Category Archives: Guest Posts

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: http://arlisnap.arlisna.org/ 

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 arlisnap.na@gmail.com 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

————–

Best,
Melanie Zerah and Alison Baitz

An Internship Experience: Visual Resources

By A.M. LaVey

I spent 2020 in Belarus researching and writing my master’s dissertation on the topic of traditional textiles — specifically embroidery and ornament as codes of Belarusianness. I was in Belarus in August of that year, when protests began following the contested presidential elections. At the completion of my art history degree and my return to the states, I started a master’s in library and information studies at the University of Rhode Island, and am currently scheduled to graduate in December 2021.

This past summer, working with a Belarusian studies colleague, I was able to set up a professional field experience in visual information curation at the University of Michigan Fine Arts Library. I worked on a project that allowed me to use my combined subject librarianship skills in art and Slavic studies under the supervision of Jamie Lausch Vander Broek, Librarian for Art & Design. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, I conducted this internship remotely.

My internship project, in cooperation with the Stamps School of Art and Design at University of Michigan, was to help develop a digital exhibition for the library that focused on social media, protest art, and textiles in the context of the ongoing unrest in Belarus.

A protester wears the White-red-white flag on Independence Square in Minsk, Belarus, Aug. 20, 2020. (Photo by Jana Shnipelson)

I had several objectives for this experience: employing information representation and retrieval standards for visual information; evaluating, gathering and synthesizing information; and using technology to design an innovative resource to communicate this information to a wide range of audiences. I met these objectives through curatorial and digital exhibition design research, training with new technologies and digital platforms, writing descriptions and developing metadata systems for visual resources, serving as the exhibition cataloguer and bibliographer, and liaising between the library and the curator.

As the exhibition cataloguer, I researched a variety of textiles objects that had been collected by the curator within five major categories: flags, costumes, masks, embroidery, and digital ornaments. I researched, developed, and executed a visual resource metadata standard for the exhibit utilizing Omeka content management system, Dublin Core Metadata Element Set and the Getty Vocabularies. For each of the 73 items, I filled out the catalog record with the necessary metadata and wrote a description for it.

After completing the catalog, I developed five separate bibliographies corresponding to the five categories. Starting with the University of Michigan Library collection, I curated informational resources in Belarusian, English, Polish and Russian.

I am grateful to have had this experience. It gave me an entry point into academic/art librarianship and gave me a taste of what to expect. Because of the pandemic, I was unable to visit the library in person — in fact, my preceptor is still working from home —and therefore I feel I did not get a super authentic experience. Still, it should be a helpful stepping stone into future professional employment.

In regards to practical library skills, I learned a lot about the function of library exhibitions and all that goes into curating them. I also got to put my theoretical classroom knowledge of visual resource description as it relates to visual information representation and retrieval into action.

The project is ongoing.

Thanks to the ARLIS/NA Wolfgang M. Freitag Internship Award, I was equitably compensated for my labor.


A.M. LaVey is a bibliographer specializing in Slavic and East European spaces and an MLIS candidate at the University of Rhode Island. Research interests include the intersection of information and textiles and the creative function of visual archives.

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.

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 www.thewordeater.com.


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.

Guest Post: Kristin MacDonough of the Audiovisual Artifact Atlas

From March to December of 2014, I was the Coordinator for the Audiovisual Artifact Atlas. The AVAA (or “Atlas” if I’m feeling affectionate) is an online resource for identifying and diagnosing artifacts and errors you might encounter when reviewing or digitizing analog video and audio.  The Bay Area Video Coalition, located in San Francisco, currently hosts the site. As a technical resource, the AVAA is unique in its structure: developed as a wiki, it is an inherently community-based resource, which users can edit and contribute.

 

Video and audio artifacts are often hard to define, and even harder to diagnose. Errors can be recorded into the original content or introduced anywhere in the digitization workflow. Another difficulty is that separate fields use different terms and descriptions for the same errors. AVAA developers and contributors at BAVC and Stanford University wanted to strengthen the work being done with audiovisual reformatting by providing a resource with examples, a common vocabulary, causes and descriptions, as well as troubleshooting guidance wherever possible.   Determining if the error is correctable or if it is recorded in, and therefore permanent, helps us preserve the best quality possible.

Practitioners in any field that incorporates a/v reformatting—including librarians, archivists, conservators, curators, and service providers—benefit from using, sharing, and contributing to the AVAA.

