The “Art” of Job Hunting or How We Got From There to Here

ArLiSNAP Feature Post Writers Sarah and Courtney, both fresh from the job hunt process, describe their experience job searching as an art librarian and interview each other about the process in the hopes of starting a dialogue for all new job-seeking art librarians.

A white coffee mug with “begin” written on it on a wooden table

Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash

Sarah’s Experience:

I decided to get my Master’s degree in Library Science while working in a paraprofessional position in an academic performing arts library, and I took on an archival studies concentration in order to broaden my post-graduation job possibilities. Leading up to graduation I began applying for local music librarian positions, but after graduation in May 2017 I broadened my job search to include research, instruction, and collections jobs outside of the arts and in other parts of the country (and abroad). I had a few job interviews but, in my first few months with my Master’s degree, did not succeed in finding a position that was a match for me.

In October 2017 I had the opportunity to interview for a librarian position in an art museum, and it showed me a new path that I could take in my job search, beyond academic work. This motivated me to learn more. I joined ArLiSNAP, began a volunteer position at an art museum, and began taking webinars to teach myself more about art museum library collections and cataloging. After seven months, my volunteer position turned into a part-time paid fellowship, and shortly after that I was offered a full-time position as a cataloger for a museum library.

My experience showed me that art librarianship is an extremely competitive field in which one must be willing to learn and engage with other art librarians and researchers. The job hunting process is very involved and can be very discouraging (even causing anxiety and depression for which we should not be afraid to seek help). It was very helpful for me, personally, to relieve stress by speaking with other job-hunting librarians about their experience. I also made the most of the paraprofessional job I was in by asking my supervisor to teach me new things and taking on new and different responsibilities. Ultimately, my personal experience was one which taught me to “go with the flow” because your job search may take you in directions that you never would have considered as long as you are open to learning new things.

Courtney’s Experience:

I worked as a paraprofessional in a public library first, and then a community college library, as well as taught (adjunct) art history for 3-4 years prior to going back for my master’s in library science (technically mine is an M.S.I.S.). Currently, I’m not working as an art librarian, but as a collection development librarian, which I think has tons of potential for working in visual arts subject collections. There is a lot of overlap in collection work with art librarianship that I hope to use to my advantage later in my career.

I began applying for jobs in all academic libraries, some in art libraries, before I had conferred my degree. Honestly, I was living in a really expensive part of the country at the time, and I was really anxious to move up in the library world, as well as find a more fulfilling position in line with my interests.

The day after I earned by degree, I had the chance to interview in person at a large research university for an Art and Design Librarian position, which I did not get. It was a fantastic experience though. It really gave me a taste of what interviewing at academic libraries in general is like, and it also gave me insight into aspects of art librarianship that I hadn’t learned in school or at my job at the time.

Though I didn’t get that job, I realized that I could look for other jobs in academic libraries like the one I have now, and that I could interview with confidence because I had done it once. I realized that even though art library jobs are really competitive and hard to come by, I could develop skills I had less of (collection work in this case–I have a background in teaching, so reference and instruction are covered for me) and then look for art library jobs again in a few years.

I definitely agree with Sarah about going “with the flow,” because librarianship is so interdisciplinary. Even if you don’t get an art librarian job right away, the experience you gain doing other things will help you get there. AND, every position is tailorable! You can make relationships on campus that keep you in the loop in the arts world (some tips for which I wrote about here), which can be reflected in cover letters and CVs.

Photo by Evie Shaffer on Unsplash

Sarah Interviews Courtney:

What do you think is the hardest part of breaking into the art librarianship field?

So far for me, the hardest part is just not having worked in specifically an art library. I have a lot of experience in libraries at this point, but it is mostly paraprofessional. When I interviewed for an art and design position, I feel like I answered interview questions well and that my presentation was good (with great responses/questions!), but that to leadership, I probably didn’t have the level of experience on the job or serving on committees for national associations that they were looking for.

Do you think art librarians should be willing to apply for jobs in other parts of the country?

I think that it is a privilege to be able to do so. I moved for my current position (which is not an art librarian position) and would have moved for the position at the larger university. However, there are layers here: willingness/confidence/privilege to negotiate terms of a contract that would account for moving costs, a big enough bank account to cover the costs of moving whether or not your moving expenses are covered (reimbursement often takes forever), having a support system that can help you both mentally and physically with the act of moving, etc.

