Hack Your MLIS Program: Visual Resources Librarianship

Hi Arlisnappers! After a yearlong absence, I am back on the blog as a feature post writer and excited to be a part of the ArLiSNAP team once again. I recently graduated with my MLIS and I currently work as the Director of Visual Resources at the University of Georgia.

In April 2014, I shared my tips for hacking your MLIS program to focus on art librarianship. Now I’m back with a better-late-than-never follow-up on how I hacked my MLIS program to prepare for my career in visual resources librarianship. We have discussed how to plan your coursework so you are prepared to manage digital collections before, and this post will focus specifically on what you need to manage visual resources collections.

Visual Resources Center, Lamar Dodd School of Art, University of Georgia. Image courtesy of Courtney Baron.
Visual Resources Center, Lamar Dodd School of Art, University of Georgia. Image courtesy of Courtney Baron.

What is visual resources librarianship?

Visual resources librarianship is a bit different from art librarianship, though the two fields require similar skills and educational backgrounds. I have worked as a full-time visual resources professional for one year now, so I have a good idea of what the profession involves and what is required to do the job successfully. That being said, each position is unique depending on the needs of the institution. Visual resources professionals historically functioned as slide librarians, usually in art/art history departments or libraries. Now, we primarily manage digital image collections, though slide collections still exist at many institutions, and assist faculty and students with their image needs. We may also manage public visual resources spaces that range from digital scanning and projects labs to libraries with circulating materials.

Become involved in VRA

The Visual Resources Association (VRA) is smaller than ARLIS, but equally as welcoming. Hands down, this is the best way to get – and stay – connected to the field, especially if you are one of the few people in your program interested in art and visual resources librarianship. Not only do you have access to a large network of art and visual resources professionals, but you can also follow news, concerns, and trends on the VRA listserv. I encourage you to be active on the listserv as well since name recognition can help you in your job search later on! Seriously – my predecessor was very active, and I get asked about him all the time. If you have been involved with ARLIS but haven’t yet ventured into VRA, there is a joint conference next year in Seattle, WA, so it will be an opportune time to check out both organizations and annual conferences. There is also a similar group to ArLiSNAP called vreps – visual resources association emerging professionals and students – that you should join. The VRA Bulletin is the journal of the association and each issue contains a wealth of information about current issues and practices in the field.

Focus coursework and projects on visual resources topics

As I said in part one, the best way to ensure you are getting a similar education to a MLIS program that does offer an art librarianship track is to see which courses they require and which electives they offer. I also recommend looking at similar tracks, such as digital content/asset management or archives. I recommend courses on the following topics, since they relate to visual resources: humanities information services, digital libraries, descriptive cataloging and metadata, database design, digital humanities, and digital archives. Basically, looks for classes that focus on metadata, technologies, databases, and managing or curating digital archives, libraries, and other collections. These classes will give you an overview of the information you need and you can focus your projects and papers specifically on arts and humanities topics.

Independent study

In part one, I discussed an independent study on art and visual resources librarianship that I designed as an elective in my MLIS program. If you would like more information on that, I’m happy to share my syllabus and course projects in a later post.

This time, I’m focusing on what you can do independently outside of coursework to build some of the skills you need to work in visual resources.

Photography, Photoshop, and Lightroom 

Knowledge of photography, especially editing software, is very helpful for managing image collections. I still have a lot to learn about photography, but I have heard that ShootFlyShoot has fantastic photography classes. Why is this important? So you understand how the images you work with are produced, and you can produce images if required. Some visual resources positions require original photography of works of art, either from works in museum or galleries, or from faculty and student work. I do not produce original photography in my current position, but I do a lot of scanning, and knowledge of photographic editing techniques is essential. I use Adobe Photoshop, and recommend Photoshop Classroom in a Book to learn the basics of using Photoshop. The book has a disc with tutorials and sample images to practice editing. Adobe Lightroom is a simpler and easier way to edit images and is preferred over Photoshop by some visual resources professionals.

Metadata

Just like a library book would be lost without a catalog record, images would be lost without good metadata. I believe that metadata is perhaps the most important part of managing image collections. After all, what’s the point of having a collection if your content cannot be easily found? Just as there are cataloging standards and formats for cataloging books, archival materials, etc., these also exist for visual resources collections. Cataloging Cultural Objects (CCO) is a content standard for visual resources collections (comparable to RDA) and VRA Core is a metadata schema used to describe images (comparable to MARC). If you have access to Adobe Bridge, you can download the VRA Core panel and practice creating metadata for images. It’s also essential to be familiar with the Getty vocabularies, which are now available as Linked Open Data. The vocabularies will give you the structured terminology for art, architecture, and other materials and are essential tools for the proper cataloging of images.

