Digital Humanities: A Starting Point

I’ve recently been reaching out to colleagues for information and advice on learning more about digital humanities(DH) and digital scholarship. It’s a term I’ve heard bandied around a lot at my library, but has never been fully clear to me. I thought I’d share some resources that have been suggested to me, which can hopefully help anyone else who may be grappling with the concept and work of digital scholarship, but would like to know more.

Texts

Web

  • Rebuilding the Porfolio: DH for Art Historians
    In 2014, The Getty Foundation held a two week institute on art history and DH. There are good readings and resources still available on the site. I’ve also found some interesting posts on the Getty’s blog discussing art history in relation to digital scholarship.
  • The Programming Historian
    This website hosts peer-reviewed tutorials on different tools used in DH work. I appreciate the simplicity and easy navigation of the site. Different tutorials are grouped by use under the Lessons link.
  • Miriam Posner’s blog
    Articles by Miriam Posner have been suggested to me multiple times. She is Faculty and the Coordinator for UCLA’s Digital Humanities Program.“How did they make that?” is a great post where she goes through several digital projects and maps out what the project is, the tools that were used, and how to get started using them yourself.
  • Subscribe to the ACRL Digital Humanities email list. The group also runs a blog, which shares readings, events, and opportunities in the digital humanities.

Workshops

  • Digital Humanities Summer Institute
    DHIS is a weeklong institute at the The University of Victoria in Vancouver, Canada. Participants take one course that meets daily.. It is a large conference and they a variety lot of classes, like Fundamentals of Coding for Humanists, Digital Storytelling, and Text Processing to name a few. I have heard from past attendees that DHIS is a valuable chance for networking. There are scholarships available for students and early-career professionals that can help to defray some of the costs.
  • Humanities Intensive Learning and Teaching
    Unlike DHIS, HILT is a smaller program with more intensive and rigorous courses. The location changes from year to year. This summer’s HILT will be in Austin, TX. Again, participants choose one class to take during the 5-day institute. Classes offered this year include Programming for Humanists with Python, Introduction to the Text Encoding Initiative for Historical Documents, and New Approaches to Literary Archives. HILT also offers scholarships for their program.
  • Digital Humanities at Oxford Summer School
    DHOxSS is like DHIS and HILT, except that it is in England. The workshops run for 5 days and while coursework is similar to the other institutes, they also offer an Introduction to Digital Humanities course. This class gives a thorough overview of the field through presentations, talks, and workshops.

Other Resources

  • Library Juice
    Library Juice offers a wide variety of continuing education and professional development courses for librarians. There are a couple classes that are related to the DH. Others touch on areas or skills that are also applicable, such as courses on coding or metadata.
  • If you work at an academic library, check to see if any departments offer programming in the digital humanities. Where I work, the English and History departments often hold lectures and workshops related to digital scholarship. I became interested in DH after taking a workshop on text mining that was primarily aimed at grad students in the Japanese Studies program. I found it useful for understanding what digital projects can look like and discovering digital tools that are out there.
  • There may be DH conferences that happen near you, depending upon where you live.Network Detroitis a conference that happens close to me where people come together to share their work and discuss new advancements in DH.

I’m sure there are a bunch more resources out there that I haven’t mentioned. Please share any ideas, thoughts, etc. in the comments!

Reflections from a First Time Attendee: 3 highlights from ARLIS/NA 2017

I’m Anna Van Someren, one of the over 70 first-timers at this year’s ARLIS/NA conference in New Orleans. My path toward art librarianship has been long and loopy. On the way, I’ve passed through art school, advertising, and teaching. While managing digital media projects at MIT, I became interested in library and information studies and decided to get my MLIS from Simmons College, with a concentration in Cultural Heritage Informatics. I’ll graduate this May! Right now I’m working on an arts inventory project at the Boston Public Library and a metadata internship at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Dare I specialize – should I even go to ARLIS? (Yes!)

I’ve heard bad things about the job market, and a specialized library job is even harder to find. Maybe I should just hope for a full-time job anywhere! But my dream job is to work as an art librarian. The people I’ve met through my local chapter, ARLIS New England, have been so kind, encouraging and generous with their time. And taking the Art Documentation class taught by the celebrated (and approachable, funny, inspiring) Ann Whiteside whipped my humble wish into a fevered frenzy. Working with art students, finding resources to inspire them!, I thought.  Collaborating with art professors, following their research, finding what they need before they even know it!, I trembled. Purchasing art books! … So I did it. I attended my first ARLIS/NA conference. And I am so glad that I did.

Highlight #1: The ArLiSNAP Career Development Workshop

I’ve been to things like this before – you get someone to glance at your resume, you maybe get an established professional to give you some vague advice while you stare at them, wondering desperately: How do I get to where YOU are? and What comes first, the crazy good haircut or the crazy good job?  But this one was different. It was three hours of creative, engaging, productive fun!

Ashleigh Coren took us through a three-part writing activity that to our pleasure and surprise, resulted in some pretty decent personal statements. Mine still needs some work, but I’m excited to use it on LinkedIn, in interviews, and pretty much everywhere. Then Breanne Crumpton moderated a great Q&A session with a panel of three well-established professionals: Kim Loconto, Kristina Keogh and Heather Slania. Here’s a pdf document summarizing their advice on cover letters, resumes and interviewing in our field. My question was “How do you address a gap in your resume due to staying home a year with your new baby?” The panelists agreed that employers notice such gaps, and suggested mentioning it briefly in the cover letter narrative. They also recommended that parents and caregivers attend the ALPACA meeting later in the day (see my highlight #2 below).

