Category Archives: Students

In Chaun’s Words: What It Means to be a ArLiSNAP Co-Mod

Hello friends! As the outgoing Co-Moderator for 2020-2022, I wanted to take some time to express how much I’ve enjoyed being a part of ArLiSNAP. Being a Co-Moderator of the Art Library Society of North America’s Students and New Professionals section (ArLiSNAP) has been a rewarding and empowering experience within the organization for me. As a Co-Mod, I’ve been able to better understand how to be a leader, what my personal values are, and what those of the society as a whole are. I’ve also met a plethora of amazing people willing to provide insights and knowledge that has certainly benefited and allowed me to be more comfortable on my career path. Co-Mods are able to support the activities of other volunteers and incorporate their learning objectives and research or experiences into the the goals of the section and society as a whole (just like all the other volunteers in ArLiSNAP!) I want to offer anyone considering running for this position some of the advice that I was offered as a new Co-Mod so the doubt is cleared, because we’ve all got the potential to lead!

Friendly, Unsolicited Advice!

  • You’re going to wonder what you’re doing. That’s okay. The other volunteers are here to assist you and make sure you’re in the loop. 
  • You’re going to want to be a part of everything, but you don’t have to be. You get to make decisions and your Co-Mod will have your back on them or reel you in when need be, lol. 
  • You’re going to learn a lot about leadership and camaraderie. You’re going to do amazing things! Get out there!

Suggested Schedules for the ARLIS/NA 2022 Annual Conference

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The ARLIS/NA 2022 Annual Conference this year marks the society’s Golden Anniversary in Chicago. In addition to honoring this milestone with a marquee panel on the early years of the organization on Wednesday afternoon, the conference will feature many invaluable discussions, panels, meetings, and speaker sessions for every information science professional. 

We have created suggested conference schedules for three types of information professionals in the field as a way to guide those attending! Note that all of the suggested events are subject-specific and do not include general events, although those are greatly suggested for anyone interested regardless of the profession such as First-time attendee meetings, DEIA events, and happy hours! 

Additionally, you can find the schedules of our co-moderators, Chaun Campos and Jessica Craig at the end of this post for more inspiration on how to plan your day at the conference. As new professionals, Chaun and Jessica are both planning to attend the ArLiSNAP Professional Websites Workshop and ArLiSNAP Happy Hour, along with other sessions that align with their new professional interests.

Note that tours and workshops that require an additional fee are specified, and advance registration is required before March 29, 2022, for these tours and workshops. The registration link for all tours/workshops can be found here.

Suggested schedule for an Academic Librarian:

Apr 5, 2022

8:00 am: Workshop: Subject Guides in the Digital Age: A Workshop on Curating the Most Relevant, Inclusive, and Current Resources ($15)

10:00 am: Workshop: Putting the Framework for Visual Literacy in Higher Education into Practice: An Interactive Workshop ($15)

11:00 am: Tour: School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Fashion Resource Center + Textile Resource Center School of the Art Institute of Chicago ($10)

1:00 pm: Workshop: Creating Radical Hope: Artistic and Speculative Library Responses to Climate Change ($15)

April 6, 2022

8:30 am: Creative Collections: Artist Archives in Academic Libraries

12:45 pm: “Who Were We? Where Did We Go? Voices from the Early Years of the Society” 

3:45 pm: Innovative Instructions: Strategies and Opportunities for Unique Instructional Needs 

April 7, 2022

8:30 am: Beyond the Classroom: Developing Image Databases for Research 

10:15 am: Visioning the (im)possible: experiences of librarian-caregivers during the pandemic and strategies for the future of library work

12:00 pm: OCLC Research Library Partnership Roundtable

2:15 pm: Centering Digital Accessibility: Projects at Academic and Art & Design School Libraries 

Apr 8, 2022

8:30 am: Envisioning Libraries Through Feminist and Creative Practices 

10:30 am: Confronting the Myth of Neutrality: Addressing Bias and Inclusion in Cataloging and Classification in Art Libraries

3:00 pm: Points of Connection: Using Wikidata for Art Information 

Suggested schedule for a Gallery Archivist

Apr 5, 2022

10:30 am: Tour: Oriental Institute Museum Hyde Park ($10)

11:00 am: Workshop: Single Picture Books Latitude Chicago ($45)

April 6, 2022

8:30 am: Creative Collections: Artist Archives in Academic Libraries

12:45 pm: “Who Were We? Where Did We Go? Voices from the Early Years of the Society” 

2:30 pm: Know Their Names: Case Studies in DEIA Collection Assessment, Expansion, and Access

3:45 pm: The Impact of COVID-19 on Professional Development: A Conversation on the Past, Present, and Future for Academic Arts Librarians 

April 7, 2022

8:30 am: Art-chiving the Web: Collaborative Collection Development and Preservation for Art History Web Resources

