Today we are featuring Brittany Newberry, SGA member and current Archivist of Popular Music and Culture at Georgia State University. She has been recently elected to the Society of American Archivists Nominating Committee. She has served as SGA Communications Director and Assistant, Outreach Manager and Assistant, and was on SGA’s nominating committee. She has held positions in SAA’s Archivists and Archives of Color section steering committee, SAA’s Membership Committee and Career Development Subcommittee. What better way to learn about leadership in archives than from Brittany who is on a pursuit to uplift our profession.
When and why did you start working in archives?
I started working in archives when I was a freshman in college. I needed a work study job and knew I wanted to work in the university library. When meeting with the administrator to decide which department I would like to work in, I saw the option for rare books. I have been interested in history all my life and I love books and reading. I am one of those people who thinks books have a great smell, well when not water damaged haha. So I chose the Rare Books department to be able to be around the historical, rare first editions, and autographed books. The department was actually a part of Special Collections and would all be named Special Collections and Archives by the time I was a sophomore. I spent the first year working on creating book enclosures for fragile books and working on a collection of an early 20th century American missionary in China who sent handwritten letters to family. I enjoyed the work so much and it didn’t hurt that the reading room looked like it was from Harry Potter. I continued to work there all four years of college. During my time, I was able to process collections, do preservation work, and in-person reference. By my junior year, I was still undecided on my career path, so I spoke with my supervisor and the dean of the library to get some feedback on if I should attend library school and where. I decided to apply, I went to Simmons College in Boston, did my concentration in archives management, and have not regretted one second of the time I spent being in, learning about, and working in archives.
What or who encouraged you to join the Society of Georgia Archivists and Society of American Archivists?
I joined the Society of American Archivists during my first year of graduate school. Professors and classmates talking about the benefits was why I joined. But I didn’t really get involved with sections and committees until after I began my first professional job.
I joined the Society of Georgia Archivists the month after I started my first professional job. My coworkers encouraged me to do so. They told me it would be a great experience and the people are great. FYI, they’re right!
Why did you pursue leadership positions within SGA and SAA?
If you know me, you know I have a hard time saying no and that I have to stay busy. A coworker at my first professional job asked me to be her Assistant Outreach Manager in SGA. I said yes and then after meeting the people and attending the annual meeting, I just kept wanting to volunteer for positions.
In regards to SAA, they had a program for new professionals and students to be interns for various sections and committees. I volunteered to be an intern for the Archivists and Archives of Color section to learn more about the work of the section. It was a great experience and led me to volunteer to be on the steering committee and volunteer to be on other committees in SAA.
I volunteered to run for SAA’s Nominating Committee because I was asked and I thought it would be a great way for me to give back to the organization and the profession.
How have your roles in SGA and other organizations helped shape you as an archivist?
The leadership roles I have taken on have helped me to be more confident in my abilities as an archivist and as a leader. I used to and still sometimes have imposter syndrome, but when I get asked to take on a leadership role, I know I am doing something right. I am willing to take on new challenges and learn new skills to better myself as a professional. I didn’t think this would be what I would be doing as an archivist. I was content just processing collections. But these roles have helped me to want and achieve more. I have also met great people and made great connections.
What are some key characteristics that you think are important to good leadership?
The willingness to try and try new things and new ideas, to me, is one of the key characteristics of a good leader. And listen. Great leaders need to be able to listen to those around them and understand that even if they don’t have the answer or next great idea that they can figure out who does and how to best support the team.
What are you most looking forward to in your new role on SAA’s Nominating Committee?
SAA’s nominating committee is tasked with finding candidates to fill significant roles in SAA. I think just being able to help recruit the potential leaders is something I am definitely looking forward to. I am looking forward to being able to share my perspective and recommend the great archivists that I know and/or have heard about.
Thank you to Brittany for participating in our interview. If you wish to be a part of SGA leadership, reach out to our nominating committee at firstname.lastname@example.org.