Tips For the Non-Art Librarian (or Notes From the Field)

This post is in the vein of the Hack Your Art Librarianship Program series from awhile back, but has been tailored to reflect what some people may be experiencing professionally–working in a library but not an art library or as an art librarian. 

My ultimate career goal is to work as an art librarian. Even though I have this fancy new volunteer position as a feature post writer for ArLiSNAP, I’m not there yet. Currently, I work as the Collection Development & Assessment Librarian at a medium sized liberal arts college in the southeast. I’ve worked at a public library, and now two academic libraries, both in “paraprofessional” and “professional” positions, but never has it been my J O B to liaise with art faculty, perform collection development specifically for a fine arts collection, do instruction primarily for fine arts or art history courses, or any of the other number of things art librarians do.

However, I have forced myself my way in to some of these roles, and I’m going to offer tips based on my experience on how to do that now.  Before I get started, I will say that I had the advantage of teaching art history at the community college where I worked, so I had a bit of a foot in the door, but I think these tips will help anyone who is interested in the visual arts get involved on their own campus.

In my last position, I started as a reference specialist. Later, I worked as an instruction librarian at the same place, but I started before I finished library school. This meant that I was not a L I B R A R I A N, but I was allowed to staff the reference desk, assist students with their research needs, and get to know the campus staff and faculty as much or as little as I wanted to. I’m a gregarious sort of person, so I found myself on a number of committees and BAM I was “liaising” whether I meant to or not.

Here are a few personal tips I have for those who are gaining experience working in an academic (community college) library, but are not officially getting the experience they want to develop the skills necessary to become an art librarian.

1. Roam Around! All too often, we academic library professionals (and I use this term broadly, because I believe that staff members are professionals) are siloed in the library. Stuck there. Like, “Oh! You’re out of the library” style confusion when you’re not there. If [you’re able to] take a break and walk around, you get to know people, which helps you form connections that you can use later when you get a great idea for programming or the collection that relates to the visual arts, even if that isn’t technically your job (but don’t do SO MUCH that you are working outside of your pay grade…that is important. I will repeat it later).

This one can be difficult. Maybe you’re an introvert or the culture at your place of work doesn’t invite casual conversation or even allow leaving the library during work hours. I get that. But if you’re able to, I say take a break and maybe a little walk.

I would also like to add on here: if you find a librarian or faculty member who is friendly, turn to them with questions when you have them. One of my colleagues helped mentor me through library school and is now one of my closest friends. She’s not an art librarian, but she is an excellent librarian and was supportive of my goals. You just never know who is going to make an impact for you.

2. Get to the know the collection. In my position as reference specialist at a community college, I spent over two years getting to know the collection generally. But I also took the time to specifically get to know the art section. Because I walked around it regularly, touching the books, tidying up, and helping students find materials for their research, I often had ideas to share with the collection development librarian about how to improve upon what we already owned (she was very supportive of this, again, I was lucky). Through getting to know the area of the collection I loved the most, I straight up inserted myself in the collection development process. When a faculty member came to her to ask for some reinvigoration in the art history print collection, our CD librarian came to me to help. I was able to gain experience doing collection development as well as collection development in the art section. This also gave me knowledge of publishers of art books and helped me to get a feel for what is being published in our field right now. I realize not everyone will have this opportunity. But either way, the more you know about your collection, the more expertise you will have fine arts print collections when you go for an interview at an art library or as a subject specialist in an academic library.

3. Join some committees. This connects to the Tip #1 ^. Maybe this one is just an extension of #1, but I think it’s important. Here’s where I remind you though – if you feel joining committees is above your pay grade, do not do it. Don’t let them exploit you. Don’t let someone tell you it is your job to serve on some planning committee just because they don’t want to do it if it is not actually in your job description. Especially if you’re not being paid as a “professional” librarian. 

THAT BEING SAID…

If you, like me, are looking for a convenient way to make yourself known on campus and get the library involved in event programming related to fine arts, joining a committee might be a good starting place. First of all, it is an excellent way to get to know other staff and instructional faculty on campus. When you work together with people for weeks, they’re more likely to say hello when you pass them later. They might even answer your email when you ask if they want to combine forces on the next gallery exhibition and have the library be involved.

