Canadian Librarians Spotlight: An Interview with Mark Black

What is the name of the employer/institution you work for?

Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity

Can you tell us a little bit about your background, your current position, and how you got into the field of (art) librarianship?

I’m currently the manager of the Paul D. Fleck Library and Archives at Banff Centre. I have been working libraries in a variety of positions from clerk to marketing to home delivery to programming to youth librarian since 1997. I also have worked in television as a researcher and production coordinator.

My arts background is mostly in music and the literary arts. When it comes to fine arts, I would say my formal skill set is somewhat lacking. I spent a few years working in this library as a clerk back in 2001-2003 so I have called on that experience a lot. Luckily I wasn’t hired to be an artist, I was hired to be a librarian. I do need to modify my approach depending on needs, but ultimately the goal is to put people in touch with what they need in order to create and learn.

It’s been a very circuitous route. I was lucky to have worked for a number of librarians who encouraged me to pursue librarianship. My grades were not good, but everything I did from 1997 until I entered grad school had a library or research focus. I made it hard for them to not accept me because I wouldn’t settle for anything but a yes.

What brought you to your current position? 

I was a youth librarian at an under-resourced and heavily used public library.  I loved the staff and kids I worked with, but it could be a very taxing job. I’m probably describing the work of every public librarian ever. I wanted to prove myself in a leadership role and the opportunities to do so weren’t present. I had promised myself that after two years in my position I’d re-evaluate where I was headed career wise. Almost exactly two years to my start date this job was posted and it seemed like fate. I had worked at Banff Centre in the library early in my career and thought it might be the right fit for me again. I was lucky that they thought so too.

What does a typical day at work look like for you?

Check email, meetings with departments, staff, faculty, and artists on how the library can support their work – whether through our current collections, increased access to resources, or hosting programming, reference questions, taking care of paperwork (HR, budget, scheduling, health and safety, purchasing), trying to plan for and prognosticate the needs of our users – I want to make sure that we not only react to their needs, but anticipate them, drink too many cokes, and a steady iTunes soundtrack.  Also in there is reading to stay on top of trends and news that impacts our library and our community of users and trying to squeeze in professional development.

What were/are some challenges for you as an art(s) librarian? What do you think are current challenges in the field of art librarianship/librarianship in general, particularly within Canada?

One of my greatest struggles is developing a collection that is inclusive. We work in an industry that is primarily white with materials that are predominantly produced by white people. Our collections and our practices have a lot of blind spots. We have to be better. It’s a big conversation that has to happen at so many levels – collections, library schools, hiring practices, programming, etc. and I’m not sure we as librarians are actively having it

Do you have any advice for current students and/or those on the job market? What are the most important things emerging art librarians should know?

Be honest in interviews. Know your value, know why someone would want to hire you, and communicate that in an interview.  Formulate a game plan of how you are going to sell yourself and your abilities in an interview and make sure to hit those notes.

You’re trying to create a relationship in an interview as quickly as possible.  It will help you make a decision on whether this job is a good fit if you do your best to be you throughout it.

Can you talk a little bit about ways that you draw on the more conventional aspects of your LIS education? What are some things you’ve had to learn on your own?

I’m not entirely convinced that my LIS education sufficiently prepared me for what I would encounter in the field so to speak. I had a lot of well educated, distinguished, and intelligent professors, but what I was taught in the classroom and what I encounter in practice are often quite different. There can often be a gap between library academics and library practitioners. It’s not a right or wrong situation, it’s just that my experience in libraries didn’t always match up with what I learned in the classroom.

The three biggest areas where I had to learn on my own were: public outreach and community building, leadership/coaching/managing a staff, and finances (budgeting, grant applications, business proposals).

Luckily there are lots of colleagues who have been in the same position and you can draw on a diversity of opinions and experiences – that has helped a lot.

What would you consider the most rewarding parts of your job, and what are your biggest challenges as an information professional in a special library environment?

Most rewarding: Putting someone in touch with something they didn’t know existed or didn’t know was accessible– as librarians we can often make the impossible seem possible and that is a great feeling.

Biggest challenge: No library is free from this – there are still a lot of people who do not understand the possibilities of the library and what a library can offer (whether it’s academic, public, special etc.). It’s an ongoing struggle to prove our relevance to people who not only haven’t been through our doors, but don’t even know where our doors are.

Do you have any insight or advice as to how ArLiSNAP can assist in connecting emerging Canadian and American information professionals?

Mentor partnering, informal meet-ups and chats, opportunities to partner with more established information professionals for presentation or writing opportunities – really just anything that gives people a chance to speak honestly, connect, and share knowledge in an environment that drops ranks and allows everyone to be themselves. We all need a place where we can ask earnest questions without feeling dumb or judged.