Image resources

Working in visual resources doesn’t just mean managing image collections. There is a reference and instruction component. You must be able to help others find and locate images using subscription databases, institutional image collections, and free resources on the web. The most popular subscription database for images is Artstor Digital Library. If the institution where you attend school or work does not have a subscription, you can still check out the website or YouTube videos to learn more about how the database works and how to use it. There is a section with free guides, including subject-specific guides, and studying these is an excellent way to increase your knowledge of this resource.

Visual resources professionals manage institutional image collections or archives. These collections can include images from faculty and student image requests, images from digitized slides, images purchased from vendors, and images related to institutional history. In order to properly manage these image collections, you need to know how digital asset management systems work. A broad knowledge of DAMs is important, because there are many different systems out there. The most popular DAMs for visual resources include Artstor’s Shared Shelf, Luna Imaging, and Madison Digital Image Database (MDID). These can be high cost for some institutions, so in-house solutions are also popular.

You also need to know how to locate high-quality and accurate images on the web. Libguides are an excellent way to compile these resources, and many institutions have great libguides on locating images for you to browse and study. My personal philosophy behind libguides, or curating image resources in general, is this: quality over quantity. Your job isn’t to know all instances of where to find images of the Mona Lisa. Your job is to know where to find the best images of the Mona Lisa.

Copyright and fair use

You also need to know how the images you manage, or how images available in subscription databases or on the web, can be used. This is why copyright and fair use comes into play. For general information on copyright law, look at Copyright Law for Librarians and Educators: Creative Strategies and Practical Solutions. For copyright information related to the visual arts, your best resources are from the College Art Association. Copyright, Permissions, and Fair Use among Visual Artists and the Academic and Museum Visual Arts Communities was released in 2014 and and the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for the Visual Arts was released earlier this year. Study these documents and know them well.

Get experience – if you can

Some institutions don’t have a visual resources collection, but those that do usually need help. Don’t hesitate to reach out to a visual resources professional and ask if you can volunteer, intern, or even just visit the collection and learn more about what they do and what a typical day is like for them.

So this is what I recommend doing as a library science student if you are interested in visual resources. If other visual resources professionals are reading this, I’m curious to hear what you also recommend!

My Experience at SEI 2014

The following is an essay I completed about my experience at this year’s Summer Educational Institute (SEI), an annual joint venture by VRA and ARLIS/NA. This essay was a condition of my Kress Scholarship award, which made it possible for me to attend the event. Anyone with an interest in digital image management– from students to seasoned professionals– should seriously consider enrolling for the 2015 session!


It was a scene that could have happened anywhere: four people, drinking beers, talking about the Insane Clown Posse. More specifically, about the phenomenon of Juggalos and ICP fandom and the desire to know more about this fascinating subculture (the four people not being Juggalos, or even casual ICP fans, themselves).

Now, it so happens that this scene took place in Champaign, Illinois, at the 2014 Summer Educational Institute. The four people didn’t know each other very well, but were quickly bonding over their shared passion for goofy internet videos and preserving cultural heritage. We wondered: what are the authoritative sources on Juggalo culture? Are scholars or social scientists studying the socioeconomic underpinnings of ICP fandom? Is anyone saving the ephemera of that fandom, or documenting events like the annual Gathering of the Juggalos? “Where are all the Juggalo archivists?!,” we wondered.

This conversation happened in the midst of four rather fascinating and intense days. First off, the setting: for someone who’s always lived on a coast, the immense flatness of the midwest is always a bit jarring. It was a perfect frontier-like setting, though, for exploring relatively new-to-me topics. I found the sessions well-structured, as intellectual property flowed logically into metadata into digitization into preservation into advocacy– a nice framework for getting down & dirty with specifics while keeping sight of the larger visual resource landscape. The instructors were engaging, friendly, and scary knowledgeable about their fields. My favorite part, though (besides eating at Woorijib restaurant– seriously, the best Korean food i have EVER had) was the chance to meet colleagues from all over the U.S. Spending time with dozens of smart, passionate, and downright awesome people is high on my list of likes, and the fact that we all share a profession is pretty wonderful.

sei2014GroupPhoto
SEI 2014 attendees. Photo courtesy of the SEI 2014 website, http://sei2014.org/past-seis/pictures/.