After fielding our questions, the panelists gave us personalized resume advice. We broke into small groups and took turns sharing our resumes and asking questions. This was especially valuable to me, as I’m moving from academia into librarianship; the expectations can really vary in different fields. I feel much more confident about my resume – or I will, as soon as I finish implementing all the new ideas!

  

Highlight #2: Art Librarian Parents and Caregivers SIG (ALPACA)

I wasn’t really sure what to expect from this group, but liked the idea of meeting and hearing from other working parents in the field. The ideas generated in the discussion were exciting: research into federal and state family leave laws, for example. I had to leave early for another event, but this meeting had a deep impact on me later in the day.

I was talking with a friend who had also attended the ALPACA meeting. We talked about one of ALPACA’s main concerns: “work life balance”. My friend has a mentor who had once worked with her to unpack this idea of balance – which can sometimes feel like pressure to achieve the impossible. Does successful “balance” mean giving exactly half of your attention to your job and the other half to the rest of your life (your family, personal health, social life, and other activities)? In real life, that would be impossible on almost any given day! This mentor encouraged my friend to think about the effort of balancing one’s life over the long term. For a span of time, work may require more of your attention, and at another time in your life, circumstances may cause a shift in the direction of your energy. I was relieved to realize that maybe balance doesn’t have to mean two equal halves. Maybe we can find balance through flexibility, or in the slow swinging movement of our attention over many years.

Highlight #3: ArLiSNAP meeting

I was excited to attend this meeting. As you know if you’re reading this post, ArLiSNAP stands for Art Library Students and New ARLIS Professionals – and I’m trying to transition from student to professional. Perfect! Like every other ARLIS meeting I’ve attended, the vibe was welcoming and buoyant. I scribbled notes as fast as I could – “the virtual conference is online at the learning portal!” – “check out VRA job digest, VRA FB and twitter!” – “check out ArLiSNAP blog!” – “volunteer to write blog posts!”

  

Of course there were many other highlights in my conference experience, including sessions that gave me an inside look at the work art librarians do. I also had a beautiful walk down Magazine Street, saw a gorgeous sunset over the water, and ate delicious meals with dear friends. Turns out I love New Orleans!

Next year, NYC!

The Makeup Question

Christian Dior Lipstick ad
Photo credit: Flickr

For those of you in the New York area, you may be aware that the above question has been circulating amongst the librarian crowd for the past month. It all started when METRO, the Metropolitan New York Library Council (a great resource for librarians in and around New York City), posted this article.

In it,  Ellen Mehling, the Career Services Consultant at METRO, addressed whether or not women should wear makeup to an interview…even if they do not normally do so. The awesome blog Librarian Wardrobe responded with an excellent post a few days later, and I personally came across this debate when the New York chapter of ARLIS tweeted about it early last month.

Full disclosure, I hold a very similar opinion to the one espoused in the post on Librarian Wardrobe, but I was very interested to see what my fellow ArLiSNAPpers thought about the subject. I feel like the world of  art librarianship stands somewhat apart from the rest of the librarian community, partly because we deal with different subject matter, but also because we tend to hold roles outside of the typical brick and mortar library, at art galleries, museums, artists’ personal collection, etc.. As a result, I believe the expectations for “proper office attire” (makeup included), are somewhat tempered, if not entirely altered.

Anyway, definitely curious to hear your guys’ opinions on the matter. Let me know!!

Back to School 2015: Welcome to the new ArLiSNAP!

Fresh new look, same great resource!

(Don’t forget to update your bookmarks and etc. from arlisnap.org to arlisnap.arlisna.org – or just follow us on Twitter or Facebook instead.)

Last year we compiled some of our best advice and discussion articles for students embarking on their first or second years of their MLISes. Rather than recap that, I’ll just add some of the new great stuff we’ve published in the past year:

Courtney Baron rejoined our editorial team with a great feature on how to turn your degree toward a Visual Resources focus.

Hannah Marshall tackled visual arts research data management, an emerging field you might be interested in.

Similarly, Sarah Seymore explored some of the questions around digital stewardship for art librarians.

I went in another direction, discussing the meeting points of art and law.

We profiled a ton of new and established practitioners in our field:
Mackenzie Salisbury, Sheila Cork, Ashley Peterson, Lindsey Reynolds, Erinn Paige and Laura Damon-Moore, Kim Collins, and Claire Kennedy.

I ran a rather wordy three-part story about publishing my first peer-reviewed article.

I also wrote some thoughts six months after I graduated, about what has been sustaining me in the field. It’s never too early to think about what you’ll be doing after graduating!

It’s also never too early to think about joining ArLiSNAP as a volunteer….

Hack Your MLIS Program: Visual Resources Librarianship

Hi Arlisnappers! After a yearlong absence, I am back on the blog as a feature post writer and excited to be a part of the ArLiSNAP team once again. I recently graduated with my MLIS and I currently work as the Director of Visual Resources at the University of Georgia.

In April 2014, I shared my tips for hacking your MLIS program to focus on art librarianship. Now I’m back with a better-late-than-never follow-up on how I hacked my MLIS program to prepare for my career in visual resources librarianship. We have discussed how to plan your coursework so you are prepared to manage digital collections before, and this post will focus specifically on what you need to manage visual resources collections.

Visual Resources Center, Lamar Dodd School of Art, University of Georgia. Image courtesy of Courtney Baron.
Visual Resources Center, Lamar Dodd School of Art, University of Georgia. Image courtesy of Courtney Baron.

What is visual resources librarianship?

