An Interview with Ryan Flahive, Archivist at the Institute of American Indian Arts

Ryan Flahive is the Archivist at the Institute of American Indian Arts, a college focused on Native American Art. He comes to this position without a background in Library and Information Science, bringing a unique and different perspective to the job than is regularly seen in the ArLiSNAP interviews. Please read about his career journey, his work, and advice for getting into the profession below!

Can you tell us a little bit about your background, your current position, and how you got into the field?
I’m originally from a small farm town in Northeastern Colorado called Sterling, the youngest of nine children. My father, Frank Flahive, was dedicated to teaching the social sciences—history, government, geography, etc—at every level and spent his career fighting for teacher’s salaries through his volunteer position with the NEA. He is by far the greatest influence on my career. From an early age, my Dad and I spent countless hours at museums, libraries, cemeteries, and historic sites—reading every panel, stone, and engraving.

Fast forward to 1997—I moved to St. Charles, Missouri (just west of St. Louis) to play football and pursue a degree in History—in that order—at Lindenwood University (LU). During the course of my studies at LU, I discovered the world of anthropology, and added it as a second major. It was my anthropology advisor, Dr. Ray Scupin, who suggested I pursue a career in museums rather than a PhD in American History, which was the route my history professors preferred. After graduation from LU in 2001, I began a graduate program in history and Museum Studies at the University of Missouri-St. Louis (UMSL). The program is small; only twelve students are accepted each year. It focused on the overall management of cultural institutions—grant writing, policy development, strategic planning, curatorial basics, exhibiting planning, you name it—and rather than concluding the two-year degree with a capstone thesis, we were required to submit an exit project; something practical rather than esoteric. While other students in the cohort were interested in projects involving art conservation, exhibit development, or an education plan, I found archives. Specifically, I found the rotting archive of the St. Louis Public Service Company at the Museum of Transport in St. Louis County. Several hundred boxes were stored in a refrigerator box car at the back of the museum campus for over 25 years and documented the history of public transportation in St. Louis, c. 1870-1981 through maps, photographs, and other historic records. I couldn’t leave them to certain demise and set upon the task of preserving and arranging the materials. After nearly eighteen months of volunteer processing and preservation, I submitted the finding aid as my exit project and graduated from UMSL in May 2003. Since then I have worked in museum education in Wyoming (Ft. Caspar Museum, 2004), archives and rare book librarianship in Arizona (Sharlot Hall Museum, 2005-2009), and now as the Archivist at the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) in Santa Fe, New Mexico (2009-present). I am currently responsible for the historic record of our college and museum and teach museum studies courses (Basics of Archives Management and Oral Histories Research). My job, as a one-man-shop, is complicated. For some general information on the archives at IAIA, visit our webpage at https://iaia.edu/academics/library/archives/.

What does a typical day at work look like for you?
As I said above, my job at IAIA is complicated—but in a good way—so no day is typical. First and foremost, I am an educator. On any given day I might present the history of IAIA to a class or touring group, serve a variety of research patrons, grade papers, advise students, develop a syllabus, record a lecture for online delivery, or simply lend a sympathetic ear. Second, I identify as a practical historian dedicated to the development of alternative historic narratives. This part of my job entails not only helping my patrons develop these narratives through access to the archives but also through writing and publishing (Celebrating Difference: Fifty Years of Contemporary Native Arts at IAIA, 1962-2012, 2012; The Sound of Drums: A Memoir of Lloyd Kiva New, 2016). Last, but certainly not least, is my work as an archivist. By far the largest part of my job, my focus is on the overall management of the archives. I often work on policy revision and development, grant writing (never-ending), collection development, processing strategies, and digital asset & database management (http://econtent.unm.edu/cdm/insameindart, https://rmoa.unm.edu/results.php?inst=NmSfAIA). However, my day-to-day duties might include scanning and sharing photos with remote patrons, photo preservation, arrangement & description and everything in-between. As a museum professional, I have the honor and ability to work with our museum, The IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, on collaborative projects and also sit on the campus Public Art Committee. The curation of art and history exhibits and the development of important narratives within museums plays a daily role in my career.

Do you have any advice for current students and/or those on the job market?
My advise for students (who eventually become those on the job market)—for what its worth:
Be as effective as possible in as many tasks as possible. Become a good grant writer. Learn project management strategies. Continually develop your technical skills, both on the public end and the back end. In other words—don’t back yourself into a predefined box!
Get involved with professional organizations! Serve on boards, work on strategic plans, and expand your toolbox.
Can’t find a job? Volunteer! Working for free is not optimal, but maintaining your skills and professional network during tough times is a must.

What were/are some challenges for you in the library/archival field?
I have degrees in History and Museum Studies—but not a library degree. I had no formal training in archives during my college years, so I learned the primary concepts of archives management informally during my exit project and later during my first formal archivist job at Sharlot Hall Museum. In a way, the entire field was a challenge to me. Coding has always been problematic, EAD and XML in particular. Having no formal training on technical coding or database management, learning EAD in 2009-2010 using Oxygen was a major challenge.
There are several overreaching issues/challenges in the field that I try to address through my daily work. Most recently, I’ve been lecturing and writing about traditional archival access issues. Specifically, the need for archives and archivists to become proactive in the digital and visual repatriation of cultural materials to source communities and revising access policies (see my article “Repatriating History,” http://www.oif.ala.org/oif/?p=9030 for more information). Institutional equity is also an issue I address through professional board appointments. I try to do my part to assure that funds, both public and private, are available to small, rural institutions (including historical societies, museums, Tribal entities, and archives).

