A couple of summers ago, I traveled to San Diego to present a session at the Society of American Archivists Annual Conference. Not being a particularly huge fan of flying (picture white knuckles grabbing the arm rests), I was a little on edge as we were taking off. The gentleman sitting next to me, Danny, noticed my distress and struck up a conversation. [To get a true sense of this conversation, a description of Danny would be helpful: he had numerous tattoos and piercings, he played in a band doing gigs on top of his day job as a software trainer, and he and his wife had recently become parents. And he was madly in love with his new little girl.] For the next hour, while Danny and I traveled from Fargo to Minneapolis, we talked about many things, including a debate about Bon Jovi's contribution to music (which I am a firm believer in). At one point Danny inquired about my work and where I was going. After I told him that I was an archivist, he responded with "An arch-i-who?" And continued with the question, "And there are multiple arch-i-who's who get together at conferences?"
The novelty factor and mystique of being an archivist certainly has its advantages: it is a great conversation piece and creates opportunities for those in my profession to share the importance of what we do. The unfortunate aspect is that I've come to realize that many people are unfamiliar with archives and archivists. Or if people know about this line of work, they may think of dusty attics or basements or movies such as National Treasure where the archivist is hanging onto a fast moving vehicle clutching a one-of-a-kind document (and in a ball gown no less). While I do not work in a dusty, secluded environment nor participate in high-speed chases on a regular basis, I do find my work, even better stated as my vocation, to be thrilling.
My response to "An arch-i-who?" is that I get to collect and take care of rare materials and help people use them to find needed information. Every day I get to be Sherlock Holmes and sleuth through documents to find needles in haystacks that can be used to answer a question. I love being surrounded by one-of-a-kind documents every day, and there's nothing more rewarding that seeing our patrons get excited as they use our materials. We help people touch the past by using these original primary sources. There are not abridged versions or Cliff notes for archival materials; the primary sources that archivists collect and preserve promote reading, investigation, and require drawing one's own conclusions. And of course, I am so very fortunate to be surrounded by an amazing cadre of student workers and interns that share my love and passion for what we do.
My mantra as an archivist is a quotation from Julie Hendry who stated, "What better way to ensure that the policy makers and voters of tomorrow are both critical thinkers and sensitive to archival concerns than to introduce them at an early age to the usefulness of archives?” My continued hope is that more and more people will understand and use archives. And I am thankful to Danny who not only helped keep me calm during our flight, but also allowed me to share why I love what I do.
Contributed by Lisa Sjoberg, college archivist
 Julia Hendry, “Primary Sources in K-12 Education: Opportunities for Archives,” The American Archivist 70, no. 1 (2007): 129.