10:15 am: Evaluating, Optimizing, and Remediating Physical Accessibility in Library Spaces 

12:00 pm: OCLC Research Library Partnership Roundtable

2:15 pm: Imagination, Collaboration, and the Social Production of Knowledge 

Apr 8, 2022

8:30 am: Words Make Art: Engaging Diverse Communities Through Artists’ Books 

10:30 am: Awakening Arts Library Collections to DEIA: Responsive Acquisition Strategies for Addressing Bias 

3:00 pm: Points of Connection: Using Wikidata for Art Information 

Suggested Schedule for a Digital Preservation Specialist 

Apr 5, 2022

8:00 am: Workshop: Subject Guides in the Digital Age: A Workshop on Curating the Most Relevant, Inclusive, and Current Resources  ($15)

11:00 am: Workshop: Single Picture Books Latitude Chicago ($45)

April 6, 2022

8:30 am: Preserving Photographic Glass Plates: Conservation and Access in the Digital Age 

12:45 pm: “Who Were We? Where Did We Go? Voices from the Early Years of the Society” 

2:30 pm: Digital Humanities & Open Educational Resources in the Arts Roundtable 

3:45 pm: Letting users guide the way: a framework for user-centered design 

April 7, 2022

8:30 am: Beyond the Classroom: Developing Image Databases for Research 

10:15 am: Programmatic Information Literacy Instruction in Art and Design Libraries 

12:00 pm: OCLC Research Library Partnership RoundtableDennis Massie 

2:15 pm: Centering Digital Accessibility: Projects at Academic and Art & Design School Libraries

Apr 8, 2022

8:30 am: Visual Literacy In and Beyond the Classroom 

10:30 am: Beyond the Textual: Visual Information Systems that Help and Hinder

3:00 pm: Digital Tools and New Trends: Using Technology and Innovative Solutions to (Re)Establish Value in Images and Image Collections 

If you attend the conference, please consider writing a blog post for us relaying your experience and what you learned! Send an email to expressing your interest.

Opportunity: Call for Guest Writers for the ArLiSNAP Blog

The Blog Editors of Art Library Students & New ARLIS Professionals (ArLiSNAP) would like to invite guest writers to contribute to our blog: 

This writing opportunity is open to all! We welcome posts from art information paraprofessionals, professionals, students, and prospective art librarians! This could include anyone working with visual and performing arts, new media, and other arts-related collections. We also welcome posts from people who started their careers in librarianship and/or art information but have moved on to other arts-adjacent fields.

Choose from one of our suggested themes below, or propose a topic of your own! You do not need to have any previous writing experience. We will work with you to edit your work.

Please send an email to expressing your interest and proposed topic.

Suggested themes:

  • Review a conference or seminar (including virtual webinars and other online experiences)
  • Highlight your experiences transitioning from a student to a new professional
  • Share an interesting read about librarianship or another information services-adjacent topic
  • What are you working on? Share the process of a professional project or your personal art, music, writing, etc.
  • Discuss an internship, fellowship, or first-year librarian experience


Melanie Zerah and Alison Baitz

Internship, Interrupted

By Freyja Catton

From February to April of this year, I was one of two interns sponsored by TD Bank at the National Gallery of Canada Library and Archives (NGC). This was my dream job, as I have a background in Studio Art (BFA, University of Lethbridge, 2012) and am a graduate student of Library and Information Studies (MLIS, University of Alberta, 2021). In February, I took a three-month leave from my day job in Edmonton, Alberta, and flew out to Ottawa, Ontario. February 3 was my first day at the NGC. It was bright, sunny, and chilly outside. I walked over the hill and was greeted by Maman, the giant imposing spider sculpture outside the front entrance of the NGC. I couldn’t wait for this to feel normal- and to see Maman every day!

  My supervisor showed me my desk and where to go for work breaks (I could “just go in the Gallery” if I wanted!). My project the first week was to refer to a spreadsheet with exhibition catalog numbers and label all the exhibition records from 2005-2020. This was good preparation for our main project which would start the following week. It sounds mundane, but I had a blast getting to peek at all the ephemera and recognizing names I knew from school or from my connections in the Alberta art community!

  The other intern arrived on Monday and we were introduced to our main project: creating records for exhibitions from 2005-2020 in the NGC Library Catalogue. The NGC Archives separates their records into types: exhibition records, artist records, posters, ephemera, photos, and correspondence. Our task was to update the catalogue with 15 years’ worth of art exhibitions, so that researchers could look in the library catalogue and see past exhibitions of the NGC, as well as what documentation existed for each exhibition.