Tell us something fun about yourself! What do you do in your spare time?
Happily married for fourteen years, my wife and I have a twelve-year-old boy and a ten-year-old girl. The family consumes the majority of my spare time, and rightly so. That said, I spend much of the remainder of my free time on the game of disc golf, which I’ve been playing, teaching, and organizing since 1999. Luckily, my wife and children also caught the bug. You might find me throwing discs, planning a tournament, teaching a school clinic, designing a course, overseeing the installation of a new course, or cleaning up an existing course. My passion for the game worked its way into my professional life; in 2015 I organized the funding and installation of a championship course at IAIA accompanied by a health class in disc golf—the IAIA Disc Golf Course is a fun side project. For more information, visit our webpage at https://iaia.edu/student-life/disc-golf-course/.

If you could take a trip to visit any library in the world, which would it be?
Only one? The New York City Public Library for its dynamic map collection. The Trinity College Library in Dublin for its genealogical resources and architecture. And the McHenry Library at the University of California-Santa Cruz to visit the Grateful Dead archive!

A Success Story: An Interview with kYmberly Keeton, Independent Publisher & Art Librarian

What is the name of the employer/institution you work for, and your current position?
At this time, I am in transition and applying for jobs in art librarianship and museums. I currently work as a self-employed Independent Publisher/Art Librarian. My company name is entitled: bookista media group. In my current role, I design and create personal library digital and physical spaces in churches, cultural centers, and residential homes.

In like manner, I teach two online art courses as a Certified Online Scholar Instructor in conjunction with the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. I publish a monthly African American online art reference journal and digital exhibition space. Additionally, I write for an online magazine entitled, Ms. XFactor and serve on various professional committees in ALA, ACRL, and SAA. #mywebsite here.

Can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you got into the field of art librarianship?
I am an African American writer, librarian, and creative-mixologist. I graduated in 2014 from the University of North Texas with a Master’s of Library Science and obtained a graduate certificate in Digital Content Management. In 2008, I received a Bachelor’s and Baccalaureate Degree in English-Creative Writing from the University of Houston with a minor in African American Studies. Thereafter, I was a awarded a Graduate Certificate in African American Studies. The uniqueness about my graduate education, which led me to art librarianship, is that I am also an artist and trained curator.

In 2000, I began my professional career in museums as a Poetry Curator at the Arlington Museum of Art in Arlington, Texas. I then went on to become a Resident Literary Artist at the South Dallas Cultural center and taught in underrepresented communities for BIG THOUGHTS! as an Arts Integrationist. During my career, I had the opportunity to work as a Gallery Assistant at Richland Community College and as an Gallery Assistant/Art Docent at the University of Houston’s Blaffer Art Museum. Through these experiences, I have obtained extensive training through internships, workshops, taking courses, and shadowing others in the arts, librarianship, and education to have a balanced perspective and methodology about the arts.

When I decided to become a librarian I made sure that to look at all of the art institutions that would allow me to complete my practicum in a library setting. I completed my graduate practicum at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston Hirsch Library and helped develop the Houston Museum of African American Culture’s website platform and blog. I also had the opportunity during my graduate career to create ART_library deco, an African American online art reference journal. Today, it is a resource updated monthly, available to the global community, and embedded in libguides in academic libraries, and is used as a resource in secondary education.

What brought you to your current position?
I have always wanted to work in an artistic institution that housed a library. I decided to take a leap of faith; go out for my dreams and walk away from a position that I was in that was not creatively fulfilling. After thinking long and hard about my decision, I decided to apply for jobs that are tailored to my skill set in art and design librarianship as well as in curating, teaching, and archiving.

Through this process, I had the opportunity to take on my first entrepreneurial project for a historical African American church in Jefferson City, Missouri this summer. I designed and created the Dr. Carolyn V. Atkins Reading Room at Quinn Chapel A.M.E.; I archived four-hundred books, created a library management system, and designed the physical infrastructure. While creating this entity, I realized that it is important to always have a side hustle in librarianship and in any profession.

What does a typical work day look like for you?
At this juncture, I am curating an online poster exhibition in partnership with the National Museum of African American History and Culture entitled, “A Place for All People: Introducing the National Museum of African American History and Culture” a commemorative poster exhibition celebrating the opening of the Smithsonian’s newest museum that opened in September 2016. Based on the inaugural exhibitions of the museum, the posters highlight key artifacts that tell the rich and diverse story of the African American experience.

ART_library deco online exhibition space was chosen alongside a host of cultural institutions in the United States to share this body of work with the public. “A Place for All People” is organized by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) in collaboration with the museum. The exhibition will debut on the ART_library deco Exhibition Space platform on December 1, 2017 through February 28, 2018.

Do you have any advice for current students and/or those on the job market?
Honestly, I believe that you should apply to as many places as possible in your area of expertise. Do not be afraid to go out for what you want in this profession. In like manner, keep at professional development. Attend free online conferences and enroll in open access or moocs that will help with or introduce you to a new set of skills that will help you in the future. Be positive and maintain your health. Remember that you are not alone. Feel free to read my take about my own journey more in depth here.

What were/are some challenges for you as an art librarian? Are these related to larger challenges in art librarianship?
The lack of opportunities for African American art librarians, curators, and archivists is dismal to say the least in our profession. Regardless, I feel that it is imperative to apply for what you know that you can do to best serve the greater community and for your own professional goals.

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, what would it be?
I get a kick out of shooting pool, traveling the globe, and chilling in my design studio. If I could visit any library in the world it will be the presidential library of Barack Obama.

