December 21, 2011
I thought at first that this long article by Michelle Dean might strike most of y’all as Too Much Archives, which is to say too much shop talk and too narrow in its focus. More than you really want to read about the issues archivists face.
Then again, maybe not. Maybe this will draw you in.
One of the people at the general assembly that day was Amy Roberts. Amy is studying for her master’s at Queens’ College’s library school. She is tallish and slim and has pin-straight, dirty blonde hair. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen her wear makeup. Amy is from Wisconsin originally; after an aborted first attempt at college, she spent a few years in St. Paul, Minnesota. She was involved in a socialist group there, and started working at a meat plant as part of an effort to improve working conditions. The management tried to put Amy in a quality control job—“because I was white”—but she wanted to see what the cutting floor was like. She lobbied successfully for a knife job. It gave her carpal tunnel, and tendonitis.
Eventually, Amy moved to New York, getting her BA in anthropology from Hunter College just as the recession hit. Looking at the economy, she made the same decision as so many others: she stayed in school, thinking she’d enjoy being a librarian. But it turned out the librarian market was squeezed too. She got interested in archives because frankly, there were more jobs. So now Amy goes to school, works part time, and plays classical violin gigs. She shows up to meetings, now and again, carrying her instrument. She worries, she told me, because she doesn’t have health insurance and lives with roommates, and she’s now 35.