The “Art” of Job Hunting or How We Got From There to Here

ArLiSNAP Feature Post Writers Sarah and Courtney, both fresh from the job hunt process, describe their experience job searching as an art librarian and interview each other about the process in the hopes of starting a dialogue for all new job-seeking art librarians.

A white coffee mug with “begin” written on it on a wooden table

Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash

Sarah’s Experience:

I decided to get my Master’s degree in Library Science while working in a paraprofessional position in an academic performing arts library, and I took on an archival studies concentration in order to broaden my post-graduation job possibilities. Leading up to graduation I began applying for local music librarian positions, but after graduation in May 2017 I broadened my job search to include research, instruction, and collections jobs outside of the arts and in other parts of the country (and abroad). I had a few job interviews but, in my first few months with my Master’s degree, did not succeed in finding a position that was a match for me.

In October 2017 I had the opportunity to interview for a librarian position in an art museum, and it showed me a new path that I could take in my job search, beyond academic work. This motivated me to learn more. I joined ArLiSNAP, began a volunteer position at an art museum, and began taking webinars to teach myself more about art museum library collections and cataloging. After seven months, my volunteer position turned into a part-time paid fellowship, and shortly after that I was offered a full-time position as a cataloger for a museum library.

My experience showed me that art librarianship is an extremely competitive field in which one must be willing to learn and engage with other art librarians and researchers. The job hunting process is very involved and can be very discouraging (even causing anxiety and depression for which we should not be afraid to seek help). It was very helpful for me, personally, to relieve stress by speaking with other job-hunting librarians about their experience. I also made the most of the paraprofessional job I was in by asking my supervisor to teach me new things and taking on new and different responsibilities. Ultimately, my personal experience was one which taught me to “go with the flow” because your job search may take you in directions that you never would have considered as long as you are open to learning new things.

Courtney’s Experience:

I worked as a paraprofessional in a public library first, and then a community college library, as well as taught (adjunct) art history for 3-4 years prior to going back for my master’s in library science (technically mine is an M.S.I.S.). Currently, I’m not working as an art librarian, but as a collection development librarian, which I think has tons of potential for working in visual arts subject collections. There is a lot of overlap in collection work with art librarianship that I hope to use to my advantage later in my career.

I began applying for jobs in all academic libraries, some in art libraries, before I had conferred my degree. Honestly, I was living in a really expensive part of the country at the time, and I was really anxious to move up in the library world, as well as find a more fulfilling position in line with my interests.

The day after I earned by degree, I had the chance to interview in person at a large research university for an Art and Design Librarian position, which I did not get. It was a fantastic experience though. It really gave me a taste of what interviewing at academic libraries in general is like, and it also gave me insight into aspects of art librarianship that I hadn’t learned in school or at my job at the time.

Though I didn’t get that job, I realized that I could look for other jobs in academic libraries like the one I have now, and that I could interview with confidence because I had done it once. I realized that even though art library jobs are really competitive and hard to come by, I could develop skills I had less of (collection work in this case–I have a background in teaching, so reference and instruction are covered for me) and then look for art library jobs again in a few years.

I definitely agree with Sarah about going “with the flow,” because librarianship is so interdisciplinary. Even if you don’t get an art librarian job right away, the experience you gain doing other things will help you get there. AND, every position is tailorable! You can make relationships on campus that keep you in the loop in the arts world (some tips for which I wrote about here), which can be reflected in cover letters and CVs.

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Sarah Interviews Courtney:

What do you think is the hardest part of breaking into the art librarianship field?

So far for me, the hardest part is just not having worked in specifically an art library. I have a lot of experience in libraries at this point, but it is mostly paraprofessional. When I interviewed for an art and design position, I feel like I answered interview questions well and that my presentation was good (with great responses/questions!), but that to leadership, I probably didn’t have the level of experience on the job or serving on committees for national associations that they were looking for.

Do you think art librarians should be willing to apply for jobs in other parts of the country?

I think that it is a privilege to be able to do so. I moved for my current position (which is not an art librarian position) and would have moved for the position at the larger university. However, there are layers here: willingness/confidence/privilege to negotiate terms of a contract that would account for moving costs, a big enough bank account to cover the costs of moving whether or not your moving expenses are covered (reimbursement often takes forever), having a support system that can help you both mentally and physically with the act of moving, etc.

So, my answer here is: your job prospects will widen if you are open to moving, but many people would really be hard up to make a move prior to a “professional” librarian salary (which often isn’t even that high).

What has been your experience as an academic librarian preparing for a career in art libraries?

I am constantly trying to find new ways to stay connected with the visual arts. I go to galleries and museums and talk to the curators there. I’m lucky, because the Halsey Institute is right down the street, and one of their curators is a friend of mine from my first round of grad school! But I do a lot of reading articles and just generally trying to stay up to date with what is going on in art libraries.

Professionally, I think about research that relates to my job now and how it could be adapted specifically for art libraries. For instance, I’m currently working on assessments of our architecture and art history collections, and this has led to taking a deep look at the programs they support and the faculty who run them. I’m hoping that this work and the relationships I build will help develop any skills and knowledge I lack.

I think that volunteering for ArLiSNAP also counts as something I’m doing to prepare. Being a feature post writer is forcing me to think of issues in field and keep up with what other art librarians are doing.

Thinking back to your Master’s Degree program, is there anything you would have done differently to broaden your job possibilities?

I maybe would have tried harder to do a practicum in an art library. I did a practicum in collection development and instruction, the former of which helped me get my current position, but because I was a) pregnant and b) working full time, the convenience my practicum was key. One thing I did do was try to align what I was taking with library degrees at different schools that had a cultural heritage or art library “track” (mine didn’t specifically).