For me, Tip #3 is all about how I can insert my own agenda into what is already happening on campus. Having some events to celebrate Multicultural Awareness Week? Why not exhibit some artwork made by students in the library? Etc. It’s a good way to get connected.

4. Make friends with the Fine Arts and Art History faculty. Even if they aren’t on that committee you just joined, THESE ARE YOUR PEOPLE! They are the people who went through programs like you in undergrad/grad school, or saw the same Cezanne show you did last weekend. It will not only make your job more pleasant, but also making connections with them comes in handy when you have plans for art in the library. They can collaborate on exhibitions and programs with you, and they definitely want to be involved with the collection. They know it too, because they are the ones that use it.

In my case, I got to know our printmaking professor by asking him to lend the library display pedestals for an art show of biology inspired raku fired pottery during a special event week at the college. Later, I used the same pedestals to promote his printmaking courses which are often under enrolled. He saw the value of the library as a mutually beneficial relationship, and I did too. Hence, a professional relationship was born!

At that point in my time in that position, I was unable to teach library instruction (not enough master’s credits) or do “real librarian” work, so what I felt I could do is enhance our library through partnerships with art faculty. It help me feel unstuck to work on projects like this.

Photo of a neon sign that says art
Photo by Ian Williams on Unsplash

5. Continue to go see art. This one is so important. Actually, I’ve gotten away from it a little too much. So this one is also a reminder for myself. REMINDER: If you love art, GO SEE ART. It will lift you up when you are down, and it will remind you when you have your head in the academic sand that there is a purpose to your professional trajectory. When I was writing my thesis for my first master’s degree, we had a workshop where a former student came by and told us this same thing. She said something like “Stop writing sometimes, and go see some art. That’s why you’re here.”

Likewise, dear reader, that’s why you’re HERE. That’s why I started reading the ArLiSNAP blog in the first place, and now why I’m volunteering as a feature post writer. I love art. I love the messy process of artmaking (by other people, not me personally, though I do love a darkroom and also to fling paint at things when I’m feeling frisky). I also love the messy conversations we have ABOUT art and the various elements/social conditions that inform it. I love researching art and facilitating that research for other people. But all too often, I get caught up in the “what are the steps to become an art librarian” professional to-do list and forget what is most important, which to take it in.

So there you are! I hope that these are helpful for you, or lead you to think of other new ways you might be able to get involved on campus in different arts initiatives or with the art department. Good luck on your journey!

Alt-Career Spotlight: Hannah Barton, Art Researcher at Artifex Press

This series of interviews feature 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 am an art researcher, working with Artifex Press, a publisher of digital catalogues raisonnés.

Can you tell us a little bit about your background and your current position?
I received my Bachelor’s in Art History from Lewis & Clark College and two years later moved to New York to attend the dual-degree Art History and Library Science Master’s program at Pratt Institute. While receiving my MS and MLIS, I held internships with the New York Art Resources Consortium at the Frick and Museum of Modern Art Libraries, followed by an internship at the Whitney Museum of American Art Library. In my last year at Pratt I was hired by Artifex Press as a Research Assistant on their Jim Dine catalogue raisonné. After the Dine catalogue was published, I began my first solo project of editing the Tim Hawkinson catalogue, which was published in 2015 but remains an ongoing project as the artist continues to create new work. Over the last three years I have also been editing the Lucas Samaras: Boxes catalogue raisonné, which was published to our subscribers at the end of 2017 and will require ongoing research and upkeep.

What brought you to your current position?
After interning at several art libraries in New York, I realized that perhaps a traditional library was no longer where I wanted to work. The job posting for my first position at Artifex Press asked that the applicant be very familiar with library research as well as content standards for art and art history, which for me was the perfect opportunity — I got to put my MLIS to use while researching art!

