News from the West Virginia Caucus: Archival Challenges in West Virginia

The West Virginia Caucus of MARAC has always been the smallest in membership of the caucuses in our region.  There are several reasons for this, in my opinion, and the purpose of this article is to explore some of the challenges that have kept our membership small and to throw out some possible solutions for discussion.  The geography of the Mountain State, the presence of only a handful of large academic institutions, small federal offices or agencies outside of the federal court system, few large municipalities and a small State Archives and History Department are all contributors to the low density of archival practitioners in the state.
In the past year (2014 – 2015), the Preservation Roundtable of the West Virginia Library Association has presented two archives-oriented sessions at the WVLA’s Spring ‘Fling’ Conference.  The first was a workshop in April of 2014 which focused on the identification and preservation of photographic images that might be found in (or be donated to) small academic or public libraries.  This workshop attracted a relatively small number of participants, but received great reviews.  The second session was this month and was entitled “What do you do when it is not a book?” and focused on very basic archival principals and methods to deal with small manuscript collections which, again, can be found in smaller libraries.  This session was very popular, having 25 attendees, many who stayed after the session to get more information.
The popularity of these sessions has reinforced my personal belief that there are librarians of all stripes in the Mountain State that deal with archival and manuscript collections on a daily basis.  Most of these librarians and their staffs have had little training on applying the best practices to deal with preservation, organizing and providing access to their ‘hidden treasures’.  My ‘plan of action’ to improve this situation is very simple – use the forum of the WVLA Preservation Roundtable to continue to provide pertinent archival workshops, informational sessions, and outreach to the librarians of West Virginia. 
So… I am throwing out the challenge to the MARAC members of the WV Caucus to send me ideas, suggestions for workshops, volunteer to present a session at a future WVLA conference, or tell me that I am ‘full of ramps’!  Based on our recent successes, my sense is that there is a definite need for this type of professional outreach to the librarians of West Virginia and that we, the professional archivists and records managers of MARAC, have the knowledge, expertise, and determination to make this succeed!

Nat DeBruin
West Virginia Caucus Representative

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