What has surprised you about the job searching process in this field?

I feel like I’ve been pretty prepared by colleagues and professors on the intricacies of applying for jobs in academic libraries, which includes subject specialist and art librarian positions, so I haven’t been surprised by much. However, for those reading this who haven’t been through it, in person interviews in academic libraries are like running a marathon. All day, grueling, but invigorating (sometimes) processes that require you to be “on” all day. I actually loved interviewing at that big university library even though I didn’t get that position, because I was able to engage with members of the campus community who came out to meet me at the various meetings. We talked a lot about issues in the field, and I genuinely felt like there was no “right” answer. I already knew I wanted to be an art librarian before interviewing, but I left realizing that it really is my career goal. Not every job interview is like that (maybe most aren’t?), but I guess it surprised me how at ease I felt with it. Probably because I am a subject specialist (M.A. in Art History), so I had a lot of feelings about fine arts collections, as well as their applications in teaching and research.

Do you have any words of wisdom for those interested in working in academic libraries?

Get experience, somehow. Any way you can. Volunteer if you can afford it, try to get a part-time job as a paraprofessional if you haven’t finished your degree…but just try to get that experience. It sucks, because I feel like academic libraries should give new professionals more of a shot. At my last job, I was on a hiring committee where we really tried to keep that in mind and look at those who had related experience + their MLS (which was required by HR), but unfortunately at most places, they are really looking for that library experience. Also, I think experience counts for more than the degree in a lot of cases. We interviewed super new “professional” librarians who had lots of library experience in staff positions over people who just had their MLS.

Also, when you interview, remember that you are also interviewing THEM. Try not to be scared to advocate for yourself and ask hard questions. When I interviewed, both for the art and design position as well as my current place work, I was a pumping mother of a baby under a year old. I had to request facilities in which to do that. They were accommodating, but if they hadn’t been, I would have known that I didn’t want to work there immediately. You want to be comfortable and happy where you work, so ask the hard questions.

What advice can you give to those trying to cope with the disappointment that inevitably comes with job hunting (and which for new professionals may be especially unexpected)?

Ugh, it’s hard. Try not to be discouraged! When I didn’t get the job in that fine arts library, I was crushed. I didn’t think I’d get a second interview, so when I was invited on campus, I was elated–how could I, as a new professional, get a job like THAT? I tried to just be proud of myself for getting there, but after my interview I was convinced I had a good shot. Later on, when I found out who did the job, I was seriously even prouder of myself, because that person had years of experience and also was involved in national associations (which I didn’t have the chance to do). I felt so happy I got as far as I did — you need to celebrate those victories, because they’re all learning experiences. So chin up and move on! It’s 100% their loss!

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Courtney Interviews Sarah:

I’m repeating your question, because I’m curious: What do you think is the hardest part of breaking into the art librarianship field?

I think the hardest part(s) is(are) a combination of having the right skillset, finding the institution willing to take a chance on you, and not getting too discouraged by rejection. When combined, I think these things indicate (correctly) that the job search can be a long and challenging process for any new professional. But, it is worth it for anyone who truly loves art scholarship and collections.

How was your interview process different at an art museum library versus an academic art library?

It was completely different! Just as you mentioned, all of my academic library interviews were day-long affairs which typically involved a presentation that I had spent weeks preparing in advance. However, the art museum library interviews were typically only a couple of hours long and did not involve presentations. I interviewed for one position in an art museum library that was affiliated with a college, and that interview was structured more like an academic library interview. Another significant difference is that academic jobs typically involved multiple interviews with several members of the institution’s library staff, faculty, and administration, whereas museum library interviews were typically one-on-one or smaller groups.

Did you interview anywhere for a position you would not have accepted after you interviewed? What would the factors leading you to that conclusion?

Within weeks of finishing my MLIS, I interviewed for a position that I knew was not right for me. It was a step in the right direction (a professional title, a higher salary), but it involved responsibilities that were outside of my interests. I had initially applied for this job because it had a performing arts element, but when I learned more about the position, I realized that it did not have enough of an arts element to compensate for the other responsibilities that I was much less interested in. I was able to say “no” to this position because at the time I had a full-time paraprofessional job and a financial support network. However, if I had been in a financial or career position where I felt I was struggling, I would have definitely pursued that job. I think there is something to learn from any job you take, and even if it’s not your dream job, you can use it as an opportunity to learn and apply skills to your next position.

What are some of the things you feel are most important to do for someone trying to break into the field?

Relating back to your first question, I think that there are a few things art library students and new professionals can do to prepare themselves. This field is so competitive that students in art librarianship-focused MLS programs should be willing to cater the program to the skills they will need (i.e. taking the opportunity to do research in art librarianship or classes on visual resources or choose a concentration in digital media). I would encourage students to check out the ArLiSNAP “Hack Your Art Librarianship Program” blog posts for more advice on this.

For MLS graduates, one must be willing to continue learning through webinars, volunteer work, professional organizations, and networking. Once you have a good-looking resume (full of relevant volunteer work and continuing education), it’s all about applying to positions where you think the institution would be willing to hire a newbie. If you think you’re a good fit, apply. Use your cover letter to tell them why you’re a good fit even though you’re new-ish to the field! Lastly, you may find yourself applying to dozens (and dozens) of jobs without any offers. Keep pushing on. If you can, use your joblessness as an opportunity to take on more activities to boost your professional development, and take advantage of services like mentorship and resume reviews at ARLIS/NA and ArLiSNAP conferences! As long as you are able to push on, try not to give up because the next opportunity could be right around the corner at any time, and you don’t want to miss it!

Do you feel your master’s degree aptly prepared you for your position? For the job hunting process?