Visual resources librarianship is a bit different from art librarianship, though the two fields require similar skills and educational backgrounds. I have worked as a full-time visual resources professional for one year now, so I have a good idea of what the profession involves and what is required to do the job successfully. That being said, each position is unique depending on the needs of the institution. Visual resources professionals historically functioned as slide librarians, usually in art/art history departments or libraries. Now, we primarily manage digital image collections, though slide collections still exist at many institutions, and assist faculty and students with their image needs. We may also manage public visual resources spaces that range from digital scanning and projects labs to libraries with circulating materials.

Become involved in VRA

The Visual Resources Association (VRA) is smaller than ARLIS, but equally as welcoming. Hands down, this is the best way to get – and stay – connected to the field, especially if you are one of the few people in your program interested in art and visual resources librarianship. Not only do you have access to a large network of art and visual resources professionals, but you can also follow news, concerns, and trends on the VRA listserv. I encourage you to be active on the listserv as well since name recognition can help you in your job search later on! Seriously – my predecessor was very active, and I get asked about him all the time. If you have been involved with ARLIS but haven’t yet ventured into VRA, there is a joint conference next year in Seattle, WA, so it will be an opportune time to check out both organizations and annual conferences. There is also a similar group to ArLiSNAP called vreps – visual resources association emerging professionals and students – that you should join. The VRA Bulletin is the journal of the association and each issue contains a wealth of information about current issues and practices in the field.

Focus coursework and projects on visual resources topics

As I said in part one, the best way to ensure you are getting a similar education to a MLIS program that does offer an art librarianship track is to see which courses they require and which electives they offer. I also recommend looking at similar tracks, such as digital content/asset management or archives. I recommend courses on the following topics, since they relate to visual resources: humanities information services, digital libraries, descriptive cataloging and metadata, database design, digital humanities, and digital archives. Basically, looks for classes that focus on metadata, technologies, databases, and managing or curating digital archives, libraries, and other collections. These classes will give you an overview of the information you need and you can focus your projects and papers specifically on arts and humanities topics.

Independent study

In part one, I discussed an independent study on art and visual resources librarianship that I designed as an elective in my MLIS program. If you would like more information on that, I’m happy to share my syllabus and course projects in a later post.

This time, I’m focusing on what you can do independently outside of coursework to build some of the skills you need to work in visual resources.

Photography, Photoshop, and Lightroom 

Knowledge of photography, especially editing software, is very helpful for managing image collections. I still have a lot to learn about photography, but I have heard that ShootFlyShoot has fantastic photography classes. Why is this important? So you understand how the images you work with are produced, and you can produce images if required. Some visual resources positions require original photography of works of art, either from works in museum or galleries, or from faculty and student work. I do not produce original photography in my current position, but I do a lot of scanning, and knowledge of photographic editing techniques is essential. I use Adobe Photoshop, and recommend Photoshop Classroom in a Book to learn the basics of using Photoshop. The book has a disc with tutorials and sample images to practice editing. Adobe Lightroom is a simpler and easier way to edit images and is preferred over Photoshop by some visual resources professionals.

Metadata

Just like a library book would be lost without a catalog record, images would be lost without good metadata. I believe that metadata is perhaps the most important part of managing image collections. After all, what’s the point of having a collection if your content cannot be easily found? Just as there are cataloging standards and formats for cataloging books, archival materials, etc., these also exist for visual resources collections. Cataloging Cultural Objects (CCO) is a content standard for visual resources collections (comparable to RDA) and VRA Core is a metadata schema used to describe images (comparable to MARC). If you have access to Adobe Bridge, you can download the VRA Core panel and practice creating metadata for images. It’s also essential to be familiar with the Getty vocabularies, which are now available as Linked Open Data. The vocabularies will give you the structured terminology for art, architecture, and other materials and are essential tools for the proper cataloging of images.

Image resources

Working in visual resources doesn’t just mean managing image collections. There is a reference and instruction component. You must be able to help others find and locate images using subscription databases, institutional image collections, and free resources on the web. The most popular subscription database for images is Artstor Digital Library. If the institution where you attend school or work does not have a subscription, you can still check out the website or YouTube videos to learn more about how the database works and how to use it. There is a section with free guides, including subject-specific guides, and studying these is an excellent way to increase your knowledge of this resource.

Visual resources professionals manage institutional image collections or archives. These collections can include images from faculty and student image requests, images from digitized slides, images purchased from vendors, and images related to institutional history. In order to properly manage these image collections, you need to know how digital asset management systems work. A broad knowledge of DAMs is important, because there are many different systems out there. The most popular DAMs for visual resources include Artstor’s Shared Shelf, Luna Imaging, and Madison Digital Image Database (MDID). These can be high cost for some institutions, so in-house solutions are also popular.

You also need to know how to locate high-quality and accurate images on the web. Libguides are an excellent way to compile these resources, and many institutions have great libguides on locating images for you to browse and study. My personal philosophy behind libguides, or curating image resources in general, is this: quality over quantity. Your job isn’t to know all instances of where to find images of the Mona Lisa. Your job is to know where to find the best images of the Mona Lisa.

Copyright and fair use

You also need to know how the images you manage, or how images available in subscription databases or on the web, can be used. This is why copyright and fair use comes into play. For general information on copyright law, look at Copyright Law for Librarians and Educators: Creative Strategies and Practical Solutions. For copyright information related to the visual arts, your best resources are from the College Art Association. Copyright, Permissions, and Fair Use among Visual Artists and the Academic and Museum Visual Arts Communities was released in 2014 and and the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for the Visual Arts was released earlier this year. Study these documents and know them well.

