Hack Your Art Librarianship Program: Indiana University, Bloomington

This post was contributed by Andrew Wang. Andrew graduated from Indiana University in 2017 with an M.L.S. and an M.A. in Art History. He is currently the 2017/18 Kress Fellow in Art Librarianship at Yale, dividing his time between the Haas Arts Library and the Yale Center for British Art. Some of his interests include zines, comics, modern and contemporary art, the history of Latin American art, critical librarianship, and queer theory.

Indiana University’s Department of Information & Library Science offers an M.L.S. program with a specialization in Art Librarianship, as well as a dual degree program with the Department of Art History. The programs were recently re-vamped following the appointment of a new Department Chair, with brand new requirements starting fall 2017. Though I completed the dual degree program, I’ll discuss the requirements of both programs. At the end of this post I’ll also share some anecdotes from my peers, as well as my own personal experience.

Art Librarianship Specialization
The Art Librarianship Specialization is designed to steer students toward a career in art librarianship by incorporating relevant coursework into the general M.L.S. program. The Foundation courses required for the M.L.S. include:

· User Services and Tools
· Representation and Organization
· Perspectives on Librarianship
· Elective (from a list of mostly computing/tech-focused options)
· Internship in Information and Library Science

In addition to the Foundation requirements of the M.L.S. degree and 9 more elective credits (courses to be chosen with the Specialization Advisor), the Art Librarianship Specialization requires the following courses:

· The Book to 1450
· Humanities Information
· Internship in Information and Library Science
· Art Librarianship

M.L.S./ M.A. Dual Degree Program
The dual degree program is designed to be completed within 3 years, so there is noticeably less flexibility in terms of course selection and scheduling. On the M.L.S. side, students are required to take the following in addition to the Foundation courses (see above) and 3 elective credits:

· Humanities Information
· Internship in Information and Library Science
· Art Librarianship
· One of the following: Information Architecture for the Web; Online Searching; Indexing;
Digital Libraries

Dual degree students are required to complete 30 M.L.S. credits total, instead of the 36 credits required of Art Librarianship Specialization students. Both are required to complete 2 internships (6 credits, 360 total hours of onsite work). To fulfill the M.A. in Art History requirements, students must complete a Master’s Essay and have reading proficiency in at least one foreign language, as well as 32 course credits in various areas of art history, including two required courses: Historiography and Theories & Methods.

Reflections and Recommendations
With so many recent changes to the program, it’s difficult to say whether the specialization will adequately equip students to enter the field of art librarianship specifically. During my time at Indiana University (2014-2017), my peers often felt that the specialization was lackluster and that it didn’t foster many of the skills that future employers would expect from us. In some cases, some of the required courses weren’t offered for the entire duration of some of my peers’ enrollment in the program, and they often had to arrange for alternate options with their M.L.S. advisors.

The past few years were particularly tumultuous for the specialization due to the high turnover rate of the position of Head of the Fine Arts Library, a position that has also historically assumed the position of adjunct instructor and advisor for the specialization. Though I worked under two amazing advisors/Heads of the Fine Arts Library during my time, their departure from the university left a gaping hole for many of the students who had just started the program. After a semester without an art librarian advisor, the LIS Department recently appointed a new advisor and adjunct instructor to oversee the specialization: Emilee Matthews, Research Librarian for Arts & Visual Studies at UC Irvine (and former Interim Head of the Fine Arts Library and graduate of the dual degree program at Indiana University). This new appointment should help steer the re-designed curriculum.

It’s important to note that many of the opportunities I was afforded during my program are no longer available to current and future students. The Fine Arts Library closed in May 2017 to accommodate major renovations for the adjacent Eskenazi Museum of Art, which will also be temporarily closed for the next few years. Some of my most significant experiences during my program involved working at both the Fine Arts Library and the Eskenazi Museum of Art as a Graduate Supervisor and a Graduate Assistant in the Curatorial Department, respectively. They provided invaluable experiences in supervising, managing workflows, public services, curating, records management, and many other opportunities well beyond the scope of M.L.S. coursework. New students will still have related local resources available (e.g. the Lilly Library and the Glenn A. Black Laboratory for Archaeology), but will be missing out on some exceptional resources that cater specifically to emerging art librarians (i.e. an academic art library and an art museum).

I would personally recommend pursuing the dual degree program if you want to be an art librarian. M.L.S. programs in general only provide you with the bare minimum requirement found in most librarian job postings: an M.L.S. degree. You should structure your own program according to the requirements and preferences of your ideal career, but many art librarian job postings express a desire for candidates with art or art history graduate degrees. I want to stress that it’s not necessary, but it has certainly helped me better communicate with patrons in my current position. Two considerations to keep in mind for the dual degree program are: (1) the M.L.S. and M.A. degrees must be awarded simultaneously, and (2) you will have to submit separate applications to each department. The benefit of receiving both degrees in 3 years rather than 4 (the time it would take if you pursued them separately) was well worth it for me though. Not to mention my affiliation with the Art History Department helped me secure my assistantship, which thankfully provided me with a fee remission. Enrolling in the dual degree program doesn’t guarantee funding, but you’re likely to find more job opportunities outside of the ILS Department.

One of the biggest issues with the M.L.S. program (Art Librarianship Specialization or not) is that the requirements don’t really cover many of the responsibilities you’ll eventually encounter in your career. You’ll have to be strategic about the elective courses you take. In my case, for example, Digital Humanities proved extremely useful. I recommend consulting someone who has the job you want, and choose your electives accordingly. If you have a specific interest in museum librarianship, visual resources, or special collections, for instance, you’ll have to pursue part-time jobs, assistantships, or internships. Those fields intersect with art librarianship, but are not necessarily a major part of either the specialization or the dual degree curriculum. The M.L.S. program also doesn’t require knowledge of a non-English language, something I would highly recommend any art librarian-in-training to pursue.

As with any M.L.S. program, Indiana University’s has its pros and cons. It is far from perfect; it could work on student, staff, and faculty diversity, on administrative communication skills and transparency, on its required coursework, and on its financially inaccessible internship model (paying for credits for unpaid work), to name a few issues. Students, especially those in the Art Librarianship Specialization track and in the dual degree program, will have to take it upon themselves to pursue external opportunities to build a firm foundation for their career. I’m hopeful that the new specialization advisor and the future Art, Architecture, & Design Librarian will provide a refreshed environment for aspiring art librarians. Their mentorship will be just as important than any assortment of courses you take. My last piece of advice for those considering or those recently enrolled in these programs at IU: be proactive about participating in both local and national organizations. Join the Society of Art Librarianship Students (SALS) and be an active member. Join ARLIS/NA and ARLISNAP, go to conferences, tour libraries, meet librarians, present a poster, curate your presence online, etc. Bloomington can be isolating, so tap into regional resources in Indianapolis, Louisville, St. Louis, and Chicago. I’m always open to chat more if you have any questions!

Andrew
aandrewwangg@gmail.com

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