  Neither the other intern nor I had worked with cataloguing before, though the concepts were familiar. The cataloguer showed us how to create records according to the NGC Library standards. We learned the basics of the integrated library system Millennium, MARC21 coding, and how to find subject headings and name authorities in English and in French. The exhibition numbers came from the spreadsheet I used my first week, and we found information about the exhibitions from the NGC website and from the exhibition records. We split the work by odd and even numbered exhibitions, and worked at a steady pace to get a skeleton entry into the catalogue for each exhibition with whatever information we could find. Once we had a record for each exhibition, we added descriptions of materials to the record, which are stored separately by medium. The specific tasks  included: going through unprocessed exhibition clippings, invitations, posters, and digital photos, labelling and organizing these, and adding descriptions to the record. We also updated the call numbers for archival exhibition catalogues. 

As we worked on the project, other projects broke up the monotony: checking the Alex Colville drawing fonds to ensure all items were in order and accounted for, going through copies of paper finding aids from other institutions (circa 1980s-1990s), and checking online to see if those aids had been digitized onto the institution’s website. I had two archival description projects at item level. The first description project was describing items in the Art Metropole mail art collection. For the second project, I described artist ephemera from an art historian donor for appraisal. Due to the difficulty of generalizing that collection, I went through the ephemera and described them at the item level and put them into folders for storage. Once they were described in original order, I reorganized the folders alphabetically by artist and created a new file list to reflect the alphabetical order.

  The library assistant showed us how to make housing for items in the library and how to display books with book pillows and mounts. I assisted staff with other housekeeping tasks when they needed a hand, such as moving rare books to create room for new ones, moving files for processing, rehousing slides, checking photograph fonds, clearing paper jams in the photocopier, and adding to clipping folders.

  I was able to ask lots of questions and to observe archive tours in the space and volunteer work. As the work went on, I found I was developing a specialty within a specialty: my experience as a practicing artist meant I was good at contemporary art documentation. I knew how things were made which made it easier to describe them, and I knew who a lot of the practicing artists were (I kept stopping to show off and say “I’ve met them! I’ve seen this show!”). Considering that most of the staff came from the art history field, I felt I was able to fill in a knowledge gap that otherwise existed in the NGC’s Library and Archives.

  We also had the opportunity to visit other sites, which at the time was very hectic but in hindsight I am very grateful for. On February 26, we went on a tour at the Library and Archives of Canada Preservation Centre in Gatineau. We learned about their approach to risk management, building/facility design, and storage. I had taken both records management and archives management courses, and it was SO cool to see my readings in practice and observe what the ideal preservation centre looked like and how it was run.

  On February 28, we went to Montréal for the day. We wandered around the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (BAnQ) before our scheduled tours, and then I had a private tour in English to learn about contemporary art documentation at Artexte! Artexte is a documentation centre/archives for contemporary Canadian art. Artexte has open stacks and devised their own classification system. It was fascinating comparing their system to the organization system of the NGC’s Library and Archives. It was a whirlwind trip and it took me a few days to wind down after that!

  COVID-19 hit at the halfway point of the internship. On March 16, the Gallery shut down and asked everyone to work remotely from home. We were unable to describe physical items, but we were able to focus on digital holdings and records. We finished updating exhibition records by adding descriptions of digital photos, and we updated the call numbers of archival copies of exhibition catalogues in the library catalogue. We edited and created Wikipedia articles for the Gallery, assisted in and partook in four Edit-A-Thons (the first one was in person in February, the rest remote). Outside of the internship I was taking a graduate course on Archive Administration, and for my final paper I wrote about my internship and volunteer experiences to recommend possible best practices for preserving art exhibition documentation in artist run centres.

After a couple weeks of working in isolation, the other intern and I got spooked by the impending travel bans. We talked with our supervisor and arranged to leave Ottawa early. Everyone seemed on edge and my flights got rescheduled three times. I arrived home in Edmonton on April 8, two weeks before the end of my internship, with enough time to self-isolate before my leave of absence was up.

 After relocating, we continued to work remotely. We worked to update artist information for the Artists in Canada database, partook in the remaining Edit-A-Thons, and we worked on a new big project: researching digital repositories, methods of storage, and digital repositories for a future digital archive for the NGC Library and Archives. We emailed each other back and forth notes and questions about the software, and then sent summaries and pros/cons of each product to our supervisor. On April 24, my internship concluded. I sent out an email on my second-to last day to thank everyone for giving me such an amazing opportunity to work with people I had so much in common with. 

And that was it! I went in wondering what the heck I was doing, and I came out wondering what the heck happened. Despite the emotional whiplash of dream jobs and pandemics, I masked up and went back to work at my regular job the following Monday. 

  While it was unfortunate that our internship was cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic, I am very grateful for my time spent at the National Gallery of Canada Library and Archives. I loved my work and felt so supported! It was an amazing opportunity for me to network and get to know other professionals in the field who love their job, and to have a formal hands-on experience of how archives and art libraries work. I’m so grateful for the chance to develop my expertise in art archives and contemporary art documentation. I hope I will be able to do similar work someday in the future.

