Meet Your Library Staff
This is the first in a new series of blog posts where we will feature members of our staff here at SAIT’s Reg Erhardt Library. In this post, we want to introduce you to Karly Sawatzky, SAIT’s Archivist.
- Are you a native Calgarian? If not, why did you choose to live here in Calgary?
I moved to Calgary from small town Manitoba in the fall of 1999 to attend the University of Calgary. I wanted an adventure, to meet new people, and mountains to snowboard. My parents drove me 13 hours across the prairies, and dropped me off at the U of C Residence in a city where I had never been and knew not a single person. I met my husband snowboarding the next winter and we have made Calgary our home ever since.
- What do you do when you are not at work?
Having two young boys keeps me pretty busy! I volunteer in their classrooms, on the preschool board, and as a manager for Zeke’s soccer team. Personal Driver and Social Convener are my job titles when I’m not working in the SAIT Archives! We spend time together skiing in the winter and boating in the summer.
- What made you choose a career in Archives?
History had always been my favourite subject in high school. I was blessed with passionate teachers and grandparents who passed their love of history on to me. I completed my undergraduate degree in History and then my Masters with a focus on race and sexuality at the turn of the century in Western Canada. I worked as a researcher for my history professor for three years and then spent two years researching my own thesis. During this time, I visited numerous provincial and national archives in Canada and the United States and was always blown away by the treasures and stories safely tucked away in those gray boxes.
- How long have you worked at the SAIT Library and what did you do before?
My start working in Archives was a part time job in the Canadian Architectural Archives at the University of Calgary. It housed the largest and most prestigious collection of Architectural records in Canada and documented our built heritage from the early 1900’s. I worked with researchers from all over the world and was involved in numerous international exhibitions and book publications.
That part time job turned into a full time Archival Assistant position when I graduated. I worked there for 10 years before taking on the Archivist role at SAIT.
- Can you tell us a bit about your role as SAIT’s Archivist?
The creation of the Archivist at SAIT in 2009 was tied to the Centennial Celebration that was upcoming in 2016. Up until that point, historical records had been kept on campus by interested faculty – many of whom had worked at SAIT in the 50’s and 60’s. SAIT’s Alive had sent a letter to the President of SAIT pleading for a formalized archival program that would preserve and make accessible our 100 years of history. President Irene Lewis granted their wish and the first permanent archival program at SAIT began.
My role as the Archivist is to acquire, preserve, and make accessible all of the records in SAIT’s history, including photographs, institutional publications, student clubs, and social activities that document our institution’s rich history.
- The SAIT Archives played a big part in the Centennial Celebrations in 2016. Can you describe what this experience was like? (aside from exhausting!)
For an Archivist to be part of a centennial celebration is a career highlight ― it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity ― and it was my honour to be an integral part of this celebration for SAIT. I had a front row seat to all of the years of planning, researching, and writing that went into the year-long celebration. Seeing students, faculty, and alumni all come together to honour what SAIT had accomplished in our first 100 years was inspiring. I met so many people, heard so many stories, and this enriched my understanding and pride in SAIT’s history. Watching the fireworks explode from Heritage Hall in the final moments of our celebration will forever be one of my favourite memories.
- What common misconceptions do you think people have about Archives?
Most people view Archives as something that is off limits to the general public – boxes of dusty paper tucked away never to be seen again. My primary goal when I started at SAIT was to bring awareness and life to the Archives. We have digitized all of our high use collections making them accessible to researchers, faculty and students. We did pop-up Archival booths showing off yearbooks and course calendars from 100 years ago. We were active on social media and held a campus wide kick-off event to let people know we existed. Archives are only useful in the hands of people and I want to create a culture where students can be aware of and be proud of this great institution.
- What is something in the Archives that would surprise people?
A favourite part of my job is to show students photographs of their father, mother, grandmother or grandfather in a yearbook from 50 years ago, or to show them the tools their relatives worked with in the 30s. To watch their faces, light up and know they are part of something bigger at SAIT is so satisfying. To give a student this sense of belonging allows them to connect to their education in the most meaningful way.