Nonprofit Portfolio Alumni Profile: Sarah Quigley
Graduation Year: 2007
Degree: Master of Science in Information Studies
Current Employer: Emory University's Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library
Graduate school was a process of awakening for me. I started at the School of Information with romantic notions of archives and archivists, thinking I'd spend most of my career in private, admiring rare books and fragile historical documents. I didn't start thinking about pesky issues of access and administration until well into my first semester when my professors started talking about the perpetual underfunding that plagues archives. Professional archivists spend much of their careers fighting for budgets adequate enough to support the staff who organize collections and work with patrons, building maintenance, expensive archival supplies, conservation of material, and public programs that promote access to the collections in our care.
When I learned of the RGK Center's portfolio program in non-profit management, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to develop skills that would make me a more effective manager and advocate for my profession. Among other things, I learned how to recruit and train volunteers, how to work with governing boards, and how to navigate government bodies associated with my field. These lessons have been useful throughout my career, not just in my the specific jobs I've held, but also as a rising leader in the professional community. Having the vocabulary necessary to talk with government archivists or archivists working at small, local historical societies has been immeasurably valuable to my ability to understand the entire, complex archival profession. When the Georgia Secretary of State nearly closed our state archives last year, I relied heavily on the knowledge I gained from the portfolio program as I worked alongside my colleagues to speak with our legislators and prevent the closure.
I've worked at Emory University's Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library (MARBL) in Atlanta, Georgia since 2009. I'm responsible for arranging and describing archival collections such as the Southern Christian Leadership Conference records and the Horace Mann and Julia W. Bond family papers. I still get to admire rare books and fragile historical documents (and it's true that we have the coolest stuff, like Alice Walker's boots and a first edition Leaves of Grass, self-published by Walt Whitman), but more importantly, I get to make those books and documents available to the public. I get to witness the "a ha!" moments when a patron finds the document that helps them unlock their research project, as well as the moments when casual visitors to the library realize that even they can spend time in our reading room, examining original manuscripts and letters written by their favorite author. Watching someone touch history for the first time and seeing the reverence on their face is one of the best parts of my job, and I get to make it possible because of the high caliber of my education and training.