My program took around 2.5 years mostly part-time, and I think even if it had taken 3.5 years it would not have been long enough to prepare me for all the different facets of librarianship and art librarianship that I am interested in. Fortunately, it was a very career-minded program (in the online SOIS at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee – highly recommend!) which taught me practical things like how to analyze job descriptions and plan for a future in rapidly digitizing library environments. I also did not know when I was in this program that I would eventually become a cataloger. I have always preferred working with the public to sitting behind a computer screen. If I had known then that cataloging is much more than staring at a computer, I probably would have taken more cataloging courses, which might have prepared me to apply to cataloging positions right out of grad school. But, in the end, I feel that my program was well-rounded and did the best possible job of preparing me for job hunting.

Do you have any words of wisdom for those working in other types of libraries (school, public) hoping to get into academic or art libraries?

Yes! Any job in the library field (or art or museums) is a step towards working in art librarianship. The best possible thing you can do is make opportunities for yourself. Whenever you see a job posting for a position you are interested in but don’t think you are qualified for, save it and use it to help brainstorm ways to learn the skills you would need to be qualified for it. If you are working in a school library, try to include art books and topics in your library lessons. If you are working in a public library, ask your supervisor if you can curate a display of books about local art/artists. Start (and hopefully finish) projects that will look good on your resume, and don’t be afraid to get involved with professional communities of art librarians (ArLiSNAP is the perfect place to start!) and to ask questions about breaking into the field. You might start by posting your questions here, in this thread :)

Conclusions

Job hunting is so stressful! There’s no getting around that. And added to the stress is the passion that many art librarians feel for their subject specialty and profession. It can feel alienating to be in a position that is separate from what you’d rather be doing. But, as with most things in the library world, every experience leads to another.

If you have any questions for Sarah or Courtney, or would just like to share your own experience, please feel free to post in the comments section here!

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A Success Story: An Interview with Kate Lambaria, Visiting Music & Performing Arts Librarian at the University of Illinois

In this Success Story, Kate describes her experience in the field of music and performing arts librarianship, wherein she has evolved from music researcher to graduate library assistant to branch librarian supporting the School of Music and the Departments of Dance and Theatre at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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

I have an undergraduate degree in music, with a concentration in ethnomusicology. I didn’t grow up using libraries and when I started college and was introduced to them, they were this mysterious space that I didn’t understand how to navigate. I learned eventually because having an ethnomusicology focus meant that I did a lot more research than some of my peers in the music program. After finishing my undergraduate degree, I spent some time stringing together multiple part-time jobs teaching marching bands and private lessons and working in retail. My patience for this didn’t last very long and that’s when I started to think about a career that would fit with what I knew I enjoyed: music, teaching (but not full-time), the research process, and working with people. Eventually, I realized that librarianship had the potential to offer all of those things, so I applied for and was accepted to the MSLIS program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I worked as a graduate assistant in two of the libraries on campus, including the Music & Performing Arts Library where I now work, and that experience really cemented my interest in academic music librarianship.

I’m currently the Visiting Music & Performing Arts Librarian at Illinois and I work in a branch library that is one of many on campus. My library supports the School of Music and the Departments of Dance and Theatre. We’re located in the Music Building and the School of Music is the largest of the three departments, so I get to put my background in music to use on a regular basis.

What is your favorite aspect of your job? What is unique or special about your role as a performing arts librarian?

I enjoy going into classrooms for instruction sessions and then seeing the same students later in the library, either using our resources or asking for help at our desk. I’ve heard some students mention how they don’t need to do research as performers, so it’s pretty rewarding to see them realize the benefit of research on their performance, in addition to the many other ways the library can support them as performers. I also try to make it to some student performances every year and it’s really neat to see students I’ve worked with performing on stage. I guess the students are really my favorite aspect of my job!

One of the ways that performing arts librarianship is unique is the collections and the many formats that are needed. For example, if I buy a book about a specific piece of music, that leads to many questions…. do we have a score for that piece in our collection? What kind of score is it (score and parts for each instrument, just the score, a vocal score)? Who published the score? Do we have a recording (audio or video)? Who was the conductor/ensemble/soloist/choreographer… the list goes on. This impacts public services as well as collection development. There’s a lot to take into consideration when helping performing arts patrons find the information they’re seeking, and it does help to have a background in the performing arts.

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

Like many librarians, each day is different for me, but it usually consists of some combination of the following: collection development, reference and research support (I staff our reference desk 4 hours a week and each shift at the desk is always a surprise), instruction (both in class and through developing online materials), supervising our graduate assistants, and participating in programming and outreach. Right now, we’re moving to a new system for room and loanable technology reservations so I’m spending a lot of time working on that documentation for our library, developing staff training, and adjusting our policies accordingly. I’m also lucky to be at an institution that supports librarians conducting research, so depending on the day, I might be coding interviews or working on a literature review for a new project. Oh, and meetings, there’s always meetings.

Do you have any words of wisdom for students who are interested in the arts and may be considering a career in performing arts librarianship?

I don’t think I’m qualified to be dealing out words of wisdom yet, but I think it’s important to remind current LIS students that you’re probably never going to feel ready going into your first position, you just have to be prepared for that and willing to learn. My first position was as a liaison librarian to the architecture, art, dance, film, music, and theatre departments and while I felt comfortable with some of those subject areas, I knew nothing about architecture and art. So, I joined ARLIS, started reading the literature in the art librarianship field, and tried to build a network of peers. While I only work with the performing arts now, I still keep up with what’s happening in art librarianship. It can be easy to stay in your own specialized world, but there’s a lot to learn from librarians working in other subject areas. There are also many types of careers in performing arts librarianship, but I only have experience in an academic setting.

What were/are some challenges for you as a librarian?

Being early career, I have a tendency to say yes to every opportunity that comes my way. There’s a lot about librarianship that interests me, but this can also make it challenging to focus and prioritize my time. Sure, saying yes to opportunities allows me to explore new things and determine if it’s an interest worth pursuing further, but saying yes to everything is completely unrealistic, so now I’m working on learning to say no. Or, at the very least, to take more time considering how new commitments will fit into my schedule and existing long-term projects before saying yes.

A Success Story: An Interview with Chantal Sulkow, Acquisitions Librarian at the Bard Graduate Center

Chantal’s New York City-centered journey took her from a BFA program in Illustration to a career in commercial art before deciding to become an art librarian. In this Success Story, Chantal tells us a little bit about what drove her to become a librarian and what she loves most about the profession.

Can you tell us a little bit about your background, your current position, and how you got into the field of (art) librarianship?
Before I became an art librarian, I earned my BFA in Illustration at The School of Visual Arts in New York City, concentrating on oil painting and portraiture. While at SVA, I participated in the copyist program at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and copied old master works on-site in the galleries. The teacher I worked with made me research each painting I worked on; I had to find historical information about the materials and methods the painters used, and this process gave me my first experience with art historical research. After art school I was looking for a way to earn a living with my skills and I transitioned to a commercial art form, painting three-dimensional prototype figures for the toy industry. I started as an apprentice but eventually turned it into a business, and for a number of years I had my own studio. I painted models for toys in development, and my clients included Marvel, Fisher-Price and Hasbro. When technology in 3D printing and outsourcing to China began to change the landscape of the industry, I decided to go to graduate school. I started by looking at programs for art history, but I wanted to set myself on a path to a new career sooner than later. I was considering Pratt, and by chance I learned about their Library Science program. In my first year I took an intensive summer course on Museums and Library Research with Ken Soehner, the director of the Watson Library at the Metropolitan Museum. After spending all day, every day for 2 weeks at the Met Library, I was certain that I wanted to be an art librarian.

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

As Acquisitions Librarian at the Bard Graduate Center, I am in charge of purchasing for the library; I handle book requests from faculty and students and serve on our staff Collection Development Committee. I’m always looking for new materials to add to the collection; to keep on top of new publications I look at catalogs and email lists, and I follow the social media accounts of museums, academic institutions and publishers so I can track what exhibition or scholarly materials are coming up. In addition to acquisitions, I also do a good deal of reference; our staff shares reference desk responsibilities, and I work with our Reader Services Librarian to meet with students for research appointments, as well as to give research workshops, handle some of the ILL responsibilities, and, when necessary, accommodate requests from outside researchers. I also oversee our library’s rare materials collection.

Do you have any advice for current students and/or those on the job market?

Get involved with ARLIS! My involvement with this organization has been so valuable and rewarding. Join your local Chapter! If you can, go to local Chapter events or meetings- volunteer for a position on your Chapter board. Join an ARLIS/NA committee, or serve on an award committee. Go to the annual conferences; apply for scholarship money to get yourself there, and even if you don’t get funding, it’s worth paying for it yourself if you can make it happen, though of course that’s not always possible. Doing these things will help you network and meet people, and the work you do as a volunteer will help showcase your professional skills to others in the community who might hire you. More directly, reach out to other professionals for advice and mentorship. In my first semester in library school I told one of my professors that I was thinking of pursuing art librarianship and she gave me the names and contact info for two of her colleagues who were art librarians. When I followed up and reached out they both invited me to come in to chat. The early help and encouragement that they gave me was invaluable.


What accomplishments in the field of art librarianship are you most proud of?

Before I was hired to a full time position, I was appointed as ARLIS/NA’s New York Chapter Social Media Coordinator. I run the Chapter’s social accounts, which include Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. This is a board position I’ve held for nearly 2 ½ years, and it’s been great fun- I launched the chapter’s Instagram account, and I’ve been able to boost our followers and overall engagement across the board. Running the Chapter’s social platforms has enabled me to establish connections with and gain deeper knowledge of other cultural institutions, while promoting awareness of the value that art libraries have to offer. My work as the NY Chapter Social Media Coordinator also led me to run a survey on the use of social media in art libraries, and I organized and participated in a session on the topic at the most recent ARLIS conference. I am currently working with some of my session teammates on an article for Art Documentation based on our presentation, and I’m excited about where further research and exploration on this project will lead.

If you could go back and time and do part of your career or education over again, is there something you would have changed? A class you would have taken? A project you would have started?

If I had a do-over for any part of my professional life, I would have gone to graduate school years earlier, before I had kids. This is not to say you can’t get your degree while being a parent! It is absolutely 100 % doable, but presents challenges one wouldn’t otherwise have. When I began graduate school my daughter was starting kindergarten, and midway through the program I took a semester off when my son was born. (He was a perfect academic baby- born in between semesters!) Of course, finishing graduate school with 2 kids was no easy task, especially with a sleepless infant! I started the program at Pratt as a dual Library Science and Art History major; however, after my son arrived I decided to drop the Art History component and concentrate on the MLS, in an attempt to fast-track getting a degree, and getting a full time job- which, fortunately, I was able to do. When my kids are a little older I would still like to return to school and finish my subject Masters; in an ideal world, I’d like to get a PhD! You never know what might happen.

A Success Story: An Interview with Jenny Ferretti, Digital Initiatives Librarian at the Maryland Institute College of Art

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

I’m a first-generation American Latina; both of my parents emigrated to the United States from Central America. I never considered librarianship as a career because I didn’t know what librarians did. I had no real connection to the library or librarians. Before becoming a librarian, I had never met a Latinx librarian, which may have contributed to why I didn’t see myself in this profession.

I went to Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) and got my BFA in Photography. If it hadn’t been for MICA, I wouldn’t have gone to college and I probably wouldn’t be a librarian. I was a difficult, underachieving student in middle and high school because I didn’t learn like everyone else, and no one, including myself, had the patience to realize this. If my fine art practice hadn’t been something I wanted to pursue in college, I don’t know what would’ve become of me. MICA led me to a career in librarianship because in order to graduate, the Photography program requires students to complete an internship. I interned at a private, non-profit museum/library and it was there I realized digitizing museum and library collections was a job. After completing the internship, I got a part-time job there and after graduating I stayed there part-time and got a part-time paid internship position at Smithsonian Institution’s Anthropological Archives. I stayed at both part-time jobs for about a year, then pitched a full-time job at the museum/library (complete with budget projections and digitization program plans) and ended up getting it. I stayed there for about five years before applying to Pratt Institute’s School of Information.

At Pratt I concentrated on Digital Humanities (DH), getting as much digital tools experience as possible in the classroom and as much archives-related experience outside the classroom. While in NYC, I worked at a variety of institutions, including Pratt Institute, Columbia University, New York Public Library, and Barnard College. Pratt’s program was exactly what I was looking for. I wanted to be challenged, particularly in the area of technology and user experience work. After moving back to Baltimore in 2014, I worked in the Library & Archives department at Smithsonian Channel archiving their born-digital assets for about a year.

When I saw the opening for my position, Digital Initiatives Librarian, at MICA, I thought this would be the perfect job to engage two areas I absolutely love: tech and art/design. I had no connection to the library when I was an undergraduate student. This would be my opportunity to engage with a student like me when I was in college. I had what it takes to bridge the gap between artist and archivist/librarian. I wanted to share this knowledge and explore the ways in which DH work could be integrated in the fine art/design context.

Tell us something fun about yourself! What do you do in your spare time? If you could take a trip to visit any library in the world, which would it be?
If I had to base my response on my instagram feed, my favorite things are baseball, sneakers, plants, working, music, being Latina, dogs, family and friends, and eating! Some of my favorite things to do are go to the movies, Bike Party, and dancing. I come from a family who likes to have fun, so we’re generally in a celebratory mood!

I’d love to visit the Stony Island Arts Bank, founded by artist Theaster Gates and I’d love to visit libraries or archives in Nicaragua or El Salvador to try to find any records about my family.

What does a typical day at work look like for you?
This is a tough question because I don’t often have ‘typical’ days! One of the best things about my job is that my day-to-day can be unpredictable and varied. I could be doing a research consultation, in a meeting about something web-related (most recently I’ve been involved in researching a MICA-wide DAMS), creating social media posts for Decker Library, doing collection development for the Film and Video Collection or my liaison areas, less often teaching, etc. My team, the Digital Initiatives Unit, is in charge of the digital presence for the library (which includes the website and social media). Between that and being a liaison librarian, those are the things that take up most of my time.

Do you have any advice for current students and/or those on the job market?
My advice always includes do your research. Make a spreadsheet of all the places you’d like to work – I think my list had around 35 institutions – with links to their job opportunities and check them frequently. I would check them several times a week, especially when I was close to graduating. I looked at the job titles and anything else about people who already worked at these institutions. I would also research the institution, staff, and average salaries.

I would also suggest meeting with your advisor, a trusted faculty member, or using your school’s career development center. A career development center might also help with salary negotiations.

Also, keep in mind that your position might shift priorities. My position originally was not supposed to teach at all and I was not supposed to staff the reference desk regularly (granted I only do two hours per week). I was okay with these changes because I wanted to get instruction experience. But that meant that I had to start reading about pedagogy (which I wish I had done a lot more in school).

Finally, I’d say build up your peer network. Find people who will have your back and be honest about applying for jobs, read your resumes/cover letters, etc. Applying for jobs can involve intense, emotional labor. Find your people and support them as you would want to be supported.

What were/are some challenges for you as a librarian? Are these related to larger challenges in art librarianship or the field in general?
On a personal level, balancing my time between being a manager of a unit and liaison librarian has been the most challenging. I’m lucky our library director gives me room to vent, express what I like or dislike, helps me prioritize my time if I’m feeling stressed, etc.

In terms of librarianship as a profession, I think the most challenging has been to have an open, honest dialogue about what librarianship, particularly art librarianship, is and what our values as a profession should be. Lately I’ve been writing and presenting about whiteness and neutrality in librarianship. Coming to terms with the overwhelming whiteness of this profession is the only way we can hope to change the profession’s demographics. As a woman of color, this has been challenging because many people try to derail the discussion because they view it as a personal attack. After being awarded a Library Journal 2018 Movers & Shakers award for my work with the library and archive workers of color group We Here, I know now is the time to have these difficult discussions and rethink/redesign inclusion and equity initiatives.

A Success Story: An Interview with Margaret Huang, Digital Archivist at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Can you tell us a little bit about your background, your current position, and how you got into the field of (art) librarianship?
I received an MLIS from the University Pittsburgh in the Archives, Preservation, and Records Management track. I am currently the Digital Archivist at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. I have been interested in working with and around art ever since I got a job in high school in the gift shop of a museum. During undergrad, I was an art history minor and also happened to get a work study position in my college library’s digitization lab. This is when I started to piece together my career path. I considered pursuing a Masters in Museum Studies but ultimately decided that an MLIS could be a more flexible degree.

What does a typical day at work look like for you?
My position recently pivoted to focus on one specific project so my typical work day right now involves a lot of noodling around in XML/JSON and Excel spreadsheets since I am deep into the metadata creation phase of the project. It is broken up by some of my other responsibilities as issues arise, such as maintaining our ArchivesSpace and Preservica instances, developing digital preservation policies and procedures, answering reference questions, participating in discussions surrounding our time-based media art (I am currently the mentor for our NDSR Art resident on our project: Planning for Time-Based Media Artwork Preservation), and whatever else may come up!

Do you have any advice for current students and/or those on the job market?
My advice to current students and/or those on the job market is to hustle. I was juggling freelance jobs, part-time jobs, and volunteering until I finally got a full time permanent library/archives job. Try to get as much hands on experience and technical skills as possible. Apply to as many jobs that interest you as possible, even if you feel unqualified. It never hurts to give it a shot. Meet and talk with people who have the jobs you want to see how they got there. Again and again, I have found that people tend to want to help and give advice. Also, your first job out of school doesn’t have to be your exact dream job but you can use what you learn to build towards it. At the same time, it’s also ok to not settle if you know what you want. I do honestly believe that hard work pays off so keep hustling.

What were/are some challenges for you as a librarian? Are these related to larger challenges in art librarianship or the field in general?
Currently, my biggest work related challenge is copyright issues. There are so many legal complications, risk tolerances, and stakeholders to consider. This is definitely a common challenge in the field, especially when embarking on digital projects and it becomes even more overwhelming if you’re dealing with entire archival collections, like me, that comprise of hundreds of possible copyright holders. Moving forward, I would like to see libraries, archives, museums, and other cultural heritage institutions collectively push Fair Use as far as possible.

My biggest personal challenge is feeling confident in my technical chops aka imposter syndrome. I think this is felt by many people and while I do not know the cure for these feelings, I can at least say: If you feel this way, you are not alone — let’s empower each other!

Tell us something fun about yourself! What do you do in your spare time? If you could take a trip to visit any library in the world, which would it be?
I love to ride my bike, hike, and travel when I can. Recently, I’ve been reading a lot of true crime books. I think I would be most curious to see the personal libraries of people I admire or am intrigued by – for example, what’s on Iggy Pop’s or Amy Goodman’s bookshelves?

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

This series of interviews feature individuals who have received their MLIS/MSIS, but do not currently hold positions solely dedicated to art librarianship. Some may work in libraries and have an interest or duties related to art librarianship, while others use their information science skills in fields outside of the traditional library setting.

What is the name of the employer/institution you work for?
I am an art researcher, working with Artifex Press, a publisher of digital catalogues raisonnés.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Success Story: An Interview with Coral Salomón, NDSR Fellow at The University of Pennsylvania Fisher Fine Arts Library

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

I’m from Puerto Rico, but I moved to Boston when I was 18 to obtain my BA in International Relations. After that, I worked for a few years as a project manager in New York City’s translation industry.

I loved NYC’s wealth of cultural heritage institutions and as the years passed, I realized that I wanted to work within that sector. I stumbled upon Pratt Institute’s MLIS curriculum and decided that library school was the right fit for me.

I entered the field of art librarianship thanks to one of the cultural heritage institutions I admired from afar. I was fortunate to obtain a fellowship through Pratt at the Frick Art Reference Library where I was part of NYARC’s web archiving program. It was an incredible experience and I learned a lot from my supervisors, colleagues, and by working within the walls of The Frick Collection. Even though I’ve moved on to a different role, I feel a lot of gratitude towards The Frick. They made me feel like family since day 1 and gave me the confidence to pursue this specialty, even though I don’t have a formal background in the arts.

I’m currently the National Digital Stewardship Resident at the University of Pennsylvania Fisher Fine Arts Library. My yearlong IMLS-funded residency focuses on tackling issues pertaining to the preservation of digital artwork and art information.

You can read more about my project and my cohorts’ projects here.

What does a typical day at work look like for you? What work are you doing as an NDSR art resident?
My project has three components:
• Creating guidelines for a web archiving program focused on the arts.
• Providing repository recommendations for born-digital artworks and art resources produced at Penn.
• Writing a white paper on the acquisition and preservation of publications hosted on apps, YouTube, podcasts, and other untraditional digital platforms.

I’ve been interviewing a lot of people here at Penn to get a better sense of what are the needs of the community. A typical day might include interviewing professors in the fine arts department, curators, museum library directors or artists working on projects affiliated with Penn. I type my notes and then create a small summary of the conversations in a spreadsheet.

I’ve also been meeting with fellow Penn librarians and digital archivists to gather their recommendations and avoid siloing my work. Librarians, archivists, and new media scholars at other institutions have also generously offered me advice and discussed best practices in relation to my project.

So, my typical day involves a lot of listening and typing! Next semester, I’ll begin implementing some of the lessons I’ve learned during the past 4.5 months.

One achievement that I’m proud of is the mapathon for Puerto Rico disaster relief Penn Libraries hosted. I helped organize it, and while it doesn’t fall neatly within art librarianship, it’s an example of how libraries can rise to action in times of need. I was blown away by the student participation and the institution’s support.

Do you have any advice for current students and/or those on the job market?
My advice for current students is to seek out internships or part/full-time jobs in the field while they’re still in school. Internships make life financially difficult, so try to apply to ones that pay or to funds like the ARLIS/NA Wolfgang M. Freitag Internship Award which provide financial support to students seeking out unpaid opportunities.

For those on the job market: apply to your dream jobs, even if you think you’re not qualified. Keep on blogging, going to events, get coffee with people working in the profession, all those things your professors told you to do. Also, networking is not evil. I thought networking was terrible when I was younger, but now I’ve realized it’s just about reaching out to people that are cool and are doing admirable things within this line of work.

I know this is easier said than done, but don’t take job rejections personally. I’ve been surprised that I’ve connected with people (in a positive way!) who’ve turned down my job application. Always thank people and, if you get a human-generated rejection, ask what factors influenced the hiring decision. Sometimes people reply and you get really good advice–I got better at writing cover letters thanks to a kind rejection.

Remember, you are an awesome person and the market does not determine your worth! If anyone wants more specific advice, feel free to tweet me at @csalinphilly!

What were/are some challenges for you as an art librarian? Are these related to larger challenges in art librarianship?
The attack against net neutrality is a huge challenge. Art libraries are boundary-pushers in the effort to preserve and provide access to our digital cultural heritage, as demonstrated by our web archiving programs. This measure, which endangers the openness of the internet and threatens to increase the digital divide, imperils our work and the ability of the public to access our collections and materials. As librarians and archivists, an open and democratic web is vital to ensure we can provide information to all.

Tell us something fun about yourself! What do you do in your spare time? If you could take a trip to visit any library in the world, which would it be?
I really like to bike and luckily Philly is a great biking city.

I also enjoy exploring museums. This year I saw some really great exhibits, including the Whitney’s survey of Hélio Oiticica’s work and the Guggenheim’s Agnes Martin retrospective. I also enjoyed Philadelphia’s public art project, Monument Lab. The pieces were really thoughtful and offered a fun way of getting to know the city.

Someday, I would like to visit the Biblioteca Nacional José Martí, Cuba’s national library. Cuba and Puerto Rico were the last outposts of the Spanish empire in the Caribbean, and I wonder what tales of our combined history are safeguarded there.

Canadian [Emerging] Librarians Spotlight: An Interview with Marianne Williams

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

The University of Arkansas Fayetteville, located on the cusp of the Ozark National Forest in breathtaking northwest Arkansas.

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

During my undergrad at Carleton University in Canadian Studies and Art History, I worked a bunch of part-time library jobs around campus, including at CKCU FM, the Sexual Diversity Centre and the School for the Study of Art and Culture. I initially got into librarianship because I was interested in activism in GLBTQ+ communities, and did a fellowship at the Lesbian Herstory Archives in Brooklyn after graduation, and then returned to Canada to do my Masters of Information and Museum Studies degrees at the University of Toronto. After I graduated, I got an amazing full-time, year-long practicum at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, which confirmed that art librarianship was the right path for me, since I loved working with artists and collaborating with my peers to do research and other interesting projects. After that year, I became interested in doing library residencies and travelling a bit, so I started looking for jobs that combined my interests in teaching, art and librarianship, and ended up accepting an offer to be the Librarian-in-Residence at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.

What brought you to your current position?

I wanted the opportunity to teach students and to work at a public research university, and the University of Arkansas offers a great Librarian-in-Residence program designed to be an entry level position into academic librarianship. As the Resident, I get faculty status, but get to design my own rotations in various areas of the libraries system that I’m interested in. Right now, I’m conducting research on diversity and inclusion in the library profession while working in the Reference and Instruction department, where I teach one shot instruction sessions and work on reference requests. In 2018, I will do projects in the Fine Arts Library and in the Special Collections department, followed by a longer research project. The variety and independent structure of the Residency program appealed to me, and I have the collaborative and enthusiastic support of a great faculty, too.

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

I start my day with a quick scan of headlines and current events, I check Twitter and scroll though messages from art and library related listservs. Then I think of ways that I might include those issues and ideas into instruction or other potential projects, like research guides or organizing public panels. Sometimes this gives me ideas about what materials to select for collection development. Currently, I’m doing a lot of research on information literacy and diversity, so I try to read 2-5 articles a day on those topics and take notes, I try to spend at least an hour or so writing. I also serve on a couple of cross-campus committees, and coming up with information literacy resources for some different instructors on campus, so I might spend a couple of hours designing a one-shot session, an assignment or lesson plan for those, attending meetings about those projects, or actually delivering instruction. I also work reference desk and chat shifts and edit and modify Research Guides quite regularly. I don’t necessarily have a typical day, but these are the main components I try to do.

Do you have any advice for current students and/or those on the job market? As an emerging librarian, what are the most important things you think your peers should know?

It’s different for everyone, but finding mentors in and outside of librarianship has been the most helpful and important thing in my emerging professional life, as well as maintaining friendships in all different areas of my life. The more people who care about you who send you job postings, the better. The more people who are willing to look over your CV or proofread your cover letter before you submit it, the better. The more people rooting for you, the better. And always return the favour!

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

I think one of the biggest challenges in librarianship in general in Canada is needing to move, sometimes across the country, to pursue opportunities. Moving around and being nomadic works well in my life, but it doesn’t appeal to everyone nor is it feasible for those with personal or family commitments. In terms of art librarianship, there are more entry-level opportunities in the United States, and that’s where I have chosen to develop this part of my career, although I hope to return to my homeland one day.

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

I am currently doing a lot of LIS research, so I use my familiarity with LIS journals and databases from my education frequently. The conventional aspect I draw on the most is my relationships to my classmates. I keep tabs on where my colleagues and friends ended up, because they have become my professional peers and colleagues and I get a lot of support from them, and I try to give them support when I can.

I still have a lot to learn on my own! For me, I learned technical tools and software outside of the classroom. For example, MARC cataloguing and LibGuides were things I practiced a bit in school, but ultimately had to learn on my own at a slower pace than what an LIS classroom format could accommodate.

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

My biggest reward and challenge is teaching. Becoming a strong educator and encouraging and developing critical thinking about information in students is incredibly important to me. But, as with anything worth doing, it takes some trial and error before you feel confident doing it well. Right now, I’m still figuring out my teaching style and trying out new ideas of how to engage students. I’m a part of a great team of librarians here at UArk who have shared a lot of insights and techniques with me, they let me shadow their instruction, which is a huge help. Ultimately, instruction is something you need to figure out on your own through experience, and I think I’ll always be looking for ways to improve and get better.

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

Participating in the yearlong ARLIS Mentoring program has been a great experience for me, and I’ve managed to connect to both my peers and an awesome mentor, so please continue doing that! I have also really enjoyed Twitter chats, and presenting in the ARLISNAP webinar was a great opportunity to hear about awesome projects across the continent. Basically, anything that gives Jenny Ferretti (@CityThatReads) a forum is fantastic.

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 am really interested in Sandor Katz’ Wild Fermentation, so I’ve been making a lot of kombucha, tepache, sourdough and sauerkraut, so fermentation and baking have become a big part of my life, complete with small parties where I serve said bread and carbonated drinks. That takes up a fair amount of my spare time.

If I could take a trip to any library in the world, I would go to the Lånegarderoben in Stockholm, Sweden. It’s one of the world’s first clothing libraries, and I’ve been following the research and ideas coming out of clothing libraries and sustainable fashion for a couple of years.

A Success Story: An Interview with Erin Barsan, NDSR Art Fellow at the Minneapolis Institute of Art

Can you tell us a little bit about your background, your current position, and how you got into the field of art librarianship?
I actually have an art background. I got my BFA in Graphic Design with a minor in Photography from Columbia College Chicago. After undergrad, I ended up working as a photographer’s assistant at a small commercial studio. During one of our off-seasons, I embarked on a project to clean out and reorganize all the studio’s computer files and physical file cabinets. I also spent a lot of time documenting my work and creating a handbook for future assistants. It was this experience that led me to library school; I realized that what interested me most about my job was figuring out how to organize things in a way that would best help people find the information they needed.

I eventually attended the Pratt Institute School of Information and received my MSLIS with an Archives Certificate. While a student at Pratt, I took several classes related to art librarianship. However, it wasn’t until after grad school, when I worked as a project archivist at the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay & Lesbian Art, that I really got into the field.

Currently, I am part of the inaugural cohort of the National Digital Stewardship Residency for Art Information (NDSR Art). I am working at the Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia) on a one year project titled “Managing Time-Based Media/Digital Art at (an appropriate) Scale,” which is a fairly non-traditional librarian role. That being said, it’s really exciting and challenging work, and I’m very grateful to NDSR Art for this opportunity. To learn more about the NDSR Art program and my project, visit the NDSR Art website: http://ndsr-pma.arlisna.org/

What does a typical day at work look like for you? What work are you doing as an NDSR art resident?
As the NDSR Art Resident at Mia, I am taking a lead role in establishing a framework for the management and preservation of the museum’s rapidly-growing collection of time-based media/digital art (e.g., video, film, audio, slides, and software-based art). My job entails working with Mia’s New Media Task Force to develop and implement new workflows and other procedures related to the acquisition, documentation, display, and maintenance of these complex works as well as recommending technical solutions for management and preservation.

I am just wrapping up the initial, information gathering, phase of the project. Most of my day involves sitting in front of the computer at my desk in the Media and Technology Division reading, writing emails, and taking notes. Additionally, I conducted interviews with a number of this project’s internal stakeholders to learn their perspectives, concerns, and needs. Externally, I spoke with a number of media conservators and other professionals to learn about how they handle the acquisition, installation, and long-term care of their institution’s time-based media art. Now that I’ve gathered and studied all of this valuable information, I just have to take what I’ve learned about emerging best practices for time-based media art and figure out how to adapt and scale them to fit Mia’s specific needs. Piece of cake, right?

Do you have any advice for current students and/or those on the job market?
Try and get an internship while you are in school. If that isn’t feasible, think of other ways you can get real world experience. Have a school project that involves a hypothetical library? Maybe you can find a real one that you could work with for your project instead. Working while in school? Look for opportunities in your workplace where you could make a positive impact by applying your new knowledge and skills, and then pitch it as a project to your boss. Get creative!

Don’t let job/internship descriptions intimidate you. You’d be amazed how many people get scared off by things like the reputation of a big name institution or the number of other highly-qualified people they think will also apply. Even if you think you don’t have much of a chance, apply anyway. You might surprise yourself!

What were/are some challenges for you as an art librarian? Are these related to larger challenges in art librarianship?
Advocacy is a challenge for me, and a big issue in our field in general. People often don’t see the value in art librarianship because much of our work is behind the scenes, because we don’t generate a lot of money, or because other departments have projects that seem more exciting. It’s up to us to make sure that our work doesn’t go unnoticed and do our own marketing/PR. We know our value and the importance of our work; the trick is figuring out how to communicate this to others in a way that is meaningful to them by approaching it from their perspective. This sounds easy, but in practice can be quite challenging. It’s uncomfortable to talk about ourselves (no one wants to sound like a braggart), especially when the person you’re speaking with is senior-level, and it takes practice. I’ve started to think of advocacy work as a muscle–the more I exercise it and push through the pain, the easier it will feel and the stronger I’ll be.

Tell us something fun about yourself! What do you do in your spare time? If you could take a trip to visit any library in the world, which would it be?
The majority of my free time is occupied by roller derby. This is my tenth year skating, and it has taken me all over the US and soon, Europe! In February, I’ll be traveling to Manchester, England to compete with Team Romania at the 2018 Roller Derby World Cup.

If I could take a trip to visit any library, I’d like to visit the Future Library in Norway. However, that would also mean I’d have to time travel to 2114 so I could read all the newly unearthed and unpublished texts.

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!