Archivist at UH Hilo pharmacy college to serve on national coalition

Helen Wong Smith will serve on the Coalition to Advance Learning in Archives, Libraries, and Museums.

By Kara Nelson.

Helen Wong Smith
Helen Wong Smith

Helen Wong Smith has been appointed as one of three representatives of the Society of American Archivists (SAA) to serve on the Coalition to Advance Learning in Archives, Libraries, and Museums. Wong Smith is the coordinator for pharmacy and health sciences information at the Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, serving as librarian and archivist. She is on the SAA Council and is the first archivist from Hawai‘i to serve on the council since 1968.

The Society of American Archivists is North America’s oldest and largest national archival professional association, founded in 1936. The group aims to enable archivists to achieve professional excellence and foster innovation to ensure the identification, preservation, and use of records of enduring value. The society has 6,00 members and places an emphasis on fostering the values and diversity of archives and archivists.

The Coalition to Advance Learning in Archives, Libraries and Museums, to which Wong Smith has just been named, is a newer group. Founded in 2013, the purpose of the coalition is to work in deliberate coordination across organizational boundaries to devise and strengthen sustainable continuing education and professional development programs that will transform the library, archives, and museum workforce in ways that lead to measurable impact on the nation’s communities.

Wong Smith has been placed on the coalition’s Assessing the State of the Field Working Group, which entails doing a survey to determine the demographics and opportunities available to the library, archive, and museum professions.

She is a strong advocate of professional development opportunities offered virtually, an advocacy she’s maintained for over thirty years, and as part of the coalition, she potentially can impact local, state, and Pacific Basin communities.

“This will be another avenue for me to advocate for Hawai‘i,” she says. “It’s another way for both archivists and Hawai‘i to be in the conversation.”

Wong Smith explains librarians are a larger profession than museum or archives professionals in this country. She says with the new appointment to the coalition, “they get a twofer because I’m also representing an underrepresented profession from an often forgotten geographic area.”

“Hawai‘i in general is too easily overlooked, and that’s been shown time and time again,” she explains. “I’ll be privy and able to shepherd opportunities that UH Hilo and the rest of the Pacific will be able to take advantage of.”

“Being here in the middle of the Pacific, I’ve always been an advocate and looked for ways to increase continued education professional development in library and archives because it’s so expensive for us to fly to the mainland for a one-day workshop,” she says.

Over the course of her 30-year career, Wong Smith has served as archivist at the Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park and lead archivist for the Pacific Island Network, National Park Service. She was president of the Hawai‘i Library Association, two-time president of the Association of Hawai‘i Archivists, and former president of the Hawaiian Historical Society.

The first coordinator from the Native Hawaiian Center of Excellence of the John A. Burns School of Medicine to work at the Nā Pua No‘eau Center for Gifted and Talented Native Hawaiian Children, she advanced Native Hawaiian students exposure to medical fields.

She received her bachelor of arts in Hawaiian studies in 1986 and her master of science in library and information studies in 1991 from University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. She was awarded the designation of certified archivist in 2001 by the Academy of Certified Archivists, a designation she has maintained through service, education, professional service, outreach, and publication.


About the author of this story: Kara Nelson is a senior at UH Hilo double majoring in English and Communication. She is an intern in the Office of the Chancellor and a writer for UH Hilo Stories.