Thinking about “Folk Art”

This post was sparked by an essay that caught my eye while reading Radical cataloging: Essays at the front, edited by K. R. Roberto (I highly recommend it if cataloging, description, and/or metadata is your thing). The article that intrigued me was a chapter by Joan M. Benedetti, a re-edit of an article that originally appeared in a 2000 issue of Art Documentation, entitled “Words, words, words: Folk art terminology- Why it (still) matters.” Benedetti talks about the mess of issues surrounding terminology like folk art and outsider art. It reminded me of the work of Sanford Berman and Hope Olson. Both Berman and Olson’s seminal works, Prejudices and antipathies: A tract on the LC subject heads concerning people and The power to name: Representation in library catalogs, discuss the biases, and with this power, in the language of the Library of Congress controlled vocabularies. While some time has passed since these works were initially published, 1971 and 1996, librarians are still challenging problems in the language of controlled vocabularies (see Emily Drabinski’s 2013 article “Queering the catalog: Queer theory and the politics of correction”).

Matthew Arient’s Angel by Howard Finster, 1987

 

Before digging into Benedetti’s essay and issues surrounding folk art terminology, I want to present brief definitions of terms that are helpful to think of in the context of this discussion. Definitions have been taken from The Getty Thesaurus for Art and Architecture.

Folk art: Art and crafts that are produced in culturally cohesive communities or contexts, and guided by traditional rules or procedures. It includes paintings, ceramics, textiles, sculpture, and other art forms. It is generally distinct from “naive art,” which is created by those without formal training, but not necessarily within a cohesive cultural community. It is also distinct from “outsider art,” which usually refers specifically to art created or collected according to a philosophy of avoidance of traditional training.

Outsider art: Refers to art created or collected according to a philosophy of avoidance of the conventional fine art tradition. The concept generally refers to art that fits the ideal described by Jean Dubuffet, who posited that art should be inventive, non-conformist, unprocessed, spontaneous, insulated from all social and cultural influences, “brut,” created without thought of financial gain or public recognition, and based upon autonomous inspiration, in direct contrast to the stereotypes of the traditional or official artistic culture. Dubuffet sought such art in the work of psychiatric patients and other insulated individuals. It is generally distinct from “naive art,” which is created by those without formal training, but not necessarily in accordance with the principles described above. It is also typically distinct from “folk art,” which is made according to the rules and traditions of a particular culture.

Naive art: Refers to art created by non-professional artists or artisans who have not had formal training and are often self-taught. It typically displays the artist’s poor grasp of anatomy and lacks mastery of conventional perspective and other hallmarks of trained artists. It includes painting, sculpture, embroidery, quilts, toys, ships’ figureheads, decoys, painted targets, and other objects, and often refers to such objects created specifically in 19th- and 20th-century Europe and North America. It is generally distinguished from “outsider art,” which includes the more extravagant psychotic drawings and other art created or collected according to a philosophy of the avoidance of, rather than simply a lack of, traditional training. It is also usually distinct from “folk art,” which is created according to specific cultural traditions.

Fine art: Genre including physical objects that are that are meant to be perceived primarily through the sense of sight, are of high quality, requiring refined skill in creation, and typically using the media of painting, drawing, or sculpture. It may also refer to architecture and design. Although there is overlap, fine art is generally distinguished from other art forms based on the media, extent of skill, and the level of formal training required. It is distinct from “decorative art” in that the fine arts are art in which the aesthetic or intellectual expression is more prominent than the utilitarian purpose. It is distinct from “crafts,” which are handiworks of media such as ceramics, glass, needlework, or any medium other than painting, drawing, sculpture, or architecture. It is also distinct from “commercial art,” which is created to serve commerce such as in advertisements or illustration.

The Getty Thesaurus of Art and Architecture gives distinct definitions for folk, outsider, and naive art, clearly delineating them as not synonyms to one another. However, these words are still often used interchangeably. This is also not an exhaustive list of terms that are used to describe art of this similar, yet variant nature, but just three I chose to highlight.

