanks and best regards to all of you!


7. Kirsten Wright - March 12, 2010

I’d like to add my thanks to Kate for setting this blog up and for coordinating the reading of Archives Power. I really enjoyed being able to add comments and of course read and think about everyone else’s ideas. In particular, I liked seeing Rand respond to comments and add more explanation, discussion, etc.

Was the pace too fast? Like others I did my reading at home in the evenings and while the pace wasn’t too fast to physically *read* the book, it was a little fast to be able to read and digest the often complex ideas presented – and also participate in the discussion.

I found the blog format a good one to use as it also let me go back and read new comments as they were posted even if they weren’t about the ‘current’ part of the book. I’d happily participate in another book discussion via the blog format!

Thanks everyone for contributing to this discussion.

8. Rand - March 15, 2010

Since Josh expressed a hope that I am using my book in the classes I teach, I should say that it was a required reading for the Advanced Seminar for second year grad students. Several of them suggested that it might be a good book for incoming first year students to read. What do you all think? Is this too complicated or ponderous for students new to the field to understand or respond to? (Don’t just say it’s too long — we make students read a lot more than this amount of text!) My idea for first year students would be to have them read a chapter (or two) each week, along with other readings on similar or related themes. That way, they could see the argument building gradually arther than having to tackle it in one big gulp. What do you think?

9. Lincoln Cushing - March 15, 2010

I truly wish to thank Kate for taking the initiative to set this discussion up. It was an experiment in using new tools, and for the most part I think it was productive. It would be useful to follow up individually with those that signed on but never/barely participated to find out why; perhaps some tweak of the process or the medium would help produce greater engagement. I’m certain a “how to use this” tips page would have helped. I was disappointed that people didn’t struggle more with some of the issues tossed out, either in the book or the discussion, and that the “resources” section wasn’t more actively populated.

Thanks to all of you that jumped in.

10. Kate T. - March 15, 2010

Lincoln–there you are! I was beginning to get worried about you because you hadn’t chimed in yet!

Yes, I will be following up with some of the people who dropped off to see what I can learn. I know one person who had actually lost the book and just found it underneath the back seat in her car, but I don’t think more than one person can have that excuse.

Yes, a beginner’s guide is a good idea, and anyone who does something like this again should consider it.

11. Alison Stankrauff - March 15, 2010

Rand – I think that this book would indeed be a good book for first year students to read, absolutely…
Because, speaking personally at least, the concepts and ideas in the book are some of the very reasons that drew me to the profession from the start.

12. Lincoln Cushing - March 15, 2010

Grupo- I got a bit behind discussion because I’ve just started a massive digitization project of social movement posters for the Oakland Museum of California (OMCA). I wrote an article for the current issue of SAA _Views_ about it that’s linked to my name here, kudos to OMCA for really engaging in making these materials accessible.

Best wishes to all.

As we used to say in the 1960s, remember to “Serve the people.”

13. Susan D'Entremont - March 23, 2010

I got WAY behind in the reading – mostly my fault – job, kids, and all that. However, I agree with the person who said that she would have liked a slower pace to be able to ponder things more. I enjoyed the comments as well as the book itself, and I think more time on a chapter may have led to more discussion as people thought it over.

I really like the blog format and the fact that we can continue to read and comment even though the official group is over.

Thanks, Kate. (ps. I did offer my copy to the person who lost the book in her car – you know who you are – but she didn’t take me up on it.)

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