Canadian Librarians Spotlight: An Interview with Daniel Payne

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

The Dorothy H. Hoover Library, OCAD University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Can you tell us a little bit about your background, your current position, and how you got into the field of (art) librarianship?

I have a Bachelor of Education and a Master’s degree in musicology, but I never really felt fully comfortable in either environment. Teaching in a traditional classroom is rewarding; however, I always feel so confined in my ability to access knowledge-building tools. In a library, I am surrounded by informational learning resources—print, electronic, audio-visual, or through the knowledge of my peers—and this level of connectedness cannot be replicated in even the most high-tech, wired, “smart” classroom.

I started working at OCAD University in 2002 and moved from a contract position at a smaller Canadian university that likely was going to become a permanent, tenure track position. When the job at OCAD U was posted—even though the pay was not ideal and the faculty status situation not as secure, I took the risk as it offered an ideal opportunity to explore librarianship in a creative research environment, which for me is a perfect way to combine my artistic and academic interests.

What does a typical day at work look like for you? What is usually the highlight of your day?

One of the best things about working in libraries is that there really are no “typical days.” Although I do spend much time in my workweek covering reference desk services, I’m fairly consistently in the classroom offering information literacy sessions for courses, attending curriculum meetings, working on professional development activities, buying books, helping manage our database collections, developing our web site, preparing for conferences, researching and writing, and so on. I feel that, as a librarian, I’m able to define what my work day will look like and not be confined by the classroom, with its set class times, static textbooks, and limited office hours.

Perhaps—in all honesty—the highlight of my day is working at the reference desk. Although many academic librarians are moving away from this service node in favour of the classroom, I find it one of the most vital tools I have as a librarian for communicating collegially with students, staff, and faculty. I can’t count the number of information literacy sessions, collection development requests, and professional networking contacts I’ve made through the random, informal discussions I’ve had at the reference desk. It is a communications platform that is unique; educators such as Paulo Friere often advocate for reform in pedagogy through the use of active learning models which empower researchers to discover their own sense-making pathways to knowledge. I truly feel that the reference desk is one of the most powerful learning spaces we currently have in our educational system for fully embodying a more egalitarian, democratic approach to learning in what Friere calls the “practices of freedom.” It’s because the person asking the question initiates the research journey and, in a way, is in direct control over the educational experience. I work collegially with them to try to come to some resolution, but a reference inquiry is truly a patron-led mode of teaching and learning.

Do you have any advice for current students and/or those on the job market? What are the most important things emerging art librarians should know?

I find this a very difficult question to answer; mainly because we are currently in a very challenging work environment and it seems that many of the older established models for librarianship as a profession are changing. But I would encourage all new librarians to be patient, proactive, and passionate. Patience is required because those perfect jobs are rarely available immediately and realistically one has to build towards this ultimate goal. Sometimes—and this is difficult for me to say as I feel that I do have the perfect job!—these “dream” jobs simply don’t exist, so one is forced to put together a career piecemeal.

This is where the proactive component is important. Being flexible and adaptable; smiling through adversity; being willing to re-locate to begin building one’s career are all essential skills. Yet these diverse experiences, though frustrating at times, will offer a multi-modal knowledgebase to prepare you for the professional agility required in this new economy. Part of being proactive is also realizing that wherever you are working, you can find some way to use these skillsets to learn something and build your overall life experiences.  I remember hearing a comment by a rising young art gallery owner who worked at the OCAD U Library several years ago re-shelving books. He claimed that everything he knows about art theory was gleaned from putting books back on the shelf. It’s not that he learned about these aesthetic theories in depth—this is unquestionably the domain of the studio or classroom; but the library helped him to understand how these theories relate to other ones by their spatial relation to other books on the shelf. Likely all young aspiring librarians know, based on previous student work experiences, how repetitive re-shelving books can be and, perhaps even more tediously, shelf-reading; but this rising new voice in the art world realized that working in a library was a critical, once in a lifetime opportunity and used it for maximum benefit. So if one envisions this “pastiche” of careers as a collage, it does take on a new sense of unity. It may not be a gesamtkunstwerk (total work of art) expressing one controlled and contained totality, but a collage has a vitality of its own that, in a way, is more dialogic.

Finally, the passion part ensures that—wherever you end up settling career-wise—the founding vision statements of librarianship stay with you. Whether it be the “Statement on Intellectual Freedom” by the Canadian Library Association or S.R. Ranganathan’s Five Laws of Library Science; these documents are revolutionary and, considering how market-driven, commodified, surveilled, and commercialized our lived spaces are becoming, we need to fight for this last bastion of information equity in our world.

What were/are some challenges for you as an art librarian? What do you think are current challenges in the field of art librarianship or librarianship in general, particularly within Canada?

Be warned: I’m going to go on a bit of a tirade ;-) But perhaps my biggest challenge is the feeling that as a librarian, I’m going head-to-head with the massive multi-billion dollar commercial marketing machine of Google! I am only being slightly facetious though; recent statistics provided by OCLC in their Perceptions of Libraries survey indicate that, almost ubiquitously, people are using search engines such as Google as their sole portal for accessing information for all research needs from personal to academic to professional. Primarily my concern is that Google is a private company and the bottom line for all their services is profit. What’s the bottom line for a library that looks to the “Statement on Intellectual Freedom” for its operational mandate? Social justice, human rights, freedom of information, and the right to privacy!