Man with a Plow by Bill Traylor, 1939-1942

Folk art, outsider art, and naive art are terms used by individuals in a position of privilege within the institution of fine art to describe the work created by individuals outside of this institution. A dichotomy between those with the power to name and those without, between those who point out this “other” and those who are this “other,” is always problematic. General acceptance of what constitutes fine art is rooted in Western, Eurocentric practice and thought. The land of outsider art, as posited by museum professional Kenneth L. Ames, is largely populated by “minority, marginalized, and unempowered people. (Ames, 1994, p. 255).

Navajo Rug, 1890-1900

Benedetti discusses problems with the overuse of “folk” as a designator for such a wide variety of works. She draws a distinction between items that are created by “culturally cohesive communities” with utilitarian value, such as a Navajo rug, and items created from a “personal consciousness,” which are often idiosyncratic and often “functioning in opposition to any community context,” such as the works of artist Howard Finster (Benedetti, 1987, p. 4). Oftentimes though, both of these types of works would fall under the same category of “folk art.”

The concepts behind folk art terminology is not so simple and further evaluation for nuances, biases, and clarification would be beneficial. Both Benedetti and Ames present issues with the terminology that garners future consideration, thought, and study by scholars, librarians, and anyone with an interest in the power of language.

References

Ames, K.L. (1994). Outside outsider art. In M. D. Hall & E. W. Metcalf, Jr. (Eds.) The Artist outsider: creativity and boundaries of culture (p. 253-271). Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press.

Benedetti, J.M. (2000). Words, words, words: Folk art terminology- Why it (still) matters. Art Documentation, 19(1), 14-21.

Benedetti, J. M. (2003). Folk art terminology revisited: Why it (still) matters. In K. R. Robert (Ed.), Radical cataloging: Essays at the front (p. 112-125). Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company.

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.

Join ArLiSNAP at the 2018 ARLIS Winter Conference!

The ARLIS 2018 Winter Conference will be held in New York City from February 25-March 1. Registration for the conference is now open, and we hope that you’ll consider attending one of ArLiSNAP’s events while you’re in town.

Attend our Annual Meeting
Sunday February 25 | 3:00pm – 4:00pm

At our annual meeting we will discuss what ArLiSNAP has been up to in the last year and our plans for 2018. Let us know what kind of content and information you hope to see in the next year and hear about upcoming opportunities to volunteer and participate in our community.

ArLiSNAP Night Out!
Tuesday, February 27 | 7:30pm

Join ArLiSNAP at The Stag’s Head on Tuesday, February 27 @ 7:30 PM. Our night out is an opportunity to meet other students and new professionals from around the country to talk about our conference experiences. The pub is just a short walk from the conference, at 252 E 51st St, and we hope to see many of you there!

Register for our Workshop
Thursday, March 1 | 9:00am – 1:00pm

Attend ArLiSNAP’s career development workshop featuring a career advice panel hosted by our co-moderator Breanne Crumpton. Get tips on writing the perfect cover letter and receive expert and peer critiques on your resume. In our final panel, learn more about the academic publishing industry and how to get started as an author.

The workshop is free! Read more about our speakers and activities here.

 

Questions about ArLiSNAP’s events at the winter conference? Email our conference liaison at michelle.wilson(at)rutgers.edu

Michelle Wilson
ArLiSNAP Conference Liaison

Harnessing Data Visualization to Teach Emerging Art Scholars: Methods and Ideas for Instruction

As art librarians and students, we are especially aware of how digital resources and the Internet have changed art scholarship. I find myself recommending academic streaming music databases to performing arts students who, ten years ago, would have had access only to CD recordings; For a close-up look at The Scream painted by Edvard Munch, I send students to Artstor before digging out a print catalog; When developing library instruction sessions, I nearly always use a digital presentation component like Google Slides or a video tutorial hosted by Vimeo or YouTube. But, one of the emerging digital trends in academia that I find most engrossing is data visualization or information visualization.

