Michelle Light, director of special collections at the UNLV Libraries, was inducted last week as a Fellow of the Society of American Archivists (SAA) during a ceremony at the Joint Annual Meeting of the Council of State Archivists, the National Association of Government Archives and Records Administrators, and SAA in Washington, DC. The distinction of Fellow is the highest honor bestowed on individuals by SAA and is awarded for outstanding contributions to the archives profession.
The Society of American Archivists is the national professional organization for archivists in the United States and has over 6000 individual and institutional members from archives and libraries throughout the US and internationally.
The award highlights her fifteen-year career in important positions of progressive responsibility at five repositories. In each of her professional roles, she has had a transformative impact on her repository, advancing it in new strategic directions. In her first professional position as an archivist at Yale University, she developed a database of archival authority records for Yale University units that informed her contributions to the international group that created Encoded Archival Context.
Later in her career, Light broke new ground at the University of California, Irvine. Working as the head of special collections, archives, and digital scholarship, she implemented a virtual reading room that allows researchers near and far to access born-digital records. She also led a multicampus taskforce in creating “Guidelines for Efficient Archival Processing.”
Within the first year working in her current role at UNLV, Light has established infrastructure to sustain an ambitious collecting program to document the Southern Nevada region, completed a staff reorganization that will allow special collections to work more efficiently and effectively, and carried out a strategic planning process that sets direction for her division and contributes to the UNLV Libraries’ aspirations. In addition, Light successfully obtained a grant to support the Southern Nevada Jewish Community Digital Heritage Project that will ensure the preservation of and online access to historical primary sources about the region's Jewish community.
Light has served SAA in a variety of leadership positions, including an active role on the American Archivist Editorial Board as well as on the SAA Council, for which she played a critical role in the group’s efforts to create a new strategic plan for SAA.
She also has published and presented widely on topics relating to access to archives, including on the evolution of finding aids, archival descriptive standards, born-digital archives, and archival collection management systems and practices.
“Light is one of the most creative and accomplished archivists of her generation, and her achievements have had a lasting impact on the field,” one supporter wrote. “Her intelligence, creativity, work ethic, collegial nature, scholarly aptitude, and commitment to archives are of the highest level.”
Light earned a master of science degree in information and master of arts and candidate of philosophy degrees in history from the University of Michigan.
Light is one of five new Fellows named in 2014. There are currently 179 Fellows of the Society of American Archivists. Founded in 1936, the Society of American Archivists is North America’s oldest and largest national archival professional association. SAA’s mission is to serve the educational and informational needs of more than 6,000 individual and institutional members and to provide leadership to ensure the identification, preservation, and use of records of historical value.