Get experience – if you can

Some institutions don’t have a visual resources collection, but those that do usually need help. Don’t hesitate to reach out to a visual resources professional and ask if you can volunteer, intern, or even just visit the collection and learn more about what they do and what a typical day is like for them.

So this is what I recommend doing as a library science student if you are interested in visual resources. If other visual resources professionals are reading this, I’m curious to hear what you also recommend!

Getting scholarly-published, part three: Things I learned

To finish off …

 

How was I notified of publication? By a mass email sent out to ARLIS members!

This kinda took me off-guard. Since at my last look, my own article was covered in editing marks, I didn’t have a sense that things were in their final phase. I’m definitely more used to publishing online, where you can always withdraw or delete something if you change your mind. The permanence of print is kinda scary, especially if it’s your first scholarly work in a new field. Augh. I still haven’t read the finalized copy.

 

Under the U Chicago Press publication agreement I signed, I am free to distribute copies of the printed article on my own website (for free and with full credit to the journal), to any classes I teach (not yet applicable in my case), and via institutional repositories to which I belong. This last one is interesting, because I work corporate right now and am no longer affiliated with any institution. Would I ask my alma mater to be my IR? I dunno, it’s a big commitment….

If you’re like me and not represented by an institution with an IR, you can try to find one! Some IRs allow total strangers to apply for membership. Not sure if “member” of an IR makes me “affiliated” with that IR for the purposes of the Publication Agreement I signed, but, if I get sued I’ll let you know.

I asked the lazyweb what to do in this circumstance, and I had a few other suggestions sent my way: use academia.edu, use figshare.com, etc. I think for now I’ll just host it on my personal website until I decide where I want to “affiliate” (that’s a verb, right?). Your personal site has no time restrictions (“embargo period”) whereas an IR would — something to note if you are expecting to be cited in a timely manner, or using the publication as part of a portfolio or job application or what-have-you. I would steer away from anything that involves signing a Terms of Use. Another thing I’m not sure about is uploading the PDF to LinkedIn: it does have that capability, but I think that’s a grey area as far as a “portfolio” or “personal website” goes.

What’s nice about the U Chicago agreement is that I can reproduce the article in its entirety, in its final published format, which they emailed me shortly after the publication date. Some agreements only allow you to publish a pre-print version (usually with a big unsightly watermark across each page). You also can reprint your work anywhere else, at any time, with the proper credit to the U Chicago journal as first publication.

professor mayer

The U Chicago Guidelines are here. In contrast, some other journals and publishers you might be signing with have taken far more draconian measures aimed at keeping your work behind a paywall. But, we all know it’s no match for Open Access.

Print has a powerful allure, and Art Doc is a great journal. But scholarly research shouldn’t be behind a paywall, and I’d like to commit to only publishing my work in OA journals from here on out. As a first-timer, I think “anywhere that’ll accept me” is pretty fair, but make sure you read that publication agreement and make sure you have the right to offer a free copy somewhere else (and watch those embargo periods!). You’ll realize very quickly, when your mom says “Can I read that thing you wrote,” that being able to send her a link without a paywall or an embargo is pretty awesome.

Screenshot_2015-05-19-18-52-47

Alright, here are my warnings, tips, and lessons:

  1. Edit yourself as much as you can, but do it intelligently. Reading your own work five times in a row until the words blur together and the sentences lose all meaning isn’t good. My habit is to change the format and context when you need “fresh eyes” – use Word styles to change fonts and themes, print it out and work with a pen, move the main text into Google Docs and back again (if you can manage not to mess up your footnotes that way). I can’t tell you how much it helped to look at the printer’s proof, to see words that were repeated too often, or sentences that contained pointless clauses. (I think Scrivener and LaTeX are better for this sort of thing.)
  2. Relish the peer-review experience, especially on the reviewer side. It can teach you a lot, not just in the way of improving your own writing, but perhaps also of empathy. Keep it constructive.
  3. Trust your editorial team! We’re all in this “making good content” business together. But don’t slack: put as much effort into cleaning up your own copy (and other people’s work) as you can. Don’t take your peer-review comments to heart; everyone’s trying to objectively improve scholarship, with a couple exceptions. (If you’re interested in the ideology behind peer review and scholarly rigor, we can jam on those subjects another time; my personal fave is Retraction Watch for news on that front.)
  4. If you’re publishing on technology, current affairs / trends, or any topic that can change quickly, it might be best to enquire first about the length of the publication process. Turnover time matters, and if an OA journal can take you from submission to publication in 4 months, that might help your contribution to the field matter more. From first writing to final publication was 16 months, for me; the normal submission-to-publication for peer-reviewed work in Art Doc is about eight.
  5. The initial ego-boost is great! But do consider publishing only with journals that have an Open Access policy. Ideally, have your own portfolio or website to host the copy of your article that the press sends you (my email was started with “Professor Mayer,” which I admit made me feel amazing).

 

Getting scholarly-published, part two: Parsing peer review

Continuing on …

 

I got my peer-review comments back in October of 2014, with the excellent news that I had been accepted (“pending revisions”). I had one month to incorporate changes based on the peer recommendations. In fact, the email stated “please make any revisions that YOU feel are appropriate (reviewer opinions often differ)….”

All the peer reviewers for Art Doc are given a few guidelines on the type of feedback to provide. The aforementioned “Is it suitable for this journal?” is one; others include tone and style, whether things should be added or deleted, whether the references are “the most appropriate to support the paper,” whether it fills a gap or provides a fresh take.