So, my answer here is: your job prospects will widen if you are open to moving, but many people would really be hard up to make a move prior to a “professional” librarian salary (which often isn’t even that high).

What has been your experience as an academic librarian preparing for a career in art libraries?

I am constantly trying to find new ways to stay connected with the visual arts. I go to galleries and museums and talk to the curators there. I’m lucky, because the Halsey Institute is right down the street, and one of their curators is a friend of mine from my first round of grad school! But I do a lot of reading articles and just generally trying to stay up to date with what is going on in art libraries.

Professionally, I think about research that relates to my job now and how it could be adapted specifically for art libraries. For instance, I’m currently working on assessments of our architecture and art history collections, and this has led to taking a deep look at the programs they support and the faculty who run them. I’m hoping that this work and the relationships I build will help develop any skills and knowledge I lack.

I think that volunteering for ArLiSNAP also counts as something I’m doing to prepare. Being a feature post writer is forcing me to think of issues in field and keep up with what other art librarians are doing.

Thinking back to your Master’s Degree program, is there anything you would have done differently to broaden your job possibilities?

I maybe would have tried harder to do a practicum in an art library. I did a practicum in collection development and instruction, the former of which helped me get my current position, but because I was a) pregnant and b) working full time, the convenience my practicum was key. One thing I did do was try to align what I was taking with library degrees at different schools that had a cultural heritage or art library “track” (mine didn’t specifically).

What has surprised you about the job searching process in this field?

I feel like I’ve been pretty prepared by colleagues and professors on the intricacies of applying for jobs in academic libraries, which includes subject specialist and art librarian positions, so I haven’t been surprised by much. However, for those reading this who haven’t been through it, in person interviews in academic libraries are like running a marathon. All day, grueling, but invigorating (sometimes) processes that require you to be “on” all day. I actually loved interviewing at that big university library even though I didn’t get that position, because I was able to engage with members of the campus community who came out to meet me at the various meetings. We talked a lot about issues in the field, and I genuinely felt like there was no “right” answer. I already knew I wanted to be an art librarian before interviewing, but I left realizing that it really is my career goal. Not every job interview is like that (maybe most aren’t?), but I guess it surprised me how at ease I felt with it. Probably because I am a subject specialist (M.A. in Art History), so I had a lot of feelings about fine arts collections, as well as their applications in teaching and research.

Do you have any words of wisdom for those interested in working in academic libraries?

Get experience, somehow. Any way you can. Volunteer if you can afford it, try to get a part-time job as a paraprofessional if you haven’t finished your degree…but just try to get that experience. It sucks, because I feel like academic libraries should give new professionals more of a shot. At my last job, I was on a hiring committee where we really tried to keep that in mind and look at those who had related experience + their MLS (which was required by HR), but unfortunately at most places, they are really looking for that library experience. Also, I think experience counts for more than the degree in a lot of cases. We interviewed super new “professional” librarians who had lots of library experience in staff positions over people who just had their MLS.

Also, when you interview, remember that you are also interviewing THEM. Try not to be scared to advocate for yourself and ask hard questions. When I interviewed, both for the art and design position as well as my current place work, I was a pumping mother of a baby under a year old. I had to request facilities in which to do that. They were accommodating, but if they hadn’t been, I would have known that I didn’t want to work there immediately. You want to be comfortable and happy where you work, so ask the hard questions.

What advice can you give to those trying to cope with the disappointment that inevitably comes with job hunting (and which for new professionals may be especially unexpected)?

Ugh, it’s hard. Try not to be discouraged! When I didn’t get the job in that fine arts library, I was crushed. I didn’t think I’d get a second interview, so when I was invited on campus, I was elated–how could I, as a new professional, get a job like THAT? I tried to just be proud of myself for getting there, but after my interview I was convinced I had a good shot. Later on, when I found out who did the job, I was seriously even prouder of myself, because that person had years of experience and also was involved in national associations (which I didn’t have the chance to do). I felt so happy I got as far as I did — you need to celebrate those victories, because they’re all learning experiences. So chin up and move on! It’s 100% their loss!