What does a typical work day look like for you?
Catalogue raisonné research is so vast that I rarely have a “typical” day, though most days involve a lot of emailing — contacting institution owners of works, venues of previous exhibitions, galleries that hold works, etc. During various points in the research process, I also spend a lot of time in art libraries conducting research. The most recent catalogue I’ve been working on includes over 350 publication citations, and I had to track each and every one of those down. And on special days, I get to look at art! I was recently able to travel to Los Angeles to look at a Samaras box owned by a public institution. Our digital catalogue platform allows us to include a variety of multimedia content, and with the Samaras catalogue we have chosen to create short videos of a selection of works, so that the viewer can see how the boxes function with all of their component parts. Going to view the work in person is essential to get a grasp of the intricacies of these works in order to better film them and give the viewer the full understanding of their content.

Do you stay involved in the field of art librarianship and if so, how?
Unfortunately, I have sort of lost touch with the field of art librarianship, aside from utilizing it for my own research needs. I keep up with things peripherally, as I attended ARLIS in New Orleans last year and still have many friends in the field. Art Librarians are some of Artifex Press’s most coveted users, as our catalogues are produced to help with research in the field.

Do you have any advice for current students and/or those on the job market?
Don’t be afraid to think outside the box in terms of career options! I went into library school with the direct aim of working in an art library, but I found a job that actually better catered to my interests without really knowing it at first. Traditionally, catalogue raisonné editors and researchers have been art historians and scholars, and while I would consider myself an art historian, I never would have thought I would be editing catalogues raisonnés. I got into the field through my research abilities and my interest in the organization of information, and by sticking around long enough I developed the skills to tackle these projects on my own.

What are some of the current challenges you see in your field or the art/information science field?
One of the main challenges in the field of digital CR creation is convincing users that digital is better than analog for this medium. I completely understand the hesitancy by many to embrace purely digital publications, and I am also guilty of oftentimes preferring analog to digital, being able to hold the book in my hands and flip through the pages, having a physical object to collect and archive. But in the case of catalogues raisonnés, I am now a firm believer that digital is better. Catalogues raisonnés in analog form are already out of date by the time they are printed. Artworks have a life of their own once they leave the artist; they can be infinitely exhibited and cited or illustrated in various publications, as well as can change hands from collector to collector. Once a CR is printed, the history of each object included in the publication can no longer be updated in the completed publication, but with a digital catalogue, the history of each artwork remains current as it can be continually updated. Convincing users that digital is better also comes with the challenge of assuring them that the data will be safe and accessible far into the future. Artifex Press has been working with top art libraries and digital archives to maintain a strategy for permanently archiving the data we are creating.

Tell us something fun about yourself! What do you do in your spare time?
When I’m not working, I try to be outside as much as possible. I love traveling and exploring, even if that just means a quick day trip to somewhere nearby. And when the weather doesn’t cooperate, I’m experimenting with new creative endeavors. I am currently re-learning how to use a sewing machine and I plan to try and make some of my own clothes this year…we’ll see how that goes.

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).

Alt-Career Spotlight: Courtney Baron, Teaching & Learning Librarian at Oxford College of Emory University

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. Today we hear from our ArLiSNAP/NA Co-Moderator Courtney Baron!

What is the name of the employer/institution you work for?
I’m the Teaching and Learning Librarian at Oxford College of Emory University. Oxford College is a two-year liberal arts college on the historic Emory campus. We are a teaching- and student-focused campus and our library serves just first and second year students.

Can you tell us a little bit about your background and your current position?
I have a dual bachelor’s degree in Classical Archaeology and Latin from the University of Georgia. My first library job was directing the Visual Resources Center at the University of Georgia’s Lamar Dodd School of Art. I was in the position for 1.5 years while finishing up my MLIS from Valdosta State University. I’ve been at Oxford since January 2016. We are a small library, so I wear many hats and work in all areas of librarianship. My main responsibilities are leading our Research Practices and Events teams, coordinating our information literacy instruction program, and planning our outreach initiatives. I also serve on our Collection Development, Customer Service, Website, and Student Employment teams. There are always new projects to work on! Recently, I curated our new circulating tabletop game collection and just completed our biennial assessment report for the library.