 

In 2013, the National Endowment for Humanities awarded BAVC a grant to develop their project Quality Control Tools for Video Preservation. The project focused on a suite of open-source software tools (QCTools) designed to provide efficient analysis of digitized video content. (More information about QCTools is available here and the regularly updated software is available on GitHub.) Included in the grant was a position for an AVAA Coordinator to popularize the resource and help expand the analog video portion of the site.

 

There are just too many controllable and uncontrollable variables to accurately predict the life of any given videotape. Of equal, if not more, concern is the limited availability of playback equipment and technical expertise over time. With this in mind, more and more audiovisual stewards are digitizing their videotapes, either in house or with a service provider. In both cases, the archivist (or librarian, conservator etc.) responsible for the longevity of the collection is also responsible for ensuring the quality and accuracy of the digitized content. The AVAA and the QCTools software are designed to help people discover any artifacts and determine if the tape needs to be digitized again.

 

This position was one of my first jobs after graduating from a moving image archiving program, one which takes a holistic approach to the field of audiovisual archiving, However, I consistently found myself drawn to the technical side of video preservation, so I was already familiar with the Atlas and its usefulness as an educational resource. Most terms, examples, and definitions are provided by experienced technicians, many with decades of experience to cull from. Some video artifact terms are pulled from other available resources, notably BAVC’s Preservation Glossary and the Compendium of Image Errors in Analogue Video.

 

So how can you use this resource? If you’re looking at the site for the first time, you can start with the Table of Contents, which lists all of the audio and video errors on the site. Other good pages to browse are the Image, Video, and Sound Galleries. The galleries provide a quick view of many examples on the artifact pages and are a great visual and audible index if you’re looking for something in particular but you’re not sure what to call it or how to describe it.


avaa_imggallery

On each artifact page, you’ll find a summary of the artifact, including a description of how it looks or sounds and possible causes. In the “Can it be fixed?” section, proposed remedies to the problem are provided. In some cases however, artifacts may be recorded in from the original production or introduced through a previous tape dubbing or reformatting. Nearly all of the artifact pages have video examples or screenshots. However some pages we are still trying to source some examples, so if you see such a gap and you think you might have material to fill it, please let me know!

avaa_page

At my current position as a Digitization Specialist for a video collection, I use the Atlas to reference potential causes I encounter. In a recent case, I started to notice that certain tapes with minor skew problems (when a videotape stretches or shrinks, and the top of the image appears to angle to the left or right) had an occasional vertically shaky display and extreme skewing along the top of the image in some scenes. I determined the skew problem was recorded in and thus irreparable, and a review of the Video Gallery helped me determine it was a TBC (Time Base Corrector) processing error: the equipment was overcorrecting for the skew and introducing more errors.


TBC_compare

The AVAA strengthens the audiovisual preservation field as an easily accessible reference. If you have any questions or content you would like to add, please feel free to leave a comment or email me at  kristin(dot)macdonough (at)gmail(dot)com.

The Aura of Materiality: Digitization as Preservation

Guest Post by Jasmine Burns

When I started my MLIS degree in Spring 2014, it was immediately apparent that my research interests were much more theory-based than those of my colleagues. The practical nature of LIS can sometimes make it challenging for me to engage with my professors and peers in a meaningful way. For this reason, I was very excited when I was approached to write this post for ArLiSNAP, in which I will highlight some of the recent research and work that I have been conducting in the area of digitization and the digital surrogacy of visual materials. I whole-heartedly encourage any feedback and invite further conversations on the topics that are discussed here.

My research on this topic began with the thesis for my MA in Art History, which focused on the nature of digital surrogacy in relation to medieval manuscripts (a version of which was published in the most recent issue of Art Documentation). Here, I look into issues of materiality, virtuality, and the consequences of the digital reformatting of cultural heritage objects. This thesis was from the perspective of a researcher, rather than that of an Information Professional. Once I started my MLIS coursework, and the limitations of my arguments became clear, I started thinking about how issues of digital surrogacy translate to practical librarianship. This led me to start researching the topic of digitization as a method of preservation.

By Photo d'identité sans auteur, 1928 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Photo d’identité sans auteur, 1928 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I decided to frame the argument around Walter Benjamin’s often-cited text “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” and limit the scope of the overall work to archival photographs in particular. Benjamin states that the aura of an object is tied to its unique existence in time and space, and that this is essentially lost in reproductions because it breaks the object from ritual. This argument is widely applied to technology and digital media (via Jean Baudrillard’s Simulacra and Simulation), especially in discussions of photographs. In utilizing this particular lens to discuss the question of whether or not digitization is a viable method of preservation, there are two popular outlooks: 1) as long as the content is fully captured then the photo is adequately preserved; or 2) photographs are three-dimensional objects and photographic meaning is derived not from content alone, but also from the material evidence of its manufacture and use (i.e. aura) and if those elements are lost through digitization, then the object is not fully preserved.

