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.

A Place For All People exhibit

Check out the online poster exhibit “A Place For All People”. This was curated by kYmberly Keeton, who I recently interviewed for a Success Story blogpost!

“A Place for All People: Introducing the National Museum of African American History and Culture” is a commemorative poster exhibition celebrating the opening of the Smithsonian’s newest museum that opened Sept. 24, 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 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. 

ARLIS/NA Conference to be held in Montréal in 2021!

ARLIS/NA Conference in Montréal, Canada in 2021

Original post by Jessica Herbert, ARLIS/NA MOQ, Nov 20, 2017. See full post here

In 2021, we invite you to discover Montréal: one of the largest French speaking cities in the world, a UNESCO city of Design, a festival town, a food lover’s paradise, an art metropolis, a technology hub. The Montréal-Ottawa-Québec (MOQ) chapter of the Art Libraries Society of North America proposes to host the 2021 ARLIS/NA conference in Montréal in late March 2021, to allow for milder winter temperatures.

Why Montréal? Over the last decade, the downtown core has benefited from a significant Quartier des spectacles revitalization project, which links together public spaces, the Montréal Museum of Contemporary Art, concert halls, theatres, galleries and restaurants in a dynamic and accessible setting. Art and design are intertwined in the daily life of the city, with hundreds of public artworks. Our proposed timing for the conference would provide a particularly intriguing opportunity to experience art’s role in this city’s civic life, as it would coincide with the annual Art Souterrain festival which features hundreds of public art exhibits in Montréal’s underground city.

For the 2021 conference, we propose a theme centering around the idea of convergence. The city of Montréal itself is a site of convergence, as a place where both French and English are commonly spoken, different languages and cultures come together, and a blend of old and new is manifested in its history, architecture and integration of technologies. This theme also reflects the nature of ARLIS/NA and the MOQ chapter, which are composed of members from a variety of different backgrounds, working in small and large institutions, including public libraries, academic institutions, museums as well as many independent professionals and students. The theme of convergence can be expanded to explore the relationship between professional practice with community and arts organizations like art hives and fablabs. It can also focus on the convergence of new technologies, such as 3D printers, virtual reality, and digital artists’ books and how they have become integrated into the practice of librarianship.

Since the ARLIS/NA conference was last held in Montréal in 1995, with the theme of Art and the Francophone World, the city has continued to evolve, particularly in the arts and cultural sector. We will provide an itinerary that will allow attendees to revisit some historical highlights of the city, while learning about newer initiatives and cultural institutions that have developed over the past twenty years, including organisations with a focus on digital technologies, such as the Société des arts technologiques and the Phi Centre.

 

 

Join us in La belle province in 2021!

 

On behalf of the Montréal-Ottawa-Québec chapter of the Art Libraries Society of North America.

DIY Feminism: Grrrl Zines in the Third Wave, an exhibit

I recently curated an exhibit using materials from the Special Collections and Art, Architecture, and Engineering Library at The University of Michigan. It focused on the intersection between Third Wave feminism and zines. I put up a physical exhibit in the The University of Michigan’s graduate library and also created a digital exhibit using Omeka.

Definitely not great quality, but a photo of one of the cases in the physical exhibit.

Omeka is a content management site for organizing digital collections and is a great way to create and publish exhibits. The UM Library has an organizational account for the creation of multiple exhibits, but anyone can sign up directly through Omeka and create an exhibit of their own with a personal account. You could even make an digital collection of some of your own personal items just for fun! I found it really enjoyable and a good way to get hands on work with digital collections and metadata.

A case featuring books the library has on the topic of Riot Grrrl, Third Wave feminism, DIY publishing, zines, etc.

You can check out my digital exhibit, DIY Feminism: Grrrl Zines in the Third Wave at the link!

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tell us something fun about yourself! What do you do in your spare time? If you could take a trip to visit any library in the world, what would it be?
I get a kick out of shooting pool, traveling the globe, and chilling in my design studio. If I could visit any library in the world it will be the presidential library of Barack Obama.

Canadian Librarians Spotlight: An Interview with Daniel Payne

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alt-Career Spotlight: Joanne Fenn, Collections Manager/Museum Registrar for the Kent State University Museum

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

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

I work for the Kent State University Museum, informally known as the “Fashion Museum.” The Kent State Museum contains important collections of fashion and decorative arts. Its seven galleries feature changing exhibitions of work by many of the world’s great designers. Closely linked to the Shannon Rodgers and Jerry Silverman School of Fashion Design and Merchandising at Kent State University, the Museum provides students first-hand experience with historic and contemporary fashions, as well as costumes representing many of the world’s cultures. An extensive collection of American glass, fine furniture, textiles, paintings and other decorative arts combine to give context to the study of design. The Museum serves both the University and the community through exhibitions, public programs, and research appointments in the collections.

Can you tell us a little bit about your background and your current position?
I have a B.A. in art history, and M.A. in arts administration, and an M.L.I.S.
Prior to KSUM, I worked for 10 years at The Cleveland Museum of Art in their Asian Art department and Registrar’s office.

I am the collections manager/museum registrar for the museum, with the academic rank of associate professor. I find that I need to explain to most everyone what I do. I am responsible for the intellectual and physical organization and care of the collection. The university considers my work as teaching in a non-traditional way; as a practitioner. It is a similar rational for why librarians have an academic rank.