 

I’m going to share with you some of my feedback verbatim here; they range from straightforward to in-depth:

1:

Yes, this topic not only looks appropriate, but it fills in a knowledge gap. The article provides a good overview with some new material….

The author presented the topic very well.  At first I felt the topic was a bit over my head, but as I read the article I gained a greater understanding of LODs and the challenges and opportunities they represent….

Yes, the tone, style, and “voice” of the paper are appropriate, even with the few spelling and grammatical errors….

2:

The topic is appropriate for Art Documentation; it is a readable introductory piece on linked open data for art librarians addressing examples and applications in the domain of art librarianship. References are current and appropriate….

In a couple of instances the author shifts from a neutral to a conversational tone (exemplified most often by addressing the reader as “you”), and I think these should be eliminated in favor of a more scholarly voice…..

I think the conclusions are valid, in that we in GLAM institutions need to start pushing harder for more and deeper LOD implementations….

The conclusion ends rather abruptly; some further explanation and tying-up of the concepts would help here. The author does a nice job of laying out and discussing the issues throughout the article; some more summarization would help encourage readers to want to get involved and take action….

3:

The Abstract begins awkwardly. Definitions would have been a useful next section. It would be better for a broad readership to define terms, especially acronyms such as CORS, early on, or in a glossary outside the main narrative….

The Challenges section seems a natural follow-on to Benefits. Why not present Benefits and Challenges in two sections, and incorporate drawbacks under Challenges? …

The author seems comfortable with technical jargon—query formatting, open metadata sets—and has followed developments at private, government, and international organizations. A paper written for an expert audience could skip the definitions and instead focus on details of specific projects exemplary for their work in capturing metrics, training staff/sharing expertise, working with legacy data, developing standards, or other special qualities…

Some sections could be combined, moved, and expanded. It reads like the author is familiar with the topic, but the style is not particularly accessible. The cited references are appropriate, but there are missed opportunities….

The paper complements previous AD articles: Spring 2011 on open access publishing, Fall 2012 on online catalogues raisonnés, and Spring 2014 on open scholarly resources….

(You’ll have to excuse me if I don’t share any early drafts with you guys. Some things are better left unseen, and I am violently appreciative of the peer-reviewers that had to work through my first attempts and still said kind things about it.)

 

So, revision time! Obviously I had to make some decisions:

  1. Keep my terminology section, and add more basic definitions to it? Ask the layout editors for a glossary outside the main text? Skip the definitions entirely and rewrite for an “expert audience?”
  2. Was my style accessible or not? Should I eliminate conversational and move entirely to the third person? If I’m introductory in content, should I stay informal in tone?
  3. Should I make more reference to the previous Art Doc articles listed? Was I missing opportunities for better philosophical connections?

+ other things that I didn’t excerpt (one reviewer said my “case study” wasn’t really in-depth enough to be a case study; another said I should discuss more projects).

Again I debated time-sensitive updates to the text. It’s always possible to write in some assumptions about the future (e.g. the Getty’s fourth LOD vocab release was predicted to go live in April 2015, and I’d be published in May). But I chose to leave out whole LODLAM conference proceedings and much more in-depth LOD scholarship that had occurred in that time, so as not to substantially change what had been summarily approved. Same with incorporating references to Art Doc articles that complemented my own: I decided to stick with my topic, instead of tackling the breadth of open content and essentially turning it into a new article.

This is also where I managed to compound that really fantastic citation error: one reviewer pointed out that some of my in-text citations about the American Art Collaborative case study were pointing to an article that wasn’t in my reference list! Instead of investigating it properly, though, I just changed them. To something even more wrong. Go, me.

 

My post-review revision also neglected to change Canadian spelling to American ones. When Judy Dyki wrote back after the copyediting round she mentioned it, as well as pointing out a few citations that were missing page numbers. Chicago Style is harsh, you guys. I consider myself pretty detail-oriented, but nobody is great at editing their own work.

That was the beginning of January, and in hunting down page numbers for my citations I realized I didn’t, in fact, have a page source for something technical that I had attributed to that group of American Art Collaborative authors! Red flag. I wrote Judy a revised sentence, saying I would keep flipping through my references, but for now we should change it to something that wasn’t blatantly inaccurate.

 

That was the last I heard of that until February, when the U Chicago Press staff sent me a pre-print PDF for proofreading. I printed it out and took a red pen to it — there were a lot of little formatting things (like when the double-quote character appears straight half the time and curly the other half) and some sentences that just sounded weird when I read them in that layout.

In fact, I noticed one block-quote seemed to be totally illegible, as though a whole part of a sentence had been cut out. Looking back into previous versions to find the intact version of that quote is what finally fixed my disastrous citation error — I found the missing article, fixed the quote, and worked through my old drafts to find all the faulty citations.

I wrote back to Judy with my sincerest apologies, a corrected set of citations, the bibliography entry to be added, a copy of the printer’s proof PDF with highlighting and comments, and some more self-abuse. She very graciously cleaned it all up and dealt with the layout people without further interference from me (probably wise).

At that point I signed away my rights to U Chicago Press, and sat back and waited.

 

Part Three, with lessons learned and other tips and tricks, to follow ….

What's it like to be scholarly-published?

As I mentioned in a previous post, I sent out a ton of student-essay-award applications, based primarily on term papers. One of those was the Gerd Muehsam Award, run by ARLIS/NA. I didn’t win (Jasmine Burns won [by submitting her MA thesis, which is another thing you can totally do]!) but the award committee very kindly wrote back to say that they had “recommended” my essay for publication in Art Documentation.

Spoiler: I totally got published, and it’s awesome.

