The Artist/Librarian: An interview with Kylie Schmitt

Kylie Schmitt, Digital Technician at the Frick Art Reference Library, at her computer workstation.

As art librarians we obviously have an affinity for the visual and creative arts.  In fact many of us found our field by starting originally as artists.  Kylie Schmitt, an early professional at the Frick Art Reference Library, is both librarian and artist.  She shares more information about her work as an information professional and as a practicing artist.

What is your current position? 

Digital Technician

What are your day-to-day responsibilities?

On a day-to-day basis I perform quality assurance (QA) on our digitization projects’ TIF and PDF files; I create workflows for our digitization and QA processes; manage our digitization and QA team; maintain, organize, & backup files within our DAMS and local drives; officiate digitization requests; and report on progress of digitization projects numerically.

Tell us about what a typical work day looks like for you.

On a typical day I’ll start with some QA. Throughout the day I’ll manage others doing QA, answer questions, and troubleshoot issues that we have come across. I also will monitor if we have any digitization requests and by the end of the day I’ll have probably done some organization of files either on our DAMS or on a local drive.

What does quality assurance mean in your field?

Quality assurance is a process that all digital materials go through before they can be approved to go public. The process entails putting another set of eyes on digitized items to make sure all of our digital file standards are met. Our standards range from file size/resolution standards based on Federal Agencies Digitization Guidelines Initiative (FADGI), to making sure nothing foreign accidentally made it into the frame.

Can you describe one of your favorite digitization projects that you have worked on?

Each project takes quite a while to complete, however, I think I like our American School Digitization project best because as someone working on it you get to look at American art all day.

What is your educational background? How did you come into librarianship as a field?

I received my Bachelor’s in Studio art, concentrating in photography. After working in the fine art and advertising worlds, I realized it wasn’t for me, but I still wanted to stay in the arts. I worked at the Marymount Manhattan library while attended as an undergrad student and thought I should combine my enjoyment of the library with my passion for the arts so I went back to school and received my Master’s in Library Science.

What type of artwork do you primarily do?

Photography and ceramics.

How did you get into photography and ceramics?

When I was 10 years old my dad gave me my first camera. It was his manual film camera and he taught me how to use the aperture and shutter settings. I’ve been taking pictures ever since then but didn’t develop and print my own work until I went to Maine Media Workshops after high school. I took ceramics in grade school and was in pottery club, but then it wasn’t available in high school so I didn’t go back to it until I was in college where I fell in love with it again.

Does the your library work influence your artwork? What about vice-versa?

I don’t use a digital camera in my artwork which probably has to do with the fact that I work on a computer all day at the library. I do gain inspiration from seeing so many pieces of art at work on a daily basis.

So can you describe the medium of the image you are sharing?

This piece is a cyanotype, a form of photographic process. No camera, or negative was used; instead I used organic materials directly on paper, coated with a light sensitive cyan medium, as a contact print.

Photograph of a plant negative
Meristem, 2015
Cyanotype
Kylie Schmitt

Who are your artistic influences?

The f/64 group for sure, and Georgia O’Keeffe

Tell us more about the f/64 group?

The f/64 group was formed in the 1930s. They are a group of San Francisco photographers including Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, and Imogen Cunningham, to name a few. At the time the popular photographic style was pictorial, so this group of photographers formed based on their modern aesthetic. The term f/64 is a small aperture size that allows for a clearer focus throughout the image and greater depth of field. The aperture setting f/64 is used in the straight photography that the group was known for.

Who is your favorite artist?

Edward Weston

Do you have art on your walls? What kind?

I do. Mostly photographs – old prints found at thrift stores, and some nature photography (one being an Ansel Adams of course), but no original pieces by artists themselves. I hope to one day invest in some original works after I save up.

As a new professional in the field what is one thing you wish you had known before you graduated?

I wish I knew how digital and technical the library world is becoming.

What advice can you give to someone in library school who wants to do the kind of work you are doing?

I think for my work, experience is everything. I would say my best advice would be to do as many internships as you can, to build up experience and to network.

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