Friday, August 29, 2008

The Impotence of Virtue

The presidential address by Society of American Archivists head Mark Greene called upon archivists to pursue greater political engagement in a number of significant areas. Specifically he urged archivists to define and promote themselves by articulating a set of values like the "Core Values" spelled out by the American Library Association, which also has its own agenda for issues and advocacy. He argued that an archivist was more than "a cross between a librarian and a historian" because he or she could also serve as a "watchdog" or "whistle-blower." Greene claimed that too often archivists were hampered by what he called "the impotence of virtue" and divorced themselves from issues involving "money and power."

For Greene, archivists have a central role in guaranteeing "government accountability." He noted archivists' objections to Executive Order 13233, which limited scope of the post-Watergate Presidential Records Act by fiat. He also mentioned their professional stance against the destruction of e-mail by the Bush administration and the documents related to the detention of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.

Like those at the ALA, he also asserted that copyright holders had used legislation to extend their ownership of intellectual property to the point that it interferes with "use," which Greene argued should "trump preservation" every time.

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