A Success Story: An Interview with Margaret Huang, Digital Archivist at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Can you tell us a little bit about your background, your current position, and how you got into the field of (art) librarianship?
I received an MLIS from the University Pittsburgh in the Archives, Preservation, and Records Management track. I am currently the Digital Archivist at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. I have been interested in working with and around art ever since I got a job in high school in the gift shop of a museum. During undergrad, I was an art history minor and also happened to get a work study position in my college library’s digitization lab. This is when I started to piece together my career path. I considered pursuing a Masters in Museum Studies but ultimately decided that an MLIS could be a more flexible degree.

What does a typical day at work look like for you?
My position recently pivoted to focus on one specific project so my typical work day right now involves a lot of noodling around in XML/JSON and Excel spreadsheets since I am deep into the metadata creation phase of the project. It is broken up by some of my other responsibilities as issues arise, such as maintaining our ArchivesSpace and Preservica instances, developing digital preservation policies and procedures, answering reference questions, participating in discussions surrounding our time-based media art (I am currently the mentor for our NDSR Art resident on our project: Planning for Time-Based Media Artwork Preservation), and whatever else may come up!

Do you have any advice for current students and/or those on the job market?
My advice to current students and/or those on the job market is to hustle. I was juggling freelance jobs, part-time jobs, and volunteering until I finally got a full time permanent library/archives job. Try to get as much hands on experience and technical skills as possible. Apply to as many jobs that interest you as possible, even if you feel unqualified. It never hurts to give it a shot. Meet and talk with people who have the jobs you want to see how they got there. Again and again, I have found that people tend to want to help and give advice. Also, your first job out of school doesn’t have to be your exact dream job but you can use what you learn to build towards it. At the same time, it’s also ok to not settle if you know what you want. I do honestly believe that hard work pays off so keep hustling.

What were/are some challenges for you as a librarian? Are these related to larger challenges in art librarianship or the field in general?
Currently, my biggest work related challenge is copyright issues. There are so many legal complications, risk tolerances, and stakeholders to consider. This is definitely a common challenge in the field, especially when embarking on digital projects and it becomes even more overwhelming if you’re dealing with entire archival collections, like me, that comprise of hundreds of possible copyright holders. Moving forward, I would like to see libraries, archives, museums, and other cultural heritage institutions collectively push Fair Use as far as possible.

My biggest personal challenge is feeling confident in my technical chops aka imposter syndrome. I think this is felt by many people and while I do not know the cure for these feelings, I can at least say: If you feel this way, you are not alone — let’s empower each other!

Tell us something fun about yourself! What do you do in your spare time? If you could take a trip to visit any library in the world, which would it be?
I love to ride my bike, hike, and travel when I can. Recently, I’ve been reading a lot of true crime books. I think I would be most curious to see the personal libraries of people I admire or am intrigued by – for example, what’s on Iggy Pop’s or Amy Goodman’s bookshelves?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hack Your MLIS Program: Visual Resources Librarianship

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

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

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

What is visual resources librarianship?

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

Become involved in VRA

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

Focus coursework and projects on visual resources topics

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

Independent study

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

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

Photography, Photoshop, and Lightroom 

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

Metadata

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

Image resources

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

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

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

Copyright and fair use

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

Get experience – if you can

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

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

Upcoming ALCTS Webinar: How to Present a Webinar

ALCTS Webinar: How to Present a Webinar

Date: Wednesday, February 5, 2014

All webinars are one hour in length and begin at 11am Pacific, noon Mountain, 1pm Central, and 2pm Eastern time.

Description

Webinars have become a standard continuing education tool. ALCTS is committed to creating new webinars on emerging issues for all technical services topics, and we would like to train possible presenters on how to develop and present a webinar.

Join Keri Cascio, an experienced trainer and former chair of the ALCTS Continuing Education Committee, for a how-to presentation on webinars. Topics for this session include:

  • choosing your subject focus

  • structuring your webinar

  • keeping your attendees interested

Who Should Attend?

Anyone interested in being a webinar presenter should attend this session.

Presenter

Keri Cascio is the Director of Innovative Technologies and Library Resource Management at the Linda Hall Library of Science, Engineering & Technology. She has worked at various public libraries in Missouri and was a trainer for the Missouri Library Network Corporation. Keri currently serves as Director at Large for ALCTS, and was a member of the ALCTS Continuing Education Committee for five years. She holds a Masters in Library Science from the University of Missouri – Columbia.

 

*****************

Fee

Free

How to Register

Register here:  https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/505265208

Contact

For questions or comments related to this free webinar, contact Julie Reese, ALCTS Events Manager at 1-800-545-2433, ext. 5034 or jreese@ala.org.

Pasadena 2013 Post-Conference Evaluation

Welcome back, everyone! For those who made it to Pasadena, hope you all had uneventful travel home and are back in the swing of things.

Via ARLIS-L and next year’s conference planners: the Pasadena Post-Conference Evaluation is available through tomorrow, May 10. Share your thoughts on this year’s conference scheduling, session content, workshops and tours, and any suggestions for next year’s meeting!

Take the survey here: www.surveymonkey.com/s/Pasadena2013Evaluation

We also had some great feedback and discussion at the ArLiSNAP meeting during the conference; I’ll be posting those minutes and revisiting that discussion via the blog in the very near future, so stay tuned!