Linked to the for-profit situation, Google searching has enforced a strange impulse in researchers to approach all topics in an almost myopically literal manner. Given the volume of information accessible on the open internet, generally whatever search topic is entered in Google always guarantees results that are precisely related to the initial search topic. Furthermore, almost ubiquitously, that first web link retrieved is a Wikipedia entry (I mean, really, is Wikipedia always the top source for all searches? Doesn’t this make anyone suspicious?). But for me, the essence of research, especially in the work of creativity, is finding something that you don’t expect and having to struggle to figure out why this new, unanticipated information has been retrieved. This scenario is further exacerbated by Google’s search features that start profiling us individually based on our previous search histories and starts feeding us sites that it thinks that we’d be interest in. This, of course, is the quintessential “filter bubble” scenario. So now in my work as a reference librarian, I find that year-by-year, my new mantra is to plead with researchers to stop thinking so literally and start finding pathways for thinking laterally. Our library search tools and collections are entirely built on this latter premise.

Finally, my third and inter-related concern is that the search engine has completely weaned people off of any other search strategies. Google is always Plan A and in the rare circumstances where it fails, people have no Plan B alternatives. Using library catalogues, abstracts and indexes, a library’s discovery layer, even knowing how to browse for books in a library, have all become so foreign to everyday researchers, that these bibliographic literacy practices have left people’s consciousness as viable alternatives for accessing information. Out of sight; out of mind.

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?

As a reference librarian, I’ve found that there are two broad topics that have been essential for my work; one is related to theory (and I wish that this had been taught more consistently in my library sciences’ education) and the other, practice (which I sorely wished that I didn’t have to learn in school, but am now so grateful that I did!).

My first educational principle is a deep, reflective knowledge of the writings of former library science theorists. Much of my current work as a librarian is entirely shaped by Brenda Dervin’s concept of sense-making, Carole C. Kuhlthau’s ISP, and S.R. Ranganathan’s “Five Laws of Library Sciences.” I might have stumbled across these visionaries while researching for LIS essays, but I feel that a required course in library history is essential for all ALA accredited programs. Knowing how library workers throughout history have dealt with new technologies, changing research needs, and new modes of accessing knowledge is critical; now more than ever when the pace of change seems to be moving at lightning speed.

Secondly in regards to practice, while in library school I took a course titled “Thesaurus Construction” in which I received the worst mark on my LIS record and close to the lowest in my entire academic career. The curricular material was gruellingly dull; in one class I fell asleep while tipped back in my chair which was balanced on the back two legs. The clatter and ensuing thud was, I’m sure, deafening.  But since then, I have grown to appreciate how these ways of envisioning information in hierarchies, working from broad to narrow terms, has helped me inordinately in assisting others to make sense of how libraries are organized. I use these principles in all my information literacy sessions, when working on web pages, creating search guides, answering reference questions, even when writing emails. When one thinks about the basic organizational unit for libraries—the call number—this unique coding language embodies the hierarchy of subjects that libraries employ: from main classes to subclasses down to Cutter numbers. These unique identifiers—the URL address for the print book on the shelf—encode how libraries envision knowledge structures and convey our sense-making way of processing ideas in the world. The fact that these indexical symbols then become wayfinding devices makes for a perfect metaphor for the entire library endeavour.

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

I might use much of my earlier Google tirade to answer this question! But perhaps to emphasize this issue anecdotally: most often when I tell people I work as a librarian, after a brief quizzical pause then the inevitable “you must get to read a lot of books!” comment, people always tend to chime in: “I love libraries; I love the smell of books.” Much as I’m loathe to discourage any positive commendation for libraries in an age when the institution seems in such a precarious state, I have found the phrase too glib, almost dismissive. I think it’s because this colloquialism is so steeped in a romanticized sense of nostalgia that it seems to relegate libraries to the status of a charming old dusty antiquarian shoppe. I feel like I should carry a copy of the CLA Statement on Intellectual Freedom wherever I go and make people read it immediately after saying they love libraries. Libraries—and this is where I get to the part about the “most rewarding” part of my job—are radical institutions that are one of the last bastions for advocating for public empowerment with no strings attached.  In a recent interview, I was asked “What do librarians do all day anyway?” I answered that we create communities through fostering communication. The reason that librarians build collections, evaluate research methodologies, manage data, or teach our users how to become information literate is so that people can become active members of a knowledge community. Not only do we teach people how to ask questions, but—perhaps most importantly—we suggest pathways for answering them.  Again, with no strings attached. We’re not trying to sell products, ideas, or lifestyles. We’re here solely so that people can empower themselves with knowledge. So instead of people saying “I love libraries,” I wish they would be a little more specific and say something like, “I love how libraries are so subversively radical”!

Do you have any insight or advice as to how ArLiSNAP can assist in connecting emerging Canadian and American information professionals?

Keep up your membership with ARLIS/NA! The Society has been so remarkable in maintaining an open line of communication between countries. At the local level, the avenues that ARLIS/NA offers for students in administrative positions and providing special funding grants are commendable, so participating in regional chapters can open a host of professional opportunities and the capability of attending annual conferences which truly are international ventures.

Tell us something fun about yourself! What do you do in your spare time? If you could take a trip right now to visit any library in the world, which would it be?

I have an insatiable appetite for live music and seem to spend almost every weekend visiting Toronto’s Rex Hotel for a weekly dose of jazz. Also, I’ve been a cellist since high school and spent part of my early career as a professional musician.

Playing music has been an essential part of my life; even though I’m not as active now that I work as a full time reference librarian, I have a much more manageable musical schedule. Aside from ongoing annual performances of Handel’s Messiah with Arcady Choir and Orchestra (http://arcady.ca/), I am focused mainly on my role as the principal cellist for the Counterpoint Community Orchestra (http://www.ccorchestra.org/). I find this collegial music-making environment utterly fulfilling. In the past, I had to rely on making money through performing, but now I can relax and enjoy playing the classics of Beethoven, Brahms, Tchaikovsky and more purely for the sake of making music.