What brought you to your current position?
When I saw the opening for a Teaching and Learning Librarian at Oxford, I decided to go for it since I was hoping to move into a role with instruction responsibilities. I had visited Oxford College a few years prior and really liked the campus. Oxford is unique since it’s a liberal arts college that feeds into a large research university. This means our library has far more resources than the typical liberal arts college of this size (FTE < 1000). Most students live on campus so the library is very busy and a true “hub of living and learning”. I really value the opportunity to work closely with faculty and administrative colleagues on big picture issues, like implementing the new college strategic plan and curriculum. Our Dean is very supportive of professional development and provides generous funding for professional organization memberships, conferences, and continuing education classes.

What does a typical work day look like for you?
No single day is the same which is one of the things I love about my job! On a typical day, I’m usually teaching or planning classes, helping students in research consultations, working on the information desk, planning our next event (like Game Night!), attending meetings, selecting materials or weeding the collection, and supervising student employees. There is a never a dull moment!

Do you stay involved in the field of art librarianship and if so, how?
I’m the personal librarian for art, although Oxford librarians are mostly generalists, since we are expected to teach or work with faculty and students in all subject areas at Oxford. I stay connected by being an active member of ARLIS/NA and serving in various roles. In ARLIS/NA, I’m the 2016-2018 Co-Moderator of ArLiSNAP and the Co-Chair of the Archaeology and Classics SIG. I recently became the Faculty Liaison and Incoming Co-Chair of SEI (Summer Educational Institute for Visual Resources & Image Management) which will allow me to stay connected to the visual resources profession and help with digital imaging and archival projects at my library.

Do you have any advice for current students and/or those on the job market?
For current students:
· Get library experience! Get as much experience as you possibly can even if it doesn’t seem related to the type of librarianship you want to do. For example, the only teaching experience I had before my current position was volunteering to lead introductory Biology classes for the Science Library at UGA. Though it seemed completely unrelated to art librarianship, having experience in the classroom gave me a leg up when I applied for my current position.

For job seekers:
· Don’t hesitate to apply for jobs even if you don’t think you are a strong candidate. I had the opportunity to be on the search committee for our Access Services Librarian position and have helped interview many others for jobs here. Often the people with the most impressive resumes don’t interview as well as other candidates.
· If you’ve been on the job market for a while, try applying for jobs outside of the scope of art librarianship. Though I’m not solely an art librarian, I still work closely with the arts and I’ve gained so many other valuable skills in this position.
· Don’t ignore potentially great jobs just because of the location. I originally didn’t want to stay in Georgia when I started my post-MLIS job search, but now I’m happy I did. My husband and I have been able to pay off over $50k of debt because of the low cost of living here, plus we are near family and friends.

What are some of the current challenges you see in your field or the art/information science field?
Advocating for libraries and librarians remains a challenge. Particularly for instruction librarians, it can be a challenge to convey the value of information literacy and the role we play in the classroom to faculty and administrators. It’s frustrating to be an academic librarian teaching in the classroom with rank and promotion expectations similar to faculty yet still have people assume you read and check out books all day! We need to demonstrate the value of library services and resources to our patrons and stakeholders.

Conversation with Claire Kennedy: Librarians in the Art Studio

Claire Kennedy

Following her thought-provoking talk at ARLIS, “Artist in the Library: A Case Study”, in which she touched on the underexplored applications of LIS training in a studio environment, we wanted to follow up with Claire Kennedy, formerly the Librarian and Archivist for John Baldessari, to discuss further.

First, can you briefly discuss your current position and some of your main day-to-day responsibilities and priorities?

Actually my current position is Gallery Archivist at L.A. Louver Gallery in Venice, California. I was just hired, as of a month ago. Before this recent change, I worked for the artist John Baldessari as his full-time Librarian and Archivist.

What is your educational background?

I have a degree in Anthropology and an MLIS degree, both from UCLA. In between my two degrees I spent about six years working and taking a few classes here and there. I would recommend to anyone interested in diversifying their training to look into taking a class in something like project management.