As Autumn Wetli discussed in her ArLiSNAP article The Practice and Problems of Digital Art History, several digital programs exist that allow art historians to analyze research text, data, or image collections and then present visual representations of that information or findings therein (Wetli, 2017). This is data visualization. Elegantly explained by data visualization specialist Alberto Cairo, a visualization is “a graphical representation designed to enable exploration, analysis, and communication” (Cairo, 2017).

 

For art researchers, the application of data visualization in a digital environment offers infinite possibilities. Graphs, charts, data maps, and other visualizations, when incorporated into research, can make an article more appealing or make an argument more persuasive (Cairo, 2017). And, in the age of interactive and socially engaging digital media, scholars who study art are at a unique advantage to produce colorful, media-rich, graphically stunning visualizations. (Glassman & Dyki, 2017).

 

Apart from the potential of art scholars to integrate images of art into their visualizations, the changing nature of scholarly publishing in the fine arts signals an era of change for how data is represented in art scholarship and how art researchers can move forward in an informed way. In a 2017 article entitled “Beyond the monograph? Transformations in scholarly communication and their impact on art librarianship,” Patrick Tomlin details many of these changes. Digital models of publication present an advantage due to the potential for institutions to take greater control of internal publishing, the benefit of open access, the increasing cost of full-color print monographs, and the growing importance of search engine discovery (Tomlin, 2017). From the perspectives of emerging art librarians who will take an active role in research and instruction, having a basic understanding of data visualization and its increasing presence in the world of digital art history is crucial.

 

To facilitate a basic understanding of how one might introduce data visualization to new art scholars, I have compiled this guide. These ideas serve as an introduction to data visualization for both the librarian and the researcher, who together can learn to apply existing knowledge of art scholarship towards this goal.

 

First: It is advantageous for the instruction librarian to introduce (or re-introduce) students to the principles of visual literacy. To create one’s own visualizations, scholars should be well-versed in visual communication. Online tools like Image Atlas may serve to prepare students to understand bias and perspective in images (Bailey & Pregill, 2014, p. 183). I will link below to a 2012 article by Tammy Ravas and Megan Stark which provides an informative case study in teaching “the ethics of seeing” (Ravas & Stark, 2012, p. 41). Instructors may find that integrating visual literacy lessons into existing information literacy lesson plans bolsters students’ understanding of visual literacy when applied to the eventual creation of their own data visualizations (Ravas & Stark, 2012, p. 35).

 

Second: Just as digital art history scholars should be visually literate, they should also be data literate. In his 2017 lecture at the Cornell University Library, Alberto Cairo details a study from the Pew Research Center, which concludes that many people who read articles that contain data visualizations do not know how to correctly read scatter plots, bar graphs, and line charts (Cairo, 2017). Though this study focuses upon popular media, the importance of an understanding of the interpretation of data can not be understated for scholarly communities. In a 2012 article in Art Documentation, Victoria Szabo emphasizes the value of data literate art historians who know how to use and organize data. She states that “Faculty and staff technical advisors sometimes unfamiliar with the research domain, even if experienced in humanities collaborations more generally, may not realize the extent to which their biases and assumptions for how to clean and standardize data could compromise the intellectual integrity of a project. Variant spellings, for example, could be important in tracing the provenance of a particular art object” (Szabo, 2012, p. 171). Interdepartmental collaborations with information technology staff may allow librarians and art faculty to learn more about data management programs, software, methods, and training.

 

Third: Creating one’s own data visualizations does not mean learning how to program Java or code HTML. For art historians who are just learning how to create visualizations, there are a number of free programs which exist to assist them. It may be beneficial to design instructional lesson plans around visualization software with which students are already familiar. I would suggest choosing a sample research topic within a class curriculum to be plotted in Google Maps. Topics like “locations of art auction houses in Paris” or “art galleries in New York during the Harlem Renaissance” may serve to develop simple exercises that illicit broader understandings of in-class research. Paul Glassman and Judy Dyki’s Handbook of Art and Design Librarianship, 2nd edition, contains several resources on using map plotting in art history research.

