The examination of management of archival and manuscripts repositories is tenfold that of leadership, with writings specifically about leadership seldom found in the archival literature.1 Coverage of this topic is also relatively new in American Archivist, with the most recent article published in 2011.2 Leading and Managing Archives and Manuscripts Programs is published as the first volume in the Society of American Archivists's (SAA) Archival Fundamentals Series III. Peter Gottlieb and David W. Carmicheal are more than editors of this volume; with their combined five decades of experience in government, nonprofit, and professional institutions, Gottlieb and Carmicheal provide a didactic approach to key archival leadership functions, discussing facets of leadership and management in their six chapters comprising part 1, which are followed by experiences of archival leaders who provide examples in support of key functions in part 2.

The editors adhere to John P. Kotter's distinction between managers and leaders by “view[ing] managers' roles as coping with complexities and leaders' role as coping with change” (p. 2), with both roles as essential and complementary. Gottlieb and Carmicheal's discussion of leadership themes are universal and not unique to archives and manuscripts programs: “leaders are intentional”; “leaders are self-managing and self-aware”; “leadership is fundamentally about relationships rather than ideas”; “the engine of leadership is communication”; and “leaders are agents of change” (pp. 2–3). These themes echo Bruce Dearstyne's approach in Leading and Managing Archives and Records Programs: Strategies for Success,3 including the assertion that leadership fosters intentional transformations directed at valued objectives. In her review of Dearstyne's work, Margot Note asserts, “Therefore, anyone at any career point has the potential to be a change agent.”4 Gottlieb and Carmicheal distinguish archival leaders from leaders in the corporate world by their shared challenges tied to their broader missions, limited opportunities to provide staff with financial incentives, and the responsibility to make noneconomic decisions (p. 4).

In chapter 1, “Communication,” Carmicheal describes varied audiences that require effective communication: employees and other workers; administrators and resource providers; current and potential customers (shifting our thinking of this audience as “customers” instead of “patrons”); current and potential supporters; and the public. He provides cogent examples to support his arguments—for example, “. . . leadership must restate that vision in ways that appeal to the self-interest of administrators and resource providers” (p. 16). Regarding advocacy, Carmicheal sees it as “a mind-set that you internalize and maintain at all times” (p. 17). This would have been an ideal chapter in which to acknowledge the benefits of cultural competency rather than acknowledging its effectiveness later in chapter 5, as such competency is important for all communication; to regulate it outside of our profession underpins the pervasive homogeneity we continue to face.

Gottlieb's persuasive argument that leaders should focus on strategies instead of strategic planning provides a much-needed holistic approach in chapter 2, “Strategic Leadership.” Gottlieb describes and provides examples of several elements of strategy, including direction, considerations for choosing priorities, adaptation, and evaluation. When it comes to strategy, many archivists must acknowledge their dual roles as both leaders and managers: “[t]he head of a small archives cannot simply ignore the leader's role” (p. 37). The deployment of funds and resources are addressed in the next chapter, “Resources and Budget.” A valuable and often overlooked asset is the collective knowledge and competence of staff. An alternative analysis of asset distribution through program categories instead of expense categories is especially useful for archival programs; how resources are distributed in relation to the functions the archives performs allows leadership to determine if they are balanced. Traditional methods for justifying our programs and resources, however, do not always have the desired impact. For example, to long-time Coca-Cola archivist Phil Mooney, resource allocators “are seldom influenced by reports on reference requests serviced, cubic feet of processed collections, and numbers of finding aids created. Of greater impact is how the collections positively impact the business, its customers, and public opinion” (p. 52).

Chapter 4, “Leadership in Transformative Change and Crisis,” provides precepts found in most leadership literature, but with few examples to illustrate its points. The editors largely rely on the essays in part 2 to provide examples of how these guidelines look in practice. In this chapter, Gottlieb recommends that leaders' communications contain “a sense of urgency about the process and must be done honestly and with integrity” (p. 59), but the chapter would have benefited greatly by furnishing scenarios and examples of responses.

In chapter 5, “Building Relationship within and beyond the Archives,” Gottlieb describes three sectors for relationship building: the archives; the parent institution; and coalitions, partnerships, and collaborations. Discussions about diversity are limited to external collaborators. Gottlieb provides personal experiences with practical recommendations—fostering healthy working relationships by instilling trust through transparency, reducing barriers between staff, and blending project teams. Statements that call on leaders to self-reflect on personal biases would be strengthened by a deeper dive as such biases are seldom self-evident. Cultural competency precepts can address this call, as exemplified by SAA's Cultural Diversity Competency workshop,5 articles and reviews,6 7 8 and the August 2019 adoption by the Academy of Certified Archivists of a cultural competency component.9 The latter acknowledges the importance of self-reflection and education to encourage archives and archivists to develop cultural competency as part of a sincere effort to diversify staff, clientele, collections, and policies within our institutions and organizational structure.10

The final chapter in part 1, “Developing Leaders,” discusses leadership development and the ways all archivists can foster leadership. At first, I took issue with the assertion “Leaders are intentional in that leaders are always preparing for the role” (p. 3), viewing this statement as self-enhancing aspiration that dismisses those who have been thrust into a leadership role by external forces. But, after reading this chapter, I recognized that it is intended to clarify the goals and labors necessary to become an effective leader. Setting aside my own jaded suspicions when reading statements such as “. . . leaders look for opportunities to expand their sphere of influence . . . ” (p. 80), Carmicheal provides valid reasons to build one's leadership capacity. The chapter's recommendations on building such skills are relatively broad, and the fact that it does not discuss resilience for those outside of our broadly homogeneous profession is a missed opportunity. But discussion on building the leadership capacity of others does counsel employees of underrepresented populations as potential leaders.

