Conversation with Claire Kennedy: Librarians in the Art Studio

Claire Kennedy

Following her thought-provoking talk at ARLIS, “Artist in the Library: A Case Study”, in which she touched on the underexplored applications of LIS training in a studio environment, we wanted to follow up with Claire Kennedy, formerly the Librarian and Archivist for John Baldessari, to discuss further.

First, can you briefly discuss your current position and some of your main day-to-day responsibilities and priorities?

Actually my current position is Gallery Archivist at L.A. Louver Gallery in Venice, California. I was just hired, as of a month ago. Before this recent change, I worked for the artist John Baldessari as his full-time Librarian and Archivist.

What is your educational background?

I have a degree in Anthropology and an MLIS degree, both from UCLA. In between my two degrees I spent about six years working and taking a few classes here and there. I would recommend to anyone interested in diversifying their training to look into taking a class in something like project management.

Did you “hack” your library degree in order to prepare you for working directly with artists?

No, I didn’t. My background is in rare books and manuscripts. I worked in Special Collections libraries at UCLA, the Huntington and with private book dealers and collectors before working for John. I think the best thing you can do while in an MLIS program is to take all the technology classes you can. Take UX design, or web development if you can. Take archiving classes if you want to be a librarian and take cataloging if you are training to be an archivist.

Can you talk a little bit about ways that you draw on the more conventional aspects of your LIS education? And what are some things you’ve had to learn on your own?

I think the most conventional skills I have used working for John were cataloging books, applying preservation knowledge to re-housing paper-based and photographic archival materials, record retention scheduling and the research skills I picked up in my degree program and working in libraries. As far as the skills I had to learn on my own, I had to learn about how to track auctions, gather provenance information, become familiar with the production and exhibition schedules of an art studio and the needs of John’s production staff. In the private world, you learn how to assess and serve the needs and priorities of your employer. In the MLIS program, it is sometimes taken for granted that everyone will eventually be working in a Public or University library setting. Its too bad that the private working world isn’t discussed more.

What would you consider the most rewarding parts of your job, and what are your biggest challenges as an information professional in a nontraditional environment?

I think the biggest challenge was learning how to communicate the needs of the archive and library to people who aren’t also librarians. I had spent most of my career around like-minded library staff who understood perfectly where I was coming from when I spoke about bone-folders and bindings. When I was the only MLIS working amongst artists, I discovered that I had to learn how to communicate more clearly about the needs of the minutiae of the library and archive. Initially I was out of my comfort zone.

What is a typical day like for you?

Working for John, I purchased and cataloged books, documented artwork in the database, created condition reports for artwork coming in and going out of the studio, performed research for outside reference inquiries, I tracked auctions and processed reproduction requests. There were always new tasks and projects popping up every day. Sometimes I wore multiple hats, where I was helping the production manager move large artwork around the studio, or running errands to lend a hand. We all worked together in the studio to get the job done.

During your talk in Fort Worth, you alluded to the fact that artists often have a need for people with LIS training, but they’re either not aware of the field or not able to articulate their needs using LIS language, so the two communities aren’t connected.

In your opinion, what is the impact of those jobs being filled by people who lack LIS training?

I think that LIS training is essential to perform the meticulous, detail oriented work that we are asked to do. Database management, creating and tracking inventories, cataloging books and other objects, performing research, maintaining any type of project schedule, etc. I believe there are “archivists” and “librarians” out there hired to do this kind of work who don’t have the training, skills and experience we do. As a result, I suspect there are some messes being made. Ultimately we are experts at preserving things and making them retrievable. In a world where there is so much being produced, digitally and physically, our skillset is an incredible asset. All we need to do is promote ourselves! How can we do this? Let’s work together to make ourselves invaluable!

Is there a community of information professionals who work with practicing artists? And how can interested ArLiSNAPers (and others) get involved?

That’s a great question! I don’t think so. I could be wrong, but I am not familiar with any group in Los Angeles. As the Southern California Chapter Chair, along with the chapter’s Vice-Chair Ben Lee Ritchie Handler, I want to reach out to all the archivists and librarians (professional or not) to form a network. We can all help each other, put together show-and-tells as well as workshops.

Do you have any advice for bridging the awareness gap between the two communities?

To be honest, I recommend joining your local ARLIS chapter and being very proactive! Cold email anyone who is working in creative spaces in your area and set up a visit for your chapter. Ask to interview local artists for your local chapter’s blog or website. Start communicating with a local gallery and offer your contact information in case any of the artists they represent need any assistance with their archive or documenting their work. Go to art gallery openings and start meeting people. Build your own resources.

Do you have any tips for job-seekers on how to approach artists about their information and content management needs?

