Society for American Archivists changes stance on listserv archives

After a lot of blustery back and forth, the SAA has reversed its decision to ditch the SAA listserv archives. I think this is a smart plan, but it was interesting to watch the back and forth on this topic. Some salient points

  • The “lifetime of your comments” issue – one of the issues involved potential trouble with people wanting their material purged from the listserv archives. Back before things like this were easily Googleable, you could post things to a listserv that mostly remained only within the collective memory of the group, that is no longer the case. This presents trouble for some people, and may represent trouble for the groups. When I was on ALA Council, I was always surprised that people didn’t seem to have an understanding that anything that they posted to the list was linkable on the Internet via the Council archives.
  • The cost issue – if it’s too expensive to store your online content, you are probably not making the most of available options. For savvy non-profits, storing text online — even heavy-bandwidth content — is often free or close to free. If someone is charging you a lot of money, consider changing your hosting options.
  • Admin hassles – again as with the previous topic, depending on the tech-savviness of your membership and your willing volunteers, techie projects like moving an archive can seem simple, or too-difficult difficult. If you have people who are telling you that a tech project is “too hard” ask around and see if you can find other people who have a different viewpoint. I think it’s a good idea to never look a gift volunteer in the mouth, and of course we all do our share of unpaid work to help our professional organizations, but sometimes this government of the willing doesn’t result in the right person for the right job. It’s a tough balance, often made tougher by the fact that a group of non-techie people will think that many techie projects are hard when what is more true is that the techie project is outside of their abilities — something that they may not even know themselves. Working out these dilemmas often requires more diplomacy than the average super-techie person is used to working with, and this is a problem that I personally grapple with on an almost daily basis.

So, good on you SAA for doing the right thing. I hope this decision turns out to not be too onerous for all involved.

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