And my response for visiting a library? In all honesty, I would re-do the entire ARLIS/NA 2016 Study Tour to Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht, and Den Hague, in the Netherlands (https://www.arlisna.org/studytour2016-Netherlands/). I splurged and took part in this trip and found that every aspect of the trip was magical!

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.

Alt-Career Spotlight: Suzanne Quigley, Owner at Art & Artifact Services

This series of interviews will 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 institution/employer you work for?

Art & Artifact Services, my own company, founded in 2005.

Can you tell us a little bit about your background and your current position?
I have a BFA in painting, an MLIS (UW Madison) and my art history thesis was on 16th century German graphics, specifically the ‘godless painters of Nürnberg’. As an undergrad, I worked in the Art History slide library under the tutelage of Christine Sundt. While in grad school, I wrote a program to catalog 23,000 textiles and provide access on an optical laser disc – that was awhile ago! Upon graduation, I became the visual resources librarian at Kenyon College in Ohio. That was followed by a 7-year stint as Registrar at the Detroit Institute of Arts, followed by 4 years doing the same thing (but on a global scale) at the Guggenheim Museum, followed by 6 years at the Whitney Museum of American Art. At every institution I shepherded the process of identifying and implementing a comprehensive collection management system and making sure the procedures yielded good stuff in/good stuff out. That aside, logistics became another favorite pastime. Currently I manage private and corporate art collections (acquisitions, cataloging, loans, deaccessions, policies, etc.) and occasionally, once the curator knows what she wants, I will manage a traveling exhibition: initial budget estimates, loan negotiation, venue negotiation, insurance, assembly, installation, tours — all the way to dispersal. Soup to nuts!

What brought you to your current position?
When I was about 10 years old, I had a lot of books. Still do! In fact, there were so many that it was necessary to group them to see if I had any books missing in a series. I actually gave them catalog numbers in black marker on the spines. Some of the spines didn’t last, but the will to organize was obvious at an early age. I guess that was the beginning of it all. After many years of museum work, I found myself getting further and further away from the art itself. I had often hired experienced contract registrars so I knew it was a viable field. I also had a rich professional background, a double rolodex, and my husband’s full support to give it a whirl. So, I did the research to establish an LLC, created a graphic identity, a website, a boilerplate contract and haven’t looked back. I stay engaged in the profession and have served as a formal and an informal mentor over the years.

What does a typical workday look like for you?
When I work at a client’s site, I get up early so I can be there at 9, not a small thing as sometimes the commute is 2 hours each way. I might supervise an installation crew, I might review and adjust policies, do some cataloging and/or data entry, take photos of new acquisitions, and with corporate clients there are always meetings. Generally all clients like lots of reports sorted in various ways — ways that are not always an easy call and necessitate the creation new reports on the backend of the database.

But as much of my work (maybe 80%?) can be done in my home office, I first check email while still in bed (a bad habit, but doesn’t everyone?). Once at the computer, I review my todo list, set priorities for the day and I plow through them. I record my tasks and time spent by client for the monthly billing. Email is an annoyance and when I need to concentrate for a prolonged period I will turn it off. My phone is on stun too and I often leave it in the other room and check it whenever I get up to stretch or feed the cats.

Do you have any advice for current students and/or those on the job market?
A variety of internships will stand one in good stead, but it is important to stay engaged, write, attend even local conferences or online seminars. Seek a mentor, keep learning, participate in webinars, join professional groups – c’mon they aren’t that expensive – what? Maybe 4 pizzas? Some associations have student membership levels.

What are some of the current challenges you see in your field or the art/information science field?
Just one example, the international aspect of recording bibliographies in a database can be daunting. I often get bibliographic references in Chinese. Did you know that there is an online ARTFORUM in Chinese?? I can cut and paste Chinese characters into my database, but I have no idea what it says or if the data is in the correct field. That, and the challenge of obtaining archival materials in India and the Far East (with the exception of Japan).

Tell us something fun about yourself! What do you do in your spare time?
I find that cooking a huge meal for friends and family and having the timing come out perfectly is a wonderful diversion. I also like to look out the window of my office. On a clear day I can see the blue mountains of the Catskills on the other side of the Hudson River, about 12 miles away. In the heat of the summer, we like to stay at a thatched roof cabin on a bay in the north of Donegal where our neighbors are cows or sheep.

Alt Career Spotlight: Kristine Heid-Santiago, Image Content Manager at ARTSTOR

This series of interviews will 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 work for ARTSTOR, which is now part of the ITHAKA family – alongside JSTOR, PORTICO, and ITHAKA S&R.

Can you tell us a little bit about your background and your current position?
My undergraduate degree from SUNY Geneseo is a Bachelors in Anthropology and Art History, with a concentration in Cultural Anthropology. While there, I interned at BOCES, processing and cataloguing their archive of documentary photographs of migrant workers. The first full-time job I had post-undergrad was as a Keyworder for a stock photography agency. That position piqued my interest in pursuing a Masters in Library and Information Science (concentration in Archives and Records Management) from Pratt Institute. Immediately following that program, I went to the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) for a Masters in Fashion and Textile Studies, which offers training in both curatorial work and textile conservation. While at FIT, a temp agency connected me with ARTSTOR to work part-time in the Metadata Department. For almost two years, I worked on various data projects, before leaving for an object conservation internship at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MMA), which led to a part-time cataloguing job.

What brought you to your current position?
After two years at the MMA, my former boss from ARTSTOR convinced me to return to work as a Metadata Librarian – I have been here ever since.

