Every month or so the OTW will be doing a Q&A with one of its volunteers about their experiences in the organization. The posts express each volunteer’s personal views and do not necessarily reflect the views of the OTW or constitute OTW policy. Today’s post is with Alison Watson, who volunteers as a staffer for the Open Doors Committee
How does what you do as a volunteer fit into what the OTW does?
The OTW’s mission is to provide access to and preserve the history of fanworks and fan culture, and the Open Doors committee is really central to that! In fact, our committee’s own mission is specifically to protect and preserve at-risk fanworks of all kinds. We have two divisions — the Fanculture Preservation Project (FCPP), which is all about preserving physical fanworks through our partnership with the University of Iowa Library, and the Online Archive Rescue Project, which is what I focus on.
The Online Archive Rescue Project is about preserving fanwork archives which are in danger of being lost because the archive’s owner can’t maintain them any longer. Sometimes this is because they don’t have the resources to keep their website up any longer, sometimes it’s because their archive software has degraded over time and it’s no longer functional. More rarely it’s because the mod has left fandom or passed away. Whatever the reason, we try to help, because we want people to be able to enjoy the works for as long as possible. I also think it’s important to have a record of what fans have created, for ourselves as a community.
What is a typical week like for you as a volunteer?
It varies from week to week, depending on where we are on different stages of archive imports, and how much assistance we’re providing the moderators. We’re mostly facilitators, so lots of emailing and drafting things like documentation and announcement posts! Each Open Doors staffer takes point on one (or more) archive import projects, though as we work as a team we’re able to answer queries if the on-point staffer isn’t available.
So my week usually includes:
- Discussing our process with moderators who want to move their archive
- Emailing other committees to ask them for help with things like mapping tags from an archive to AO3 canonical tags, or translating announcements
- replying to inquiries from people who have works on an archive that’s being imported
- drafting announcements and other posts so that people can find out about our imports
- creating AO3 archivist accounts and collections
- searching the AO3 to make sure that we don’t import duplicate works
- importing works on behalf of archivists
- creating and updating Fanlore pages to preserve as much as we can about the original archives
What made you decide to volunteer?
I started in the OTW in 2009 as a Tag Wrangler, because a fandom friend was talking about it and it sounded fun — I’m a librarian, so organisation is one of my things! My work as a wrangler led me to the AD&T Committee, and then when Tag Wrangling became an official committee, I was an inaugural member, and later a co-chair. After my experiences on the volunteer management side of things, I joined the Volunteers & Recruiting Committee, where I currently co-chair.
I studied preservation & digital preservation as part of my library degree and it wasn’t hard to relate that to my fannish life. It horrifies me, how much of the internet, of our fandom history and our fanworks, we’re losing. So when I found myself with some more time, I joined Open Doors to help prevent this as much as I could.
What’s the most fun thing to you about volunteering for the OTW?
I’ve made some great friends through the OTW — I definitely find working with other volunteers motivating, even if sometimes the work itself is less fun! I’ve met a couple of people offline and I hope to get the opportunity to meet more people in future <3
Specifically about Open Doors, I enjoy importing works, even when it's something really different from what I'd read personally (or view, or otherwise access — we're not limited to fanfiction in our imports) . I like knowing that someone out there is going to get the opportunity to love it, and often we get some great comments from people discovering older works. Seeing kudos emails on works we've preserved is great!
What fannish things do you like to do?
I tend to consider myself mainly a consumer of fannish products, because like most of us, I read a lot of fanfiction! On the creation side, years ago I made a couple of vids, but these days my output is more likely to be fancrafts (knitting and crocheting) than anything else. Although it’s also work, I do consider volunteering for the OTW a fannish activity. Similarly, I co-run a small slash-focused con. A group of local fen meet up regularly and it’s great to just sit around and chat about whatever with other fans!
Now that our volunteer’s said five things about what they do, it’s your turn to ask one more thing! Feel free to ask about their work in comments. Or if you’d like, you can check out earlier Five Things posts. And don’t forget that as part of our Open Doors celebration on Sunday, September 18th from 17:00-19:00 UTC (check when that is in your timezone) we’ll be doing a live chat to which you are all invited!