Saturday, 29 December 2012

Week 28: Southern Farewell

In my 16th week at the Mayme Clayton Library and Museum, I took time off from the museum to attend my father’s memorial service in Gaston, North Carolina, talked about job opportunities in the special collections at Savannah State University and participated in a meeting with a film producer for the licensing of photographs for a Richard Pryor documentary.

Beautiful staircase in one of Savannah's historic squares

My father grew up in, Gaston, a small town in Northampton County, North Carolina. To get there for his memorial service, we had to fly to Raleigh, and drive around 100 miles through country roads. Once we got there, spent a few days with my grandparents and other relatives and said our final goodbyes; we wondered what to do next with our rental car in this interesting region of the country. We decided to visit a few other cities; among them was Savannah, Georgia. In Savannah, we decided to check out Savannah State University. I had seen a librarian job announcement from them a few months ago and thought it might be a good idea to introduce myself, just in in case they were still looking at applicants. Savannah State University is a historically black college that has been absorbed for the Georgia State University system. The library was very quiet because most students had already left for winter break but luckily there was one serial librarian in the building. I explained my current situation and how I had seen the job posting and asked if there was anything that she could share about their hiring patterns or practices.
Dinner with friends in Charlotte, North Carolina

I found out that they had filled the position a couple months ago but the administration moves slow in getting new hires on board and removing the vacancy information. This librarian had graduated from Queens College and worked in law libraries for years before landing this job. She said that it was difficult to find a position in this market but one strategy that she employed was to send her resume to anywhere that she wanted to work and in some cases she did get call backs and interviews. When it came to the special collections, this librarian did not have much information, she said that there was not an archivist on staff; all of the librarians worked to provide access to the archival materials. She was not able to answer my questions about accessions, scope, or EAD finding aids. Instead she walked me upstairs and showed me the museum, special collections reading room and introduced me to the library assistant that monitored the space. When I explained my situation to her, she gave me her card hoping that I would be a resource for them! After looking around, I could see that the special collection could really benefit from an archive specialist. They could use someone to do research and bring more exposure to their materials. In their defense, they have digitized a lot of their materials and made them available online.

I thanked each of them for their time and advice. The fellowship allowed me to approach the situation from a confident position. I wasn’t a volunteer looking for someone to give me a chance, I am an employed archivist that had demonstrated my worth in Chicago and Los Angeles; I believe that my next employer will be eager to have me on their team. 

Of course the airports were a madhouse with the holidays right around the corner, but I refused to give up my seat for vouchers or take a different flight because I had a meeting with “Richard Pryor” on my scheduled arrival date. Over the past several weeks I have been working with Grace, a production assistant for a new Richard Pryor documentary on some images that we had of the comedian. Dr. Clayton in her awe-inspiring wisdom had collected many of the photographs from the archives at Sepia magazine, when it was discontinued in 1983. From my time in the Johnson Publishing Company (JPC) photograph archives, I can attest that these images are much smaller in quantity but comparable in quality and rarity to the JPC collection. As a result of the divided nature of the Sepia photograph collection, the MCLM has retained all rights to the images that we possess.

I had already made low resolution copies for Grace, she shared them with the producers, and they would get back to us on which images they wanted to move forward with licensing agreements. After a number of emails, Grace and one of the producers, Sarah, came to the museum on Friday afternoon for a meeting with Larry and me. The success of this meeting was the perfect example of teamwork. I greeted our guests, took a little time to get to know them better and discuss the strengths and context of the photographs that they were interested in. Larry joined us after a few minutes and explained what he was hoping to gain from this transaction and to their pleasant surprise; it was not a large paycheck. We talked about screening the documentary at the museum as a part of black comedian series. Larry has the vision to see how a favor could be more valuable than a dollar as we strive to establish ourselves in the community. 

I was instructed to follow up with the Grace on the type of reproduction that they will need, and quote a price that covers our cost, plus 40%; which is a steal for them because of the amount of freedom and flexibility that they will have with the images. I am excited to be a part of such an amazing project and grateful to learn from an experienced negotiator.

The Mayme Clayton Library and Museum will be closed from December 23 until January 3. I’m off to Tucson, Arizona to spend the holidays with my sister and niece. I hope you all have a happy holiday and joyous New Year’s celebration. 2013 is going to be big, I can feel it in my bones!

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