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

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.”

Conversation with Erinn Paige and Laura Damon-Moore of The Library as Incubator Project (Part 2)

In this second part of my interview Erinn Paige and Laura Damon-Moore of The Library as Incubator Project we talk about makerspaces and more.

Tell me about your involvement with makerspaces and the class that you teach on the subject.

Laura: We came to the conversation about maker spaces pretty early on, and I would say that our main function was and continues to be as a clearinghouse for stories ABOUT maker spaces in libraries. We are by no means the only clearinghouse/info-sharing hub out there on that topic. I think the makerspace discussion fits really well with the LAIP’s focus on hands-on, self-directed, participatory learning, and we consider maker programs a key part of the “arts-incubating” library. Our online course, the Makerspace Mindset (which runs through University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Library and Information Studies Continuing Ed), operates in a similar way that the LAIP does as a whole–it’s a place for story sharing, practical how-to’s, professional development, and lots of discussion about how to approach maker programs and resources in a way that makes sense for your library and your community. Scalabilty is a big thing that we talk about–how a small library can make meaningful maker programming happen without space, time, or extra money.

Erinn: I think the exciting thing about makerspaces in libraries is that it definitely fits into the basic mission of providing access to information, but there aren’t a lot of best practices set in stone yet.  Makerspaces are an exciting service model because they really push libraries toward that platonic ideal of information life cycle– people don’t just consume information in a makerspace, they create new information in the form of new stuff. They learn skills by applying them directly to a project.  I think Laura’s point about scalability speaks directly to the idea that this is new-ish territory for libraries (though the conversation about active learning models has been raging for awhile in education)– there are hundreds of ways to create a space for this kind of information exchange in a library setting.

Are maker programs finding their way into academic art libraries? Which should we take note of?

Laura: They definitely are happening. We’ve published some neat examples on our website. I LOVE the Hatchery, a web resource published by the Glasgow School of Art Library which documents the myriad ways that the GSA Art Library incubates the work of artists at GSA and beyond.  We also were lucky enough to visit the Rakow Research Library at the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, NY this January. This amazing research library is doing a lot to support hands-on learning and making.

These examples said, I’d love to hear MORE from academic art libraries about maker programs that they’re hosting–I know there’s a lot happening and we’d love to share it, of course!

What do you think are the most important issues facing the arts in libraries today?

Erinn:  Communication.  Both libraries and arts organizations need a crash course in advocacy and PR.  Essentially, you take what you do, and you re-phrase it in the language that politicians speak.  This is a no-brainer, and it clearly works, and yet libraries and arts orgs seem to perpetually struggle with it.  If you’re only talking about what you believe in in terms that make sense to you, you’re preaching to the choir.  You have to communicate it to others in the context that means the most to them.

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

Erinn: My favorite library is the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh – Main, which is in the Oakland neighborhood in Pittsburgh and is in this fabulous, monolithic building along with the Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History.  The windows in the upper level stacks look out onto the dinosaur exhibits. Plus, the people who work there are incredibly smart and are doing great things.

Laura: I will always have a soft spot for the library in my hometown, Mount Vernon, Iowa. It is a funky library; the Mount Vernon Public Library collection is housed in the basement of Russell D. Cole Library, the academic library on the Cornell College campus. Growing up I thought it was totally natural to be going to watch a puppet show or to check out picture books in the same library where college students were checking out their books and writing research papers.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Erinn:  Follow us!  We have a small social media empire and we share great content and ideas from arts-incubating librarians all across the country and the world.  We’d love to talk to you and find out more about what you’re excited about at the intersection of art and libraries.

Laura: Definitely that we want to hear from you and work with you to tell your arts + library stories!

Conversation with Erinn Paige and Laura Damon-Moore of The Library as Incubator Project (Part 1)

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Erinn Paige (left) and Laura Damon-Moore (right) are at the helm of The Library as Incubator Project. I recently talked with them about LAIP and their other endeavors.

What is Library As Incubator Project and what motivated you to embark on this adventure?

Laura: At this point, the Library as Incubator Project is a multifaceted information sharing machine. We continue to exist online, through our primary website and in social media neighborhoods. We’ve been lucky enough to publish a book based on and extending the work we do online. We also exist in “real life” through public presentations, professional development workshops, and in-person programs that we do for libraries and other cultural institutions.

At the most basic level, the LAIP began as a way to explore the connection between libraries and creative people. Erinn and I came to Library and Information services with backgrounds in the humanities and creative arts. So the LAIP started as a way to explore the connection of creativity, information, and community, to see how it happens formally and informally in the library setting, and then, because we were hearing so many great stories, we knew we had to share them with a wider audience.

