ARLIS/NA and recruitment to the profession

Hi all,

I’m an Art History MA student at the University of Colorado-Boulder. Last year I participated in a fellowship/mentorship experience in the libraries here at CU-Boulder. The program (Provost’s Faculty Fellowship in the University Libraries) functions as a method for recruiting graduate students to careers in academic librarianship. Fellows work with academic librarians to develop a mentoring relationship and gain experience working in academic libraries. One of the central ideas behind this recruitment effort is that graduate students in disciplines outside of LIS are an untapped source of future academic librarians. In other words, while recruiting current LIS students to academic librarianship is great, convincing graduate students outside of LIS to pursue an MLIS degree is an equally effective (if not better) recruitment strategy.

So what am I getting at, you ask? Well, I’d like to know what ArLiSNAP-ers think about the recruitment strategy I outlined above. I’m posting this because I think it would be interesting to start a discussion about recruitment and get the perspectives of people in different stages of the process (before library school, library school students, new professionals, etc.).

To kick off the discussion, here’s an issue I’ve been thinking about… ARLIS/NA’s Judith A. Hoffberg Student Award for Conference Attendance is currently limited to library school students and recent grads. Does anyone think this award should be made available to graduate students and recent grads in related disciplines (i.e. art, art history, architecture, design, etc.) as well?

I’m looking forward to your comments!



  1. I see pro’s & con’s on both sides for opening up the Hoffberg award.

    The biggest pro, as you suggest, would open up the potential for future recruiting into the art librarian profession.

    The biggest con, in my opinion, is that those outside of librarianship are already committed to a rigorous program and environment (e.g. many advanced History of Art programs combine the MA w/ the PhD).

    I believe having student and recent grad attendees outside of the library profession would help future relations between art librarians and their colleagues. However, I’m skeptical that it would be an effective recruiting tool.

    I think that outreach within an established community (say CAA) maybe a way to capitalize on professionals who are looking for a change (rather than focusing on those who are still heavily invested in a career path outside of librarianship).

    Thanks for the great topic! :-)

  2. I think this is an interesting idea. I’m curious to hear what other people think. To learn more about Judith Hoffberg, who is largely responsible for the existence of ARLIS/NA, see her wikipidia article.

    I do want to bring up a related topic–the old “Is an MLS really necessary?” debate. From what I understand, some fear that recruiting outside of MLS programs will produce “librarians” who do not have an MLS or MLIS degree. The MLS or related degree is the standard credential for our profession, just as a doctor must have an MD, lawyer a JD, teacher a license and so on–the point being that people, even those with PhDs, need training to be librarians. On the other hand, many people call anyone who works in a library a librarian, not just those with the MLS. (For what it’s worth, any female medical professional is often also called a nurse!)

    For those orgs offering awards, one advantage of recruiting from inside library schools is some sort of guarantee that a library student has made a commitment to the profession and will presumably contribute to librarianship or even that particular organization in the future. It is a sort of investment in that student. I’m curious how many students out there not in library school want to go to library conferences and what their reasons are (please comment).

    For Visual Resources the situation is a bit different because many VR Curators traditionally have degrees in Art History or Art, but not necessarily an MLS. Those I know who have been hired without MLS degrees have substantial experience working in libraries or archives or similar places.

    I attended the Arlis/NA conference at Banff, which confirmed my career choice as an art librarian. I had a very good time and learned quite a bit, but I wonder how much I would have comprehended without my library school coursework and library work experience. In my opinion (as a new professional), I think an internship, volunteering, or shadowing a professional would be more useful to those interested in the profession, especially those not ready to commit or who just want to find out more about what we do. There are also regional chapters who hold meetings across the country that are far less expensive, where you would have the opportunity to talk with a variety of professionals in your area.

    Whew! That was a long comment–but the page is boundless–so please comment more!

  3. I think an internship, volunteering, or shadowing a professional would be more useful to those interested in the profession, especially those not ready to commit or who just want to find out more about what we do.

    Excellent suggestion ;-) I volunteered at the Columbus Museum of Art. Because I spent time in multiple departments (curatorial, education, registrar, & installation), I had a much better idea about the curator’s role and how museums work together as a team. The internship helped me gage whether or not I wanted to work in such an environment. It was a great experience, and it helped me decide whether or not I was truly interested in investing time, money, sanity, etc. into the training to become an art historian.

  4. I really think that recruitment is something that ARLIS/NA should focus on, so your suggestion is intriguing. I would second what Megan said about the level of commitment potential travel award applicants demonstrate – being enrolled in a degree program for your MLS is one of the strongest ways to demonstrate this.