The overall excellence of the week aside, it was still the Juggalo conversation that crystallized for me powerful shift in how I think about my work that was influenced by my SEI experience. When I began my current job, it was clear that one of my first orders of business was VR housekeeping. There were files to sort (both digital and physical), workflows to design, and a lot of baseline visual resource management principles to learn. While I was able to give myself a few crash courses on that last issue, it wasn’t until SEI that I was able to systematically, and holistically, think about the task at hand. Following my return I have improved our file organization practices, put some baseline preservation methods in place, began to think more carefully about the metadata I apply to image files when cataloging, and doubled down on my efforts to comply with digitization standards (an uphill task for someone without a photography or image editing background!).

More vital, though, is that shift I mentioned. Now that I’ve been in my position for almost a year, I am beginning to feel more confident in work I’m doing and the decisions I’ve made regarding our VR collection. Essential to this is the way I learned to think about creating, managing, sharing, and preserving the collection. Rather than envisioning mythological figures with shovels and stables or boulders and hills, I am now able to see my work in VR as more elegantly integrated with the other half of my job: research assistance and information/visual literacy instruction. Managing an image collection isn’t a goal in itself. It’s a means of providing our students with tools to improve their practice and learn how to be successful consumers, users, and creators of information both textual and visual. And someday, when I do find that Juggalo archive, I’ll know that the reason those archivists work so hard to preserve the cultural artifacts of ICP fandom is for the users who will study them, and analyze them, and create information that will enlighten those who care to find it.

-Ashley Peterson, Librarian at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Visual Resources Intern– The Jewish Museum

POSITION SUMMARY:

The Jewish Museum’s Visual Resource Archive consists of photographic materials depicting permanent collections objects, past exhibition installations, and themes relating to Jewish history and culture.

Under the supervision of the Visual Resources Coordinator, the Visual Resources Intern will be responsible for researching and cataloging physical photographic collateral including glass plate negatives, 35 mm slides, and 4×5 transparencies. The successful candidate will have film handling experience and will be familiar with collections databases. This is an excellent opportunity for someone looking to pursue a career in the visual resources fields and to observe the inner workings of a museum visual resources collection. The internship will also provide experience and hands-on training working with the most commonly used museum collections software, The Museum System (TMS).

The intern will receive a museum identification card that allows for free admission to other museums and various discounts.

RESPONSIBILITIES:

 Identify, research, and store photographic materials in the Visual Resources Archive
 Transcribe information associated with the images
 Label archival envelopes for the permanent storage of analog photographic materials
 Use TMS to find information about artwork depicted in images
 Entering data and attaching images to records in TMS may be required

REQUIREMENTS:

 At least 3 years coursework toward Bachelor’s Degree in Art History or Photography
 Experience handling delicate materials such as negative and transparencies
 Experience working with analog photographic materials and scanners
 Strong attention to detail
 Applicants with coursework toward advanced degree in Art History. Photography, Archives and/or
Library Science preferred

Full posting here.

Visual Resources Curator– Lamar Dodd School of Art, University of Georgia

Athens, Georgia

The Lamar Dodd School of Art seeks a curator of visual resources who possesses a solid knowledge of technology and an acute interest in providing new proactive services and support to faculty and students. This position reports to the Director of the School of Art. The curator will be responsible for developing, managing, and delivering visual resources, and for managing and overseeing additional digital teaching materials. Essential functions of the Visual Resources Curator include administration of the collection and training student staff. The successful candidate will work within the Lamar Dodd School of Art with a community of over 900 undergraduate students in Studio, Art History, and Art Education, 100 art history undergraduate majors and minors, 100 graduate students, and more than 45 tenured faculty in these three disciplines.

It is anticipated that the future projects for this increasingly dynamic position will require multiple skills, including the ability to manage complex, multi-year projects, to work in close collaboration with the faculty, administration, and staff of the Lamar Dodd School of Art, and to build relationships with the UGA. Libraries and with faculty and students across campus who may be investigating the visual arts. Projects may include digitizing the Lamar Dodd School of Art’s significant historic art slide collections, and collaborating with the UGA Libraries to develop print and digital resources and services on site in the Lamar Dodd School of Art. This challenging and rewarding opportunity requires both creative flexibility and independent individual initiative.

Requirements:

M.A. or B.A. in art
 history, architecture, visual studies
 or a related field. Substantial experience working with visual resources collections with knowledge of the issues around the creation, maintenance, and access of a visual resources collection, including familiarity with standards for visual materials. Experience working with digital imaging technologies and library management. Reading knowledge of multiple languages, ideally including one Romance language and German. Excellent interpersonal and communication skills, and ability to work in a collaborative setting. Strong organizational and management skills, including the ability to initiate, track, and manage complex, multi-year projects successfully.

