Hi Arlisnappers! After a yearlong absence, I am back on the blog as a feature post writer and excited to be a part of the ArLiSNAP team once again. I recently graduated with my MLIS and I currently work as the Director of Visual Resources at the University of Georgia.
In April 2014, I shared my tips for hacking your MLIS program to focus on art librarianship. Now I’m back with a better-late-than-never follow-up on how I hacked my MLIS program to prepare for my career in visual resources librarianship. We have discussed how to plan your coursework so you are prepared to manage digital collections before, and this post will focus specifically on what you need to manage visual resources collections.
What is visual resources librarianship?
Visual resources librarianship is a bit different from art librarianship, though the two fields require similar skills and educational backgrounds. I have worked as a full-time visual resources professional for one year now, so I have a good idea of what the profession involves and what is required to do the job successfully. That being said, each position is unique depending on the needs of the institution. Visual resources professionals historically functioned as slide librarians, usually in art/art history departments or libraries. Now, we primarily manage digital image collections, though slide collections still exist at many institutions, and assist faculty and students with their image needs. We may also manage public visual resources spaces that range from digital scanning and projects labs to libraries with circulating materials.
Become involved in VRA
The Visual Resources Association (VRA) is smaller than ARLIS, but equally as welcoming. Hands down, this is the best way to get – and stay – connected to the field, especially if you are one of the few people in your program interested in art and visual resources librarianship. Not only do you have access to a large network of art and visual resources professionals, but you can also follow news, concerns, and trends on the VRA listserv. I encourage you to be active on the listserv as well since name recognition can help you in your job search later on! Seriously – my predecessor was very active, and I get asked about him all the time. If you have been involved with ARLIS but haven’t yet ventured into VRA, there is a joint conference next year in Seattle, WA, so it will be an opportune time to check out both organizations and annual conferences. There is also a similar group to ArLiSNAP called vreps – visual resources association emerging professionals and students – that you should join. The VRA Bulletin is the journal of the association and each issue contains a wealth of information about current issues and practices in the field.
Focus coursework and projects on visual resources topics
As I said in part one, the best way to ensure you are getting a similar education to a MLIS program that does offer an art librarianship track is to see which courses they require and which electives they offer. I also recommend looking at similar tracks, such as digital content/asset management or archives. I recommend courses on the following topics, since they relate to visual resources: humanities information services, digital libraries, descriptive cataloging and metadata, database design, digital humanities, and digital archives. Basically, looks for classes that focus on metadata, technologies, databases, and managing or curating digital archives, libraries, and other collections. These classes will give you an overview of the information you need and you can focus your projects and papers specifically on arts and humanities topics.
In part one, I discussed an independent study on art and visual resources librarianship that I designed as an elective in my MLIS program. If you would like more information on that, I’m happy to share my syllabus and course projects in a later post.
This time, I’m focusing on what you can do independently outside of coursework to build some of the skills you need to work in visual resources.
Photography, Photoshop, and Lightroom
Knowledge of photography, especially editing software, is very helpful for managing image collections. I still have a lot to learn about photography, but I have heard that ShootFlyShoot has fantastic photography classes. Why is this important? So you understand how the images you work with are produced, and you can produce images if required. Some visual resources positions require original photography of works of art, either from works in museum or galleries, or from faculty and student work. I do not produce original photography in my current position, but I do a lot of scanning, and knowledge of photographic editing techniques is essential. I use Adobe Photoshop, and recommend Photoshop Classroom in a Book to learn the basics of using Photoshop. The book has a disc with tutorials and sample images to practice editing. Adobe Lightroom is a simpler and easier way to edit images and is preferred over Photoshop by some visual resources professionals.
Just like a library book would be lost without a catalog record, images would be lost without good metadata. I believe that metadata is perhaps the most important part of managing image collections. After all, what’s the point of having a collection if your content cannot be easily found? Just as there are cataloging standards and formats for cataloging books, archival materials, etc., these also exist for visual resources collections. Cataloging Cultural Objects (CCO) is a content standard for visual resources collections (comparable to RDA) and VRA Core is a metadata schema used to describe images (comparable to MARC). If you have access to Adobe Bridge, you can download the VRA Core panel and practice creating metadata for images. It’s also essential to be familiar with the Getty vocabularies, which are now available as Linked Open Data. The vocabularies will give you the structured terminology for art, architecture, and other materials and are essential tools for the proper cataloging of images.
