Friday, 12 October 2012

Week 18: Volunteer-o-rama

During my fifth week at the Mayme Clayton Library and Museum I had an informative staff meeting, met a brand new volunteer and presented at the monthly volunteer meeting.

On Thursday morning, I sat down with Cara, Larry and Gil to discuss the happenings at the MCLM. I was pleased to hear the first agenda item was ordering business cards for me, setting up my e-mail account and issuing me a key to the building. All of these items go a long way in trusting me with the access to this collection, and I am very excited about it. MCLM is a great place to work because I have autonomy and freedom. If someone calls in and asks about a donation, all of a sudden I am in charge of collections development. If a volunteer is looking for a project, I’ll serve as the volunteer coordinator and get them into a task that best suits their interests. The hats that I wear are endless. Having an email account and business cards will give me the confidence to keep moving forward in this capacity.

Also, at this staff meeting, Larry and I had a serious conversation about archival vocabulary. We disagreed on the meaning of appraisal and de-accession. He could not see appraisal as more than a monetary analysis and he assumed that de-accession meant to dispose of. When I meant appraisal as evaluating the relevance of the materials compared to the collection goals and de-accession as in remove for any number of reasons, not destroy. The exchange taught me a valuable lesson in communication skills. If someone does not understand me, I should ask if we are assigning the same meaning to particular words. Some miscommunications can easily be solved in this manner.

On Friday afternoon, my first volunteer for the Mayme Clayton Papers processing project came in for an orientation. Zinnia is a freshman at the local community college and she is studying history. Similar to me at that stage, she was wondering what she would be able to do with a liberal arts degree after college. Of course I expounded on the joys of archival science, but assured her that she would figure it out soon enough. In the meantime, she had just the right temperament and attitude to help me go through Mayme’s boxes. Zinnia will be spending four hours, every Friday helping me with the collection. I am looking forward to getting to know her better.

On Saturday morning, I came to work prepared to address twenty of our faithful volunteers as well as some members of the MCLM board. I prepared a Power Point presentation with a few slides to keep me on track while I was talking. I talked about how to pronounce my name, where I am from, my academic background, and my interest in archives. I told them about archival methodology and how I would need their help with arrangement and description, also known as making folders. I talked about Mayme’s papers and the organizational schema that I had crafted. It was all very impressive. At the end, I asked for them to sign up…six people did. That is six more than I had before and I will be following up with them next week. I’m very comfortable in my role as a supervisor because I have done exactly what I am asking them to do. In fact, I am continuing to sort and make folders in every spare moment that I can find. I had heard about how phenomenal the MCLM volunteers are and I do not think that I will be disappointed.      

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