Harnessing Data Visualization to Teach Emerging Art Scholars: Methods and Ideas for Instruction

As art librarians and students, we are especially aware of how digital resources and the Internet have changed art scholarship. I find myself recommending academic streaming music databases to performing arts students who, ten years ago, would have had access only to CD recordings; For a close-up look at The Scream painted by Edvard Munch, I send students to Artstor before digging out a print catalog; When developing library instruction sessions, I nearly always use a digital presentation component like Google Slides or a video tutorial hosted by Vimeo or YouTube. But, one of the emerging digital trends in academia that I find most engrossing is data visualization or information visualization.

As Autumn Wetli discussed in her ArLiSNAP article The Practice and Problems of Digital Art History, several digital programs exist that allow art historians to analyze research text, data, or image collections and then present visual representations of that information or findings therein (Wetli, 2017). This is data visualization. Elegantly explained by data visualization specialist Alberto Cairo, a visualization is “a graphical representation designed to enable exploration, analysis, and communication” (Cairo, 2017).

 

For art researchers, the application of data visualization in a digital environment offers infinite possibilities. Graphs, charts, data maps, and other visualizations, when incorporated into research, can make an article more appealing or make an argument more persuasive (Cairo, 2017). And, in the age of interactive and socially engaging digital media, scholars who study art are at a unique advantage to produce colorful, media-rich, graphically stunning visualizations. (Glassman & Dyki, 2017).

 

Apart from the potential of art scholars to integrate images of art into their visualizations, the changing nature of scholarly publishing in the fine arts signals an era of change for how data is represented in art scholarship and how art researchers can move forward in an informed way. In a 2017 article entitled “Beyond the monograph? Transformations in scholarly communication and their impact on art librarianship,” Patrick Tomlin details many of these changes. Digital models of publication present an advantage due to the potential for institutions to take greater control of internal publishing, the benefit of open access, the increasing cost of full-color print monographs, and the growing importance of search engine discovery (Tomlin, 2017). From the perspectives of emerging art librarians who will take an active role in research and instruction, having a basic understanding of data visualization and its increasing presence in the world of digital art history is crucial.

 

To facilitate a basic understanding of how one might introduce data visualization to new art scholars, I have compiled this guide. These ideas serve as an introduction to data visualization for both the librarian and the researcher, who together can learn to apply existing knowledge of art scholarship towards this goal.

 

First: It is advantageous for the instruction librarian to introduce (or re-introduce) students to the principles of visual literacy. To create one’s own visualizations, scholars should be well-versed in visual communication. Online tools like Image Atlas may serve to prepare students to understand bias and perspective in images (Bailey & Pregill, 2014, p. 183). I will link below to a 2012 article by Tammy Ravas and Megan Stark which provides an informative case study in teaching “the ethics of seeing” (Ravas & Stark, 2012, p. 41). Instructors may find that integrating visual literacy lessons into existing information literacy lesson plans bolsters students’ understanding of visual literacy when applied to the eventual creation of their own data visualizations (Ravas & Stark, 2012, p. 35).

 

Second: Just as digital art history scholars should be visually literate, they should also be data literate. In his 2017 lecture at the Cornell University Library, Alberto Cairo details a study from the Pew Research Center, which concludes that many people who read articles that contain data visualizations do not know how to correctly read scatter plots, bar graphs, and line charts (Cairo, 2017). Though this study focuses upon popular media, the importance of an understanding of the interpretation of data can not be understated for scholarly communities. In a 2012 article in Art Documentation, Victoria Szabo emphasizes the value of data literate art historians who know how to use and organize data. She states that “Faculty and staff technical advisors sometimes unfamiliar with the research domain, even if experienced in humanities collaborations more generally, may not realize the extent to which their biases and assumptions for how to clean and standardize data could compromise the intellectual integrity of a project. Variant spellings, for example, could be important in tracing the provenance of a particular art object” (Szabo, 2012, p. 171). Interdepartmental collaborations with information technology staff may allow librarians and art faculty to learn more about data management programs, software, methods, and training.

 

Third: Creating one’s own data visualizations does not mean learning how to program Java or code HTML. For art historians who are just learning how to create visualizations, there are a number of free programs which exist to assist them. It may be beneficial to design instructional lesson plans around visualization software with which students are already familiar. I would suggest choosing a sample research topic within a class curriculum to be plotted in Google Maps. Topics like “locations of art auction houses in Paris” or “art galleries in New York during the Harlem Renaissance” may serve to develop simple exercises that illicit broader understandings of in-class research. Paul Glassman and Judy Dyki’s Handbook of Art and Design Librarianship, 2nd edition, contains several resources on using map plotting in art history research.