 

Once students have outgrown this more familiar tool, they can move on to greater objectives, like creating visualizations using the immense capabilities of Google Charts. They can practice embedding these visualizations into Wikis, LibGuides, or social media. And, they can explore increasingly sophisticated tools like ImagePlot while developing their comfort level with visualization technology.

 

Data visualization may seem like a daunting undertaking for researchers who have been educated mostly in text-based scholarship. But, the implications of having an understanding of visualizations in digital art history are immense. For art librarians who are increasingly tasked with the education of scholars in a digital field, I hope that the tools and ideas I have outlined may provide a basis of knowledge for teaching this emerging technology. I truly believe that, if introduced to the field of data visualization within the parameters of their understanding of visual literacy, data, and art scholarship, researchers will learn to be excited about the potential of data visualization to enhance and embellish their research work.

 

Bibliography/Further Reading

 

Bailey, J., & Pregill, L. (2014). Speak to the Eyes: The History and Practice of Information Visualization. Art Documentation: Journal of the Art Libraries Society of North America, 33(2), 168-191. doi:10.1086/678525

 

Cairo, A. (2017, October 13). Visual Trumpery. Lecture presented at Cornell University Library, Ithaca, New York. Retrieved January 2, 2018, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EnzNfPAzCSc

 

Glassman, P., & Dyki, J. (Eds.). (2017). The Handbook of Art and Design Librarianship (2nd ed.). Chicago, IL: ALA Neal-Schuman.

 

Ravas, T., & Stark, M. (2012). Pulitzer Prize Winning Photographs and Visual Literacy at The University of Montana. Art Documentation: Journal of the Art Libraries Society of North America, 31(1), 34-44. doi:10.1086/665334

 

Szabo, V. (2012). Transforming Art History Research with Database Analytics: Visualizing Art Markets. Art Documentation: Journal of the Art Libraries Society of North America, 31(2), 158-175. doi:10.1086/668109

 

Tomlin, P. (2017). Beyond the monograph? Transformations in scholarly communication and their impact on art librarianship. In The Handbook of Art and Design Librarianship (2nd ed., pp. 213-224). Chicago, IL: ALA Neal-Schuman.

 

Wetli, A. (2017, December 22). The Practice and Problems of Digital Art History [Web log post]. Retrieved January 4, 2018, from http://arlisnap.arlisna.org/2017/12/the-practice-and-problems-of-digital-art-history/

Digital Art Preservation: An annotated bibliography

This past Fall, I took a course in my MLIS program (Wayne State University) called Digital Curation and Preservation. As the title states, this course focused on the curation lifecycle and preservation processes for born-digital materials. Some of the work we did was directly related to libraries, but I also ended up learning techniques and practices for best preserving my own digital files (e.g. digital photos). The final project for this class had each student creating an annotated bibliography on a topic related to digital preservation, either solo or with a group. I chose to focus on digital art preservation and more specifically on articles that discussed documentation practices related to digital art preservation.

I wanted to share my annotated bibliography for anyone who may be interested in doing some reading on digital art preservation. It got me thinking about best practices for creating metadata and documentation that would best assist with the recreation of digital artworks in the future, past their own technological obsolescence. I was also interested in thinking about the contention that can exist between an artist and an institution (e.g. museum) in regards to preservation. Some artworks weren’t meant to last forever and their ephemerality is part of the artists’ intention. My bibliography isn’t even close to being an exhaustive list of resources related to the topic, but in what I read, I noticed a lack of connection between digital preservation as viewed through a librarian/information science lens and digital preservation as approached by those working directly in art institutions, like museums and galleries. I found it pretty interesting to think about and want to further explore these thoughts in the future.

Preventing Lost (Art) History: Problems and Practices of Documentation in Digital Art Preservation

The Practice and Problems of Digital Art History

I’ve written about the digital humanities (DH) before, posting a brief introduction to some DH tools, classes, and resources. In this post I want to focus specifically on the practice of DH in the field of art history. DH can bring a lot to field, but the practice of digital art history is also not without its challenges. The field of art history entered the digital world when the switch from teaching with slides to teaching with digital images occurred, but academia has pushed further into the digital realm with the increasing ubiquity of researching, publishing, and pursuing scholarship in digital environments (Zorich, 2013).

