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

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.