What were/are some challenges and rewards in running Library As Incubator Project?

Erinn: It is a constant challenge to juggle a full time job and the LAIP, which could easily be a full time job in and of itself.  We’re both also artists in our own right (hence our interest in the library-arts connection), and supporting a creative life while sharing stories of other people’s creative lives can be a challenge too!

But the place that the whole project sprang from is an elegant support– it’s that egalitarian, helpful library space, AND it’s that hands-on creative space that you find in a studio environment.  We’re very project oriented, and so Laura and I and our team will take on individual LAIP projects that interest us, and when we hit obstacles, we have a whole team who can offer critique, just like you get in a studio:  what’s working, what isn’t, techniques that could help, skills and resources to apply. By the same token, we also really support one another in our creative pursuits.

Laura: I wish we had more time and more resources to do more, more, more! It was definitely a challenge to settle into a routine as we all graduated and juggled job stuff plus the LAIP. For a while it felt like there were a lot of balls up in the air and we were sort of scrambling to sort out who would catch which one as they fell.

Rewards have got to be the community that has developed around the LAIP. This ranges from our teammates, Katie and Holly, to our awesome site post contributors (cough cough, Rebecca, cough) to the people that we connect with on social media and in person at programs and conferences. When we go visit institutions and talk with people, people are generally excited to talk with us, but WE get so much MORE excited hearing about the amazing programs and partnerships people have going on. It’s the best and absolutely why I keep working on this.

What are your “day jobs” and how do they integrate with managing Library As Incubator Project?

Erinn: I’m the Programing Librarian at New Canaan Library in New Canaan Connecticut, which is a relatively new position for me– I just started in 2014.

Although the actual work of running the Library as Incubator Project ( web building, editing, writing, social media, presentations and conferences, etc etc) all happens on my own time, the philosophical underpinnings that guide our work on the LAIP transfer directly to programming librarianship– namely, that information isn’t always something that you can collect and slap a barcode on in order to provide access.  There’s a very real body of “creative information” (for lack of a better term) that can only be accessed in real-world connections: conversations with experts, hands-on learning opportunities, etc. Learning by doing.  Apprenticeship.

Working on the Library as Incubator Project has proven, again and again, that Libraries are central to not just an information exchange (resource –> person), but an information life cycle— people learn, people use what they learn to make something new; that new thing sparks conversation and more learning and more making and more sharing.  Through the Incubator, I’ve seen proof that we can be the alpha and omega of that life cycle, and I bring that ideal to work every day.  That’s what I want my library to be.

Laura: I am the Assistant Director at a small public library in Evansville, Wisconsin, just outside of Madison. My position focuses on Programming and Outreach, mainly with families and youth. I do everything from facilitating early literacy programs to running after school activities to planning and hosting special community programs on weekends, inside and outside of the library.

From a practical standpoint, I am able to integrate LAIP work into my routine pretty easily – I am 80% in my position at the library, so I have one weekday off where I can focus on other things, and luckily, at this point, the LAIP has become a natural part of my weekly rhythm and routine.

Like Erinn, the LAIP has done a lot in terms of directing the way that I approach my job philosophically. It’s about making a space where people feel welcome to explore, learn something new, experiment, fail, try it again, share their work, help others. From another practical standpoint, the LAIP means that we hear about a lot of awesome new initiatives and program ideas. It’s like a smorgasboard of creative arts programming that I get to pick and choose from, depending on what will work best for my community.

Be sure to catch part two of our conversation here tomorrow!

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.

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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.

Profile: Sheila Cork, Art Librarian at the New Orleans Museum of Art

Name: Sheila Cork
Job: Art Librarian at the New Orleans Museum of Art

NOMA

Walking into the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA), one would hardly know that beneath the beautiful marble and tiled floor there is a Special Library, the Felix J. Dreyfous library to be exact. A set of inconspicuous doors lead the visitor down to the administrative offices and the library sits, waiting, on the other side of glass walls.

One woman, Sheila Cork, runs the show as the Art Librarian in a library that is home to over 20,000 titles (mostly monographs), 70 art-specific journal titles, and exhibition archives from 1911 – 2000.

“The biggest thing I found in my life… is to volunteer in something in your field. It will always lead to something,” she says when prompted for advice for young professionals.

Volunteering is how Cork found her way to libraries in the first place. Starting in 1985, Cork began to volunteer at her local library in England. She started with book mending and worked her way up to Circulation Services. When she and her husband moved to the United States, Cork realized that to continue advancing in the field, she would have to earn her MLIS degree.