Not isolated to the field of art history is the reverence for the print publication. Print publishing is currently still the marker by which professors are evaluated for tenure and advancement, Deviating from this model could negatively affect chances for such (Zorich, 2013). Digital projects also present problems in their evaluation. As of yet, there are no general rules or guidelines on how to evaluate the merit of digital scholarship projects in academia. Difficulties also present themselves in the very visual nature of the art history field. Digital image analysis methods are not nearly as straightforward as digital text analysis. (Drucker, 2013 ). Text analysis using digital methods forms a major part of DH scholarship, providing research based on a distant reading of texts (Drucker, 2013 ) Digital methods for image analysis are still “far from being able to imitate human abilities of perception and analysis” (Drucker, 2013, p. 8).

Despite the challenges of digital art history, it is still very much a worthy field to pursue. One way art history faculty can dabble in digital art history, without the pressure and problems associated with doing so in their own research, is by bringing DH methods into the classroom (J. Schell, personal communication, December 4, 2017). The difficulty in evaluating projects still exists, how does a professor grade a digital project versus the standard term paper, but the stakes are lower (J. Schell, personal communication, December 4, 2017). DH in art history offers different ways for students to engage with the material, build skills, and spark their interest in cultural heritage in a different new way (J. Schell, personal communication, December 4, 2017).

Scalar, Omeka, and WordPress are popular tools that are used for creating digital collections and presenting digital exhibits. ImagePlot and ImageJ can be used for analyzing large sets of images. The type of digital tool used really depends on what type of question is being asked. Text analysis can be incorporated into art history studies, too. MALLETT and Voyant are two tools used for text analysis. It could be an interesting project to analyze the papers or letters from an artist’s personal archive. These are just tiny handful of digital tools that can be incorporated into art history scholarship and add meaning to the field.

So, where does the library and the art librarian fit into this? Subject specialists and liasons to art history departments may choose to explore these tools on their own and bring them to their faculty and students as seen fit. If a college has a department or librarian dedicated to DH, the art librarian can create connections between these departments and their own. Librarians have long been champions and purveyors of new technology.. I think even in departments that may be hesitant to move into digital art history territory, the art librarian can bring some simple DH tools into the practice in a way that suitably fits the environment. Creating digital exhibits is a great way to being work with digital scholarship, without using overly complicated tools or needing complex tech skills.

Lastly, I’d like to share some neat digital art history projects I found via the Frick Art Reference Library Digital Art History Lab.

Mapping Art Markets in Europe
Vincent Van Gogh The Letters
UCLA Rome Lab

Drucker, J. (2013). Is there a “digital” art history?. Visual Resources, 29(1-2),           5-13. DOI: 10.1080/01973762.2013.761106

Zorich, D. M. (2013). Digital art history: A community assessment. Visual               Resources, 29(1-2), 14-21. DOI: 10.108010973762.2013.761108

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.

Training Student Reference Assistants in the Academic Art Library: Tips for New Supervisors

With an abundance of paraprofessional and professional positions in art librarianship requiring supervisory responsibilities, newly graduated librarians may find themselves navigating the confusing territory of “recent former student supervising students.” Especially in academic art libraries, professional and paraprofessional staff must be responsible for cataloging, reference, outreach, and collection development, and thus try to maximize their availability by calling upon student employees to staff the circulation desk. Student workers, especially undergraduates, are likely hired under the presumption that they will handle beginner-level tasks such as checking books out, shelving, and labeling. However, in my experience the opposite has been true. When a student is the first point of contact at the circulation desk of a library, they will inevitably be faced with reference questions – and if there is not a librarian in close proximity, they should be prepared to answer those questions appropriately.