Now that I’ve been through the process start-to-finish, I thought it would be useful to recount it all and show what it’s like for a first-timer. There are a few embarrassing moments, which I’m happy to share in the hopes that other people won’t make the same mistakes, and I’ll end with other things worth taking into account.

Important: I have a background in publishing. I worked for several years as a section editor, copyediting, doing ad sales, layout, etc. So, I’m more familiar with a lot of this stuff than your average MLIS student. Everyone should graduate with some publishing experience, at least from WordPress on up, but unfortunately LIS education does not yet seem to guarantee that. (Oh hey did I mention ArLiSNAP loves volunteers and you should totally write for us?)

 

The first step was, of course, waiting politely for Judy Dyki, the editor / human interface of Art Documentation, to reach out and tell me she thought my essay about Linked Open Data could be “worked into a very interesting article.” Cue the gushing. In its original version as a student paper, it had adhered to a harsh page limit (shunting off a large portion into an Appendix), used the wrong citation style, had a Terminology section I figured I would probably want to cut, and was generally in a format I wouldn’t condone for anyone’s first foray into getting their name into scholarly print.

Your mileage will certainly vary on this — if you’re using student papers it will likely be a “state of things” style essay; as a practitioner your submission will probably be a case study or a best-practice review, reporting on your own collection or exhibit; original research is the least likely, perhaps if you’re reproducing a thesis or independent study. These formats all require different skill-sets and expertise, and I can only tell you my experience in the former, which to me is not strenuous, as it’s all lit review and some wild speculation — my specialty! (I have done some copyediting on original research in my time, and I only want to say one thing: Triple-check your math, and your explanations thereof.)

My initial rework shifted things around, added a few minor sections, and updated the entire piece with recent scholarship: it had been written for the Fall 2013 term, so by the time I turned in a revised version it was August 2014, nine months out of date. This doesn’t sound like much, but I was writing about an emerging technology and how it might be used in the field of art librarianship, so nine months was forever. As an example of a minor edit, the Getty had released another of its name authorities into Linked Open Data in that time period.

Then there were general formatting changes. Art Doc uses Chicago Style, which almost nobody uses in school, and is a substantial change not just to the look of an essay but to the sentence structures that contain citations.

Here’s where my first warning occurs: beware the formatting changes, especially when it comes to citation. I introduced an error into my manuscript at this stage that didn’t get caught until the proofing step — my last chance before publication. For the “case study” in my essay, I had cited several progress reports and presentations done by the American Art Collaborative throughout their LOD implementation process. At some point during the reformatting into Chicago Style, I managed to lose an entire paper citation from my reference list. More on this later.

 

After turning in my article for the September 2014 deadline, I was sent an article for peer review. The deal is this: if you get published, you should pay it forward (i.e. if two reviewers worked on your article, you should be a reviewer for two articles in return). It turns out I really like peer reviewing, because of my editorial background, and greatly enjoy providing constructive criticism with suggestions on how to improve.

I think looking at the process from both angles (as a submitter and a reviewer) helps improve each task — for example, part of deciding whether an article suits a journal is seeing whether that journal has published similar articles in the past, and whether this new addition refers to and builds on those, or pushes the field in a new direction. One of the articles I reviewed clearly did not refer to earlier pieces on the same subject in Art Doc, and basically rehashed existing discussion — meaning regular readers would find it redundant.

I had of course done lots of research for my own essay, but hadn’t really scoured the past issues of Art Doc in particular to see if there was any mention of my topic. Once I performed that search, it helped me think about whether to keep my terminology section, because I was introducing phrases and concepts that had never before graced the pages of the journal. Of course, my article was already being peer-reviewed at that point.

PR instructions

I wrote a lot of words about this, so there will be a Part Two ….

Conversation with Claire Kennedy: Librarians in the Art Studio

Claire Kennedy

Following her thought-provoking talk at ARLIS, “Artist in the Library: A Case Study”, in which she touched on the underexplored applications of LIS training in a studio environment, we wanted to follow up with Claire Kennedy, formerly the Librarian and Archivist for John Baldessari, to discuss further.

First, can you briefly discuss your current position and some of your main day-to-day responsibilities and priorities?

Actually my current position is Gallery Archivist at L.A. Louver Gallery in Venice, California. I was just hired, as of a month ago. Before this recent change, I worked for the artist John Baldessari as his full-time Librarian and Archivist.

What is your educational background?

I have a degree in Anthropology and an MLIS degree, both from UCLA. In between my two degrees I spent about six years working and taking a few classes here and there. I would recommend to anyone interested in diversifying their training to look into taking a class in something like project management.

Did you “hack” your library degree in order to prepare you for working directly with artists?

No, I didn’t. My background is in rare books and manuscripts. I worked in Special Collections libraries at UCLA, the Huntington and with private book dealers and collectors before working for John. I think the best thing you can do while in an MLIS program is to take all the technology classes you can. Take UX design, or web development if you can. Take archiving classes if you want to be a librarian and take cataloging if you are training to be an archivist.

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

I think the most conventional skills I have used working for John were cataloging books, applying preservation knowledge to re-housing paper-based and photographic archival materials, record retention scheduling and the research skills I picked up in my degree program and working in libraries. As far as the skills I had to learn on my own, I had to learn about how to track auctions, gather provenance information, become familiar with the production and exhibition schedules of an art studio and the needs of John’s production staff. In the private world, you learn how to assess and serve the needs and priorities of your employer. In the MLIS program, it is sometimes taken for granted that everyone will eventually be working in a Public or University library setting. Its too bad that the private working world isn’t discussed more.