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Courtney Interviews Sarah:

I’m repeating your question, because I’m curious: What do you think is the hardest part of breaking into the art librarianship field?

I think the hardest part(s) is(are) a combination of having the right skillset, finding the institution willing to take a chance on you, and not getting too discouraged by rejection. When combined, I think these things indicate (correctly) that the job search can be a long and challenging process for any new professional. But, it is worth it for anyone who truly loves art scholarship and collections.

How was your interview process different at an art museum library versus an academic art library?

It was completely different! Just as you mentioned, all of my academic library interviews were day-long affairs which typically involved a presentation that I had spent weeks preparing in advance. However, the art museum library interviews were typically only a couple of hours long and did not involve presentations. I interviewed for one position in an art museum library that was affiliated with a college, and that interview was structured more like an academic library interview. Another significant difference is that academic jobs typically involved multiple interviews with several members of the institution’s library staff, faculty, and administration, whereas museum library interviews were typically one-on-one or smaller groups.

Did you interview anywhere for a position you would not have accepted after you interviewed? What would the factors leading you to that conclusion?

Within weeks of finishing my MLIS, I interviewed for a position that I knew was not right for me. It was a step in the right direction (a professional title, a higher salary), but it involved responsibilities that were outside of my interests. I had initially applied for this job because it had a performing arts element, but when I learned more about the position, I realized that it did not have enough of an arts element to compensate for the other responsibilities that I was much less interested in. I was able to say “no” to this position because at the time I had a full-time paraprofessional job and a financial support network. However, if I had been in a financial or career position where I felt I was struggling, I would have definitely pursued that job. I think there is something to learn from any job you take, and even if it’s not your dream job, you can use it as an opportunity to learn and apply skills to your next position.

What are some of the things you feel are most important to do for someone trying to break into the field?

Relating back to your first question, I think that there are a few things art library students and new professionals can do to prepare themselves. This field is so competitive that students in art librarianship-focused MLS programs should be willing to cater the program to the skills they will need (i.e. taking the opportunity to do research in art librarianship or classes on visual resources or choose a concentration in digital media). I would encourage students to check out the ArLiSNAP “Hack Your Art Librarianship Program” blog posts for more advice on this.

For MLS graduates, one must be willing to continue learning through webinars, volunteer work, professional organizations, and networking. Once you have a good-looking resume (full of relevant volunteer work and continuing education), it’s all about applying to positions where you think the institution would be willing to hire a newbie. If you think you’re a good fit, apply. Use your cover letter to tell them why you’re a good fit even though you’re new-ish to the field! Lastly, you may find yourself applying to dozens (and dozens) of jobs without any offers. Keep pushing on. If you can, use your joblessness as an opportunity to take on more activities to boost your professional development, and take advantage of services like mentorship and resume reviews at ARLIS/NA and ArLiSNAP conferences! As long as you are able to push on, try not to give up because the next opportunity could be right around the corner at any time, and you don’t want to miss it!

Do you feel your master’s degree aptly prepared you for your position? For the job hunting process?

My program took around 2.5 years mostly part-time, and I think even if it had taken 3.5 years it would not have been long enough to prepare me for all the different facets of librarianship and art librarianship that I am interested in. Fortunately, it was a very career-minded program (in the online SOIS at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee – highly recommend!) which taught me practical things like how to analyze job descriptions and plan for a future in rapidly digitizing library environments. I also did not know when I was in this program that I would eventually become a cataloger. I have always preferred working with the public to sitting behind a computer screen. If I had known then that cataloging is much more than staring at a computer, I probably would have taken more cataloging courses, which might have prepared me to apply to cataloging positions right out of grad school. But, in the end, I feel that my program was well-rounded and did the best possible job of preparing me for job hunting.

Do you have any words of wisdom for those working in other types of libraries (school, public) hoping to get into academic or art libraries?