Working in visual resources doesn’t just mean managing image collections. There is a reference and instruction component. You must be able to help others find and locate images using subscription databases, institutional image collections, and free resources on the web. The most popular subscription database for images is Artstor Digital Library. If the institution where you attend school or work does not have a subscription, you can still check out the website or YouTube videos to learn more about how the database works and how to use it. There is a section with free guides, including subject-specific guides, and studying these is an excellent way to increase your knowledge of this resource.
Visual resources professionals manage institutional image collections or archives. These collections can include images from faculty and student image requests, images from digitized slides, images purchased from vendors, and images related to institutional history. In order to properly manage these image collections, you need to know how digital asset management systems work. A broad knowledge of DAMs is important, because there are many different systems out there. The most popular DAMs for visual resources include Artstor’s Shared Shelf, Luna Imaging, and Madison Digital Image Database (MDID). These can be high cost for some institutions, so in-house solutions are also popular.
You also need to know how to locate high-quality and accurate images on the web. Libguides are an excellent way to compile these resources, and many institutions have great libguides on locating images for you to browse and study. My personal philosophy behind libguides, or curating image resources in general, is this: quality over quantity. Your job isn’t to know all instances of where to find images of the Mona Lisa. Your job is to know where to find the best images of the Mona Lisa.
Copyright and fair use
You also need to know how the images you manage, or how images available in subscription databases or on the web, can be used. This is why copyright and fair use comes into play. For general information on copyright law, look at Copyright Law for Librarians and Educators: Creative Strategies and Practical Solutions. For copyright information related to the visual arts, your best resources are from the College Art Association. Copyright, Permissions, and Fair Use among Visual Artists and the Academic and Museum Visual Arts Communities was released in 2014 and and the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for the Visual Arts was released earlier this year. Study these documents and know them well.
Get experience – if you can
Some institutions don’t have a visual resources collection, but those that do usually need help. Don’t hesitate to reach out to a visual resources professional and ask if you can volunteer, intern, or even just visit the collection and learn more about what they do and what a typical day is like for them.
So this is what I recommend doing as a library science student if you are interested in visual resources. If other visual resources professionals are reading this, I’m curious to hear what you also recommend!
Here’s a little data-mining project I absolutely love: charting the colours used in paintings throughout history, by analyzing the pixels of digitized artworks hosted online. (The obvious caveat is to make sure you’re sampling from collections digitized with some fidelity, instead of, say, most of these copies … )
The creator put all of his code in R online, so you could query the exact same collection to do similar analyses with no trouble at all (if you were into that sort of thing).
I made a visualization of the change in colors of paintings over time which a friend tweeted. Several people wanted more info on the method used, so I decided to write a detailed description here, also including the (not very pretty) code I used.
I decided to try to do something similar but with data for a longer time period than the era of film. I decided to download images of paintings. So there is a bunch of different sites where you can access (photos of) paintings, e.g. BBC, Google Art Project, Wikiart, Wikimedia commons, and various museums. One of my favorites is the BBC:s site where you can browse through over 200K of well organized paintings! An amazing resource. For many of these there is also information on the year they were painted, the artist, etc.
The following is an essay I completed about my experience at this year’s Summer Educational Institute (SEI), an annual joint venture by VRA and ARLIS/NA. This essay was a condition of my Kress Scholarship award, which made it possible for me to attend the event. Anyone with an interest in digital image management– from students to seasoned professionals– should seriously consider enrolling for the 2015 session!
It was a scene that could have happened anywhere: four people, drinking beers, talking about the Insane Clown Posse. More specifically, about the phenomenon of Juggalos and ICP fandom and the desire to know more about this fascinating subculture (the four people not being Juggalos, or even casual ICP fans, themselves).
