You are currently browsing the monthly archive for April 2008.

I remember (not so long ago, really) the days when I could not wait to graduate from student/paraprofessional to professional honest-to-goodness librarian. What was I thinking?

Everything is better, easier, and cheaper when you’re a student. You get reduced conference and association membership rates. You get all sorts of support and freebies from your school, such as informal & formal mentoring, advice, web-hosting, even software. And, perhaps most importantly, you get all those great databases and journal subscriptions online and at your fingertips 24/7. I was dually spoiled in this regard at my last position as Electronic Resources Associate, where it was literally my job to play (not quite the right word) around with our electronic subscriptions.

As I haven’t been involved in any serious research for awhile, I haven’t had much need for scholarly journals. However, occasionally I come across an article that I really want to read. And I would like to continue to do research in the field – it’s sort of my professional duty. But rather than being redirected to a happy little PDF link, I get a screen asking me if I would like to shell out $25 for a single article.

To all you students out there…while I know you’re counting down the days until graduation and don’t think you can do one more search in Academic Search Premier…count your blessings. So jot down just one more reason that libraries rock (and kiss your nearest acquisitions librarian – juggling those subscription budgets ain’t easy!).

In celebration of National Library Week, I am again tooting the horn of lifelong learning. While this particular gem is not affiliated with a library. it is both a great resource and a good example for libraries who want to expand their services.

Thanks Sarah Houghton-Jan at Librarian in Black for the heads-up on the SelfMadeScholar blog on self learning that also aggregates free online educational resources. It includes a Directory of Free Online Classes, from Buddhism to ESL. You can take a seminar on “Classical Hollywood Cinema” from the American Film Institute or “Art of the Western World” from Annenberg Media. There are also links to free online books and audiobooks (the “Free Library“). As someone who loves self-directed learning and sometimes feels overwhelmed by all that is out there, this is a great centralized resource. I’m really impressed by all the time put in by the creator of this site.

I just got back from a whirlwind conference day in lovely Las Cruces New Mexico. A day was all I could devote to conferencing, but I tried to make the most of it. It was also good to visit a new part of the state and see New Mexico State University and the impressive Zuhl Library.

Among programs on new technologies and the meaning of professionalism, I attended a very interesting session on the new Fine Arts Library at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. I haven’t yet had a chance to visit this building, but they have obviously done amazing things with their new space.

The presentation itself was entitled “Creativity All Around: and Within! The Fine Arts and Design Library at UNM” and featured 4 speakers who approached creativity in the Fine Arts library from different perspectives. The building project itself was discussed, along with the call to “claim your creativity” and step out of the librarian stereotype of being stuck in the dark ages (this seems to be more tangible lately with many exciting new “library as place” inspired building projects such as this and this and this).

Another presenter focused on the need to think outside the box in terms of collection development. They recently purchased a large video collection from a store going out of business down the street from the university. While this may fall under the radar of most collection development plans, it turned out to be an excellent way to fill in the gaps and make a stronger collection. It also turned out that the teaching faculty were extremely enthusiastic about the purchase (having informally used the store for years for teaching material), pointing out the need to get input from other constituents in the CD process.

The last two presentations were about instruction and reference in the Fine Arts library. The last presenter passed out handy bookmarks listing reliable online resources to use for those of us who don’t have access to comprehensive physical collections of fine art resources.

All in all, a good day…I really wish I had more time at the conference to network, however. It was great to finally meet some of the UNM art librarians, particularly Nina Stephenson. Her career path is an inspiration to me, though she commented on the dearth of art librarian jobs and the need to be in the right place at the right time. Easier said than done!

My first book review for the literary and arts magazine Moonshine is now online. Writing book reviews is a good impetus to keep me reading!

I’m in a mode of considering next steps – not actively job searching, but recognizing the need to plan ahead for the next year and beyond.  Without a plan, I feel like I don’t make consistent progress, and my plan right now feels too random.  It seems that the time is coming for me to review my progress over the past year and determine where I want to go from here.  I need to figure out my long term goals and structure my short term goals.  I’m keeping myself involved in a variety of ways, but I need more focus.

My ultimate career goal is to become an art librarian.  All the choices I have made over the past few years have been working towards that point.  But there are a variety of paths I can take towards that eventual destination – that’s where the tough decision-making comes in.  I have made significant strides towards a greater knowledge of art and proficiency in all areas of librarianship.  Where is my effort best utilized at this point?

I’m a natural list-maker.  On days when my thoughts are muddled, lists take the place of the flow of my thoughts.  So of course the first thing I did was to outline this process with a list.

Question: What are the qualifications of art librarians, and how does my resume stack up?

1. An academic background in art in combination with an MLIS. 

*What I have: My BA in art history.  If at all possible, I would definitely like to get my MA.  I am also constantly adding to my knowledge of art as part of my job and the independent research and book reviews I have taken on.

*Next steps: Keep researching.  Take graduate level classes when possible.

2. Knowledge of databases and resources specific to art.

*What I have: Experience with a wide variety of databases from my job as E-Resources Associate at UNL.  Many of these were art-related.  I also researched these tools and other art resources in an extensive collection development research project for my MLIS.

 *Next steps: Look into new resources and make sure I’m conversant about the existing ones.  Look over my collection development paper and see if it’s still relevant.

3. Cataloging and metadata experience

*What I have: Various experiences through work, internships, and coursework.

*Next steps: Keep up to date with skills and trends.  Look into online training/workshop opportunities, as well as other continuing ed. opportunities.

4. Professional involvement

*What I have: Association memberships, conference attendance, blogging, publishing, internships and networking.

*Next steps: find a mentor, seek more publishing opportunities (possibly in a scholarly art/library publication).  Keep up with trends in art librarianship through blogs and discussion lists.  Blog about these topics more specifically.  Brainstorm new ways to be more professionally active.

5. Reference skills

*What I have: Experience as a virtual reference librarian.  My research experience should also come in handy.  Customer service experience is also useful.

*Next steps: I am considering the wisdom of volunteering to take some reference shifts, possibly at the public library.  I have heard very conflicting views on volunteering professional time, so I hesitate.  Perhaps I will find a part-time position.

6. Experience working with special and digital collections.

*What I have: Experience through my internships.

*Next steps: Keep up with current trends. 

7. A resume and cover letter to set me apart from the crowd.

This is, of course, always a work in progress.  I’m constantly tweaking my resume and writing individualized cover letters for different types of jobs.  I need to ask more people to look at my resume and give me advice – new sets of eyes always help.  I had a good response last year, but it’s probably time to do it again.

After I compiled this list, I started looking over some of the information I’ve collected over the years about art/visual resource librarianship.  One of the most useful tools I came across is the ARLIS/NA “Core Competencies for Art Information Professionals” (which fortunately has a lot of overlap with my current list. I probably had it in mind at the time).  In the next few months I’m going to review this list carefully and consider how I want to use it to help me prioritize and move forward.

Some other short term goals:
-Update online portfolio
-Compile a physical portfolio (for interviews, and just to have everything “in writing” and in one place)
-Organize my internship notes
-Create sample projects (subject guides, bookmarks, syllabi, etc.)

This is a longterm career outline. If I try to tackle it all at once, I will get overwhelmed. But it feels good to have a bit more focus.

April 2008