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It feels like an accomplishment that I just had a book review published in a professional journal (ARLIS NA Reviews of the Art Libraries Society). I wrote about the Lawrence Weiner retrospective book of essays titled As Far As the Eye Can See, which gave me a chance to think about contemporary art in a more critical way than I usually do. I definitely learned a lot from the book and the experience.

I really enjoy writing book reviews, particularly about art-related subjects. I feel really fortunate to find an outlet like Moonshine, which welcomes my reviews every couple of months. I don’t get paid, but I definitely reap the intellectual rewards. It keeps me reading and pursuing new subject matter, and forces me to think critically. And hopefully it is helping to polish my resume, regardless of the direction I take in the future.

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I just read about a fascinating social experiment on the ARLIS-L discussion list. The contributor is a librarian at Provisions Library in Washington D.C., which is described as “an arts and social change learning resource that amplifies compelling voices that challenge and redefine the mainstream. Its library and online services are a trusted source for alternative perspectives on a wide range of social change topics and its innovative exhibitions strongly engage the arts as a powerful means of exploring social issues and as an agent of change.” That in itself is worth further exploration.

Anyway, apparently this librarian was contacted by an artist with an idea inspired by the recent near-closings of Washington D.C. libraries. He wants to leave small locked boxes around the city that contain books and other objects. Subscription to these “libraries” would be keys mailed to applicants. The interesting concept is the interaction with the boxes and their contents. People would be encouraged to contribute art, poetry, etc. to the boxes. According to the librarian, “the effect would be a dialog between and among the library and its users”.

I think more ideas along these lines should be explored. Not only is this a way to counteract branch closings (if in a very limited manner), but also a really innovative and creative way to integrate art into library services and give people an outlet for creativity and collaboration. Pretty cool!

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.