What does a typical work day look like for you?
The ARTSTOR Digital Library (ADL) is an online aggregator of (mostly) fine arts images. Much of my time is spent analyzing contributed data and “enhancing” it with in-house classification terms, the Getty’s TGN nation terms, and assigning earliest and latest dates, in an attempt to (very generally) standardize it. I also review the data for copyright issues – whether or not the images may be displayed in ADL internationally or only domestically. Additionally, my colleagues and I are working to make ADL images more discoverable, especially alongside JSTOR articles.

Do you have any advice for current students and/or those on the job market?
Technology is fast and furious. I highly recommend taking as many technological courses as possible. However, you should always study what you love – it makes it much more fun!

What are some of the current challenges you see in your field or the art/information science field?
The biggest challenge is keeping up with technology. Automation often comes up as a quick and dirty solution, but dirty implies that we then need labor-intensive manual cleanup. However, without any automation, wrangling data for over 2 million images is a rather daunting task. Difficult to find the balance.

Tell us something fun about yourself! What do you do in your spare time?
Reading and travel are pastimes I love, but rarely get to enjoy. My love for art endures, especially that of worldwide ancient cultures. I am also fascinated with onomastics – the study of names and their origins/meanings.

Canadian Librarians Spotlight: An Interview with Mark Black

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

Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity

Can you tell us a little bit about your background, your current position, and how you got into the field of (art) librarianship?

I’m currently the manager of the Paul D. Fleck Library and Archives at Banff Centre. I have been working libraries in a variety of positions from clerk to marketing to home delivery to programming to youth librarian since 1997. I also have worked in television as a researcher and production coordinator.

My arts background is mostly in music and the literary arts. When it comes to fine arts, I would say my formal skill set is somewhat lacking. I spent a few years working in this library as a clerk back in 2001-2003 so I have called on that experience a lot. Luckily I wasn’t hired to be an artist, I was hired to be a librarian. I do need to modify my approach depending on needs, but ultimately the goal is to put people in touch with what they need in order to create and learn.

It’s been a very circuitous route. I was lucky to have worked for a number of librarians who encouraged me to pursue librarianship. My grades were not good, but everything I did from 1997 until I entered grad school had a library or research focus. I made it hard for them to not accept me because I wouldn’t settle for anything but a yes.

What brought you to your current position? 

I was a youth librarian at an under-resourced and heavily used public library.  I loved the staff and kids I worked with, but it could be a very taxing job. I’m probably describing the work of every public librarian ever. I wanted to prove myself in a leadership role and the opportunities to do so weren’t present. I had promised myself that after two years in my position I’d re-evaluate where I was headed career wise. Almost exactly two years to my start date this job was posted and it seemed like fate. I had worked at Banff Centre in the library early in my career and thought it might be the right fit for me again. I was lucky that they thought so too.

What does a typical day at work look like for you?

Check email, meetings with departments, staff, faculty, and artists on how the library can support their work – whether through our current collections, increased access to resources, or hosting programming, reference questions, taking care of paperwork (HR, budget, scheduling, health and safety, purchasing), trying to plan for and prognosticate the needs of our users – I want to make sure that we not only react to their needs, but anticipate them, drink too many cokes, and a steady iTunes soundtrack.  Also in there is reading to stay on top of trends and news that impacts our library and our community of users and trying to squeeze in professional development.

What were/are some challenges for you as an art(s) librarian? What do you think are current challenges in the field of art librarianship/librarianship in general, particularly within Canada?

One of my greatest struggles is developing a collection that is inclusive. We work in an industry that is primarily white with materials that are predominantly produced by white people. Our collections and our practices have a lot of blind spots. We have to be better. It’s a big conversation that has to happen at so many levels – collections, library schools, hiring practices, programming, etc. and I’m not sure we as librarians are actively having it

Do you have any advice for current students and/or those on the job market? What are the most important things emerging art librarians should know?

Be honest in interviews. Know your value, know why someone would want to hire you, and communicate that in an interview.  Formulate a game plan of how you are going to sell yourself and your abilities in an interview and make sure to hit those notes.

You’re trying to create a relationship in an interview as quickly as possible.  It will help you make a decision on whether this job is a good fit if you do your best to be you throughout it.

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

I’m not entirely convinced that my LIS education sufficiently prepared me for what I would encounter in the field so to speak. I had a lot of well educated, distinguished, and intelligent professors, but what I was taught in the classroom and what I encounter in practice are often quite different. There can often be a gap between library academics and library practitioners. It’s not a right or wrong situation, it’s just that my experience in libraries didn’t always match up with what I learned in the classroom.

The three biggest areas where I had to learn on my own were: public outreach and community building, leadership/coaching/managing a staff, and finances (budgeting, grant applications, business proposals).

Luckily there are lots of colleagues who have been in the same position and you can draw on a diversity of opinions and experiences – that has helped a lot.

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

Most rewarding: Putting someone in touch with something they didn’t know existed or didn’t know was accessible– as librarians we can often make the impossible seem possible and that is a great feeling.

Biggest challenge: No library is free from this – there are still a lot of people who do not understand the possibilities of the library and what a library can offer (whether it’s academic, public, special etc.). It’s an ongoing struggle to prove our relevance to people who not only haven’t been through our doors, but don’t even know where our doors are.

Do you have any insight or advice as to how ArLiSNAP can assist in connecting emerging Canadian and American information professionals?

Mentor partnering, informal meet-ups and chats, opportunities to partner with more established information professionals for presentation or writing opportunities – really just anything that gives people a chance to speak honestly, connect, and share knowledge in an environment that drops ranks and allows everyone to be themselves. We all need a place where we can ask earnest questions without feeling dumb or judged.