While in graduate school I read an article detailing the impact of student reference assistants in music libraries, and it stayed with me as I supervised student employees in an academic performing arts library. In this article from the journal Notes, Beth Christensen, Mary Du Mont, and Alan Green undertake a survey of music library reference services and conclude that “…heavy reliance on student employees may have a negative effect on the overall success of answering reference questions in music libraries,” referring specifically to the high level of patron dissatisfaction associated with assistance received from student employees (2001, p. 47). Due to the many similarities between searching for music resources and searching for art resources (multimedia formats, complex metadata, foreign language resources, copyright roadblocks, and more), the same may be true for visual arts libraries. As a result, I have gathered a few of my thoughts on preparing student reference assistants–specifically undergraduate students–for success.

We have all been warned that the reference desk is a dying concept. As research librarians become more mobile, we find ourselves better suited to embedded environments like classrooms and lecture halls. But, no matter where we find ourselves, we will always need someone to be back in the library, staffing the circulation desk. That person is often a student. I currently work in an all-undergraduate school, which means that our circulation desk students are just starting to learn how to do their own academic research, yet we are entrusting them with the ability to answer reference questions from their peers. For a new supervisor managing front desk students, this can pose a challenge. We want to set our library up for success, and we want the face of our library to be someone with strong art subject knowledge. However, when the professional staff is limited and the expertise of subject librarians is maximized elsewhere, this is not always possible. This means entrusting students to conduct successful patron interactions and, when necessary, delegate. I have found that it is helpful to address student assistants at the beginning of their employment and advise them to seek out a librarian for any questions they do not feel comfortable answering. In my library we have even compiled a list of questions that students assistants should be able to answer and questions they should transfer to a supervisor. This type of list depends upon the policies of your institution, but I have found that having a clearly stated guide to which students can refer is helpful in encouraging an understanding of when to consult a librarian and when to be ambitious and try to answer a question on their own.

Knowing that many of your more ambitious students will still try to answer every question on their own, it is important to convey the complicated nature of searching for resources in the arts. Many of my students are discouraged that when they type a few keywords into the library catalog they do not immediately find the results that they expected. In order to provide student employees with the skills to correct their mistakes and the foresight to understand their own searching capabilities, it is beneficial to use each mistake as a teaching opportunity. If a student presents you with a list of failed search queries, take the time to show them why the query failed and how to improve their search strategies, rather than just doing the work for them. You may find that the next time they are faced with a difficult reference question, they will be more willing to come back to you for help, or if they are fast learners, they may figure out how to do it themselves. Allowing students the opportunity to develop a contextual understanding of how and why some search strategies work and others do not is crucial to success for a new researcher in the very complicated field of art librarianship.

Finally, prepare your students to be successful customer service representatives. Any student reference assistant should be able to provide a satisfactory response to any patron’s question, whether they know the answer or not. A trick that I learned while working as a library page in a public library is to instruct student employees that they are never allowed to say “no” to a patron. For example: If they search the catalog for a book title, and the title does not appear, instead of saying “No, we do not have that book,” they should think of a way to continue the conversation with the patron by offering them another solution such as “I do not see it in the catalog, but would you like me to ask the Librarian for help?” or “I do not think we own this book, but can I direct you to Interlibrary Loan?” There is no better resource for teaching your student employees this reference strategy than the American Library Association’s Guidelines for Behavioral Performance of Reference and Information Service Providers (which I will link to below). If you have any student employees who have worked in retail or public service, they may already have a strong understanding of how to politely handle patron inquiries, but if they are new to this type of work, referring frequently to this guide may help to guide them along the way.

The challenge of working with student reference assistants is inevitable. Not only do student employees often have varying ranges of comfort conducting information searches, but even if we hire the perfect prospective art major to sit at our circulation desk, chances are that this student will be graduating in a few years, and we will need to search for someone new. When we find ourselves in the role of “supervisor,” it is our responsibility to assure not only that we maximize our time spent training student employees, but that we graduate students who know more about research and information retrieval and can act as mentors to their peers.

Christensen, B., Du Mont, M., & Green, A. (2001). Taking Note: Assessing the Performance of Reference Service in Academic Music Libraries: A Progress Report. Notes, 58(1), 39-54. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/900862

 

Guidelines for Behavioral Performance of Reference and Information Service Providers. (2016, August 02). Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/rusa/resources/guidelines/guidelinesbehavioral

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.

