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Taking an Adult Services course in library school got me thinking about programming and how it tends to be lacking in public libraries.  It seems like there’s so much more potential for really cool programs – especially those related to the arts.  It’s much easier for many people to visit their local public library than a museum or art lecture, so why not combine the two? This is a great way to collaborate with museums and enhance those all-important community partnerships.  Maybe local artists could show and give talks about their work – they get the public exposure, the public gets the art appreciation.  Win win.

So I was glad to see that this idea has been embraced by the Williamsburg Virginia Regional Library in a series called “Centuries of art @ your library.”  Through a partnership with the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, they have scheduled a series of lectures on topics such as “The History of Soviet Realism,” “and “American Realist Painters of the Early 20th Century.” Hopefully other public libraries will borrow this idea.

I find myself wondering how anyone really manages to swallow the fear of unknown outcomes and take on huge, dangerous responsibilities such as mortgages, car loans, children, etc.  Sure, as a country, as a global economy, we were riding on a credit high for the past couple decades and are only now seeming to come back down to earth.  People are losing their houses.  People are losing their jobs.  Until now, I have largely avoided the ill effects.  I live well below my means and I am a compulsive saver.  I do not take on consumer debt.  Thank goodness I remained cautious and did not take on a mortgage, despite lots of advice that it would be a great financial move.  Regardless of my good intentions and careful planning, the recession is starting to nip at my heels.

The art market is a strange and unpredictable bellweather of economic conditions.  In government employment, you know pretty immediately when things have taken a turn for the worse.  But art sales are part commodity, part investment, part consumer-driven emotion.  They’re like a microcosm of the larger capitalist system, playing by unique rules.  For months the lower end of the market has slowed precipitously.  I’ve seen galleries representing emerging artists struggle and fail.  Yet the high end of the market has remained strong.  The wealthiest investors continued to buy up the priciest art on the market.  In the same way that investors were turning to stable commodities such as gold, so were they turning to long-term investments in art.  Then the stock market fell off a cliff, and nobody’s buying anything.

I’m seeing the effects of the recession in all areas, which makes sense in a period of 6.5% unemployment.  The hiring process for the university VR position has been suspended due to budget concerns.  It may or may not be reopened next year.  I think the same is true for the state of NM, and my friend in Colorado said there is also a hiring freeze there for government jobs.  My brother works for a retail distributor and could lose his job any day.  If art sales continue to slide, my job is very much in jeopardy.  This means putting all my plans on hold until I see how things work out.  That’s a disappointment.  From several choices I have gone to just hanging on by my fingernails, like just about everyone else.  But like any challenge, this will be a learning opportunity if I stay positive and avoid panic.

It’s exciting to see how during the past few years the VRA community has become more collaborative and standardized.  Initiatives such as CCO, CONA, and the new cataloging wiki are all part of a process that has been evolving since before I became aware of these issues, but just in my short experience with visual resource management there have been many new developments. 

The larger cultural resource management community is paying attention.  Just recently the Getty Foundation awarded the Visual Resource Association Foundation a grant of $26,400 to use towards “Implementing CCO:  Standards and Best Practices.”  The idea of this project is to develop an international standard that will provide training and guidelines for combining with existing standards.

This obviously signals a greater interest in cross-institutional standards, and the support, means, and interest to implement them.

November 2008