Yes! Any job in the library field (or art or museums) is a step towards working in art librarianship. The best possible thing you can do is make opportunities for yourself. Whenever you see a job posting for a position you are interested in but don’t think you are qualified for, save it and use it to help brainstorm ways to learn the skills you would need to be qualified for it. If you are working in a school library, try to include art books and topics in your library lessons. If you are working in a public library, ask your supervisor if you can curate a display of books about local art/artists. Start (and hopefully finish) projects that will look good on your resume, and don’t be afraid to get involved with professional communities of art librarians (ArLiSNAP is the perfect place to start!) and to ask questions about breaking into the field. You might start by posting your questions here, in this thread :)

Conclusions

Job hunting is so stressful! There’s no getting around that. And added to the stress is the passion that many art librarians feel for their subject specialty and profession. It can feel alienating to be in a position that is separate from what you’d rather be doing. But, as with most things in the library world, every experience leads to another.

If you have any questions for Sarah or Courtney, or would just like to share your own experience, please feel free to post in the comments section here!

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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

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!

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.”

A Success Story: An Interview with Lindsey Reynolds

Lindsey Reynolds is the new(ish) Art Librarian at the Birmingham Museum of Art, in Birmingham, Alabama (http://www.artsbma.org). She’s graciously agreed to answer some questions for us here at ArLiSNAP.

Lindsey-Reynolds_sq_web-375x375

Can you tell us a little bit about your background and your current position?

I got my MLIS degree from the University of Alabama in December 2011. I was fortunate to receive the ARLIS/NA internship award that year, so I went to New York in the Spring of 2012 to intern with the New York Art Resources Consortium (MoMA, the Frick, and the Brooklyn Museum libraries). After that, I took an archiving job at an architecture firm in Atlanta. In mid-2013 I went back to New York to work at the Whitney as the Library Assistant. And last September I started as the Librarian at the Birmingham Museum of Art.

What drew you to this position and art librarianship in general?

I had frequented the BMA as a student and really respected their permanent collection. I enjoy being at a smaller institution – I’ve gotten to know all of my colleagues and get to work on more museum-wide projects. The museum has recently challenged itself to grow from a regional clearing house for travelling exhibitions to a nationally-recognized and locally relevant museum, producing our own exhibitions and providing a socially-engaged, creative platform for our community. I’m excited to be a part of that change.

What are your main roles/duties at your current position?

I have a few interns and volunteers, but I’m the only librarian at the museum which means I am responsible for both the library collection and the institutional archives. So far I’ve been getting familiar with the collection and doing some housekeeping. I’m planning a stacks shift for the summer, and am working on a records retention policy for the museum which will hopefully help to grow our institutional archive. I’m most excited to start acquiring artist’s books.

What is a typical day like for you?

My days vary tremendously, that’s one of my favorite parts of the job. Since I’m the only one, I can really tailor my day to suit my moods – some days I do a little bit of everything (policy writing, outreach, reference, acquisitions), other days I dedicate to one task (cataloging or processing usually), and other days I have so many meetings that I hardly get to sit down at my desk!

What were/are some challenges for you as a new art librarian? Are these related to larger challenges in art librarianship?

At first my biggest challenge felt like finding a job. Now that I’ve tried a few, I think one of the biggest challenges for me, and for museum libraries in general, is staying relevant and visible to my colleagues and to the public. It can be hard to push for more funding since libraries don’t typically generate income – I see it as an opportunity for creativity and collaboration.

What are the most important things emerging art librarians should know?

There are so many opportunities out there! Look around and find a career path that suits you (see the “New Voices in the Profession” panel at the ARLIS/NA conference if you need ideas!)

When you’re applying for jobs pay attention to where the library falls in an institution’s hierarchy – it can tell you a lot about the institution’s priorities and their commitment to the library/archives department.

Just for fun – what is your favorite library? Work of art or artist?

Oh geez – those are unanswerable questions. I’m pretty enamored with Etel Adnan’s work lately. I had never seen her artist’s books until the Whitney Biennial last year, and I think they’re great. I also really enjoy the things that the Office of Culture and Design are doing in the Philippines, especially the Manila Review. They are using publications as a platform for community engagement and are a great example of what social practitioners can achieve and keeping a sense of humor throughout it all.

On Freelancing and Contracting: some conference cogitations

I spent the end of June in beautiful, temperate, layers-friendly Victoria, BC, attending the Association of Canadian Archivists’ annual conference. It was amazing, scary, inspiring, and weirdly comfortable — no business cards were exchanged, but plenty of people wanted to gush about ideas.

