What I’ve learned since I graduated.

As of this writing, it’s been just about six months since my degree was awarded. I handed in my last coursework at the end of August 2014, and did some nail-biting while my thesis was graded. But I didn’t actually see my physical degree, framed and signed and in all its majesty, until last week, when I went home for Easter! It was surprisingly affecting — I didn’t think seeing my name all gussied up like that was going to be such a gut-punch of emotion, but I am really proud of that big piece of paper.

Between seeing that and reading this, I thought I’d try my hand at articulating a bit of perspective. It’s hard for me to write a “what I’ve learned” article without hedging my bets a bit — there are things I’ve started to dig into deeper, but I wouldn’t say I’m an expert or that my knowledge has yet paid off in practical terms. I started a full-time job as a corporate archivist the week after handing in my thesis, so a lot of what I can recommend isn’t directly applicable to arts librarianship or even the majority of MLIS/MISt graduates who might be reading this. But, I’m going to tell you what I do anyways, and it starts with how I …

1. Criticize myself. 

There is no time for a break, no time to kick back and separate yourself from the field once you hand in your last assignments. Chances are you’ve got a job offer lined up, unfinished research projects, a handful of applications to send out, a move, some volunteer commitments or conferences, or some other thing that should be occupying your time.

But you should prioritize a few hours (ideally with wine) to assess your situation, yourself, and your goals: what gaps are left in your education that will stand between you and your dream jobs? What experience do you lack based on the job postings you’re seeing? What’s the most likely progression going to be for you, from entry-level onwards? How can you prepare for each of those steps?

One of the best little tricks is to go back and read the term papers and assignment you handed in in your first semester. Does it make you cringe now to see how naive you were? Alternatively, aren’t you impressed with how far you’ve come in such a short time?

I never would’ve guessed I’d end up in corporate, but here we are, and I’m trying to look critically at which of the soft skills I’m picking up here (project management, training, research and policy-writing, etc.) are transferable and provable, and which ones I still need to acquire, so that I can start out at higher than entry-level when I get back into art and media work. But I have to acknowledge that some of my discipline-specific skills are getting rusty, so I …

2. Keep abreast.

Are you happy with all the listservs and newsfeeds you belong to? Could you stand to add more, or lose a few of the less-relevant options?

Personally, my feed for information on the profession comes from a couple of Canadian archiving lists, ARLIS, AMIA, SHARP, MCN, and the ALCTS eForum I mentioned previously. I’ve pared down a bit, and there are a few lists I’d like to be on for which I can’t afford a membership.

AMIA, for example, is a fantastic way just to keep in mind all the weird format issues and preservation challenges that multimedia workers face every day — there are always emails about finding a specific fitting for a rare tape player, or how best to clean a certain type of film with flourescent dye on it. If you’re bad at mechanical terminology, I guarantee you’ll pick it up quickly.

I use the Art News mailing that comes via CARLIS-L to remind me to check websites like Artforum and Canadian Art. Otherwise I tend to forget.

I don’t read any librarianship-specific websites regularly (other than job boards, for ArLiSNAP), but because of Twitter I’m constantly seeing blog posts from people like Barbara Fister on Inside Higher Ed, updates to journals, etc. If you want art-specific Twitter accounts to follow, check out the institutions and individuals that the ArLiSNAP account follows. (I follow a more eclectic collection, but hey, here are a couple suggestions.)

I can’t afford individual journal subscriptions, and I don’t have institutional access to that stuff, but I do read up on accessible (OA, PD) things when they go by in my feed. I only splurge on one physical publication, and that’s Cabinet Magazine, which doesn’t keep me up-to-date so much as inspire me regularly on all fronts.

On WordPress I follow things like Archives Gig, SNAP RT, most of the ARLIS SIGs’ and Sections’ blogs, and a few oddballs like Artist-Driven Archives and Failure in the Archives. I’m sure someone will tell me that I should consolidate or aggregate a bit better, but, nah.