In part 2, essays describe six archivists' efforts to build leadership capacity within diverse repositories and reflect their distinctiveness, complementing the guidelines and key functions outlined in part 1. Within a state archives setting, Sarah Koonts exemplifies the need to accept ambassadorship in all aspects of leadership. Highlighting the benefits of accepting a nonvoting seat with what one could consider a tangential committee and being the first to make public announcements in a crisis provides excellent examples that support Gottlieb's chapter on transformational change and crisis. More broadly speaking, Jennifer I. Johnson's experience in business archives provides lessons that apply to all repositories. Citing Jo Miller, CEO of Be Leaderly: “. . . work just 5 percent less and use this time to connect with fellow employees” (p. 118), in her chapter Johnson discusses a strategy that transcends all institutions and, I would add, should be applied to all employees, volunteers, and interns.

Different institutions have diverse considerations, and it is no surprise that historical societies require extreme versatility. Despite the conflicting demands on her time, Lynette Stoudt of the Georgia Historical Society sought to accomplish the collection management milestones of larger institutions and shows their substantial impact, including educating administrators. Like many of us in underfunded institutions, the benefits of self-supported professional development are vital in leadership roles. Samantha Norling provides a new professional's perspective in a nonprofit through a discussion of six elements for successful management and leadership. Synthesizing definitions from Richard Cox and Dearstyne, Norling associates “management” primarily with the basic needs and functions of archival programs, whereas leadership is defined in “terms of actions, with an emphasis on vision, change, and relationship building . . . introducing a more human element” (p. 144). Her identification of inreach/outreach supports communication with varied audiences. Despite the enviable institutional resources of Harvard University, Megan Sniffin-Marinoff presents her extensive leadership experience with approachable and universal applications. She highlights the circumstances where leadership matters most: gaining authorization and authority, addressing administrative placement, connecting with the larger organization, working with colleagues across other [similar] institutions, and encouraging staff development (p. 160).

The importance of an archives-specific leadership development program was adapted to meet a recognized need under Rachel Vagts's directorship; as such, the Archives Leadership Institute (ALI) evolved to incorporate such aspects as self-assessment, especially as it impacts communication. Recognizing greater efforts to address the lack of racial diversity in the profession, she networked outside traditional venues for applicants. Vagts's discussion on professional diversity parallels cases presented in the 2019 special issue of the Journal of Western Archives,11 and the ALI Steering Committee placed the building blocks of leadership development in an archival context that utilize the peer mentor methodology. Vagts's reference to Tanya Zanish-Belcher's 2018 SAA Presidential Address reinforces the assertions made throughout this volume: to be strategic about your archives career and service; leaders are made, not born; and believe in yourself and share yourself with others (p. 184).

Leading and Managing Archives and Manuscripts Programs makes a strong case for these precepts and provides them in a coherent and compelling format. While diversity, inclusion, and cultural competency are mentioned, methods of employing them would make this a much stronger work given the growing literature covering these issues. A significant leadership challenge is addressing those hostile to your leadership—whether stemming from cultural or generational differences or past injuries. Discussion of this and related issues, especially by underrepresented archival leaders, would have been welcomed. Perhaps a complementary volume addressing these strategies and underrepresented leaders is in order.


For example, a search in American Archivist on November 30, 2019, resulted in 220 hits of “management” in abstracts, and “leadership” occurred 22 times.


George Mariz, Donna McCrea, Larry Hackman, Tony Kurtz, and Randall Jimerson, “Leadership Skills for Archivists,” American Archivist, 74, no. 1 (2011): 102–22,


Bruce William Dearstyne, ed., Leading and Managing Archives and Records Programs: Strategies for Success (Chicago: Neal-Schuman Publishers, 2008).


Margaret Note, review of Leading and Managing Archives and Records Programs: Strategies for Success, by Bruce W. Dearstyne, Journal of Documentation 65, no. 2 (2009): 323–25,


Society of American Archivists, “Cultural Diversity Competency,”, captured at


Ellen Engseth, “Cultural Competency: A Framework for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in the Archival Profession in the United States,” American Archivist 81, no. 2 (2018): 460–82,


Christopher A. Lee, “The People Part of Archives,” American Archivist 81, no. 2 (2018): 287–89,


Margarita Vargas-Betancourt, review of Latinos in Libraries, Museums, and Archives: Cultural Competence in Action! An Asset-Based Approach, by Patricia Montiel-Overall, Annabelle Villaescusa Nuñez, and Verónica Reyes-Escudero, American Archivist 80, no. 2 (2017): 453–56,


Todd Welch, President’s Message, The ACA News: The Newsletter of the Academy of Certified Archivists, no. 105 (Summer 2019), captured at


Proposal for the adoption of a cultural competency component submitted by Rebecca Hankins and Helen Wong Smith to the Academy of Certified Archivists, August 2, 2019.


Diversity, Inclusion, and Cultural Competency Special Issue, Journal of Western Archives 10, no. 1 (2019)