 

Once students have outgrown this more familiar tool, they can move on to greater objectives, like creating visualizations using the immense capabilities of Google Charts. They can practice embedding these visualizations into Wikis, LibGuides, or social media. And, they can explore increasingly sophisticated tools like ImagePlot while developing their comfort level with visualization technology.

 

Data visualization may seem like a daunting undertaking for researchers who have been educated mostly in text-based scholarship. But, the implications of having an understanding of visualizations in digital art history are immense. For art librarians who are increasingly tasked with the education of scholars in a digital field, I hope that the tools and ideas I have outlined may provide a basis of knowledge for teaching this emerging technology. I truly believe that, if introduced to the field of data visualization within the parameters of their understanding of visual literacy, data, and art scholarship, researchers will learn to be excited about the potential of data visualization to enhance and embellish their research work.

 

Bibliography/Further Reading

 

Bailey, J., & Pregill, L. (2014). Speak to the Eyes: The History and Practice of Information Visualization. Art Documentation: Journal of the Art Libraries Society of North America, 33(2), 168-191. doi:10.1086/678525

 

Cairo, A. (2017, October 13). Visual Trumpery. Lecture presented at Cornell University Library, Ithaca, New York. Retrieved January 2, 2018, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EnzNfPAzCSc

 

Glassman, P., & Dyki, J. (Eds.). (2017). The Handbook of Art and Design Librarianship (2nd ed.). Chicago, IL: ALA Neal-Schuman.

 

Ravas, T., & Stark, M. (2012). Pulitzer Prize Winning Photographs and Visual Literacy at The University of Montana. Art Documentation: Journal of the Art Libraries Society of North America, 31(1), 34-44. doi:10.1086/665334

 

Szabo, V. (2012). Transforming Art History Research with Database Analytics: Visualizing Art Markets. Art Documentation: Journal of the Art Libraries Society of North America, 31(2), 158-175. doi:10.1086/668109

 

Tomlin, P. (2017). Beyond the monograph? Transformations in scholarly communication and their impact on art librarianship. In The Handbook of Art and Design Librarianship (2nd ed., pp. 213-224). Chicago, IL: ALA Neal-Schuman.

 

Wetli, A. (2017, December 22). The Practice and Problems of Digital Art History [Web log post]. Retrieved January 4, 2018, from http://arlisnap.arlisna.org/2017/12/the-practice-and-problems-of-digital-art-history/

Training Student Reference Assistants in the Academic Art Library: Tips for New Supervisors

With an abundance of paraprofessional and professional positions in art librarianship requiring supervisory responsibilities, newly graduated librarians may find themselves navigating the confusing territory of “recent former student supervising students.” Especially in academic art libraries, professional and paraprofessional staff must be responsible for cataloging, reference, outreach, and collection development, and thus try to maximize their availability by calling upon student employees to staff the circulation desk. Student workers, especially undergraduates, are likely hired under the presumption that they will handle beginner-level tasks such as checking books out, shelving, and labeling. However, in my experience the opposite has been true. When a student is the first point of contact at the circulation desk of a library, they will inevitably be faced with reference questions – and if there is not a librarian in close proximity, they should be prepared to answer those questions appropriately.

While in graduate school I read an article detailing the impact of student reference assistants in music libraries, and it stayed with me as I supervised student employees in an academic performing arts library. In this article from the journal Notes, Beth Christensen, Mary Du Mont, and Alan Green undertake a survey of music library reference services and conclude that “…heavy reliance on student employees may have a negative effect on the overall success of answering reference questions in music libraries,” referring specifically to the high level of patron dissatisfaction associated with assistance received from student employees (2001, p. 47). Due to the many similarities between searching for music resources and searching for art resources (multimedia formats, complex metadata, foreign language resources, copyright roadblocks, and more), the same may be true for visual arts libraries. As a result, I have gathered a few of my thoughts on preparing student reference assistants–specifically undergraduate students–for success.

We have all been warned that the reference desk is a dying concept. As research librarians become more mobile, we find ourselves better suited to embedded environments like classrooms and lecture halls. But, no matter where we find ourselves, we will always need someone to be back in the library, staffing the circulation desk. That person is often a student. I currently work in an all-undergraduate school, which means that our circulation desk students are just starting to learn how to do their own academic research, yet we are entrusting them with the ability to answer reference questions from their peers. For a new supervisor managing front desk students, this can pose a challenge. We want to set our library up for success, and we want the face of our library to be someone with strong art subject knowledge. However, when the professional staff is limited and the expertise of subject librarians is maximized elsewhere, this is not always possible. This means entrusting students to conduct successful patron interactions and, when necessary, delegate. I have found that it is helpful to address student assistants at the beginning of their employment and advise them to seek out a librarian for any questions they do not feel comfortable answering. In my library we have even compiled a list of questions that students assistants should be able to answer and questions they should transfer to a supervisor. This type of list depends upon the policies of your institution, but I have found that having a clearly stated guide to which students can refer is helpful in encouraging an understanding of when to consult a librarian and when to be ambitious and try to answer a question on their own.