I presented on the student panel between two very intelligent and articulate colleagues — my presentation was, let’s say, a bit more informal than theirs, but I think it went well. It was gratifying to hear some of my sentiments echoed in the closing plenary by Laura Millar. The main point I ended my student presentation on, which was picked up again by Millar, was the idea that the archiving profession needs to delve into freelancing models of employment.

This theme has been covered by the usual GLAM publishers (HLS on freelancing librarians; Hiring Librarians on contract work; INALJ on freelancing) — as has, of course, the dearth of cushy, steady, benefits-laden jobs you can hold for thirty years (or at least until all our icons and role models retire). I haven’t seen much discussion on how to freelance in art libraries or art archives, but I’d like to think there’s plenty of project work to be done in preserving and cataloguing artists’ files, implementing digital asset management, developing metadata schemes or collections mandates, digitization, publishing and reproductions management, exhibits and auctions, conservation for artists’ books….

My presentation focused on diverse and underrepresented communities that have media-collecting and -preserving needs not being met by institutionalized archiving systems. I focused on virtual communities (because social-network websites are where the best media are being collected, obviously), which meant that everything archival got put into a very technological framework.

I tried not to scare anyone off with the fear of archiving in the digital age (“Imagine you work for a historical society that has collected materials from each and every single resident of the town,” I suggested, to get a scope of the problem/potential of virtual communities), but I’m afraid it’s a very real part of the future of the profession, especially as we start moving from digitization projects to interface design for presenting our materials.

Bringing information-professional skills and techniques to your average website-builder or community-organizer is likely a consultancy task: you start with assessment, then they find enough money for implementation, you make some recommendations for maintenance, and eventually every community or arts group has an archivist-on-call, or a librarian for a half-day a week.

That means we all juggle multiple clients and bounce from one deadline to the next. Many people do not find this a very rosy picture of the industry’s future. Then again, there are those of us that can’t imagine working the same full-time processing or reference job day in and day out.

There are definitely ways to do it right. I’ll be interviewing some freelancing and entrepreneur archivists and librarians in the near future, on this blog, so you can see for yourselves. There’s even an association for independent information professionals, and plenty of opportunities for mentorship, entrepreneurial bootcamps, start-up funding, and guides to the legal and financial steps to declaring yourself a businesswoman.

Ideally, I’d love to do private archiving with artists — which is never high-paying. It tends only to happen when the artist is anticipating an eventual donation of their records to an institution — there, the benefit of getting things organized beforehand is the tax credit offered upon appraisal (in Canada, anyways). While an artist or arts group may want to get the job done, the money, often, simply isn’t there.

[Ironically, I just found contract archiving work in the private sector, which is not exactly walking-the-walk, but maybe I’ll have time for some pro-bono projects with individuals and non-profits. Stay tuned!]

I’m interested to know everyone’s thoughts. There were lots of nodding heads when Millar said it, but I still felt a bit radical suggesting it myself (ah, what the confidence a thirty-year career could give!).

What do you think: are librarians and archivists destined for lots of part-time, contract-based, multi-tasking jobs, helping everyone manage unique information needs? Or will the majority of us find the full-time, paid-vacation unicorn we dream of? Is there a balance between the two?

More scarily: will freelancing mean we all have to learn how to administer databases and provide cut-rate graphic design services? Is there a way to freelance in GLAM-related work that isn’t technologically dependent?

Part-Time Librarian – The Modern Museum, Fort Worth, TX

Original job posting by the TLA available here.

Position Starts:3/17/2014 Listing Closes: 2/21/2014 Listing Submitted: 1/13/2014
Position Description: The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth seeks a part-time (2 days per week) librarian to assume cataloging and organizational duties for the Museum’s library. Candidates should possess knowledge of art history and/or visual arts; knowledge of Library of Congress System and OCLC; knowledge of bibliographic cataloging; knowledge of RDA standard; and knowledge of stacks management.

Candidates should be able to research and evaluate materials for collection development; provide reference and research consultation to staff members; assist with reciprocal material situations; and assist with other duties as needed.