The Aspiring Academic Art Librarian: Decoding the Mystery of Tenure-Track Job Postings

If you are an art librarian or aspiring art librarian on the hunt for a job, you may have encountered a tenure-track job posting at some point in your search. When speaking to colleagues, friends, and peers in the field of art librarianship I have found that many emerging professionals find themselves unprepared to understand, or to market themselves as candidates for, these faculty status library jobs. For those librarians interested in pursuing academic work, a broad understanding of faculty librarianship can be beneficial in a multitude of ways. For these reasons, I have compiled a brief “beginner’s introduction” to faculty librarianship and applying for tenure-track library jobs, accompanied by a short bibliography of web resources for the job-hunting academic art librarian.

Firstly, if you are unfamiliar with the academic process of tenure, a description of this process is available through the Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL). This can be found in the accompanying bibliography. You may also find the ACRL’s Joint Statement on on Faculty Status of College and University Librarians to be helpful. According to the latter, librarians who are hired into a tenure-track positions are afforded the opportunity to gain all the benefits of faculty status, including “corresponding entitlement to rank, promotion, tenure, compensation, leaves, and research funds” (“A Guideline for the Appointment, Promotion and Tenure of Academic Librarians,” 2006). This means that if seeking tenure-track library work, one should be prepared to engage in professional development activities and conduct research in their field of library expertise in exchange for the opportunity to achieve tenure status.

Secondly, if you are interested in applying to a tenure-track library position but want to know more about the responsibilities inherent in such a position, you should understand that the qualifications for rank, compensation, and promotion of tenure-track librarians vary widely from institution to institution. I took this opportunity to speak to three librarians at different stages in their careers (two in art librarianship and one in academic librarianship, but not the arts) in order to acquire a variety of examples of experiences with different institutions’ tenure policies. For the sake of privacy I have chosen to keep the names of my interviewees anonymous. All three of these librarians have found that each institution seems to have its own timeline for evaluations of tenure-track librarians. For example, one school might evaluate tenure-track librarians for promotion to tenure every three years while another might evaluate them every five years. During this review process the librarian hopes to be approved for tenure, but if not approved, risks termination. Research and professional development budgets, publishing requirements, and time allotted to conduct research also vary.

Thirdly, one must realize that within the field of librarianship there are many varying opinions on what faculty status means for librarians. Librarians who are interested in conducting research and publishing scholarly literature within the field are better suited to tenure-track positions than those who prefer not to be responsible for this type of work. Anyone can apply for these jobs, but there is no guarantee of achieving tenure status. Perhaps one of the most beneficial steps one can take before submitting an application to a tenure-track position is to seek out the tenure requirements and policies of the institution to which they are applying. These policies are frequently available on the institution’s website (though be sure to verify that you are reading the tenure requirements for librarians, and not for other faculty). These outlines can provide invaluable insight into whether the position in question is right for you.

General Resources

Academic Librarianship. (n.d.). Retrieved December 12, 2017, from https://www.kent.edu/iSchool/academic-librarianship

“A Guideline for the Appointment, Promotion and Tenure of Academic Librarians”, American Library Association, September 6, 2006.

“Association of College and Research Libraries Joint Statement on Faculty Status of College and University Librarians”, American Library Association, September 6, 2006.

Johnson, H. (2016, May 3). A Tip of the Hat to Tenure: Realizations in my First Year [Web log post]. Retrieved December 12, 2017, from http://acrlog.org/2016/05/03/a-tip-of-the-hat-to-tenure-realizations-in-my-first-year/

Romanowski, C. A. (2015). First-time faculty librarian, first year experience: Overcoming tenure fears. College & Research Libraries News, 76(11). Retrieved December 12, 2017, from http://crln.acrl.org/index.php/crlnews/article/view/9414/10616

“Securing an Academic Librarian Position”, American Library Association, November 10, 2009.

Sample Institutional Tenure Policies
 

Indiana University Bloomington

Penn State University Libraries

University at Albany, State Universities of New York

University of Georgia