While working in the Reference department at the Hancock County Library in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, Cork studied to earn her masters degree from the University of Southern Mississippi. During the course of her studies, Cork was made the Head of Information Services at the library. Although she liked the promotion, she realized that it was “very administrative and not very ‘hand-on’.”

Seeking a change, Cork applied for the position as an Art Librarian at a “Fine Art Institution” according to the job ad. That “Fine Art Institution” happened to be the New Orleans Museum of Art. Cork and her husband moved to New Orleans in June 2005, two months before Hurricane Katrina ripped through the city.

“We were lucky…we only had puddles to clean up,” Cork said, thinking back to her first days on the job.

Since becoming the Librarian at NOMA, Cork has put into place a volunteer system, with 8 to 9 people (usually undergraduate students) who work 2 to 4 hours a week. She has coordinated the NOMA Book Club, discussion groups, author events, field trips, and programming. Her current projects include digitizing scrapbooks/ephemera and digitizing Works Progress Act project files.

When asked for any closing words of wisdom, Cork replied, “Be flexible about what you do. Be able to work with different people. And never be afraid to clean the windows.”

Survey Says

The Library Journal 2014 salary survey results are out.

There are several parts to the article, including a generic presentation of the data. There’s no breakdown by the type of materials the respondents work with, but there is categorization by position type (reference, instruction, metadata, etc.) and by institution type (public, academic, etc.). Personally, I fit into the “archives” and “other organization” slots (not to mention the “Canada / International” category) and there isn’t a ton of data to compare myself to. I seem to have the exact average salary. I guess that’s okay.

salary

I would like to take this opportunity to remind you of that discussion on the ARLIS-L listserv a few months back, about whether or not the art-librarianship niche has enough specific data to work from. Still hoping someone will take up this torch ….

(If you’re hurting for a research project for a class, this is something you should seriously consider.)

Meanwhile, there is a variety of advice offered in the LJ articles for new graduates, or the soon-to-graduate:

The graduating class of 2013 offered similar reactions to the job search as their colleagues from previous classes. Those who landed a job just prior to or shortly after graduation felt “fortunate”; others found it necessary to compromise in the type of job they sought. Graduates cited another year of “not enough experience for an entry-level position” and “a competitive pool of applicants.” Some advised those following in their footsteps to consider “second choice” options and “to be flexible” in approaching the range of jobs. One graduate suggested the second choice option might turn out to be the most fun.

I am curious to know, in the opinion of our illustrious audience, whether we at ArLiSNAP should post more jobs that are “second-choice”-style: graphic design / web development, project management, or other jobs in libraries and cultural institutions that aren’t specifically about visual resource management (take, for example, the job posts I put up this morning – lots of research and curation, which might be good experience, but aren’t specifically in this field).

I would also take this opportunity to link to the American Alliance of Museums’ salary survey results, but the link to the 2012 survey on this page seems to be broken. If you have useful salary resources, please share them with us in the comments!

September 22nd: #SLAtalk goes back to school

http://librarysherpa.wordpress.com/2014/09/15/slatalk_22sept2014/

#SLAtalk: Live and Learn!

Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever. – Mahatma Gandhi

 

It’s the “Back to School” edition of #SLAtalk! Whether you are currently a library school student or an experienced info pro, continuing education and professional development are crucial for a successful career. We’re thrilled to be joining forces with our friends at INALJ.com to bring you an hour-long Twitter chat about learning and keeping your skills sharp. Don’t be too cool for school, join us for #SLAtalk and be voted “Most Likely to Succeed!”

 

Monday, September 22nd
● Session 1 – 3:00 pm EDT  (Use hashtag #SLAtalk)
● Session 2 – 9:00 pm EDT  (Use hashtag #INALJchat)
What time is that where you are?

 

►        New to doing a Twitter chat? Take a look at “How to #SLAtalk”

http://www.sla.org/slatalk-plus-slatalk-archives/

 

►        Follow @SLAhq and @INALJchat – and use hashtag #SLAtalk / #INALJchat to be a part of the conversation!

Q1  (first 15 minutes) : For current MLIS students, which courses are you most excited about this term? If you’re out of school, which courses did you feel helped you the most with your job or career?

Q2  (second 15 minutes) : Whether it’s at a conference or a webinar, which professional development topics are vital for your continuing education? Which topics are yesterday’s news? What isn’t being covered that you’d like to see?

Q3  (third 15 minutes) : Do you feel that library school prepares (or, did prepare) you for the working world? What are library schools doing to connect students with jobs? What can be done better?

Q4  (last 15 minutes) : How do you see library/info science education programs changing? How do you think library education programs could improve?

 

Can’t join us live on Twitter? Check the SLA Blog’s #SLAtalk category for the recap which will be posted following the session.