From artist to art librarian, Becca Pad shares her experiences and tips for embracing every opportunity in the field of art librarianship.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you got into the field of (art) librarianship?
While getting my bachelors in studio art at the Maryland Institute College of Art, I spent a lot of time in the library browsing exhibition catalogs to learn about new artists. My original interest in pursuing art librarianship stemmed from a desire to surround myself with books and information on artists. After graduating from college, I completed internships at the National Museum of African Art and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Both of these experiences helped me decide to pursue a master’s in library science, with a focus on archival work in museums.
Working at the University of Texas Libraries as a graduate student in the iSchool showed me a different perspective on information science careers. I enjoyed the public services aspects of my job including working at the reference desk and staffing our chat service. I was fortunate enough to develop a mentoring relationship with the former art librarian at the Fine Arts Library and learning about her responsibilities and role solidified my decision to pursue academic art librarianship
What “keeps you busy” these days in the field? What projects are you working on?
This year I am the moderator for the Academic Division of ARLIS/NA. I am leading a project to create a report on the state of academic art libraries, which will be published in late January 2019. It is a great opportunity to help assess the current state of academic art librarianship and provide recommendations to help others at their institutions.
At UT Austin, one of my main projects this year includes refining my pilot program for integrating information and visual literacy into the freshman Art and Art history program. I am collaborating with the program coordinator and faculty members on this multiyear project. As a former studio art student, I am passionate about helping other studio artists use the library as a tool for creating new works of art.
Do you have any advice for current students and/or those on the job market?
It is important to have practical experience in the field. You can gain experience through internships or research assistant opportunities at your university or in your local arts community. There are many facets to art librarianship and field experience will help you determine what type of work is most rewarding to you.
My other advice is to be persistent in applying to jobs. The job market can be tough but continue to apply to opportunities as they present themselves; you never know where you could end up. During school, you can begin to review job applications and look at the requirements for different types of positions. This can help you select courses or internships that can prepare you for the position you really want.
What accomplishments in the field of art librarianship are you most proud of?
I am proud of my work on the UT Fine Arts Library Task Force committee. The Task Force consisted of UT librarians, College of Fine Arts faculty, and student representatives. Using feedback from the UT Austin community, interviewing peer institutions, and looking at metrics (such as circulation data) we created a report about possible outcomes for the Fine Arts Library collections and space. I am happy to report that the Fine Arts Library collections remain in the branch library and our spaces are now updated.
If you could go back in time and do part of your career or education over again, is there something you would have changed? A class you would have taken? A missed opportunity?
I wish I completed language courses in college. It was not a requirement for me and I was interested in pursuing other areas of study. However, having language skills are useful for many aspects of art librarianship including collection development and assisting scholars with research questions. I am planning to enroll in language classes at UT Austin through the staff educational benefit. I may apprendre le français, lerne Deutsch, impara l’italiano!