Tell us something fun about yourself! What do you do in your spare time? If you could take a trip right now to visit any library in the world, which would it be?

Baseball, music (mostly punk rock), reading, and travel are my biggest outlets. I’m trying to  get back into ice skating and skiing now that I am back in the mountains – my mileage will vary.

Easy – the Giamatti Research Center at the National Baseball Hall of Fame Library in Cooperstown, New York. I have dreamed of working there for almost 20 years.  Some day?

A Success Story: An Interview with Kraig Binkowski, Chief Librarian of the Reference Collection at the Yale Center for British 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 went to undergraduate school in Detroit, at Wayne State University where I majored in fine arts – printmaking. From there I went to Ohio State University for an MFA degree in printmaking with a focus on intaglio. I returned to Detroit and tried for several years to put food on the table by making prints and teaching. After a particularly lean summer that included working on a bread delivery truck and pressing tile in a pottery, I decided that I needed to change course. I had been exposed to the library science program at Kent State while at OSU and was curious about the program at Wayne State University. I immediately fell in love with Purdy Library and was excited to be able to apply my humanities background to my coursework and then eventually (I hoped) in a professional position. I was drawn to special collections librarianship and though I hoped to be able to work as an art librarian, I was happy to be in any special collection — I worked in the Law Library throughout my time in the LIS program. Shortly after graduation, I was very fortunate that a position as an assistant librarian opened up at the Detroit Institute of Arts, a museum I had loved since childhood. I admittedly had little knowledge of the research library but I immediately clicked with the Head Librarian, Jennifer Moldwin, who took a chance on hiring a librarian/artist with little museum background. Jennifer went on to teach me what it means to be a museum librarian. From the DIA I moved to the Delaware Art Musuem where I was in charge of the small but focused library collections, one of which was a rich research and manuscript collection devoted to the British Pre-Raphaelite artists. This was my first real exposure to British art and artists and it would prove fruitful several years later when I applied for the position of Chief Librarian of the Reference Collection at the Yale Center for British Art. I have been here at Yale for over 12 years now and really love and appreciate not only the work, but also my colleagues and the physical atmosphere of the Center at Yale.

What does a typical day at work look like for you?Unfortunately, many of my days include too many meetings. But, my days always look different from each other and that’s one of the things that initially attracted me to art librarianship – I do research, acquisitions, bib instruction, reference, training; I work with other librarians, interns, students, faculty, museum staff and the general public – all of this means I have to be good at prioritizing and focusing when I need to but it also keeps each day interesting.

Do you have any advice for current students and/or those on the job market?
The scariest thing for a manager and a librarian to do is to hire a new staff member. It’s a daunting task to try and get to know a potential new librarian over interview meetings lasting only a few hours in one day. So, it is very helpful to already have some insights about a candidate, particularly if they have interned or volunteered at the library, or worked with the hiring librarian through ARLIS or some other professional organization. If I don’t know a candidate, I put a lot of stock in the recommendation of my friends and colleagues in the profession, particularly those that I know fairly well. I would recommend to any candidate that they try to let the hiring librarian get to know them in any way possible before the interview – and enlist the help of colleagues that know both you and the hiring librarian.

What were/are some challenges for you as an art librarian? What do you think are current challenges in the field of art librarianship or librarianship in general?
Well, I think funding is a challenge for art libraries and librarians, but that’s always been a challenge – it’s nothing new. I feel one of the biggest challenges for art librarians (particularly in museums) is to stay relevant in an institution – and while that’s a struggle, it’s also one of the things that makes art librarianship exciting. Scholarship is always changing and evolving, the rise of digital scholarship and the technical analysis of objects has opened up new doors that librarians have to be aware of, and to excel at. We never want to be seen as lagging behind the field, but in the forefront, pushing the boundaries.

Tell us something fun about yourself! What do you do in your spare time?
I am a printmaker, as I wrote earlier, and I still make woodcuts for exhibitions in New Haven and around the Northeast, mostly. I have a small etching press that I adapt for wood blocks and commandeer my dining room with the press, paper and tools when I need to print an edition. I have two children that take up a lot of my spare time but I have started to learn to play the guitar recently – so far, I only know two different songs (and not even completely), but it’s a start.

A Success Story: An Interview with Molly Schoen

Molly Schoen works as a Visual Resources Curator at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. She was kind enough to answer a few questions and tell us more about her work and experience!

Can you tell us a little bit about your background, your current position, and how you got into the field of art librarianship?

It all started in my undergrad years (at Michigan State University), when I got a part-time job working in the Government Documents library. I found that I really enjoyed getting things in order, like cleaning up messy catalog records. And I loved the tactile nature of the work, too: bone folders, label makers, tattle tape and date stamps! I was getting a Bachelor’s in English but didn’t know what to do with it, so I decided to go to library school. I ended up getting accepted in to Wayne State University’s Fine & Performing Arts Librarian program, which was great because I’ve always been interested in art and music.

After getting my MLIS, I worked part-time at a collection of modern and contemporary black art in Flint, MI. Three years later, I got a full-time position at the University of Michigan, in their Visual Resources Collections. The experience from that job helped me land my current position of Visual Resources Curator at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, NY. I’ve been working here for a year and a half now, and I love it!

What does a typical day at work look like for you?
A typical day for me depends on what time of year it is. Right now, in the middle of the summer semester, there’s hardly anyone around. So I use this time to really get in the zone and catch up on image orders, where our History of Art faculty request images they need for teaching. I also assist faculty on their projects, such as building databases and other online resources.