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

I think the biggest challenge was learning how to communicate the needs of the archive and library to people who aren’t also librarians. I had spent most of my career around like-minded library staff who understood perfectly where I was coming from when I spoke about bone-folders and bindings. When I was the only MLIS working amongst artists, I discovered that I had to learn how to communicate more clearly about the needs of the minutiae of the library and archive. Initially I was out of my comfort zone.

What is a typical day like for you?

Working for John, I purchased and cataloged books, documented artwork in the database, created condition reports for artwork coming in and going out of the studio, performed research for outside reference inquiries, I tracked auctions and processed reproduction requests. There were always new tasks and projects popping up every day. Sometimes I wore multiple hats, where I was helping the production manager move large artwork around the studio, or running errands to lend a hand. We all worked together in the studio to get the job done.

During your talk in Fort Worth, you alluded to the fact that artists often have a need for people with LIS training, but they’re either not aware of the field or not able to articulate their needs using LIS language, so the two communities aren’t connected.

In your opinion, what is the impact of those jobs being filled by people who lack LIS training?

I think that LIS training is essential to perform the meticulous, detail oriented work that we are asked to do. Database management, creating and tracking inventories, cataloging books and other objects, performing research, maintaining any type of project schedule, etc. I believe there are “archivists” and “librarians” out there hired to do this kind of work who don’t have the training, skills and experience we do. As a result, I suspect there are some messes being made. Ultimately we are experts at preserving things and making them retrievable. In a world where there is so much being produced, digitally and physically, our skillset is an incredible asset. All we need to do is promote ourselves! How can we do this? Let’s work together to make ourselves invaluable!

Is there a community of information professionals who work with practicing artists? And how can interested ArLiSNAPers (and others) get involved?

That’s a great question! I don’t think so. I could be wrong, but I am not familiar with any group in Los Angeles. As the Southern California Chapter Chair, along with the chapter’s Vice-Chair Ben Lee Ritchie Handler, I want to reach out to all the archivists and librarians (professional or not) to form a network. We can all help each other, put together show-and-tells as well as workshops.

Do you have any advice for bridging the awareness gap between the two communities?

To be honest, I recommend joining your local ARLIS chapter and being very proactive! Cold email anyone who is working in creative spaces in your area and set up a visit for your chapter. Ask to interview local artists for your local chapter’s blog or website. Start communicating with a local gallery and offer your contact information in case any of the artists they represent need any assistance with their archive or documenting their work. Go to art gallery openings and start meeting people. Build your own resources.

Do you have any tips for job-seekers on how to approach artists about their information and content management needs?

I guess I answered this question above. But my biggest piece of advice is to put yourself out there. Email artists and tell them what you can do for them.

What I've learned since I graduated.

As of this writing, it’s been just about six months since my degree was awarded. I handed in my last coursework at the end of August 2014, and did some nail-biting while my thesis was graded. But I didn’t actually see my physical degree, framed and signed and in all its majesty, until last week, when I went home for Easter! It was surprisingly affecting — I didn’t think seeing my name all gussied up like that was going to be such a gut-punch of emotion, but I am really proud of that big piece of paper.

Between seeing that and reading this, I thought I’d try my hand at articulating a bit of perspective. It’s hard for me to write a “what I’ve learned” article without hedging my bets a bit — there are things I’ve started to dig into deeper, but I wouldn’t say I’m an expert or that my knowledge has yet paid off in practical terms. I started a full-time job as a corporate archivist the week after handing in my thesis, so a lot of what I can recommend isn’t directly applicable to arts librarianship or even the majority of MLIS/MISt graduates who might be reading this. But, I’m going to tell you what I do anyways, and it starts with how I …

1. Criticize myself. 

There is no time for a break, no time to kick back and separate yourself from the field once you hand in your last assignments. Chances are you’ve got a job offer lined up, unfinished research projects, a handful of applications to send out, a move, some volunteer commitments or conferences, or some other thing that should be occupying your time.

But you should prioritize a few hours (ideally with wine) to assess your situation, yourself, and your goals: what gaps are left in your education that will stand between you and your dream jobs? What experience do you lack based on the job postings you’re seeing? What’s the most likely progression going to be for you, from entry-level onwards? How can you prepare for each of those steps?

One of the best little tricks is to go back and read the term papers and assignment you handed in in your first semester. Does it make you cringe now to see how naive you were? Alternatively, aren’t you impressed with how far you’ve come in such a short time?

I never would’ve guessed I’d end up in corporate, but here we are, and I’m trying to look critically at which of the soft skills I’m picking up here (project management, training, research and policy-writing, etc.) are transferable and provable, and which ones I still need to acquire, so that I can start out at higher than entry-level when I get back into art and media work. But I have to acknowledge that some of my discipline-specific skills are getting rusty, so I …

2. Keep abreast.

Are you happy with all the listservs and newsfeeds you belong to? Could you stand to add more, or lose a few of the less-relevant options?

Personally, my feed for information on the profession comes from a couple of Canadian archiving lists, ARLIS, AMIA, SHARP, MCN, and the ALCTS eForum I mentioned previously. I’ve pared down a bit, and there are a few lists I’d like to be on for which I can’t afford a membership.

AMIA, for example, is a fantastic way just to keep in mind all the weird format issues and preservation challenges that multimedia workers face every day — there are always emails about finding a specific fitting for a rare tape player, or how best to clean a certain type of film with flourescent dye on it. If you’re bad at mechanical terminology, I guarantee you’ll pick it up quickly.