 

Seeking Fashion Photographer(s) for the ARLIS/NA Conference!

Are you a fashion blogger or photographer, or have always wanted to give it a try? Do you have an appreciation for librarian style in particular? Will you be at the 2013 ARLIS/NA conference in Pasadena?

If you answered “yes” to these, consider volunteering as an ARLIS correspondent to Librarian Wardrobe!

Our own Heather Koopmans has discussed the idea with the contributors at LW, and would like to find 1-2 individuals who are willing to help spread the word of ARLISian style. You must be:

  • planning to attend the ARLIS/NA conference in Pasadena
  • willing to share a photo and short bio of yourself on LW
  • comfortable with approaching ARLIS attendees to obtain their photo and a few other necessary details (no candid pics)
  • able to collect at least five photos at the conference

If you’re interested, please contact Heather at hkoopman (at) scad (dot) edu, and she’ll put you in touch with Librarian Wardrobe.

Thanks for considering!

Bring Your Own Conference (BYOC) to Pasadena

Have you heard?  ARLIS/NA is instituting an unconference at Pasadena.

We invite you to attend the Bring Your Own Conference (BYOC) session on Sunday April 28, 2013 from 2:30pm – 4:00pm.
Join organizers and colleagues to determine the program topics and break into small groups for discussion and presentations.  This is an opportunity to extend conversations with your colleagues, hash out problems that have been on our mind, and propose solutions.  If you’ve attended an inspiring panel or SIG, then bring your ideas to the unconference to continue the discussion.  This is also a great place to talk about any projects your are currently working on in your graduate program.
Never attended an unconference before?  No problem!  In a nutshell, unconferences are flexibly designed to allow all participants to contribute their expertise.  The topics won’t be selected ahead of time (although we are gathering ideas on a collaborative Google Doc), and discussion rather than traditional lecture will be the order of the day.  Ideas proposed thus far are “Marketing Show and Tell,” “Apps Discussion,” “Wikipedia Takeover by Art Librarians,” and ” Interactive Tools in the Classroom.”
Please review information at the session wiki and add the session to your Sched. If you aren’t attending in person, follow along virtually with the Twitter hashtag #arlisbyoc13.
Contact Sarah Carter or Jill Luedke with specific questions or suggestions.

Reminder: Lunchtime chat today!

Happy Friday, arlisnappers!

Be sure to join us at 2pm EST/11am PST at http://arlisna.speeqe.com/ for today’s ARLIS/NA lunchtime chat, “Preparing for Pasadena.”

“Please join us for an informal and informative discussion about the ARLIS/NA community and our upcoming conference! Learn more about fun things to do in Pasadena, tips for getting the most out of your conference experience, resources available for first-time attendees, and how to get involved in ARLIS/NA. This pre-conference Lunchtime Chat with Cathy Billings and Sarah Sherman (Program Co-Chairs) and Alyssa Resnick and Lynda Bunting (Local Arrangements Co-Chairs) is your chance to ask questions, share advice, and get ready for our meeting!
Join us at http://arlisna.speeqe.com/. There is no need to pre-register – simply head to this URL when the chat is about to begin.  When you enter the chatroom, type in /nick [Your Name]  to change the generic, assigned nickname to your actual name.
Chats are free and anyone may attend. Sharing and discussion are encouraged during this interactive event, so bring your questions and ideas! (Chats are text-based, similar to having an IM conversation – no audio involved).”

ArLiSNAP and PDC will also be sponsoring a Twitter #libchat in the coming weeks for any follow-up conference questions or concerns, so keep an eye out here for that!

Lunchtime Chat!

Mark your calendars for an upcoming pre-conference lunchtime chat, organized by ARLIS/NA’s Professional Development Education Sub-Committee.

Preparing for Pasadena: Crafting Your 2013 ARLIS/NA Conference Experience

Friday, April 5th, 2013

11am Pacific – 12pm Mountain – 1pm Central – 2pm Eastern

Guests:

Cathy Billings, Brand Library & Art Center

Sarah Sherman, Getty Research Institute

Alyssa Resnick, Glendale Public Library

Lynda Bunting, Blum & Poe

 

Please join us for an informal and informative discussion about the ARLIS/NA community and our upcoming conference! Learn more about fun things to do in Pasadena, tips for getting the most out of your conference experience, resources available for first-time attendees, and how to get involved in ARLIS/NA. This pre-conference Lunchtime Chat with Cathy Billings and Sarah Sherman (Program Co-Chairs) and Alyssa Resnick and Lynda Bunting (Local Arrangements Co-Chairs) is your chance to ask questions, share advice, and get ready for our meeting!

Chats are free and anyone may attend. The URL for this chat will be announced on ARLIS-L the morning of Friday 4/5/2013. Hope to see you there!

Patrick Tomlin

Alice Whiteside

ARLIS/NA Professional Development Education Sub-Committee

Student Lodging for ARLIS/SE Fall Meeting in Durham

Are you a student attending the ARLIS/SE Fall meeting in Durham, North Carolina?

Are you still trying to find a place to stay?

ArLiSNAP might be able to help! We have some contacts and might be able to track down a couple of spare rooms in the houses of other ARLIS members in the area.

Save some money and network at the same time. Not a bad deal!

Contact Rosemary if interested!