CFPs

I’ve also got a special label in Gmail just for Calls For Proposals from the various listservs: I’m not going to apply for many this year, and most of them aren’t applicable to what I do, but I like being able to see what kinds of research and projects are being asked for, when the various deadlines come up, and which journals and conferences I might just want to consume without contributing to. But, occasionally, I do apply for stuff, because it’s always important to …

3. Hustle.

On top of the full-time job, I’ve got a few guest posts and articles queued up for publishing, two regular volunteer commitments (ArLiSNAP, and a journal I help copyedit) and some irregular ones (peer-reviewing for two journals), an ongoing data-mining project with a non-profit here in Toronto (no funding, just fun!), writing for ArLiSNAP and my own blog, and maintaining a Twitter presence of questionable quality.

I’ve done two conferences so far this year, and have two more to come (both speaking engagements, one of which is reporting on a yearly survey I run using Google Forms). This weekend I decided to start a project to improve listings of library and archives associations in Canada (probably with the goal of making Wikipedia pages for each). I have at least four copyright-related tumblrs I’d like to start. Now that I’m thinking of it, I volunteered to copyedit a new book by CARLIS, which I should be hearing about any day now ….

I think of all this as essential to keeping myself engaged with the fields I want to be in. As opposed to grad school, where my time was occupied in shallow exploration of a lot of subjects of varying interest to me, now I get to dig deep into the things I’m passionate about, and construct a broader career arc that includes artists’ practices and intents, copyrights and moral rights for creators, the history of print, preservation and access of both art and art-related documentation, and new techniques for analyzing art. Without calling it “personal branding,” I will say it was a lot easier to define some long-term research goals once I distanced myself from the generalist approach of my classes. Which leads me to …

4. Forget about everything I did in school.

No offense to my alma mater, but I didn’t leave school with a huge network of trusted peers and great professors (or respect for government funding for higher-ed, or ALA accreditation, or …). There was little critical education in the classes I took, which is understandable given the breadth of what has to be taught, but it meant I didn’t find people who thought and argued like I do. Being thrown into a room with people doesn’t guarantee you’ll find things to talk about — and the #1 thing I’ve learned since graduating is that there is a huge variance of why people got into this profession, and what it is they want to accomplish within it.

I moved away from Montreal when graduation was in sight, so I may have shot myself in the foot a little there (also I’m not on Facebook and am only a recent convert to Twitter), but I’ve managed to network so much better back in Toronto, without many ties to the people I spent a year and a half interacting with. A lot of it is online, through associations and listservs and volunteer work with eventual face-to-face meetings at conferences — and a lot of it is engaging people on social media once I’ve come to know and respect their work.

I think the best part of my MLIS was the four jobs I did during that time — one RA position, one job in the library, one internship for a design company, one summer contract with a non-profit — because it gave me at least some experience in a diversity of settings. While I am invested in the academic use of the degree, I wasn’t going to get a job without being able to articulate some proven skills and accomplishments. So, yeah, I recycled some term papers as applications for student awards, sure, but I don’t think my classwork and student chapter attendance are worth much now — and I’m sure they’re not all you have to offer the world, either. Which is why it’s good to ….

5. Stay smart about career moves.

I’ve taken to reading Get Bullish for career inspiration and advice; you might enjoy one or more of the following, if these questions are on your mind:

http://www.getbullish.com/2012/10/bullish-how-to-compete-when-youre-young-and-inexperienced/
http://www.getbullish.com/2015/04/bullish-qa-how-to-effectively-share-examples-of-your-work/
https://www.themuse.com/advice/no-really-these-are-the-best-conference-networking-tips-weve-ever-heard
http://www.getbullish.com/2012/03/bullish-the-nerdy-reflective-persons-guide-to-networking/
http://www.getbullish.com/2015/03/bullish-qa-how-do-you-get-motivated-for-a-huge-unimaginable-life-change-like-graduation/
http://www.getbullish.com/2012/06/bullish-three-tips-for-pitching-your-dream-gig-and-why-you-need-to-pitch/

I am also a fan of the Billfold, not just for the voyeurism involved in their “how other people do money” column, but for some of these:
http://thebillfold.com/2013/05/how-to-make-a-linkedin-profile-that-will-actually-help-you-get-a-job/
http://thebillfold.com/2013/02/meet-people-get-a-job-even-if-youre-an-introvert/
http://thebillfold.com/2012/05/reader-mail-how-much-should-i-be-earning-after-graduation/

 

… I think that’s it. Other than “Don’t be ashamed of using a lot of spreadsheets to get things done.”

