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!

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

E-forum on Job Hunting: A Conversation About How To Do It Well

Job Hunting: A Conversation About How To Do It Well
May 4-5, 2011

Hosted by Tiffany Eatman Allen and Erica Findley

Please join us for an e-forum discussion. It’s free and open to everyone!
Registration information is at the end of the message.

Each day, sessions begin and end at:

Pacific: 6am – 2pm
Mountain: 7am – 3pm
Central: 8am – 4pm
Eastern: 9am – 5pm

In this free and open e-Forum discussion, our hosts will look at performing a successful job search in library technical services.

Whether you are new to the field or just changing career focus, this e-Forum will provide you with the pointers you need to secure your next position in this continually changing area of librarianship. What can you do to put yourself ahead of the competition? How can you make yourself more visible in the crowded job market? Need a refresher on cover letters and resumes?  How about interview basics? Do you know how to best manage your on-line presence while conducting a job search? We will explore these questions and many more with our two hosts: Tiffany Allen, Library HR insider and Erica Findley, a new graduate who recently landed an academic library position.

Tiffany Eatman Allen is the Director of Library Human Resources at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill University Library. She works extensively with librarians, staff, and Information and Library Science graduate students, and is also currently the Chair of the Library Leadership & Management Association (LLAMA) Human Resources Section. She holds a BA in Political Science and Psychology and an MLS, both from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has published in traditional print media, including C&RL News and in The Librarian’s Career Guidebook, as well as several articles written online for LISCareer.com. Additionally, she has served as co-editor of LISCareer.com and as co-author of “Career Q&A with the Library Career People” for LISjobs.com since 2003.

Erica Findley is the Digital Resources/Metadata Librarian at Pacific University Library in Forest Grove, Oregon. She earned her MLIS is 2008 and has held a variety of appointments in ALA. Currently, she is the Vice Chair of the ALCTS New Members Interest Group where she has led two on-line discussions about performing successful job searches. She is also serving on two search committees one for a library staff position and the other for the ALCTS ANO Editor position.

*What is an e-forum?*

An ALCTS e-forum provides an opportunity for librarians to discuss matters of interest, led by a moderator, through the e-forum discussion list. The e-forum discussion list works like an email listserv: register your email address with the list, and then you will receive messages and communicate with other participants through an email discussion. Most e-forums last two to three days. Registration is necessary to participate, but it’s free. See a list of upcoming e-forums at:http://bit.ly/upcomingeforum.

*To register:*

Instructions for registration are available at: http://bit.ly/eforuminfo. Once you have registered for one e-forum, you do not need to register again, unless you choose to leave the email list. Participation is free and open to anyone.

International Librarianship event at Baruch College

SLA-NY invites you to an exclusive students-only event on International Librarianship featuring Jane Kinney Meyers, founder of the Lubuto Library Project.

Jane Kinney Meyers is a professional librarian with 20 years of experience working and living in Africa. While living in Malawi for four years, she developed a network of research libraries for the country’s Ministry of Agriculture under the auspices of the World Bank. Ten years later she returned to neighboring Zambia, where she worked on projects for the American Library Association and Johns Hopkins University. While there, she became involved with services to street children offered by the Fountain of Hope, a drop-in shelter in Lusaka, Zambia. Serving on the shelter’s board, she established a reading program and created a library for the children. Upon her return to the U.S. in 2001, she developed the concept, approach and organization of the Lubuto Library Project, based on the success and impact of the library in Lusaka.

Please join us at Baruch College on Thursday, April 14, 2011 from 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm for a presentation and meet-and-greet with Jane. This event will take place in Room 135 at Baruch’s conveniently located Information and Technology Building at 151 East 25th Street in Manhattan. Please announce your presence at the Public Safety Desk just before the turnstiles to gain admittance into the building. For a map to Baruch, visit:

http://www.baruch.cuny.edu/map.html.

Please RSVP by noon on Wednesday, April 13th at http://tinyurl.com/april142011.

All students are welcome – SLA Membership is encouraged but not required in order to attend this event.

Katelyn Angell Questions the Need for Second Masters

An interesting opinion article is in this month’s American Libraries.

Typically, employers expect potential hires to hold both an MLIS and an additional subject-specific master’s or PhD. Upon learning this daunting fact, two pressing questions immediately formed in my mind: How can people on a librarian’s salary afford to earn multiple graduate degrees, and why disregard strong undergraduate credentials or field experience?

American Libraries(CB). American Libraries (Volume 40, Issue 5,  May 2009).
Chicago, IL, USA: American Libraries, 2009. p 39.
http://site.ebrary.com/lib/ala/Doc?id=10290396&ppg=41
Copyright � 2009.  American Libraries.  All rights reserved.

While I’m sympathetic of Angell’s concerns (I have a similar experience), I also understand the need for having a very strong foundation when working in art libraries.

A Cover Letter Is Not Expendable

NY Times Career Couch

A Cover Letter Is Not Expendable
By PHYLLIS KORKKI

Published: February 14, 2009

Q. You are getting ready to apply for a job electronically, and your résumé is ready to go. Do you need to prepare a cover letter? Are they necessary in this day and age?

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/15/jobs/15career.html?em