Now, it so happens that this scene took place in Champaign, Illinois, at the 2014 Summer Educational Institute. The four people didn’t know each other very well, but were quickly bonding over their shared passion for goofy internet videos and preserving cultural heritage. We wondered: what are the authoritative sources on Juggalo culture? Are scholars or social scientists studying the socioeconomic underpinnings of ICP fandom? Is anyone saving the ephemera of that fandom, or documenting events like the annual Gathering of the Juggalos? “Where are all the Juggalo archivists?!,” we wondered.
This conversation happened in the midst of four rather fascinating and intense days. First off, the setting: for someone who’s always lived on a coast, the immense flatness of the midwest is always a bit jarring. It was a perfect frontier-like setting, though, for exploring relatively new-to-me topics. I found the sessions well-structured, as intellectual property flowed logically into metadata into digitization into preservation into advocacy– a nice framework for getting down & dirty with specifics while keeping sight of the larger visual resource landscape. The instructors were engaging, friendly, and scary knowledgeable about their fields. My favorite part, though (besides eating at Woorijib restaurant– seriously, the best Korean food i have EVER had) was the chance to meet colleagues from all over the U.S. Spending time with dozens of smart, passionate, and downright awesome people is high on my list of likes, and the fact that we all share a profession is pretty wonderful.
The overall excellence of the week aside, it was still the Juggalo conversation that crystallized for me powerful shift in how I think about my work that was influenced by my SEI experience. When I began my current job, it was clear that one of my first orders of business was VR housekeeping. There were files to sort (both digital and physical), workflows to design, and a lot of baseline visual resource management principles to learn. While I was able to give myself a few crash courses on that last issue, it wasn’t until SEI that I was able to systematically, and holistically, think about the task at hand. Following my return I have improved our file organization practices, put some baseline preservation methods in place, began to think more carefully about the metadata I apply to image files when cataloging, and doubled down on my efforts to comply with digitization standards (an uphill task for someone without a photography or image editing background!).
More vital, though, is that shift I mentioned. Now that I’ve been in my position for almost a year, I am beginning to feel more confident in work I’m doing and the decisions I’ve made regarding our VR collection. Essential to this is the way I learned to think about creating, managing, sharing, and preserving the collection. Rather than envisioning mythological figures with shovels and stables or boulders and hills, I am now able to see my work in VR as more elegantly integrated with the other half of my job: research assistance and information/visual literacy instruction. Managing an image collection isn’t a goal in itself. It’s a means of providing our students with tools to improve their practice and learn how to be successful consumers, users, and creators of information both textual and visual. And someday, when I do find that Juggalo archive, I’ll know that the reason those archivists work so hard to preserve the cultural artifacts of ICP fandom is for the users who will study them, and analyze them, and create information that will enlighten those who care to find it.
-Ashley Peterson, Librarian at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
The UTC Library seeks a motivated, creative and user-focused professional to fill our Studio Librarian position at the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga (UTC). As part of UTC’s all-new forthcoming library, The Studio serves as a creation space that will support multimedia design and related emerging technologies. The librarian in this position will plan, develop, and implement service initiatives to enhance the Studio as a learning environment and guide patrons in the use of Studio and library resources.
The position is available October 1, 2014.
Reporting to the Department Head of Research and Public Services, and working in coordination with the Team Lead for the Studio in this position provides support for the Studio as learning environment and digital development area. The Studio Librarian works with students and faculty to support the effective and innovative use of multimedia and instructional technologies in teaching and research across the UTC campus.
As Studio Librarian
- Develop and maintain the Studio as an effective student learning environment.
- Guide Studio patrons in use of technology resources.
- Partner with campus faculty, staff, and students as a technology facilitator, workshop trainer, designer, and a developer of multimedia materials.
- Provide instructional design, development, and digital services.
- Work with faculty on instructional design/development projects.
- Promote educational technology and the Studio services to the campus.
- Identify, evaluate, and recommend multimedia and emerging technologies for campus and library needs.
- Assist in the development of the vision, goals, objectives, and actionable Studio Team events.
- In partnership with Library IT, maintain computers, hardware, and software delivery and production platforms.
- Promote student success and retention through advocacy of use of library services and resources.
- Guide and coach Studio staff specialist and student assistants in skills, methods, and best practices to better serve patrons utilizing the Studio.
