I recently sat down with Maurita Baldock, Assistant Librarian and Archivist at UA’s Special Collections Library, to ask her a few questions about her role as an archivist at an academic library. Her responses shed some light on questions that had been on my mind.
Question 1: Can you describe your position in Special Collections?
MB: My position in Special Collections is a faculty position which means that I am required to do my duties as well as scholarship and service. So, scholarship is publishing, presenting at conferences, etc. Service is serving on committees within the library as well as within the archives profession. As far as my actual job, I do most of the accessioning. I don’t bring in all of the collections but I am the one who accessions them when they do come in. And my two curatorial responsibilities are political affairs and planetary science collections. I also assist in supervising students, including the Knowledge River students.
Questions 2: How do you develop relationships with potential donors, do you seek out donors or do they approach you?
MB: Both. We have a great website right now which is really wonderful because in some ways that’s a great marketing tool. People often see that we collect certain materials and they then know to contact us. Those phone calls go to various people, a lot of times they come to me, and I listen to what people have as they describe it over the phone. As far as reaching out to donors, there are some donors we do approach. A lot of times it’s people that we research first or someone suggested to us, sometimes faculty members may suggest someone. In some cases it could even be the library administration making the contact. So it’s a little bit of both. We’re hoping that more donors approach us. That’s one reason why we are doing more social media. We want people to know that we are here.
Question 3: When you meet with a donor when you are accessioning a new collection how do you know what to take or do you take everything that is offered?
MB: That depends. That’s really where experience comes in. It is experience based upon learning what is historically important and you also learn what researchers want to see. I try to be picky when we meet with the donor and say, “We will have you donate this, but not that.” But there are times when you’re in a rush or it’s just easier to take everything and then not keep material that might not be relevant. In that circumstance we have something in the deed of gift about whether or not to return items to the donor.
Question 4: How do you discover what is historically important?
MB: I think that’s where my studies in history helped. I did have done research in archives myself which it helps you understand what researchers are often looking for. Things like secondary research – no one is going to come in to look at someone else’s research. They are coming here to look at original materials that tell you something about a specific time or place or people.
Question 5: What role does outreach play in promoting collections and what kinds of outreach efforts are in place?
MB: Outreach is becoming more and more important. The Internet is the best resource that’s out there. It’s important to have finding aids online and a social media presence to find potential researchers, to find people who might want to help fund your collections, and to reach people who might want to donate to your collection. We do exhibits and public programming and that really helps with community relations. We want everyone to have a favorable opinion of us so that they will support us and take an interest and perhaps want to contribute some of their own material to Special Collections.
Words of wisdom from a seasoned pro! Special thanks to Maurita Baldock for agreeing to be interviewed.