Things are busier during the academic year. Along with our department technician, we will make sure our HA classrooms are up-to-date and advocate for upgrades. I also present one-shot sessions on visual literacy to various classes throughout the university, showing students how to find and use visual media ethically and efficiently. Because FIT is full of artistic students, I’ll demonstrate strategies to safeguard their own work and answer copyright questions. I’ve also worked on securing publishing rights for images a professor wanted to include in a book she was writing.

Do you have any advice for current students and/or those on the job market?
Volunteer and get a wide variety of experience under your belt. I finished grad school in 2009, which was not exactly the best time to be looking for a job. I was worried I wouldn’t find anything in the art libraries field, so I volunteered at the reference desk of a public library to get additional experience. I had volunteered at the Visual Resources Collections at U of M before I was hired there, and that really helped me land the full-time gig.

I would also say not to discount service industry jobs. I used to be really shy, and waiting tables and working in retail helped me get over that. These kinds of jobs may seem unrelated to library work, but they demonstrate to employers that you can handle conflict and think on your feet.

What were/are some challenges for you as a new art librarian? Are these related to larger challenges in art librarianship?
I think staying on top of technology is always a challenge. As a librarian, I want to be able to recommend the best products and resources for our faculty and students to use. That also ties into a larger challenge faced by our profession: justifying our work to administrators looking to slash budgets. People have asked me, why do we need libraries now when there’s Google? That’s like saying why do we need doctors when there’s WebMD? Google will bring you a million results; a librarian will find you the right one.

Tell us something fun about yourself! What do you do in your spare time?
In my spare time I like to oil paint and play guitar!

The Artist/Librarian: An interview with Kylie Schmitt

Kylie Schmitt, Digital Technician at the Frick Art Reference Library, at her computer workstation.

As art librarians we obviously have an affinity for the visual and creative arts.  In fact many of us found our field by starting originally as artists.  Kylie Schmitt, an early professional at the Frick Art Reference Library, is both librarian and artist.  She shares more information about her work as an information professional and as a practicing artist.

What is your current position? 

Digital Technician

What are your day-to-day responsibilities?

On a day-to-day basis I perform quality assurance (QA) on our digitization projects’ TIF and PDF files; I create workflows for our digitization and QA processes; manage our digitization and QA team; maintain, organize, & backup files within our DAMS and local drives; officiate digitization requests; and report on progress of digitization projects numerically.

Tell us about what a typical work day looks like for you.

On a typical day I’ll start with some QA. Throughout the day I’ll manage others doing QA, answer questions, and troubleshoot issues that we have come across. I also will monitor if we have any digitization requests and by the end of the day I’ll have probably done some organization of files either on our DAMS or on a local drive.

What does quality assurance mean in your field?

Quality assurance is a process that all digital materials go through before they can be approved to go public. The process entails putting another set of eyes on digitized items to make sure all of our digital file standards are met. Our standards range from file size/resolution standards based on Federal Agencies Digitization Guidelines Initiative (FADGI), to making sure nothing foreign accidentally made it into the frame.

Can you describe one of your favorite digitization projects that you have worked on?

Each project takes quite a while to complete, however, I think I like our American School Digitization project best because as someone working on it you get to look at American art all day.

What is your educational background? How did you come into librarianship as a field?

I received my Bachelor’s in Studio art, concentrating in photography. After working in the fine art and advertising worlds, I realized it wasn’t for me, but I still wanted to stay in the arts. I worked at the Marymount Manhattan library while attended as an undergrad student and thought I should combine my enjoyment of the library with my passion for the arts so I went back to school and received my Master’s in Library Science.

What type of artwork do you primarily do?

Photography and ceramics.

How did you get into photography and ceramics?

When I was 10 years old my dad gave me my first camera. It was his manual film camera and he taught me how to use the aperture and shutter settings. I’ve been taking pictures ever since then but didn’t develop and print my own work until I went to Maine Media Workshops after high school. I took ceramics in grade school and was in pottery club, but then it wasn’t available in high school so I didn’t go back to it until I was in college where I fell in love with it again.

Does the your library work influence your artwork? What about vice-versa?

I don’t use a digital camera in my artwork which probably has to do with the fact that I work on a computer all day at the library. I do gain inspiration from seeing so many pieces of art at work on a daily basis.

So can you describe the medium of the image you are sharing?

This piece is a cyanotype, a form of photographic process. No camera, or negative was used; instead I used organic materials directly on paper, coated with a light sensitive cyan medium, as a contact print.

Photograph of a plant negative
Meristem, 2015
Cyanotype
Kylie Schmitt

Who are your artistic influences?

The f/64 group for sure, and Georgia O’Keeffe

Tell us more about the f/64 group?

The f/64 group was formed in the 1930s. They are a group of San Francisco photographers including Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, and Imogen Cunningham, to name a few. At the time the popular photographic style was pictorial, so this group of photographers formed based on their modern aesthetic. The term f/64 is a small aperture size that allows for a clearer focus throughout the image and greater depth of field. The aperture setting f/64 is used in the straight photography that the group was known for.

Who is your favorite artist?

Edward Weston

Do you have art on your walls? What kind?

I do. Mostly photographs – old prints found at thrift stores, and some nature photography (one being an Ansel Adams of course), but no original pieces by artists themselves. I hope to one day invest in some original works after I save up.

As a new professional in the field what is one thing you wish you had known before you graduated?

I wish I knew how digital and technical the library world is becoming.

What advice can you give to someone in library school who wants to do the kind of work you are doing?

I think for my work, experience is everything. I would say my best advice would be to do as many internships as you can, to build up experience and to network.