Society of American Archivists honors UD librarian
L. Rebecca Johnson Melvin


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10:07 a.m., June 16, 2010----L. Rebecca Johnson Melvin, librarian in the Special Collections Department of the University of Delaware Library, has been awarded the Waldo Gifford Leland Award by the Society of American Archivists (SAA) for An American Political Archives Reader.

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The 477-page An American Political Archives Reader (Scarecrow Press, 2009) provides guidance to those who acquire, administer and build congressional papers collections and is the first book of its kind.

Co-editors of the book are Karen Dawley Paul, U.S. Senate archivist, and Glenn R. Gray, former archivist for the Central Political Archive at California State University Fresno and currently supervisory archivist for the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command at Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii.

An American Political Archives Reader serves as basic reference material for archival administrators who deal with the special challenges and complex idiosyncrasies of collecting and managing political and congressional collections for the purpose of facilitating scholarly research.

In addition to serving as the book's co-editor, Johnson Melvin is the co-author of a chapter, “Describing Congressional Papers: A Progression of Access Tools” as well as the author of a chapter entitled “Appraisal of the John J. Williams Papers.”

“It is the hope of the editors that this volume will inspire and encourage repositories to preserve the history of Congress and the American political process more fully than has been the case to date,” she said.

In addition to new content solicited from archivists, political scientists, historians and those in the growing field of management of congressional collections, the book includes material from previously published articles and other professional papers delivered at the Society of American Archivists since 1980 and the Association of Centers for Congress since 2004.

New frontiers in such areas as electronic records are still open, and the challenges of congressional archives stimulate new issues and debates for librarians, archivists and researchers.

Preserving and making available the records of Congress and the political process is an enormous undertaking, requiring enormous resources that are efficiently managed. It requires continued coordination among numerous individuals and groups, including those who create, collect, preserve, use and finance the preservation of congressional collections. “Like the history of Congress itself, progress happens when many come together for a common goal,” Johnson Melvin said. “In this case, it is the documentation of our political process.”

Johnson Melvin serves as coordinator of the Manuscripts Unit in Special Collections at the University of Delaware Library. She was project archivist for the papers of U.S. Sen. John J. Williams (R-Del.), which are in Special Collections, and supervised the processing of papers of U.S. Sen. J. Allen Frear, Jr., (D-Del.), and former U.S. Representative and now U.S. Sen. Thomas R. Carper (D-Del.).

She has supervised numerous congressional and other processing projects at the University of Delaware Library.

She is past chair of the Congressional Papers Roundtable of the Society of American Archivists and served on the grant-writing and editorial committee of Managing Congressional Collections, a professional manual published in 2008.

Created in 1959, the Waldo Gifford Leland Award encourages and rewards writing of superior excellence and usefulness in the field of archival history, theory or practice.

The prestigious award is the oldest award from the Society of American Archivists and honors Waldo Gifford Leland, an American archival pioneer and author of the landmark Guide to the Archives of the Government of the United States published in 1904. He was active in the organization of the Conference of Archivists in 1909 and played a central role in the establishment of the U.S. National Archives.

Leland also served two terms as president of the Society of American Archivists during the 1940s.