As Research and Public Service Department Member
- Participate in Research and Public Service Department meetings and initiatives.
- Support public services operations as needed and appropriate in Circulation, Information Commons, and Instruction.
- Design and create multimedia content for instruction, outreach efforts, and library-wide needs.
As Library and University Citizen
- Participate in providing reference, liaison, and outreach services to University Community.
- Participate in library-wide planning and committee work.
- Participate in UT library system-wide planning.
- Participate in UTC governance, service, and be professionally active.
- Conduct scholarship consistent with a tenure-track appointment.
- Engage in continuing professional development.
Required Education and Experience
- Master’s degree from an ALA-accredited program.
- One year of relevant work experience, including demonstrated experience in multimedia development.
Required Hard Skills
- Demonstrated proficiency with contemporary multimedia software and hardware, including: Macintosh, Windows operating systems, Digital Video and Photography, Digital Audio Workstations, Adobe Creative Suite, Apple Final Cut Pro, MS PowerPoint, Apple Keynote, and other presentation software, video and audio digitizing interfaces, etc.
- Knowledge of current best practices relating to multimedia.
- Experience with subject guide platforms, blogging platforms, chat reference software and other commonly used library systems.
- Experience as a successful project manager and the ability to organize, prioritize, and manage time.
- Knowledge of copyright, intellectual property and privacy laws as they relate to published and unpublished materials.
Required Soft Skills
- Possess the initiative, flexibility, and creativity to manage projects both independently and as part of a team in a dynamic work environment.
- Ability to handle complex, analytical and detailed work.
- Possess a positive attitude, be future-oriented, and embrace change.
- Effective writing and oral communication skills.
- Strong interpersonal skills evidenced by the ability to work cooperatively and maintain effective working relationships with colleagues, faculty, staff and students.
- Strong customer service focus, a passion for the profession, and a deep commitment to service and outreach in an academic community.
See the full description here.
The Lamar Dodd School of Art seeks a curator of visual resources who possesses a solid knowledge of technology and an acute interest in providing new proactive services and support to faculty and students. This position reports to the Director of the School of Art. The curator will be responsible for developing, managing, and delivering visual resources, and for managing and overseeing additional digital teaching materials. Essential functions of the Visual Resources Curator include administration of the collection and training student staff. The successful candidate will work within the Lamar Dodd School of Art with a community of over 900 undergraduate students in Studio, Art History, and Art Education, 100 art history undergraduate majors and minors, 100 graduate students, and more than 45 tenured faculty in these three disciplines.
It is anticipated that the future projects for this increasingly dynamic position will require multiple skills, including the ability to manage complex, multi-year projects, to work in close collaboration with the faculty, administration, and staff of the Lamar Dodd School of Art, and to build relationships with the UGA. Libraries and with faculty and students across campus who may be investigating the visual arts. Projects may include digitizing the Lamar Dodd School of Art’s significant historic art slide collections, and collaborating with the UGA Libraries to develop print and digital resources and services on site in the Lamar Dodd School of Art. This challenging and rewarding opportunity requires both creative flexibility and independent individual initiative.
M.A. or B.A. in art history, architecture, visual studies or a related field. Substantial experience working with visual resources collections with knowledge of the issues around the creation, maintenance, and access of a visual resources collection, including familiarity with standards for visual materials. Experience working with digital imaging technologies and library management. Reading knowledge of multiple languages, ideally including one Romance language and German. Excellent interpersonal and communication skills, and ability to work in a collaborative setting. Strong organizational and management skills, including the ability to initiate, track, and manage complex, multi-year projects successfully.
MLIS or course work leading to an MLIS degree. Experience with image collection management and presentation software. Knowledge of digital images best practices. Familiarity with Macintosh operating system and proficiency with PowerPoint, PhotoShop, and web content and learning management systems (eLC). Understanding of copyright issues related to image collection management. Previous supervisory experience or team leadership.
We will receive applications for this position through the University of Georgia employment website, under the position title “Program Coordinator II” (https://www.ugajobsearch.com ).
Review of applications will begin on May 19, and will continue until the position is filled.