NARA-archivist V. Paul Rood wrote today:
“[Below are a few words about archival training and the National Archives, which can be an excellent place to start–and finish–a career as an archivist. Please pardon this re-posting of a message, slightly edited, from two years ago.]
Archival Education at NARA.
NARA is the nation’s largest employer of archivists, and I have been surprised that the current Listserv discussion has not included the practices of this agency. Although I am not any kind of spokesperson for NARA, a few basic facts about NARA’s program are not privileged information. Basically, NARA existed before today’s university programs to train archivists, and as a result, NARA has traditionally trained its own archivists.
When I came through the archivist training program in the 1980s, it was called the CIDS program (which I think stood for Career Intern Development System, or something similar). A group of a couple dozen of us trainees began the program with two weeks of instruction on the theory and practice of archival work. For the following two years, we trainees then worked in a number of different departments. In those two years, we each gained about 4,000 hours of on-the-job experience in arrangement & description, reference, appraisal, as well as other fields. Personally, I thought that this was an unrivalled program for training archivists. The program still exists [as the Archivist Development Program, or ADP], and most archivists at the National Archives have gone through it.
Library Training and NARA
Unlike much of the rest of the archival world, very few NARA archivists have librarian degrees. Until recently, NARA hired as archivists mostly people with backgrounds in American history. The educational requirements for archivists have changed recently, however, as has also the work of archivists at NARA. As our work becomes more centered on the computer, our work of processing records, for example, has become much more like library cataloging than traditional arrangement and description. [NARA is now hiring more librarians than before.]
Personally, I have a librarian’s degree, and I also went through F. Gerald Ham’s excellent archival training program at the State Historical Society of Wisconsin. All of this training has been useful to some degree, because it is largely complementary, concerned as it is with the storage and retrieval of information. I also have happy memories of wonderful information professionals, like Dr. Ham, that I worked with and learned from in those days. [Although the archives program involved some hands-on processing, I and many other students also worked part-time at the SHSW, which proved a fantastic addition to the formal training.]
While I am on the subject of NARA’s differences from other archives, one could mention also the paucity of NARA archivists*please correct me if I am wrong!*who have become Certified Archivists. Perhaps that will change with time, also.
Although NARA traditionally has trained its archivists on-the-job, I would not argue that it is inherently superior to academic training. In fact, I think that there is merit in both classroom and on-the-job training. In Germany, for example, its world-class archival training programs inherently combine study and on-the-job archival work.
Finally, I wish to repeat that I am in no way an official spokesperson for NARA. I am merely providing the archival community with non-privileged information about archival education at NARA so that well-considered judgments are possible.
V. Paul Rood, MA, MALS, Ph.D
Archivist, Initial Processing and Declassification Division (NWMD)
National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)
8601 Adelphi Road
College Park, Maryland 20740 ”
From: The ARCHIVES & ARCHIVISTS (A&A) LIST (My emphasis)