Did you “hack” your library degree in order to prepare you for working directly with artists?

No, I didn’t. My background is in rare books and manuscripts. I worked in Special Collections libraries at UCLA, the Huntington and with private book dealers and collectors before working for John. I think the best thing you can do while in an MLIS program is to take all the technology classes you can. Take UX design, or web development if you can. Take archiving classes if you want to be a librarian and take cataloging if you are training to be an archivist.

Can you talk a little bit about ways that you draw on the more conventional aspects of your LIS education? And what are some things you’ve had to learn on your own?

I think the most conventional skills I have used working for John were cataloging books, applying preservation knowledge to re-housing paper-based and photographic archival materials, record retention scheduling and the research skills I picked up in my degree program and working in libraries. As far as the skills I had to learn on my own, I had to learn about how to track auctions, gather provenance information, become familiar with the production and exhibition schedules of an art studio and the needs of John’s production staff. In the private world, you learn how to assess and serve the needs and priorities of your employer. In the MLIS program, it is sometimes taken for granted that everyone will eventually be working in a Public or University library setting. Its too bad that the private working world isn’t discussed more.

What would you consider the most rewarding parts of your job, and what are your biggest challenges as an information professional in a nontraditional environment?

I think the biggest challenge was learning how to communicate the needs of the archive and library to people who aren’t also librarians. I had spent most of my career around like-minded library staff who understood perfectly where I was coming from when I spoke about bone-folders and bindings. When I was the only MLIS working amongst artists, I discovered that I had to learn how to communicate more clearly about the needs of the minutiae of the library and archive. Initially I was out of my comfort zone.

What is a typical day like for you?

Working for John, I purchased and cataloged books, documented artwork in the database, created condition reports for artwork coming in and going out of the studio, performed research for outside reference inquiries, I tracked auctions and processed reproduction requests. There were always new tasks and projects popping up every day. Sometimes I wore multiple hats, where I was helping the production manager move large artwork around the studio, or running errands to lend a hand. We all worked together in the studio to get the job done.

During your talk in Fort Worth, you alluded to the fact that artists often have a need for people with LIS training, but they’re either not aware of the field or not able to articulate their needs using LIS language, so the two communities aren’t connected.

In your opinion, what is the impact of those jobs being filled by people who lack LIS training?

I think that LIS training is essential to perform the meticulous, detail oriented work that we are asked to do. Database management, creating and tracking inventories, cataloging books and other objects, performing research, maintaining any type of project schedule, etc. I believe there are “archivists” and “librarians” out there hired to do this kind of work who don’t have the training, skills and experience we do. As a result, I suspect there are some messes being made. Ultimately we are experts at preserving things and making them retrievable. In a world where there is so much being produced, digitally and physically, our skillset is an incredible asset. All we need to do is promote ourselves! How can we do this? Let’s work together to make ourselves invaluable!

Is there a community of information professionals who work with practicing artists? And how can interested ArLiSNAPers (and others) get involved?

That’s a great question! I don’t think so. I could be wrong, but I am not familiar with any group in Los Angeles. As the Southern California Chapter Chair, along with the chapter’s Vice-Chair Ben Lee Ritchie Handler, I want to reach out to all the archivists and librarians (professional or not) to form a network. We can all help each other, put together show-and-tells as well as workshops.

Do you have any advice for bridging the awareness gap between the two communities?

To be honest, I recommend joining your local ARLIS chapter and being very proactive! Cold email anyone who is working in creative spaces in your area and set up a visit for your chapter. Ask to interview local artists for your local chapter’s blog or website. Start communicating with a local gallery and offer your contact information in case any of the artists they represent need any assistance with their archive or documenting their work. Go to art gallery openings and start meeting people. Build your own resources.

Do you have any tips for job-seekers on how to approach artists about their information and content management needs?

I guess I answered this question above. But my biggest piece of advice is to put yourself out there. Email artists and tell them what you can do for them.

On Freelancing and Contracting: some conference cogitations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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