I use the Art News mailing that comes via CARLIS-L to remind me to check websites like Artforum and Canadian Art. Otherwise I tend to forget.

I don’t read any librarianship-specific websites regularly (other than job boards, for ArLiSNAP), but because of Twitter I’m constantly seeing blog posts from people like Barbara Fister on Inside Higher Ed, updates to journals, etc. If you want art-specific Twitter accounts to follow, check out the institutions and individuals that the ArLiSNAP account follows. (I follow a more eclectic collection, but hey, here are a couple suggestions.)

I can’t afford individual journal subscriptions, and I don’t have institutional access to that stuff, but I do read up on accessible (OA, PD) things when they go by in my feed. I only splurge on one physical publication, and that’s Cabinet Magazine, which doesn’t keep me up-to-date so much as inspire me regularly on all fronts.

On WordPress I follow things like Archives Gig, SNAP RT, most of the ARLIS SIGs’ and Sections’ blogs, and a few oddballs like Artist-Driven Archives and Failure in the Archives. I’m sure someone will tell me that I should consolidate or aggregate a bit better, but, nah.

CFPs

I’ve also got a special label in Gmail just for Calls For Proposals from the various listservs: I’m not going to apply for many this year, and most of them aren’t applicable to what I do, but I like being able to see what kinds of research and projects are being asked for, when the various deadlines come up, and which journals and conferences I might just want to consume without contributing to. But, occasionally, I do apply for stuff, because it’s always important to …

3. Hustle.

On top of the full-time job, I’ve got a few guest posts and articles queued up for publishing, two regular volunteer commitments (ArLiSNAP, and a journal I help copyedit) and some irregular ones (peer-reviewing for two journals), an ongoing data-mining project with a non-profit here in Toronto (no funding, just fun!), writing for ArLiSNAP and my own blog, and maintaining a Twitter presence of questionable quality.

I’ve done two conferences so far this year, and have two more to come (both speaking engagements, one of which is reporting on a yearly survey I run using Google Forms). This weekend I decided to start a project to improve listings of library and archives associations in Canada (probably with the goal of making Wikipedia pages for each). I have at least four copyright-related tumblrs I’d like to start. Now that I’m thinking of it, I volunteered to copyedit a new book by CARLIS, which I should be hearing about any day now ….

I think of all this as essential to keeping myself engaged with the fields I want to be in. As opposed to grad school, where my time was occupied in shallow exploration of a lot of subjects of varying interest to me, now I get to dig deep into the things I’m passionate about, and construct a broader career arc that includes artists’ practices and intents, copyrights and moral rights for creators, the history of print, preservation and access of both art and art-related documentation, and new techniques for analyzing art. Without calling it “personal branding,” I will say it was a lot easier to define some long-term research goals once I distanced myself from the generalist approach of my classes. Which leads me to …

4. Forget about everything I did in school.

No offense to my alma mater, but I didn’t leave school with a huge network of trusted peers and great professors (or respect for government funding for higher-ed, or ALA accreditation, or …). There was little critical education in the classes I took, which is understandable given the breadth of what has to be taught, but it meant I didn’t find people who thought and argued like I do. Being thrown into a room with people doesn’t guarantee you’ll find things to talk about — and the #1 thing I’ve learned since graduating is that there is a huge variance of why people got into this profession, and what it is they want to accomplish within it.

I moved away from Montreal when graduation was in sight, so I may have shot myself in the foot a little there (also I’m not on Facebook and am only a recent convert to Twitter), but I’ve managed to network so much better back in Toronto, without many ties to the people I spent a year and a half interacting with. A lot of it is online, through associations and listservs and volunteer work with eventual face-to-face meetings at conferences — and a lot of it is engaging people on social media once I’ve come to know and respect their work.

I think the best part of my MLIS was the four jobs I did during that time — one RA position, one job in the library, one internship for a design company, one summer contract with a non-profit — because it gave me at least some experience in a diversity of settings. While I am invested in the academic use of the degree, I wasn’t going to get a job without being able to articulate some proven skills and accomplishments. So, yeah, I recycled some term papers as applications for student awards, sure, but I don’t think my classwork and student chapter attendance are worth much now — and I’m sure they’re not all you have to offer the world, either. Which is why it’s good to ….

5. Stay smart about career moves.

I’ve taken to reading Get Bullish for career inspiration and advice; you might enjoy one or more of the following, if these questions are on your mind:

http://www.getbullish.com/2012/10/bullish-how-to-compete-when-youre-young-and-inexperienced/
http://www.getbullish.com/2015/04/bullish-qa-how-to-effectively-share-examples-of-your-work/
https://www.themuse.com/advice/no-really-these-are-the-best-conference-networking-tips-weve-ever-heard
http://www.getbullish.com/2012/03/bullish-the-nerdy-reflective-persons-guide-to-networking/
http://www.getbullish.com/2015/03/bullish-qa-how-do-you-get-motivated-for-a-huge-unimaginable-life-change-like-graduation/
http://www.getbullish.com/2012/06/bullish-three-tips-for-pitching-your-dream-gig-and-why-you-need-to-pitch/

I am also a fan of the Billfold, not just for the voyeurism involved in their “how other people do money” column, but for some of these:
http://thebillfold.com/2013/05/how-to-make-a-linkedin-profile-that-will-actually-help-you-get-a-job/
http://thebillfold.com/2013/02/meet-people-get-a-job-even-if-youre-an-introvert/
http://thebillfold.com/2012/05/reader-mail-how-much-should-i-be-earning-after-graduation/

 

… I think that’s it. Other than “Don’t be ashamed of using a lot of spreadsheets to get things done.”