Institution: Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth
Type of Library: Other
City: Fort Worth, Texas
Annual Salary: Commensurate with experience
Salary Comment:
Telephone: Fax:
Email Address: bmitchell@themodern.org
Website Address: www.themodern.org
Required Education: Master’s degree in Library/Information Science from an ALA accredited program
Required Experience:
Contact: Brent Mitchell
Send Resume to: Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth
3200 Darnell Street
Fort Worth, TX 76107
Special Instructions:
Interviews will not be conducted at the conference placement center. Please contact directly.

Special Collections Manager- The School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Duties
The School of the Art Institute of Chicago is currently seeking a detailed oriented professional that will participate in and support the curatorial, instructional, access, and preservation functions of the Flaxman Library?s Special Collections program.  This individual will assist the Special Collections Librarian in all aspects of collections management. In the absence of the Librarian, the Special Collections Manager will assume responsibility for daily operations, including management of facilities and collections (both physical and digital) and interactions with students, faculty, staff, researchers, and other visitors to the collections.Under the supervision of the Special Collections Librarian, the Special Collections Manager will represent the School and the Flaxman Library in presenting our resources to all types of visitors, on site and online. As directed, will work with colleagues throughout the campus and the external art, library, and archival communities to develop, maintain, and promote our collections and programs, in furtherance of the School?s goals and interests.  Assist with care of irreplaceable collections and materials, in a high-use educational environment. Contribute significantly to assigned digital library and cataloging projects, working in close cooperation with relevant staff at the School and the Museum, as necessary to complete assignments.

Qualifications
THE SUCCESSFUL CANDIDATE WILL HAVE: Bachelor?s degree in an art- or design-related field; advanced degree preferred. One or more years of relevant work experience in a library, archive, museum, gallery, or other collection-based setting. Demonstrable knowledge of contemporary art practices based in artists? books, archives, exhibitions, and/or publishing. Understanding of basic principles of preservation and handling for works of art and archival materials; Understanding of basic cataloging and metadata standards.  Good organizational and communication skills.  Proficiency using standard office software and hardware, web services, and networked environments. Ability to work effectively within a team or independently.  High commitment to customer service;  Must be able to routinely lift up to 50 pounds.Preferred
Teaching, curating, and/or publishing experience;
Experience with digital library workflows and standards;
Experience with scanning software and digital scanners, and related peripheral devices;
Experience with widely-used library systems and software such as OCLC, CONTENTdm, Voyager, or others;
Involvement in planning and execution of (on site and/or online) exhibitions;
Supervisory experience.

Apply here. Job ID: 7990.

Project Archivist– Art, Design & Architecture Museum, UC Santa Barbara

Summary of Job Duties
(Note: This summary will be used for keyword search)
Under the direction of the Curator of the Architecture and Design Collection, the Museum Scientist will serve as the Project Archivist for a one-year grant funded archival project.
Minimum Requirements Candidate should have an M.L.I.S. degree or equivalent experience in archival cataloguing. Must be well organized and able to prioritize work to meet quarterly goals. Ability to write clearly and concisely is required. Must have some experience with collection management systems or online library catalogues.
Desirable Requirements Knowledge of cataloguing rules (AACR2, DACS), controlled vocabularies, and authority control is highly desirable. Experience with Archivists’ Toolkit is desirable. Background in art and or architecture, cultural history is desired. Ability to read architectural plans will be an asset. Some knowledge of XML is desired.

Please visit the full posting for more information.

Project Archivist– Art, Design & Architecture Museum, UC Santa Barbara

Summary of Job Duties
(Note: This summary will be used for keyword search)
Under the direction of the Curator of the Architecture and Design Collection, the Museum Scientist will serve as the Project Archivist for a one-year grant funded archival project.
Minimum Requirements Candidate should have an M.L.I.S. degree or equivalent experience in archival cataloguing. Must be well organized and able to prioritize work to meet quarterly goals. Ability to write clearly and concisely is required. Must have some experience with collection management systems or online library catalogues.
Desirable Requirements Knowledge of cataloguing rules (AACR2, DACS), controlled vocabularies, and authority control is highly desirable. Experience with Archivists’ Toolkit is desirable. Background in art and or architecture, cultural history is desired. Ability to read architectural plans will be an asset. Some knowledge of XML is desired.

Please visit the full posting for more information.