My work in Digital Collections allows me to confront these issues on both a practical and theoretical level. I entered this investigation fully convinced that digital reformatting could never preserve the full scope of material and visual information contained in photographs because of the elimination of the material vessel. Therefore, the digital surrogate was merely a placeholder, or a reference to the original, and had little to no value outside of its ability to disseminate photographic content. However, as I dove deeper into theories of reproduction and representation, I discovered that these notions of value are socially constructed and derive from the dichotomy of copy versus original that is so deeply ingrained into our society, particularly through museum culture. Such notions are exacerbated by our object-centered culture, whose focus is on tactility, tangibility, and originality as authenticity. By perpetuating these ideas, as well as the argument that a reproduction does not carry value outside of its connection to the original, we are limiting any potential uses and values of digital media.

Ultimately, I have ended up flipping Benjamin’s argument on itself in favor of digital surrogacy. Without the tangibility of a photograph, the lack of materiality becomes the defining feature of the surrogate. It sounds strange, but hear me out: instead of viewing the elimination of the material vessel as a limitation to the uses and value of a surrogate, the creation and dissemination of digital representations of physical photographs constructs a framework for preserving these very qualities. Through the surrogate’s inseparable relationship with the socially constructed centrality of the original, and its inherently material existence, the digital object is both referring to the original, and existing as a unique object to be valued, maintained, and used. Therefore, although the material elements of the photograph are “lost” during digitization, the surrogate itself takes the place of the aura, as the more a work is reproduced, the more significant it becomes. The best way I can describe this is through the Mona Lisa. How many times have you seen reproductions of the image of that mysterious woman? How many of you have seen the actual painting? Do you remember any of the paintings in the room with her? I certainly don’t. Because you have encountered the reproduction on such a large scale, the act of viewing the original painting is greatly enhanced, and almost ritualized. The material qualities are so apparent in this encounter that it hardly matters that you have studied its content hundreds of times before.

So, is it good to have a healthy dose of skepticism, and follow Jean Baudrillard’s idea that technology will only create a self-referential society, devoid of actual meaning? Or do we need to move forward and embrace new theories of digital cultural heritage that promote new contexts for understanding digital surrogates through connections with their physical counterparts? What are some of your thoughts or experiences with digital surrogates, either as a researcher or practitioner?

Member Spotlight: Bronwyn Dorhofer, University of Oregon Portland

As our readers know, we here at the ArLiSNAP blog like our job postings. Today, we’re going to switch that up a bit and shine a spotlight on one of our “success stories,” Bronwyn Dorhofer.The original job posting can be found archived here: http://arlisnap.org/2012/02/17/job-posting-access-services-and-outreach-librarian-pt-university-of-oregon-portland-library-and-learning-commons-pllc/)

My current position is as Access Services and Outreach Librarian for the University of Oregon Portland Library and Learning Commons, a small satellite campus which serves the diverse research needs of students pursuing degrees in the spheres of architecture, digital arts and product design. My primary responsibilities are to manage the circulation and access services department, supervise and coach student workers, and to design outreach and marketing materials to promote library services to our Portland community.

I originally found the advertisement to my position through ArLiSNAP in February 2012, but was not officially recruited by the University of Oregon until March 2013. I was interested in this position because I was looking for professional librarian opportunities within the city of Portland which allowed me to continue working in an academic environment which had a commitment to serving art and design students. With my background in art history, museum and academic libraries and access services, this felt like a perfect opportunity for someone beginning their professional career. Thank you, ArLiSNAP!

Guest Post: Alison Verplaetse on the Summer Educational Institute for Visual Resources and Image Management

Alison Verplaetse took part in the most recent Summer Educational Institute on June 18-21, 2013. Find out more about this program at http://sei.vrafoundation.org/index.html

The Summer Educational Institute (SEI) is an excellent learning and networking opportunity for anyone currently involved or interested in a career in image management. As a fairly recently degreed librarian, I found SEI incredibly valuable: it not only taught immediately applicable skills, but also provided me with insight into future avenues of the profession. I would recommend SEI to anyone considering pursuing a career in Visual Resources as it provided a perfect opportunity to gain a broad perspective on what people are accomplishing in this area of librarianship.