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ARLIS/NA 43rd Annual Conference: Some Thoughts

Another ARLIS/NA Conference has come and gone; Art Librarians from not only North America, but from around the globe, congregated in Fort Worth, Texas last week to discuss current trends and issues in our niche field of librarianship, debate the future of art books and bibliography in the wake of e-publishing, and just generally mingle with one another. Unlike past years, however, this year I got to count myself as one of the conference’s many attendees. That’s right, folks, I actually had the opportunity to attend our parent organization’s annual conference, and I’ve got the tote bags to prove it…I know, you’re all very happy for me.

So I went to the conference really hoping to come away with concepts to implement in my own workplace, and although there were some very interesting presentations, the truth is that many of the topics discussed were not all that applicable to my niche within a niche library.  As someone who works in the private sector, an art gallery to be exact, something like library programming, while important to many art libraries, is not something that works, or is necessary, for a corporate art library.

Yet despite this, what some might call, failing, I still feel as though I got a lot out of my time at ARLIS/NA. I walked away with a large number of resources previously unknown (to me) from which the users of my library will definitely benefit, such as the Art Discovery Group Catalogue (ADGC), the first discipline-specific view of WorldCat records, and I cannot wait to introduce my users to this, as well as many other cool new tools.

Of course, conferences are also about networking, which is especially important for those of us new to the art library world, either as students or as new professionals. I met some really great people and had some interesting conversations. Of particular note to me was a fascinating conversation about how to deal with post-it notes in books when the person who put them there has the authority to request that said post-its remain in perpetuity…yeah, that’s a thing that happens in private libraries. Anyway, the short answer is: try to explain that post-its are the mortal enemy of books, but the long answer is, try to come up with alternatives for your users, even if it means you may have to take on more work.

So that was my first ARLIS/NA conference-going experience, and I think it rather rocked. How about you guys? Did you go? If so, how was it? Any cool takeaways?

Let the knowledge sharing continue!

Some good resources from the ARLIS/NA 43rd Annual Conference:

Art Discovery Group Catalogue (ADGC) – http://artlibraries.worldcat.org/

Getty Research Portal – http://portal.getty.edu/portal/landing

A/V Artifact Atlas (AVAA) – http://avaa.bavc.org/artifactatlas/index.php/A/V_Artifact_Atlas

Quality Control Tools for Video Preservation (QC Tools) – http://www.bavc.org/qctools


News from the Off-Season: some conference cogitations

Happy February!

I’ve just gotten back to work after a five-day weekend. Three of those days were spent at the Ontario Library Association Super Conference, here in Toronto, so, not exactly a vacation, but definitely a change from the 9-5.

Besides a ton of useful tech sessions (including on OpenRefine for data cleaning, Koha [an open-source cataloguing system], and a review of the Google Art Project by some local ARLIS/NA student chapter members), this conference is basically the Canadian answer to ALA and draws 5,000 registrants.

Speaking of, ALA Midwinter happened this past weekend as well, with roughly the same numbers flocking to Chicago. They had Jason Segel as a keynote speaker, while we had Welcome to Night Vale. It’s a toss-up, really.

ALA, of course, being that body that accredits those programs we’re taking, has measurably more weight in the profession. They’re neck-deep in campaigns for governing positions, including someone that champions lowering the admission rates to MLIS/MI programs to compensate for the underemployment problem, and someone who thinks librarians are “the best profession in the world.” Sigh. (You can see the debate recording here.) If you’re an ALA member, I strongly suggest you vote in the elections.

A hot topic in both conferences was the new information literacy standards being passed by the ACRL — or, rather, the Framework, as the new concepts are being billed. I did some ranting about this subject a while ago, but I’ll remind you that the ACRL Visual Literacy Standards from 2011 were built upon those original IL standards, which means we should expect a VL-specific interpretation of the Framework in the near future. I have been trying to mull over what those will entail, but, it’s been a busy winter so far. I’d love to hear about your ideas, in the comments! (My first guess is going to be a threshold concept of “the realization that you’re committing copyright infringement basically every time you go online.”)