Knowing that many of your more ambitious students will still try to answer every question on their own, it is important to convey the complicated nature of searching for resources in the arts. Many of my students are discouraged that when they type a few keywords into the library catalog they do not immediately find the results that they expected. In order to provide student employees with the skills to correct their mistakes and the foresight to understand their own searching capabilities, it is beneficial to use each mistake as a teaching opportunity. If a student presents you with a list of failed search queries, take the time to show them why the query failed and how to improve their search strategies, rather than just doing the work for them. You may find that the next time they are faced with a difficult reference question, they will be more willing to come back to you for help, or if they are fast learners, they may figure out how to do it themselves. Allowing students the opportunity to develop a contextual understanding of how and why some search strategies work and others do not is crucial to success for a new researcher in the very complicated field of art librarianship.

Finally, prepare your students to be successful customer service representatives. Any student reference assistant should be able to provide a satisfactory response to any patron’s question, whether they know the answer or not. A trick that I learned while working as a library page in a public library is to instruct student employees that they are never allowed to say “no” to a patron. For example: If they search the catalog for a book title, and the title does not appear, instead of saying “No, we do not have that book,” they should think of a way to continue the conversation with the patron by offering them another solution such as “I do not see it in the catalog, but would you like me to ask the Librarian for help?” or “I do not think we own this book, but can I direct you to Interlibrary Loan?” There is no better resource for teaching your student employees this reference strategy than the American Library Association’s Guidelines for Behavioral Performance of Reference and Information Service Providers (which I will link to below). If you have any student employees who have worked in retail or public service, they may already have a strong understanding of how to politely handle patron inquiries, but if they are new to this type of work, referring frequently to this guide may help to guide them along the way.

The challenge of working with student reference assistants is inevitable. Not only do student employees often have varying ranges of comfort conducting information searches, but even if we hire the perfect prospective art major to sit at our circulation desk, chances are that this student will be graduating in a few years, and we will need to search for someone new. When we find ourselves in the role of “supervisor,” it is our responsibility to assure not only that we maximize our time spent training student employees, but that we graduate students who know more about research and information retrieval and can act as mentors to their peers.

Christensen, B., Du Mont, M., & Green, A. (2001). Taking Note: Assessing the Performance of Reference Service in Academic Music Libraries: A Progress Report. Notes, 58(1), 39-54. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/900862

 

Guidelines for Behavioral Performance of Reference and Information Service Providers. (2016, August 02). Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/rusa/resources/guidelines/guidelinesbehavioral

The Aspiring Academic Art Librarian: Decoding the Mystery of Tenure-Track Job Postings

If you are an art librarian or aspiring art librarian on the hunt for a job, you may have encountered a tenure-track job posting at some point in your search. When speaking to colleagues, friends, and peers in the field of art librarianship I have found that many emerging professionals find themselves unprepared to understand, or to market themselves as candidates for, these faculty status library jobs. For those librarians interested in pursuing academic work, a broad understanding of faculty librarianship can be beneficial in a multitude of ways. For these reasons, I have compiled a brief “beginner’s introduction” to faculty librarianship and applying for tenure-track library jobs, accompanied by a short bibliography of web resources for the job-hunting academic art librarian.

Firstly, if you are unfamiliar with the academic process of tenure, a description of this process is available through the Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL). This can be found in the accompanying bibliography. You may also find the ACRL’s Joint Statement on on Faculty Status of College and University Librarians to be helpful. According to the latter, librarians who are hired into a tenure-track positions are afforded the opportunity to gain all the benefits of faculty status, including “corresponding entitlement to rank, promotion, tenure, compensation, leaves, and research funds” (“A Guideline for the Appointment, Promotion and Tenure of Academic Librarians,” 2006). This means that if seeking tenure-track library work, one should be prepared to engage in professional development activities and conduct research in their field of library expertise in exchange for the opportunity to achieve tenure status.

Secondly, if you are interested in applying to a tenure-track library position but want to know more about the responsibilities inherent in such a position, you should understand that the qualifications for rank, compensation, and promotion of tenure-track librarians vary widely from institution to institution. I took this opportunity to speak to three librarians at different stages in their careers (two in art librarianship and one in academic librarianship, but not the arts) in order to acquire a variety of examples of experiences with different institutions’ tenure policies. For the sake of privacy I have chosen to keep the names of my interviewees anonymous. All three of these librarians have found that each institution seems to have its own timeline for evaluations of tenure-track librarians. For example, one school might evaluate tenure-track librarians for promotion to tenure every three years while another might evaluate them every five years. During this review process the librarian hopes to be approved for tenure, but if not approved, risks termination. Research and professional development budgets, publishing requirements, and time allotted to conduct research also vary.