    Following up on Bryan’s suggestion about volunteerism, what about a setup similar to ALA’s Student to Staff program? ALA will accept a certain number of volunteers from each student chapter who, “In exchange for working 4 hours per day at the conference . . . will receive free conference registration, housing, and a per diem for meal expenses.” That’s a pretty good deal. ARLIS/NA might want to look into offering a competitive award of this sort. It probably shouldn’t necessarily be tied to LIS programs if we want to attract people from outside our area. I would also assume that students would be required to be members of ARLIS/NA.

  5. ACRL has some interesting white papers on the recruitment issue here. There’s also an article in the current November 2006 issue of C&RL that outlines the fellowship program I described above.

    Regarding the “is an MLS necessary” question… Yes, I do think the MLS is necessary for librarians. But I also believe that advanced subject knowledge in a relevant discipline is also necessary in order to produce great academic librarians. I think ARLIS/NA should start addressing recruitment not to increase the number of people interested in art librarianship, but rather to increase the quality of art librarians in the field.

    I like the student to staff idea as well. How might we go about encouraging ARLIS/NA to institute such a program? My faculty mentor is chair of the ARLIS/NA Travel Awards sub-committee–perhaps I should mention this idea to her? Does anyone else know members of the Professional Development Committee? Maybe this suggestion could be brought to their attention as well?

  6. There’s an article in the current November 2006 issue of C&RL that might be of interest. It outlines the fellowship program I described above and connects it to the larger discussion about recruitment happening in response to ACRL’s call to action.

    Personally, I think ARLIS/NA should start seriously examining recruitment not as a means to increase the number of people interested in art librarianship, but rather to increase the quality of art librarians on the market. Since few library school students already have advanced subject knowledge, encouraging graduate students from other disciplines (art, art history, architecture, museum studies, etc.) to attend library school could be an effective strategy for producing librarians with strong subject expertise. Institutions are concerned about the “shallow pools” of applicants for academic librarian positions, so perhaps this could be a way to make those art librarian pools deeper.

    I like the student-to-staff idea. I’ve suggested it to my faculty mentor—she’s the current chair of the travel awards sub-committee. Does anyone know the other members of the committee? Maybe this idea could be shared with them as well? And maybe the members of the professional development committee?

  7. Knowlton, S.P. & Imamoto, B. (2006). Recruiting Non-MLIS Graduate Students to Academic Librarianship. College & Research Libraries, 67(6), 561-570.
    BTW, it’s a great piece. I serendipitously came across it last night, and I didn’t put 2 & 2 together until Meredith’s last post.

  8. The publication below may also be of interest, especially Section C, page 59. It seems to show that a significant percentage of art librarians have two masters degrees. Most academic librarian positions prefer or even require applicants to have two masters degrees. An MLS/MIS and an MA in Art History or a related field is also the recommended course of study for prospective art librarians. I think many of us who have applied for art librarian positions recently have found that we were competing with very qualified candidates with specialized subject knowledge. Meredith, are you suggesting recruitment from MA/MFA programs or PhD programs?


    2004 Art/Architecture Librarians and Visual Resource Professionals Compensation Survey

    The ARLIS/NA 2004 Art/Architecture Librarians and Visual Resource Professionals Compensation Survey consists of fundamental and contextual questions about art/architecture/design librarians, as well as visual resource professionals and their associated compensation levels, incorporating a broad range of institutions throughout North America. The purpose of the compensation survey was to summarize the compensation ranges and duties performed by professionals specializing in these subject areas. The types of settings chosen for the focus were chosen for their similarity of subject matter and duties performed within a specialized subject area and client base. The survey provides users with a much more accurate representation of current pay levels for Art, Architecture and Visual Resource professionals in U.S. and Canadian visual resource settings of all types, and may serve as a valuable management and research tool.

    Compiled by Kathrin Dodds & Heather Ball

  9. I think that Daniel Starr (Travel Award committee chair) and/or Carole Ann Fabian (Board Liason) would also be good people to contact about the Student to Staff idea. Meredith, is something that you’re willing to take on?
    Also, I’m curious about which institutions are concerned about a shallow applicant pool. From my own anecdotal experience in the Indiana University School of Library and Information Science, I would say that most students following the academic librarianship path realize that they will need two degrees. If art libraries are serious about hiring qualified individuals (in terms of subject knowledge or otherwise.), then they will need to look for a candidate with both degrees. I realize that those candidates are rarer, but this is why we should maintain current dual degree programs, as well as advocate for new partnerships. And this seems like where University of Colorado, Boulder’s new program can be implemented!

  10. Yes, I’ll send an email to Daniel Starr and Carole Ann Fabian about the Student to Staff idea. I think it’s great that this idea came out of the ArLiSNAP blog, and I’ll be sure to mention that.