What brought you to your current position?
I was looking for a change for a myriad of reasons from work/life balance to expanded opportunities. The timing was perfect.

What does a typical work day look like for you?
As you can imagine, collections work means the typical work day varies. Some of my favorite variations involve working directly with students hired to help me, and teaching collections management workshops for graduate library science students. I also work with faculty helping to augment classroom pedagogy through use of the collection. Because of the nature of the collection (predominantly light sensitive textiles) there is not a permanent collection gallery. The museum is in exhibition-change mode frequently, and we also travel in-house exhibitions and individual loans. The work ranges from desk work (contracts, “database” projects, grant writing) to projects that require physical strength and agility (installing/de-installing, packing/crating, etc.).

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

Of course to obtain hands-on museum experience through volunteering and internships. Recognize that this is a highly competitive field, so get as much education and training as feasible. Also, be positive; it will happen!

What are some of the current challenges you see in your field or the art/information science field?
Keeping up with technology in a way that serves museums, but does not replace the experience.

Tell us something fun about yourself! What do you do in your spare time? If you could take a trip to visit any library or museum in the world, which would it be?
In my spare time I like to exercise and run. I greatly enjoy spending time with my husband and children, especially if it involves a beach.

If I could visit any museum in the world? That’s difficult! There are so many fascinating collections. I’ll just work my way through as many as I can (especially if it involves a beach).

Hack Your Art Librarianship Program: University of Wisconsin, Madison

This Hack Your Art Librarianship Program post was contributed by Ellen Faletti. Ellen is a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin Madison Information School. She is interested in art and museum librarianship, especially at the intersections of provenance, digital humanities, and database management. Outside of school, Ellen enjoys biking, running, and yoga. Twitter: @LN2891

The Master’s Program at the University of Wisconsin Madison Information School is an accredited ALA program. A Master of Arts in Library and Information Studies can be completed either on campus or online. The Master’s Program is completed in 39 credits; required are 3 core classes, one technology course, one management course, a practicum, and an e-portfolio. Courses are taught by both academics and professionals in the library field – both on campus and online.

The possibility of becoming an art librarian is what encouraged me to seriously consider and apply to library programs. While the UW-Madison iSchool does not offer an art librarianship track, there is the option of doing a dual degree program in both the iSchool and the Art History program. This takes at minimum 3 years, and you must be admitted into both programs. While I am not in the dual degree program, I have been able to take classes and cater them towards my interest of art librarianship. This has meant choosing topics in my courses that deal with art databases, books as objects. Art librarianship can be a mix of both archives and academic librarianship, both of which are strong tracks in my program.

I have had the opportunity to take a book history course, and I do know that an art librarianship course is offered every 2 years in the program. My program also offers 5-week, one credit classes which can cover different topics in librarianship. I have taken 5 week classes on Linked Data, Digital Image Archiving, and Special Collections.

The iSchool does allows students to take up to 3 courses in other fields that can count towards the degree. Knowing most art positions require a foreign language, I started German, and am currently in the first semester of a two-semester museum studies course.

A 120-hour field placement is required. I took this as an opportunity to work in the art museum on campus conducting provenance research and also creating a manual for the museum’s database. The program also offers a library instruction practicum. The iSchool does encourage us to work outside of our practicum and school as well. University of Wisconsin has over 40 libraries. I have worked at a general library, the map library, law library, and am currently working at the art library and the art museum. The university’s Special Collections, Digital Collections and Wisconsin Historical Society also hires LIS students. While it is important to gain practical experience, I also want to emphasize the importance of taking care of yourself physically and mentally, and that students should not feel compelled to do all the things.

Overall, I would recommend the UW-Madison iSchool. I feel supported in all my endeavors, and have built meaningful relationships with students, faculty, and staff. As a Wisconsin resident, it was hard to justify going to an out-of-state school, and I believe the education I am receiving at UW-Madison is valuable and a great fit for me.

Maya Lin’s Wave Field & Minoru Yamasaki’s McGregor Reflecting Pool

I work at The University of Michigan Library and am a student in Wayne State University’s School of Information. I wanted to share some of my favorite places and public art pieces on each of these campuses.

Image courtesy of The University of Michigan

Maya Lin’s Wave Field is located on The University of Michigan’s North Campus, tucked between some Engineering School buildings.

Image courtesy of The University of Michigan

Lin was commissioned to create the work in 1995 and describes it as, “pure poetry. It is a very gentle space that exists on a very human scale. It is a sanctuary, yet it’s playful, and with the changing shadows of the sun, it is completely transformed throughout the day. ‘The Wave Field’ expresses my desire to completely integrate a work with its site, revealing the connectedness of art to landscape, or landscape as art.” I love Wave Field and am always taking friends there who have never seen it before. It feels a bit magical, like a secret. If you didn’t know it was there, it would be hard to stumble upon.

Image courtesy of Wayne State University

Minoru Yamasaki designed several buildings on Wayne State University and in the Metro Detroit area. In 1958, the Yamasaki designed McGregor Conference Center was built, which included a beautiful and serene reflecting pool area. The pool lay empty and neglected from the late 90s until more recently, when they were reopened in 2013. The McGregor reflecting pools are truly a gem of the campus and the city of Detroit.

Image courtesy of Wayne State University

Do you have any favorite public artworks?