Meanwhile, back in Toronto, I was finding that quite a few of the conference sessions I attended were hard-pressed to name an audience: a curious newbie, or a field specialist? Even sessions with “current trends” in the titles spent the majority of their time rehashing the basics. I definitely valued the technology demonstrations, and the guides to cataloguing in certain metadata schemes, but I think I’m too niche in my interests to find the bulk of presentations at big library conferences to be worthwhile. And some of the most interesting sessions happened concurrently, so I couldn’t sit in on the session on 3D printing and copyright without missing that Google Art Project discussion down the hall.

But on the upside, I got these awesome socks:

“Due Date Card” Library Socks from Out of Print


Digital stewardship and art librarianship

In the vein of “Hack your MLIS program: Art Librarianship,” we want to gage the interest of those of you who are working with digital collections (including visual resources) and those of you who want to work with digital collections in art librarianship.

For me, I knew I wanted to work with digital collections and digital projects, and luckily there was a digital librarianship track in my MLIS program. Integrating art librarianship into my track was not difficult with numerous digitization projects happening at museums, libraries, and archives. My current position involves cataloging digital collections (the visual resources collection included) and supervision of digitization projects.

Metadata is a big part of my job and there are a lot of opportunities to learn more about it outside of your MLIS program. However, it’s not just about understanding the multitude of different schemas/standards/vocabularies/ontologies/taxonomies/etc. but understanding crosswalks and how to represent the data in different languages. Currently, my workplace is migrating to Linked Open Data (LOD) and much of the field (both “traditional,” MARC-focused metadata and metadata for digital objects) is moving toward functionality with the semantic web. In order to keep up, I’m taking the Certificate in XML and RDF-Based Systems from Library Juice Academy. There is also the Mechanics of Metadata Series for those of you who might be interested.

Coursework preparation

What are you learning about managing/cataloging digital collections in your classes (or outside of your program)? What do you want to learn? Do you have a digital librarianship track or similar coursework requirements?

I only had one metadata class in my MLIS program but all of my other classes supplemented that knowledge with hands-on practice. There were also a variety of classes that dealt with cataloging items of cultural heritage or data management for larger data gathering projects. Most of what I know about metadata and managing digital collections came from my internships and jobs, however, where institutional standards and practices were also important considerations.

“Real world” preparation

What are you working on in your internships and/or positions? Do you feel prepared to enter the professional field? Or, were you prepared?

Also, many metadata and digital initiatives positions are requiring more technical knowledge, as well as experience with MARC and RDA cataloging. What do you think about this? My coursework and professional experienced has been geared towards management of digital objects with little experience cataloging books and other monographic items. Also, my IT classes were focused on web publishing and design rather than markup languages, which are necessary skills for metadata librarian positions!

Thoughts? Please let us know your experience and share any advice you have!


Art, Cultural Heritage, and Law

Having recently completed a thesis on copyright for cultural heritage, and started an archiving contract with a law firm, I felt reasonably confident about my grasp of most aspects legal of the GLAM field. (I have also read the Canada Evidence Act. A lot.)

Boy, was my face red when I discovered there is a Center for Cultural Heritage Law, that had somehow eluded all my research attempts. And similar think tanks, under various names, like the Institute for Art and Law. There is a very real legal sub-field, just for us!

The Center and the Institute have their respective blogs (mostly promotional, sometimes informative), issuing opinions and decrees on everything from: how Detroit’s bankruptcy relates to their art collections, the return of looted cultural property, tax exemptions and receipts for art, theft and forgery, copyright and originality, technology and privacy …. it’s all there.

The Center also publishes the Journal of Art, Technology, and Intellectual Property Law, which I am now bulk-downloading before I graduate and lose my database access. They’re even hosting a debate competition on changes to the Visual Artists’ Rights Act, in February 2015.

The American Bar Association has a committee (loosely associated with the Center) on Art and Cultural Heritage Law, and the Center also collaborates with the Lawyers’ Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation (I’ve linked to their list of art-and-law courses offered by American universities, just in case you need an elective).