Desirable qualifications:

MLIS or course work leading to an MLIS degree. Experience
 with
 image collection
 management
 and presentation
 software. Knowledge of digital images best practices. Familiarity with Macintosh operating system and proficiency with PowerPoint, PhotoShop, and web content and learning management systems (eLC). Understanding of copyright issues related to image collection management. Previous supervisory experience or team leadership.

We will receive applications for this position through the University of Georgia employment website, under the position title “Program Coordinator II” (https://www.ugajobsearch.com ).

Review of applications will begin on May 19, and will continue until the position is filled.

Assistant Visual Resources Curator– School of Visual Arts

DATE AVAILABLE: May 2014
JOB TITLE: Assistant Visual Resources Curator
DEPARTMENT: Visual Arts Library
REPORTS TO: Visual Resources Curator
STATUS: Exempt

POSITION OVERVIEW: Assists Visual Resources Curator in the daily operation of the Visual Resources Collection.

DUTIES & RESPONSIBILITIES:

  • Develop and provide access to digital image collection.
  • Provide support to faculty and student in the Visual Resources Collection.
  • Assist the curator in the daily operation of the Visual Resources Collection.
  • Maintain image database, organize and manage electronic images.
  • Oversee image processing (scanning of digital material, creation of metadata, and uploading of images and metadata to our local database).
  • Assist with ongoing digital image conversion projects; familiarizing faculty with MDID2, ARTstor, and other image resources.
  • Assist with inquires regarding scanning, Photoshop, PowerPoint and other VR related software and equipment as needed.
  • Troubleshoot image databases and working with Library Systems staff and campus IT to resolve technical issues.
  • Supervise and train student staff.
  • Occasional general maintenance of analog collection.

QUALIFICATIONS:

  • Bachelor’s degree in Art History, Fine Arts, Design, or other relevant field.
  • Knowledge of contemporary art–or be able to demonstrate an equivalent combination of education and experience.
  • Strong knowledge of digital imaging technologies, scanning, FileMaker Pro, PhotoShop, Excel, PowerPoint, PC and Mac Platforms
  • Mature and professional demeanor.
  • Excellent communication skills and the ability to work well with a diverse group of people.
  • High organizational aptitude and attention to detail.
  • Previous visual resources, library, art history, or gallery experience; working knowledge of data standards used for cataloging works of art and/or general office experience a plus.

School of Visual Arts has been a leader in the education of artists, designers, and creative professionals for more than six decades. With a faculty of distinguished working professionals, dynamic curriculum, and an emphasis on critical thinking, SVA is a catalyst for innovation and social responsibility. Comprised of more than 6,000 students at its Manhattan campus and 35,000 alumni in 100 countries, SVA also represents one of the most influential artistic communities in the world. For information about the College’s 31 undergraduate and graduate degree programs, visit sva.edu.

Find out what it’s like to work at SVA visit: www.sva.edu/about-sva/working-at-sva .

To apply for this position, please send a cover letter and resume to working@sva.edu. No walk-ins please.

The School of Visual Arts is an equal opportunity employer.

Full post here.

Library Collections Technician– Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, NY

For those of you who are interested in photographic archives…

 

Position Summary:

The department manages a circulating collection of slides, videos, 16mm films, and pictures/clippings and
an archival collection of bookplates, photographs, and design drawings. Under moderate supervision and
with moderate latitude for independent judgment, the employee holding this position participates in the
preservation, maintenance and acquisition of these collections.

Position Duties:

– Participate in the evaluation, scanning, inventory, and de-accessioning of the department’s circulating
slide, video, 16mm, and picture collections.
– Participate in maintenance of archival still and moving image collections including inventorying,
rehousing, and scanning projects.
– Assist Curator in maintaining digital image production work flow and tracking deadlines.
– Oversee filing, shelving, labeling, and repair of circulating departmental collections.
– Participate in acquisition of digital images and videos including entering and tracking orders and
preparing items for circulation.
– Oversee circulation statistics of departmental collections.
– Participate in providing public service as needed, including relaying policies, receiving image orders and
video purchase requests, assisting patrons locate images in ARTstor and the Picture Collection,
circulating slides, videos, and 16mm film.
– Participate in the hiring, scheduling, training, and supervising of student workers and graduate
assistants.
– Propose policies and procedures associated with department services
– Perform all other related duties as assigned

Education:
High school diploma or equivalent; and relevant associate’s degree or minimum 2 years related college
required. Bachelor’s degree or minor in film or photo-related field preferred.

Experience:
Must have experience handling rare or fragile materials, especially slides, photographs, and film.
Experience working with cataloguing and databases preferred.

Other:
Excellent organizational, interpersonal, communication, and customer service skills required.