SEI provided a unique opportunity to learn about the core aspects of image management –namely, metadata, imaging, copyright, and outreach–from top experts in their respective fields. I am incredibly grateful to have been a participant at SEI, and I feel I gained knowledge and professional connections that will benefit me throughout my career. Here is a quick run-down of the workshop sessions and speakers:

Our first afternoon at the institute included a lecture on Intellectual Property Rights given by the University of Michigan’s Associate General Counsel Jack Bernard. Mr. Bernard’s presentation was thoroughly engaging and informative, providing compelling copyright case studies that illustrated the essential tenets of copyright law in an accessible and useful way for library professionals.

The second day of SEI was the Metadata Intensive part of the workshop. The first session began with a Metadata Overview by Jenn Riley, the Head of the Carolina Digital Library and Archives at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Library. We discussed the most popular metadata schema currently used by cultural institutions and participated in completing sample metadata records in VRACore.  In the afternoon’s session, Greg Reser, the Metadata Specialist at University of California, San Diego, introduced the group to the concept and application of embedded metadata for image professionals.

The third day at SEI was an Imaging Intensive taught by Alex Nichols, the Academic Technology Coordinator at the Visual Resources Library at Michigan State University. His sessions spelled out the best practices and standards for digital imaging in terms of equipment, image quality, and workflow. In conjunction with the late afternoon session regarding the “Tools of the Trade,” in the Visual Resources field, this day introduced me to a number of relevant and useful applications for managing digital images.

The final day of the conference was organized in an “unconference” style, allowing us to interact and hear the ideas of our colleagues regarding collaboration, project management, keeping current in the field, and several other areas of visual resources management.  In a similar vein, the afternoon’s session, entitled “Expanding Your Role,” presented us with great ideas for reaching out to the community, both the people we serve in our profession and other professionals.

Whew! A lot happened in a just a few days at SEI. The best part, though, was getting to know my fellow participants. I met an excellent group of like-minded individuals whom I look forward to working with again in the future, and I was able to bring back a wealth of knowledge germane to both my current and aspirational professional endeavors.

Guest Post: Shannon Robinson, ALA 2013 – ACRL Arts Report

Shannon Robinson is the Fine Arts Librarian at Denison University.

The American Library Association (ALA) Annual held in June 2013 was my first ALA conference. I was awarded the New Members Round Table’s (NMRT) Professional Development Grant to attend the conference. I have been a member of NMRT for about a year. Similar to ARLiSNAP, NMRT members are students and new professionals. The group focuses on career development and leadership opportunities within ALA.

In the past year I also joined the Association of College and Research Libraries’ (ACRL) Arts section. ACRL Arts is the area of ALA that supports librarians and specialists working in the visual and performing arts. At the conference, ACRL Arts held a committee meeting followed by two presentations.

Amanda Meeks and Michelle Strizever presented Uncovering Hidden Art Collections about their summer 2012 work as the Smithsonian Libraries interns for artists’ books. Amanda and Michelle are also co-coordinators of ARLIS/NA’s Book Art Special Interest Group. Librarians who catalog and maintain artists’ book collections face many unique challenges. Many library staff members don’t understand preservation needs of artists’ books, which are actually artworks. Book art collections often share funding with other, more popular collections and book art collections would greatly benefit from better cataloging (including visuals in the item records). During their internship, Amanda and Michelle curated an exhibit of artists’ books from the Smithsonian’s collection. To promote the exhibition, they held a well-attended opening reception and blogged about the collection on Smithsonian Libraries Unbound.

Alex Watkins made the case for Why Open Access Matters for the Arts. It doesn’t seem like a strong case; after all, Alex reminded us, arts journals are the lowest journal prices of all the disciplines. However, universities around the world can’t necessarily afford these journals. Art history scholarship about a community (particularly non-western) can’t even be read by that community! For patrons of these libraries, open access is the only access. Another important point Alex made is that paywalls create a divide between academia and the public. The general public is very much engaged and interested in the arts yet cut off from much of the research and intellectual conversation about the arts. Open access invites the public to participate in this scholarship.

I was very impressed with both presentations and met new librarians at the meeting. I recommend joining the ACRL Arts listserv and, if you are a member of ACRL, join the section – it’s free! NMRT and ACRL Arts have made my ALA membership worthwhile.