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!
Registration for the ARLIS/NA & VRAF Summer Educational Institute for Visual Resources and Image Management closes at the end of the month. If you haven’t signed up already then hurry to reserve your spot! You can register here. Not sure how this workshop will benefit you and your career? Then check out a post from Ashley Peterson about her experience at SEI last year. You can find even more testimonials on the SEI workshop website.
Here are just some of the comments:
“The SEI coursework proved to be exactly what I needed: the perfect balance of theoretical framework, practical application, and open communication between like-minded individuals.”
“I am looking forward to attending SEI again, in order to refresh my knowledge with the most up-to-date information about all the subjects covered by SEI: cataloguing, image editing, transitioning skills, project planning, strategic planning, new social media platforms and applications, and intellectual property concerns.”
If you are interested in attending this year (or in the future), check out the SEI Facebook page for more information.
We would love to hear from you about your own experiences. How has SEI has benefited you? Feel free to share your story in the comments below.
Places are still available for the 2015 Summer Educational Institute for Visual Resources and Image Management (SEI ), to be held June 9-12 at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. http://seiworkshop.org/
This intensive workshop features a curriculum addressing the latest requirements of today’s visual resources and image management professionals. This year’s topics and experienced instructors include:
- Intellectual property rights: Nancy Sims (Copyright Program Librarian, University of Minnesota)
- Metadata overview: Gretchen Gueguen (Data Services Coordinator, Digital Public Library of America)
- Embedded metadata: Greg Reser (Metadata Specialist, University of California, San Diego Library)
- Digital life-cycle: Liz Gushee (Digital Collections Librarian, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas, Austin)
- Digital preservation: Nicole Finzer (Visual Resources Librarian, Digital Collections Dept, Northwestern University)
- Project management: Angela Waarala (Digital Collections Project Manager, University of Illinois Library), Nicole Finzer, Liz Gushee
- Digital humanities: Jeannine Keefer (Visual Resources Librarian, University of Richmond)
SEI is suited to information professionals new to the field and more experienced professionals eager to respond to fast-changing technological advancements and job requirements. Recent attendees said they definitely would recommend SEI to others: “Good experience and a great way to interact with others doing what I do.” Another wrote ”SEI showed me the range of roles in the field, including what I might encounter in a different position.”
Discounted registration for members of VRA or ARLIS/NA is $595.
Like SEI on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SummerEducationalInstitute?ref=hl
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 Visual Resources Association Pacific Rim Chapter is meeting in Portland, Aug. 6th. Even if you are not a member of VRA, this looks like a great chance to meet fellow colleagues in the area!
CHAPTER MEETING INFORMATION: REGISTRATION NOW OPEN!
August 6, 2014
REGISTRATION IS NOW OPEN
Please complete the online form at the link above. Day-of payment will be accepted, but please register so we know to expect you!
Registration fees are below. This includes a light breakfast in the morning. It does not include lunch, as that will be self-catered.
VRA Chapter Members: $20
Brief Draft Schedule:
Our day begins at the beautiful Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA), located in downtown Portland.http://pnca.edu/
Our day continues at the offsite photo, video, and archival repository of the Oregon Historical Society (OHS)http://www.ohs.org/ This includes a jaunt through Oregon history with PICA’s newest Artist-in-Residence Matthew Cowan.
Please read the attached pdf for detailed information about the schedule, agenda, OHS outing, maps, transportation/parking and more!
Your Lovely Local Planners,
Brooke Sansosti and Stephanie Beene
Once again California Rare Book School (CalRBS) is able to offer Kress Foundation-Dr. Frankllin Murphy Scholarships for Week 3 to those art librarians, art historians, and graduate students preparing to enter these fields. The scholarships cover tuition for one course and provide $1,000 toward the travel expenses of attending. They are competitive. Apply by September 15, at www.calrbs.org.
