How do you Solve a Problem like Maria? (A Managing Archives Case Study)

Learning Objectives

  • Students will recognize and determine issues related to managing staff of an archives.
  • Students will plan and propose solutions to handle problematic staff members.

ACA Task and Knowledge Statements

  • Managing Archives Task 2: Assess staffing needs, recruit appropriate personnel, and train staff; support professional development; and ensure that the staff works together to fulfill the archives’ mission.
  • K-603: basic principles and procedures in human resource management appropriate for an archival program.


You’re the director of an archive with a staff of three, plus a rotating cadre of student workers. Maria is not an archivist, nor does she have a graduate degree of any kind. Maria has been the library director’s secretary. She’s worked in circulation for a few years, and now she’s a nonarchivist employee who you directly supervise. Maria’s position line was moved to your archive because you needed extra staff. This staff line is classified as a support staff, and will no be able to be reclassified as an archivist position. The staffing change occurred before you became the director.

Maria is deathly afraid of technology. Even typing an email is an issue for Maria. Maria also has a history of making students uncomfortable, due to her diligence to the “rules.” She once made a student cry during a reference interview. Your other staff member Tonya can’t stand Maria. Tonya is responsible for processing and outreach. Maria also terrorizes your student workers. You have a significant electronic records project about to begin during the next semester.

  • What do you do with Maria?
    • If you chose to fire Maria, how would you reclassify her position to aid with your electronics record program?
    • If you decided not to let Maria go, how would you integrate her better into your operations?
  • What repercussions could you face if you fire Maria?


  • Jennifer, Rowley. 2003. “Staff Management in Library and Information Work (4th edition).” Journal Of Documentation no. 3: 373. Emerald Insight.
  • Kurtz, Michael J, Thomas Wilsted, and Society of American Archivists. Managing Archival & Manuscript Repositories. Chicago: Society of American Archivists, 2004.

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