It looks to be an emerging field, and I question whether there is space within information-science programs to incorporate the numerous lessons that cultural heritage law can offer. In my experience, legal compliance was mentioned ambiguously in my records-management class, and copyright was alluded to in the introductory “information and society” course. But pursuing a more in-depth course of study on legal issues was left to independent credits.

Besides the legal angles of running a cultural heritage group / institution / consultancy / what-have-you, we obviously have an interest in questions such as whether Vivian Maier’s phenomenal photos are considered “property” in the case of defaulting on a storage locker (and whether copyright is a “property” included in a storage contract):

“… not only will a lot of Maier’s work be tied up in litigation for years, it may not be able to be reproduced in books or shown in art galleries until everything is said and done. This is beyond unfortunate, and, in many ways, not what copyright law was intended to do.”

Or how to deal with art forgeries in our collections:

“… the former registrar of the Cincinnati Art Museum, Matthew Leininger, one of the first museum professionals to latch on to Landis’s faked donations, but whose obsession with his nemesis led to his eventual dismissal and whose young daughter can readily identify the subject of her father’s crusade with a disturbing familiarity.”

Or where our work sits on the line between intellectual freedoms, privacy, and protection from “hostile work environments:”

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Minneapolis Area Office, issued a Determination that the Minneapolis Public Library subjected librarians employed by the library to a “sexually hostile work environment” in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for maintaining a policy of unrestricted Internet access.

(I also zipped through this long-form about rare book theft last week, which has some hilariously botched sting operations, among other things.)

Let me know about your program in the comments — does your project management class discuss insurance, appraisals, and liability? Do you talk about salaries and working conditions in the field, and delve into issues of gender parity and harassment, workplace health and safety (like breathing mould), or academic rights and freedoms? Could you write an acceptable term paper on the issues surrounding the indexing and return of looted art (and how linked data could aid this work in the future)? Or the contract issues around hiring an independent conservator? Or what happens when collections merge, as in the Corcoran, or the Glenbow? Or a comparative look at legal environments for cultural heritage work across the world?


August 19th: #SLATalk tackles entrepreneurship

Short notice, but the Twitter-advice-fest that is #SLATalk is happening tomorrow, August 19th at 3:00 pm EDT – 4:00pm EDT. As it’s pursuant to some of the other content [I made] on this blog, I thought I’d pass it along!

#SLAtalk: Trailblazing! Info Pros and the Entrepreneurial Spirit

Join @SLAhq and the Association of Independent Information Professionals (@AIIP) for an hour-long Twitter chat about what it takes to be a trailblazing information professional. Whether you are already an independent info pro, looking for a career change or are leading the pack from within your company, share how you exemplify an entrepreneurial spirit within your industry.
Tuesday, August 19th from 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm EDT
What time is that where you are? http://time.is/compare

 

►        New to doing a Twitter chat? Take a look at “How to #SLAtalk” http://www.sla.org/slatalk-plus-slatalk-archives/

►        Follow @SLAhq and @AIIP – and use hashtag #SLAtalk to be a part of the conversation!

 

Q1       (first 15 minutes)        Talk about an entrepreneurial break-through moment in your career. If you own your own research business, how did you win your first client? If you provide in-house services to a company, how did you “sell” your services to an important member of the organization? Or, how did you gain the support needed to undertake an important project?

Q2       (second 15 minutes)    Personal branding. Whether you work independently or in-house, how do you make yourself known? More than just marketing, how do you be a self-starting, risk tolerant and just an all-around go-getter in order to be a trailblazing info pro?

Q3       (third 15 minutes)       If you’re thinking about making the leap into the independent info pro world, what tips or advice would you like to know? If you are already independent, what would you tell someone new to your professional community?

Q4       (fourth 15 minutes)     What are some best practices to having an entrepreneurial spirit? What are some skills, mantras or attitudes one can create and maintain for themselves in order to keep the spirit alive?

Can’t join us live on Twitter? Check the SLA Blog’s #SLAtalk category for the recap which will be posted following the session.

≪ Professional Development Reading List Klaxon
Brush up on what it means to be an entrepreneur with some of these articles below: