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!

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!