I guess I answered this question above. But my biggest piece of advice is to put yourself out there. Email artists and tell them what you can do for them.

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Curator Special Collections/Assistant Librarian — Miami University

The Miami University Libraries seeks an enthusiastic, knowledgeable, proactive and service-oriented librarian for the Walter Havighurst Special Collections. Reporting to the Head of Special Collections and Archives, the Curator of Special Collections/Assistant Librarian will foster engagement with the collections, develop relationships with researchers, promote the collections among academic faculty, coordinate instruction in the use of departmental primary resources and participate broadly in departmental services and outreach.

A graduate degree in library or information science from an ALA-accredited institution; formal coursework or training in rare books, special collections librarianship, and/or history of the book; ability to meet the Miami University criteria for advancement and promotion of librarians as outlined in the Libraries Appointment, Rank and Promotion System (LARPS); training and/or experience providing reference or research assistance in an academic library; training and/or experience providing instruction in primary resources, special collections and/or archives; ability to work effectively in a customer service oriented environment; ability to work effectively as a team member to produce targeted outcomes; ability to work independently and prioritize work to ensure that goals are realized; demonstrated strength in written and verbal communication in English.

For more information or to apply for the position, please see www.miamiujobs.com/applicants/Central?quickFind=54077


Paid digital archive intern

Artist seeks paid digital archive Intern, deadline Nov 30

Seeking PAID DIGITAL ARCHIVE INTERN to Begin January 2015

Whitney Biennial artist seeks paid digital archive Intern to assist with reorganizing and managing five (5) 2 TB external drives containing video, audio, image and text files. The reorganization of 20 years of digital data is intended for two different purposes: (1) as “active storage” in the artist’s studio, and (2) as the digital addition to her non-digital “Collected Papers” already archived at a major academic institution.

The successful candidate will have:

-knowledge of Information and Library Science management systems

-coursework in the management of born-digital records preferred

-high comfort level in learning new technologies

-discretion when dealing with confidential or sensitive information

-accuracy and attention to detail

Our studio is located in Lower Manhattan. We anticipate the paid intern chosen will work a total of 12-16 hours per week, with flexible afternoon and early evening hours to be arranged. The post will begin in January 2015.

Please email resume and cover letter highlighting any relevant work experience and coursework to: lorraineogradystudio@gmail.com  attn: Sur, Studio Manager.

We will accept applications until midnight, November 30. On December 9 will begin contacting suitable candidates to arrange in-person interviews.

Our goal is to reach a final decision no later than December 21.


Project Archivist — Library, Baltimore Museum of Art

The Baltimore Museum of Art is seeking an experienced Project Archivist for the successful execution of an archives processing and digital preservation policy project. This is a grant-funded, 12-month, full-time, temporary position in the Library and Archives Department of The Baltimore Museum of Art.

Responsibilities include but are not limited to:

  • Following national standards and best practices for archival description, process and arrange institutional records, recommend and implement appropriate preservation procedures, work with Archivists’ Toolkit, and prepare MARC records.
  • Train and supervise volunteers and interns.
  • Working with staff throughout the Museum, develop an institution-wide digital preservation policy.  Create procedures specifically for the preservation of born-digital and digitized archival records.
  • Promote the progress and results of the project via social media, professional conference presentations, and/or articles in professional journals or newsletters.
  • Remain competent and current through self-directed professional reading, developing professional contacts with colleagues, and attending professional development courses and training.

This full-time, temporary, exempt position reports to the Head Librarian & Archivist in the Education Division.

Full post here.


SAA Annual Meeting Recap

This year I made my first trip to the Society of American Archivists annual meeting, which was held in Washington DC. It was my first time attending a large conference, so it was a lot to take in, but I think I made the most of my time there without getting too overwhelmed! It was a quick trip, I only was there for one-and-a-half days, so unfortunately I don’t have a comprehensive report to give, but below are some of my impressions and opinions on the happenings at the conference and my experience as a first-timer.

My main reason for attending the conference was to network and augment my job search. I met with someone to look over my resume and discuss strategies for applying, and she was very helpful in giving me suggestions of places to apply to and offering to pass my resume along to colleagues. Other offerings for attendees in the midst of applying to jobs were not as helpful, however. There was a job board with postings, most of which were already on SAA’s website, and a place to post your resume, but I didn’t get the sense that either area was attracting that much attention or that career and job search services were a strong point of the conference as a whole.