CalRBS 2014 Course Schedule
Week 3 (November 3-7, 2014)
“Books of the Far West, with an Emphasis on California” taught by Gary Kurutz at the California Historical Society
“History of the Book in East Asia” taught by Peter Zhou & Deborah Rudolph at the Starr East Asian Library, UC Berkeley)
“History of Typography” taught by Paul Shaw at the Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley
Reminder: VRAF Professional Development Grant
Application deadline for this grant is Wednesday, July 23, 2014
2014-2015 VRA Foundation Professional Development Grant: Call for Applications
The Visual Resources Association Foundation (VRAF) is pleased to announce that it is accepting applications for two VRAF Professional Development Grants, one to support the advancement of an emerging professional and the other to support the work of an established career professional. These grants can be used to support conference attendance, enrollment in a workshop, or participation in research activities. More information, including the application form, is included below. For consideration, submit your application to Linda Callahan, firstname.lastname@example.org, by Wednesday, July 23, 2014, 11:59 Pacific Time. If you have any questions about the VRAF Professional Development Grant or the application process, you may also contact Linda Callahan, email@example.com. The recipients of the VRAF Professional Development grants will be announced by Wednesday, September 10, 2014.
Guidelines and Application Form: http://vrafoundation.org.s119319.gridserver.com/index.php/grants/professional_development_grant/
Similar to (but different from) the VRAF Professional Development Grant is the VRAF Internship Award, which is a fantastic way to fund or supplement an un- or underpaid internship in arts and visual resources work.
The Visual Resources Association Foundation (VRAF) Internship Award provides financial support for graduate students preparing for a career in visual resources and image management. The award grants $4,000 to support a period of internship in archives, libraries, museums, visual resources collections in academic institutions, or other appropriate contexts.The recipient will receive a stipend of $3,000 for 200 hours completed at the host site. A professional development component of $1,000 supports conference attendance or attendance at the Summer Educational Institute for Visual Resources and Image Management. The recipient will receive a one year complimentary student membership in the Visual Resources Association.
Who May Apply
Students currently enrolled in, or having completed within the last 12 months, a graduate program in library or information science, art history, architectural history, architecture, visual or studio art, museum studies, or another applicable field of study may apply for this award. Applicants must have completed at least 10 credits of their graduate coursework before the application deadline, or demonstrate an equivalent combination of coursework and relevant experience.
I would strongly consider applying even if your (planned or proposed) internship is only tangentially related to visual resources or arts librarianship: metadata, digitization, conservation, rights management, administration, or plain old cataloguing.
Only one VRAF Internship is awarded per year. Once an award recipient has been selected, he or she will select an institution to act as host for the internship. This Institution must be approved by the VRAF Internship Award Committee. VRAF and VRA are not responsible for matching candidates with a host institution, but will gladly assist with the process.
This Internship Award will be granted during the 2014 to 2015 academic year. The intern is required to work on site at their chosen host institution for a minimum of 200 hours. The intern will choose to initiate their internship in the fall of 2014 or the winter or spring of 2015. The internship must begin within 30 days of the official beginning of the selected academic session of the participant’s home institution and be completed within one academic semester or two academic quarters. Exceptions are allowed by agreement between the selected intern and the VRAF Internship Awards Committee. In all cases, the internship must be completed within twelve months of the recipient being notified of the award.
This language can be complicated: if you’re a recent graduate, why would you need to start the internship within the beginning of a semester? (What’s your “home institution” in that case?) Especially if the award isn’t necessarily going towards internships for graduate credit? Unfortunately, I hold no answers for you; you’ll have to work towards “agreement” with the awards committee.
To apply for the award, please submit the following:
- A current resume.
- A current transcript [this does not need to be issued directly from the institution].
- An essay of up to 300 words addressing the applicant’s professional goals, expectations of the internship experience, and any skills or background that might benefit visual resources. A brief description of the proposed project is desirable.
- The names of two professional or scholastic references with address, telephone numbers, and email addresses.
- Recommended, but not required: Host institution and contact information of internship supervisor.
Application materials in electronic form are preferred and should be submitted as a single PDF file to:
Visual Resources Consulted
- 7/31/2014; Deadline for submission of applications to the VRAF Internship Award Committee.
- 9/12/2014; VRAF Internship Award Committee announces the award recipient for 2014 to 2015.