Tell us something fun about yourself! What do you do in your spare time? If you could take a trip right now to visit any library in the world, which would it be?

Baseball, music (mostly punk rock), reading, and travel are my biggest outlets. I’m trying to  get back into ice skating and skiing now that I am back in the mountains – my mileage will vary.

Easy – the Giamatti Research Center at the National Baseball Hall of Fame Library in Cooperstown, New York. I have dreamed of working there for almost 20 years.  Some day?

Please welcome your new Feature Post Writer, Anna Van Someren!

I am so excited to start contributing to ArLiSNAP as a Feature Post Writer! I’m graduating with my MLIS from Simmons College this May with a concentration in Cultural Heritage Informatics. I feel really lucky to have found this community for students and new professionals in the field as I navigate my way in this new career. I started out as a video artist, and worked as a digital video editor after receiving my MFA from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. I’ve been a youth worker, after-school program coordinator, and an adjunct professor. More recently I spent 5 years at MIT as an academic project manager for research initiatives in new media and digital humanities.

At my first library job, I was really surprised at how much I love working the reference desk! Right now I’m working at the Boston Public Library in the print department, helping to inventory their art collection – it’s a dream job, discovering and describing original works of art! I also work at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston as a Contemporary Art Collections Metadata and Data Documentation intern.

In my spare time, I read wildly esoteric spiritual books, try to fit in a yoga class here and there, and do community organizing for immigrant and refugee rights.

Please welcome your new Conference Planning Liaison, Breanne Crumpton!

BreanneCrumptonProfileHello Fellow Art Librarians and Aspiring Art Librarians. I am currently the GlaxoSmithKline fellow for the reference library at the North Carolina Museum of Art through the end of next May. I graduated this past May (2015) with my MLIS from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. My undergraduate degree is in Business Administration with a double major in Art History from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC).

I have numerous experiences with a variety of cultural institutions. I worked at UNC’s Music Library for three years during my undergraduate and have volunteered at many locations including the High Point Museum, UNCG’s Special Collections and University Archives, and Greenhill, an art gallery in downtown Greensboro.

My interests in art librarianship lies with advocacy (especially for art museum libraries), making connections between libraries and the artist community, as well as encouraging art and artist professional development in other library spaces (such as academic and public libraries). I am looking forward to being the new Conference Planning Liaison because I feel there are a lot of interesting and valuable projects continuously going on across the country and the opportunity to share these ideas and gain feedback is paramount. I look forward to working with everyone and thank you for this opportunity!

Please welcome your new ArLiSNAP feature post writer, Madelynn Dickerson!

m_dickersonHello! I am originally from Southern California and I work at the Pearson Library California Lutheran University as the information specialist overseeing reference services and serve as subject specialist for the visual arts, among other subjects. I also teach art history as adjunct faculty in the Art Department. I have a Master’s degree in art history

from the University of Edinburgh and I taught art history and composition courses at the American Academy of Art in Chicago before coming back home to California a few years ago. I am currently a student in the MLIS program at San Jose State University.

I have a broad range of interests in art librarianship, including collection development, special collections, and the library as a facilitator for creative scholarship. I recently collaborated with two artist/poets on VESSEL: Text (Re)Accessioned, an erasure poetry project using deselected library material.  I love teaching and really digging into research.

I’m very excited to be sharing ideas with everyone as a writer at ArLiSNAP!

Please welcome your new ArLiSNAP Social Media Liaison, Ralph Baylor!

2014-11-21 15.59.04ArLiSNAP is a great community of new professionals and students, when I saw the opportunity to join in the conversation as the Social Media Liaison, I had to take it.  I am a recent graduate of Pratt Institute where I earned my MLIS and Masters in Art History.  I am currently the Assistant Librarian for Public Services at the Frick Art Reference Library.  There I oversee the Library’s Interlibrary Loan services and assist researchers at the Reference Desk.  In addition I moonlight as the Collections Manager for the Center for Book Arts, where I am the librarian/registrar of The Center’s permanent collection of about 3,000 artist’s books and fine prints.  I am passionate about Reference Services in Museum and Academic Libraries and the potential of web applications to assist in Humanities research.

As the Social Media Liasion I look forward to reaching out to the active community of ArLiSNAP-ers. Expect to find me facilitating on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and the other channels ArLiSNAP has a presence in (but not Secret — too soon?)! Lets share networking stories, the post-graduation job hunt, advice, and worries.

If you run into me on the New York City subway you’ll see that I love to read science-ficition (hard sci-fi, cyberpunk, nano-punk), always with a large cup of coffee in my hand. I am also an avid runner and participate is 4 or 5 half-marathons a year.