As for professional development, the session I found most interesting, beneficial and probably the most useful to ArLiSNAP members, was a roundtable on visual materials cataloguing and access. In it, a panel discussed the new Descriptive Cataloging of Rare Materials (Graphics) guidelines, how they differ from and and relate to existing guidelines and how they can be implemented using MARC (DCRM(G) can also be used in EAD as well). First a “live cataloguing demo” was presented and then we split up into smaller groups to try our hand at using the guidelines to catalogue a photo album. When we reconvened as a larger group, each one had thought of different ways of titling and describing the materials (and some heated arguments ensued). It was a good reminder that there can be multiple “right” ways to catalogue, and that cataloguing is an art with guidelines to follow, but no real hard fast rules. In a room full of seasoned cataloguers all using the same set of guidelines to describe the same materials, differences abounded. Knowing that veteran cataloguers faced some of the same cataloguing quandaries I have as a new professional was reassuring, if not a bit unbalancing as well. I also attended sessions on preventative conservation, deaccessioning and teaching with primary resources. If anyone is particularly interested in preventative conservation, I have a handout from the session listing some great resources for disaster planning and risk management which I would be happy to share.

I also attended the Museum Archives Section meeting. Primarily this was a business meeting for officers, but it was interesting to see which museums were represented and what issues were discussed. Funding and administrative support seemed to be the main hot-button issues, which is not surprising coming from the non-profit sector. For those of us working in museums and other non-profit arts institutions, funding issues and defending the importance of library and archives’ place in the arts are probably things we will all have to deal with at some point in our careers.

I went solo, which might seem scary to some, but between my jam-packed schedule and the general bustle of the conference it didn’t leave much time to be intimidated. Plus, it being a fairly small professional circle, it wasn’t hard to spot former classmates and colleagues. So, even though I went alone, for much of the time I was with people I knew or networking and making new acquaintances. The biggest hindrance to attending was the cost. Being a recent graduate, I got student pricing which helped out immensely, but still there was the cost of the plane ticket, hotel room, food and transportation. I would highly recommend that any current students thinking of attending next year try to involve themselves in some way, whether it be submitting a poster or serving as a member of their SAA student chapter, to get some financial help from their program to attend.

Overall, I felt it was a great experience. There was a lot to offer for those interested in art and visual materials, and good representation from museums and other arts and cultural institutions. My goal was to network and I definitely made some great, and I hope lasting, connections. Besides trying to get help with funding, my biggest piece of advice would be to go in with a specific goal. Having networking and job hunting in my mind helped to keep me focused and not feel like I had to do everything.

Did anyone else go this year? What did you think? If anyone has specific questions about the conference itself, the sessions I attended or attending in general, feel free to email me!


Job postings

Assistant Archivist– Corning Museum of Glass

P/T Records Manager/Archivist– Segerstrom Archive

Collections Photographer (Library Technical Assistant IV)– NYPL


Volunteer (?) Opportunity: American Theatre Archive Project, New York City (also across America and Canada)

The following was sent out on the SLA Arts / Design / etc listserv re: the NYC team, but I had never heard of the American Theatre Archive Project before. If you visit their website you can see all their initiatives in various cities, and probably join in, if you’re so inclined.

 

American Theatre Archive Project (ATAP) NYC Team Wants You!

Want to be part of a troupe of New York City archivists and librarians with a passion for theatre?

Do you have a knowledge of basic archival principles, the ability to survey collections, some familiarity with theater terminology; are you able to attend at least half of our monthly meetings the first Monday of each month at the New Amsterdam Theatre?  Then ATAP is an organization where your talents will truly make a difference.

Founded in 2009, the American Theatre Archive Project supports theatre makers in archiving records of their work for the benefit of artists, scholars, patrons, and the public.

An initiative of the American Society for Theatre Research (ASTR), ATAP is a nationwide network of archivists, dramaturgs and scholars dedicated to preserving the legacy of the American theatre.

Thanks to a generous grant from the Lucille Lortel Foundation, ATAP teams (usually an archivist and documentarian) have completed surveys and developed plans for the archives of Roundabout Theatre, Atlantic Theater Company, Cherry Lane Theater, and New York Theatre Workshop (with more to come).

Our Goals

  • To preserve records of current theatrical process and product for future generations.
  • To employ theatre legacy to develop theatres’ fiscal health and support new work.
  • To promote a better understanding of theatre as a vital element of cultural history.
  • To encourage scholarly research in contemporary American theatre.
  • To increase funding for establishing and maintaining theatre archives.
  • To support collaborations among theatre archivists, practitioners, and scholars.

ATAP holds training sessions and has developed a manual and brochure for theater companies.

To learn more and see our manual and brochure, please visit our website:

http://americantheatrearchiveproject.org

Please join us for the love of theater!

Contact:   atap.ny@gmail.com

Next Meeting:  Monday, Sept. 8th at 6:30 New Amsterdam Theatre Lobby
to Set Goals and Plans for the Coming Year