    The issue of shallow applicant pools was mentioned in some of the ACRL recruitment and retention documents (I think it’s in the white paper available from the ACRL website). I’ve had conversations with librarians at both the University of Colorado-Boulder and the University of Michigan about hiring and tenure procedures, and librarians at both institutions mentioned the “shallow pools” problem. It’s not that qualified applicants don’t exist–the problem is that there aren’t a lot of them. The major concern seems to be that applicant pools are small and not terribly diverse.

    The Provost’s Fellowship program here at CU-Boulder has focused on MA students rather than PhD students, and I think that’s probably a good idea.

  11. I agree that lack of diversity is an issue in recruitment of librarians as a whole. If you’re interested in movements to change this you might check into the Progressive Librarians Guild.

    Is the Knowlton article available online anywhere? It looks like ACRL doesn’t have it up yet, but you have to be a member to read it anyway. I might actually have to walk over to a library where they have materials in paper format, if not :) If you can find the url for the white paper, that would be great too.

    This is has been a very interesting topic! We could also market our blog to non-mls art/arch/art history students? I think they would appreciate our image links, if nothing else.

  12. Oh, and I’ve emailed Daniel Starr and Carole Ann Fabian regarding the “Student-to-Staff” idea.

    I’ve really enjoyed hearing what you all have to say about this topic! I’m in the middle of applying to library school at the moment, so it’s nice to see that there are other students and new professionals out there who share my interests.

  13. I think I have to agree with Sara that the goal here should be to increase the number of subject specialists in the field. I still feel that the MLS is valuable, if not necessary for the forward-movement of the profession.

    Another question we need to ask is what the current state of the job market in art librarianship is. The article in C&RL would suggest that there aren’t enough subject specialist librarians to go around, but my experience has been that there aren’t a lot of positions in art librarianship going unfilled. In fact, it seems that many interested students (both dual-degree and otherwise) have trouble finding work in the field. This could be the result of a myriad of factors. But, it’s food for thought.

    I am 100% behind a student to staff idea, because that specifially targets those who are displaying an interest in the field, and seems to help them find the right way to gain experience and be welcomed into the field. That’s invaluable. I would really love to see ARLIS/NA offer more meaningful ways for new professionals and students to become involved (and feel welcomed doing so).

  14. From Margaret Webster, Past President of ArLIS/NA:


    I just took a look because I figured that the discussion would be interesting. I wasn’t disappointed. Great ideas–keep them coming.

    Just one suggestion that might be of help to students who might want to attend the conference in Atlanta. If you volunteer to work at the hospitality desk you get some reduction in conference attendance fees depending on how many hours you put in. Not as much as the discussion suggests, but something none the less. This might help without changing anything; this is available right now.

    As for the Hoffberg Award, this was originally one of the ARLIS/NA sponsored awards that now is named after Judith Hoffberg. The ARLIS/NA Executive Board determined the criteria when in its former incarnation as an ARLIS/NA student travel awards. Judith, herself, was very pleased that the award was specifically target at travel because she herself loves to travel; and she likes students. Now, I suspect that you might be able if you get yourselves organized to convince the ARLIS/NA Executive Board that the criteria should include students–not just students in library school. You are correct to approach Carole Ann Fabian with this issue.

    Finally, I might add as a very, very old foggy that attending ARLIS/NA conferences may not totally depend upon holding a library degree–a real interest in the profession and what it stands for goes a very long way. My own belief is that ARLIS/NA conferences are very worthwhile if you are interested, tuned in, and want to learn. Just my 2 cents worth.

    Cheers, Margaret

    Margaret N. Webster
    Director, Knight Visual Resources Facility
    B-56 Sibley Hall
    College of Architecture, Art & Planning
    Cornell University
    Ithaca, NY 14853
    http: //

  15. Margaret also says:

    As for volunteering at the conference, students should respond to the call for volunteers that will be posted by the Hospitality Desk Coordinator sometime after the New Year.

    I volunteered at the desk at the Banff conference and had a great time! It was a fun way to match faces with names I’d heard and to meet many wonderful people.

  16. Margaret wrote:

    Now, I suspect that you might be able if you get yourselves organized to convince the ARLIS/NA Executive Board that the criteria should include students–not just students in library school. You are correct to approach Carole Ann Fabian with this issue.

    If you’re interested in pursuing this issue, please leave a comment. I do believe we can get ourselves organized!

  17. This is a bit belated, but I ran across these citations this morning:

    A Matter of Degrees by Todd Gilman in Chronicle of Higher Education.

    Turning Ph.D.’s into Librarians by Mary Dillon Johnson in Chronicle of Higher Education.

    Crying Wolf: An Examination and Reconsideration of the Perception of Crisis in LIS Education by Andrew Dillon and April Norris in Journal of Education for Library and Information Science.

    I haven’t made it through all three articles yet, but it is clear that the wider academic community has already given this topic some serious thought. The final citation is not exactly what this thread started out discussing, but it is useful as a long-range look at the real and perceived educational “crisis” within librarianship.

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