To Apply: Please submit your cover letter, resume, and the names and contact information for three
professional references.

PRATT INSTITUTE IS AN EQUAL OPPORTUNITY EMPLOYER AND RECOGNIZES AND
VALUES THE BENEFITS OF A DIVERSE WORKFORCE.
Position Type – Full-Time/Regular
Salary – 39,400.50 USD
Tracking Code – 1386

 

From VRA Job Opportunities.

Library Assistant II- The Getty

Overview:
Working under the supervision of the Digital Library Specialist and the Head of Digital Services, this position participates in the creation and maintenance of digital collections. Works closely with staff in Digital Services, Special Collections Cataloging, Information Systems, and other Getty Research Institute units. Creates derivatives of digital images, and may occasionally create derivatives of video and audio files as well. Troubleshoots and reconciles errors (e.g. data orphans, malformed files) before ingest package is created. May create ingest packages for the digital repository and performs ingest procedures. With guidance from the Digital Library Specialist, maps, extracts, and transforms existing cataloging data into usable metadata for digitized materials. Familiarity with data modeling, metadata schemas, and controlled vocabularies and thesauri preferred. Knowledge of archival and library descriptive practices helpful.
Responsibilities:
* Applies knowledge of libraries and online records to assignments of moderate complexity * Competent to work with and answer questions regarding library information resources * Assists in development and maintenance of databases and operating procedures * Tolerance for detail-oriented, high-volume, and, at times, repetitive work * Familiarity with digital imaging best practices, capture devices, file formats * Familiarity with digital repository metadata standards helpful
Qualifications:
* Bachelor’s degree in art history or related discipline
* Minimum 2-3 years related experience
* Reading knowledge in at least one modern foreign language preferred
* Good written and verbal skills; attention to detail

Apply here.

Guest Post: Allana Mayer on presenting at the ARLIS/NA-MW Virtual Conference

Allana Mayer is an MLIS student at McGill University in Montreal. She recently gave a presentation at the ARLIS/NA-MW Virtual Conference titled From Commons to Open Content: New Perspectives on Visual Resources in the Public Trust. You can see our post about the conference here.

An art and media focus is hard to incorporate into your MLIS classwork, especially if you want to do more than re-hash ideas that are in the literature but outside of the lecture materials. I’ve found ways to incorporate my interests in photography, multimedia, and digital art as best I can — but I’m finding that the things I’m most passionate about are the hardest to reconcile with my curriculum.

 

I wrote a first-year paper about archival materials posted online via the Flickr Commons, which was a great initiative that fell short in a few specific ways. I was rewarded for this effort with a scholarship to the SLA conference in June, and I think that this positive feedback made me a bit more passionate for projects that make digitized visual resources freely available online. So, of course I paid attention when I started hearing about open content initiatives over the summer, via listservs like ARLIS. This was also how I heard about the ARLIS/NA Mountain West virtual conference, when they sent out a call for proposals.

 

I find the hardest thing to adapt to is the pace of academia: submitting a proposal two to six months in advance of an actual presentation means lots of time to get bored with an idea, fail, watch an emerging field die, go off on a tangent, get distracted by other things …. It’s nothing like the wham-bam of a three-month semester. This conference presentation happened almost by serendipity — I had just started reading about open-content releases online when the CFP went out, and I was sure there was some potential in the idea, so I kind of went out on a limb.

 

Instead of some polite rejections to learn from, I got a very welcome acceptance. I don’t regret taking the chance to move outside of scholarly publications and tackle an emerging field. The majority of my sources are new initiatives (e.g. the Open Knowledge Foundation), videos, blogs, and press releases by institutions themselves, far from academia.

 

There were few people interested in open content around me, and I didn’t have a visual-arts-librarian perspective to work from. If I could give my presentation again, I’d definitely think more about my ARLIS audience: I did well to present on a topic that wasn’t yet being covered in academic research, but I was speaking as though I was trying to convince institutions to participate, when I should have been talking about how to find, use, and provide these resources to students and patrons.

 

Luckily, a week after my presentation, I volunteered at a museum-technology conference here in Montreal, and attended multiple sessions dedicated to opening up cultural content. I used that opportunity to discuss making a multi-institutional repository where users can easily access open content. I also had a chance to advocate for the Getty and other open-content instigators to publish their processes and case studies, so that other institutions can follow suit and expedite their projects. This sort of confirmation and involvement can really beget itself early on in a career: after being validated like this, I feel a lot more confident about my future work interests.

 

Image used by Allana in her presentation, courtesy of the Rijksmuseum.
Image used by Allana in her presentation, courtesy of the Rijksmuseum.