Though, I hope next time we won’t be disrupted by another pandemic!

Freyja Catton is a visual artist, author, emerging art information professional, and MLIS graduate student at the University of Alberta. They live in Treaty 7 territory in Canada with their long-term partner and two cats. More of their work can be found on their website at

Note: Experiences, thoughts, and feelings shared on the ArLiSNAP blog are solely those of the featured author(s) and interviewees and do not represent the views of any employer.

A New Job, A New Degree, and A New Pandemic

By Meg Tohill

Ever since I can remember, all I’ve ever wanted to do when I got older was to help people. The question of how I would do this has continuously meandered along with my career path. With a passion for reading and writing, diving into library science has always been at the back of my mind, but it was only recently that I started putting the plan in motion. The seed that I had planted in high school started blossoming about two years ago.

I went to undergrad at SUNY New Paltz for a bachelor’s degree in journalism. While I maintain a passion for the written word, the power of storytelling, and delivering universal truths, it became abundantly clear to me during my time there that the industry was/ is in significant danger. Although I know many talented new journalists who continue to push back against the dissemination of misinformation in the media, I took the opportunity to start getting creative.

How could I take my skillset and develop it into something tangible? During my time in undergrad, I spent three years working as a part-time library assistant at Sojourner Truth Library. It was there that my pre-existing admirations for libraries and the information professionals who operate them were reinforced.

Ironically, I only decided to enroll in a graduate program a month before coronavirus became our reality over in the states. My entrance interview was over Zoom and my acceptance letter came during the fourth week of quarantine. I had lost a job that I wasn’t passionate about but was essential to live and I had very little prospects about what I was going to do next.

When the letter finally came, I could finally bat away the storm clouds that had been hanging so heavy around my head for months. Quarantine hit me harder than I’d like to admit. All of this stagnant time at home reminded me of past demons, something I usually could manage when surrounded by the camaraderie of my friends, or in many cases, library professionals. 

My experience working at Sojourner Truth Library had been incredibly validating. My coworkers were empathetic communicators who had the knowledge to share and after some time, I realized I wanted to be just like these individuals. I wanted to provide information to people who were hurting. I wanted to help people who didn’t know how to help themselves but desperately wanted to do so. 

March started like a lamb and ended like a lion. This goes against everything they ever taught us in elementary school, but when you go from being able to see your loved ones, to losing people you thought you had years left with, reality is a hard thing to discern. 

We were told in March and April that masks were unnecessary and then suddenly, we became mask-wearing armies. If there was a thing that was true one minute, the next minute we were being told the exact opposite. Finding the truth in quarantine hasn’t just been difficult, it’s been debilitating, making the library science profession more essential than it has ever been. When libraries and their staff are prioritized, individuals don’t have to defer to a magnanimous figurehead spewing “fake news.” When library science is accessible, information is accessible and today, information is a wealth many refuse to inherit. 

An election year, a pandemic, a full-time job, and graduate courses will be what I ultimately remember the most from 2020. However, it is my hunger for the truth and the need to help others find it too, that keeps me motivated. I believe that these feelings of determination that accompanied my pain are what I will remember the most.

Meg Tohill is a copywriter at DAC Group of Companies and an MLS graduate student at Queens College. She spends what very little free time she has reading, baking, and hiking with her boyfriend.

Note: Experiences, thoughts, and feelings shared on the ArLiSNAP blog are solely those of the featured author(s) and interviewees and do not represent the views of any employer.

Apply for the Elmar W. Seibel Scholarship!

Are you a current MLIS student in New England and interested in art librarianship, visual resources, and/or cultural heritage? Now is the time to apply for the Elmar W. Seibel Scholarship!

The New England Chapter of the Art Libraries Society of North America (ARLIS/NA) is now accepting applications for the Elmar W. Seibel Scholarship. Applications are due Friday, September 27, 2019

The purpose of this award is to support and encourage future art librarians by helping to defray student expenses (tuition, professional development, conference attendance, housing, materials, etc.) Additional information is available here.

Applicants must be aspiring art information professionals currently enrolled or accepted into a fully accredited New England school of library and information science.

$500 in award funding will be distributed to the selected applicant.

Applicants should send a letter describing themselves and their interest in art librarianship, visual resources, and/or cultural heritage with proof of enrollment (course schedule, transcript, etc.) in, or an acceptance letter from, an accredited New England school of library and information science.

Please note:
Award recipients are required to provide a written account of how they use the Seibel funds to help finance their education and/or professional growth. This account must be submitted to the ARLIS/NA New England Chapter Board no later than one month from the date of award disbursal.

Applications are due Friday, September 27, 2019

Please send applications or questions to:
John Schlinke, ARLIS/NA New England Chapter Past Chair

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.


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.


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.


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.





How to Register

Register here:


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