Please welcome your new ArLiSNAP Chapter Liaison, Melissa Coulston!

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Hello ArLiSNAP! I am an MLIS student at the University of South Carolina and an employee in the library at USC Upstate. I’ve lived in the Upstate for two and a half years, but I am originally from Kentucky. While in Kentucky, I completed a master’s in Art History, a bachelor’s in Classics, and worked in the main library at the University of Kentucky. Between the Latin I studied and my semester abroad in Perugia, it was basically a given that I would study art of the Italian Renaissance for my MA. My thesis was about the Sistine Chapel altarpiece that was destroyed for Michelangelo’s Last Judgment, which in turn involved a lot of papal, Reformation, and Marian history. It was so much fun to research and write. Although I am only halfway through the MLIS program, I already know that I am very interested in art librarianship, visual literacy, digital preservation, and visual resource management. I’m excited for this opportunity to get more involved with ArLiSNAP and ARLIS/NA as the new Chapter Liaison.

Meet your new ArLiSNAP Co-Moderator, Tiffany Saulter!

Tiffany_Saulter

Hi, I’m Tiffany and I am very excited and happy to accept the ArLiSNAP co-moderator position for the 2015-2017 term. I really enjoyed meeting a number of ArLiSNAP members at the Fort Worth ARLIS conference and look forward to meeting more of you.

I am originally from South Florida and am currently a Pauline A. Young Resident and Affiliate Assistant Librarian at the University of Delaware in the Manuscripts and Archives department, working on creating fuller descriptions for the large number of legacy materials/items that make up our collections as well as digitizing many of these same materials. I am also involved in the Delaware Valley digital humanities community through PhillyDH. I have a B.A. in Digital Art from Stetson University and a M.A. in Art History from the University of Miami, with a focus on video and film art. I received my MLIS degree from Indiana University.

I have a fervent love for pop culture and media/television in general and can often be found making random pop culture references that no one gets.I look forward to serving as co-moderator in the coming two years and meeting and working with more of you. Please feel free to contact me at tsaulter2@gmail.com with any comments, questions or ideas.

Please welcome Hilary Price to the ArLiSNAP team as our newest Job Postings Liaison / Feature Writer!

Hilary will be keeping us up-to-date on employment opportunities in the art librarianship field. Welcome! archivephoto Hi.  I’ve used ArLiSNAP since I began my MLS in 2013 and I’m so excited to be on the team.  Before I decided to pursue my MLS at Queens College, I studied art history at The New School, and fine art at Tyler School of Art.  While I still love making and looking at art, I’m excited about connecting people with resources as a librarian and archivist. In the spring semester I will graduate with my MLS, but in the meantime, I’ll be working part-time at three different libraries in New York.  I’ll continue my work as graduate fellow at Barnard Archives and Special Collections, begin a project assistant position at the Brooklyn Museum Library, and get a taste of the corporate archive world at the Citi Center for Culture (archive of Citibank).  My interests and studies are primarily directed toward archives, new technologies, and art librarianship. Thanks to Ellen and Rachel for all their work, and for giving me the opportunity to assist.  I look forward to posting.

ArLiSNAP is excited to welcome Rebecca Rubenstein as our new Social Media Liaison!

Rebecca will extend our discussions on Facebook and Twitter. Welcome to the group, Rebecca!

Rebecca

I am a painter and a librarian currently working with ebooks and multimedia research collections at an educational software company. I received an MFA from Pratt Institute and recently completed my MSLIS at the Palmer School of Library and Information Science, Long Island University. While at the Palmer School I interned with the Librarian for Fine Art at New York University’s Bobst Library. I also interned at a branch of the New York Public Library with a strong arts and exhibition program. This position led me to become a features writer for Library as Incubator Project where I continue to write about creative happenings in libraries.

A warm welcome to Hannah Marshall, our new Feature Writer/Discussion Liaison!

Hannah is joining us from VREPS to keep us up-to-date on special interests in art librarianship.

Marshall_photo

Hello, ArLiSNAPers – I am the Metadata Librarian for Image Collections at Cornell University. I started at Cornell as the art history image cataloger in April 2013 and, in January 2014, moved into my current role. In the past, I have worked in UC Irvine’s University Art Gallery, the San Diego Museum of Art Library, the Ricker Library of Architecture and Art, and the UIUC’s Visual Resource Center. I have additional experience working in an artist’s studio and in digital publishing. I have a B.A. in art history and completed my MLIS at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign in Spring 2012. My professional experience and interests include a mixture of art librarianship, visual resource management, and image cataloging. I’m also very interested in research design and digitization projects. I look forward to writing for the blog and hopefully hearing from you all – thanks to Ellen and Rachel for the opportunity!