Thirdly, one must realize that within the field of librarianship there are many varying opinions on what faculty status means for librarians. Librarians who are interested in conducting research and publishing scholarly literature within the field are better suited to tenure-track positions than those who prefer not to be responsible for this type of work. Anyone can apply for these jobs, but there is no guarantee of achieving tenure status. Perhaps one of the most beneficial steps one can take before submitting an application to a tenure-track position is to seek out the tenure requirements and policies of the institution to which they are applying. These policies are frequently available on the institution’s website (though be sure to verify that you are reading the tenure requirements for librarians, and not for other faculty). These outlines can provide invaluable insight into whether the position in question is right for you.

General Resources

Academic Librarianship. (n.d.). Retrieved December 12, 2017, from https://www.kent.edu/iSchool/academic-librarianship

“A Guideline for the Appointment, Promotion and Tenure of Academic Librarians”, American Library Association, September 6, 2006.

“Association of College and Research Libraries Joint Statement on Faculty Status of College and University Librarians”, American Library Association, September 6, 2006.

Johnson, H. (2016, May 3). A Tip of the Hat to Tenure: Realizations in my First Year [Web log post]. Retrieved December 12, 2017, from http://acrlog.org/2016/05/03/a-tip-of-the-hat-to-tenure-realizations-in-my-first-year/

Romanowski, C. A. (2015). First-time faculty librarian, first year experience: Overcoming tenure fears. College & Research Libraries News, 76(11). Retrieved December 12, 2017, from http://crln.acrl.org/index.php/crlnews/article/view/9414/10616

“Securing an Academic Librarian Position”, American Library Association, November 10, 2009.

Sample Institutional Tenure Policies
 

Indiana University Bloomington

Penn State University Libraries

University at Albany, State Universities of New York

University of Georgia

Alt-Career Spotlight: Joanne Fenn, Collections Manager/Museum Registrar for the Kent State University Museum

This series of interviews features individuals who have received their MLIS/MSIS, but do not currently hold positions solely dedicated to art librarianship. Some may work in libraries and  have an interest or duties related to art librarianship, while others use their information science skills in fields outside of the traditional library setting.

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

I work for the Kent State University Museum, informally known as the “Fashion Museum.” The Kent State Museum contains important collections of fashion and decorative arts. Its seven galleries feature changing exhibitions of work by many of the world’s great designers. Closely linked to the Shannon Rodgers and Jerry Silverman School of Fashion Design and Merchandising at Kent State University, the Museum provides students first-hand experience with historic and contemporary fashions, as well as costumes representing many of the world’s cultures. An extensive collection of American glass, fine furniture, textiles, paintings and other decorative arts combine to give context to the study of design. The Museum serves both the University and the community through exhibitions, public programs, and research appointments in the collections.

Can you tell us a little bit about your background and your current position?
I have a B.A. in art history, and M.A. in arts administration, and an M.L.I.S.
Prior to KSUM, I worked for 10 years at The Cleveland Museum of Art in their Asian Art department and Registrar’s office.

I am the collections manager/museum registrar for the museum, with the academic rank of associate professor. I find that I need to explain to most everyone what I do. I am responsible for the intellectual and physical organization and care of the collection. The university considers my work as teaching in a non-traditional way; as a practitioner. It is a similar rational for why librarians have an academic rank.

What brought you to your current position?
I was looking for a change for a myriad of reasons from work/life balance to expanded opportunities. The timing was perfect.

What does a typical work day look like for you?
As you can imagine, collections work means the typical work day varies. Some of my favorite variations involve working directly with students hired to help me, and teaching collections management workshops for graduate library science students. I also work with faculty helping to augment classroom pedagogy through use of the collection. Because of the nature of the collection (predominantly light sensitive textiles) there is not a permanent collection gallery. The museum is in exhibition-change mode frequently, and we also travel in-house exhibitions and individual loans. The work ranges from desk work (contracts, “database” projects, grant writing) to projects that require physical strength and agility (installing/de-installing, packing/crating, etc.).

Do you have any advice for current students and/or those on the job market?

Of course to obtain hands-on museum experience through volunteering and internships. Recognize that this is a highly competitive field, so get as much education and training as feasible. Also, be positive; it will happen!

What are some of the current challenges you see in your field or the art/information science field?
Keeping up with technology in a way that serves museums, but does not replace the experience.

Tell us something fun about yourself! What do you do in your spare time? If you could take a trip to visit any library or museum in the world, which would it be?
In my spare time I like to exercise and run. I greatly enjoy spending time with my husband and children, especially if it involves a beach.

If I could visit any museum in the world? That’s difficult! There are so many fascinating collections. I’ll just work my way through as many as I can (especially if it involves a beach).

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).