Discussion: What do you do if your program doesn’t offer an art librarianship track?

I thought it would be interesting to talk about creating your own art librarianship track when your program does not offer one.  Many MLIS programs offer dual-degrees, certificates and specializations in various areas but unfortunately art librarianship is not always one of the options available. So, if you are not in a program that gives you the opportunity to follow a ready-made path towards art librarianship, how do you create your own? How do you pick which courses to take?

I think a good starting point is looking at the schools that do offer certificates or specializations in art librarianship to find out the kinds of classes that are included in their curriculum.  The School of Informatics and Computing at Indiana University in Bloomington offers a dual-degree program and a specialization for those interested in becoming an art librarian.  The School of Information and Library Science at the Pratt Institute also offers a dual-degree program in Art History and Library and Information Science.  By glancing over the curriculums provided for these two programs and others like them you could gain a pretty good idea of the kinds of courses you might want to considering making a part of your plan of work.  Courses that seemed central to these programs included ones that covered metadata, digital libraries, and humanities reference.

It might also be worth looking into educational opportunities outside of your program that will help you on your way to becoming an art librarian.  A good place to start would be with ARLIS/NA’s webinars that cover a variety of important issues in art librarianship.  There are also MOOCs; Harvard’s Extension School for example offers free courses on a variety on art, humanities, and museum studies that may help to deepen your knowledge of the field.

What about you? Are you in a program that offers an art librarianship track or have you had to create your own?  What kinds of courses do you think are important? Any other comments/thoughts/advice?


6 Comments on “Discussion: What do you do if your program doesn’t offer an art librarianship track?”

  1. Jessica Evans Brady says:

    Great discussion topic! I created my own by making my paper/project topics about art librarianship whenever I could. I regularly read job descriptions for art librarian positions and choose my courses, projects, internships, volunteering, etc. to build up the right skill set for the types of positions I hoped to pursue. I also got involved with my local ARLIS chapter and read Art Documentation and especially the listserv. I learned to much from ARLIS. I still do!


  2. stephgrimm says:

    My experience was similar to Jessica’s. While our program didn’t offer an art librarianship track (or a dual degree), there was enough flexibility in the schedule to tailor my courses to cover relevant topics. Our program also had a requirement for at least two cognate courses, both of which I took in the art history department. Internships and short-term projects were really the most useful in terms of building a skill set, though, so if your school’s schedule or courses don’t quite allow you to tailor to suit an art librarianship, try to focus your energy there.

    And ditto on ARLIS / ArLiSNAP involvement, and connecting with your local chapter!

    Also, you have to decide what kind of art librarian you’d like to be – are you interested in digital archives and visual resources? Reference or instruction? Maybe you’re jazzed about data mining, and want to know how that kind of work can support visual arts practice and research. Keep in mind the many ARLIS/NA members who may not work in traditional “arts librarian” positions, but who utilize their experience and subject knowledge. ARLIS/NA’s mentorship program (and the forthcoming informal mentoring initiatives) can be very useful for this, so be sure to check on those opportunities!


  3. sadlerabigail says:

    Thanks for bringing up internships and volunteering! I really think that the importance of these kinds of experiences should not be understated.

    Also, I wanted to share with everyone the link for an upcoming MOOC that I just got an email for and thought would be of interest https://www.canvas.net/courses/information-literacy-for-art-and-design-students


  4. stephgrimm says:

    Thanks for the link, Abigail! It’s great to see that these kinds of educational resources are becoming more prevalent, and even better to have one tailored to art & design students.

    Hmm, maybe this could be an interesting topic for the new librarians in the group or those just getting into the teaching game. “What are you seeing as the most important skill or concept for students to grasp?” or “What do the students /not/ know that surprised you?”


  5. […] art librarianship today and will cover visual resources specifically next time. We have discussed what to do if your program doesn’t offer an art librarianship track before, as well as learning metadata on your own, but I thought it would be fun to share some of […]


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