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!
Full-time staff member to curate digital-image databases for department teaching and other activities. Responsibilities include: acquiring and cataloguing digital images for in-house and subscribed databases; working with Department Technologist and FIT Library in maintaining and expanding FIT Digital Image Library (FITDIL); creating and managing workflow for digital-image database maintenance; working with faculty to maintain currency and accuracy of databases and their metadata; orienting new faculty with available databases; maintain survey-course and textbook files for course-specific image folders; responsibility for the department and major’s visual materials and presence in the college.
M.A. in Art History; reading knowledge of French, German, Italian; library experience: familiarity with ULAN, Library of Congress headings, Getty Thesaurus; computer literacy.
Job link here.
This position has several listed, conflicting dates — from what I can tell, the contract will start once the position has been filled, for eight months part-time, and the deadline for applications is January 15th. It does not appear to have an online application process, but interested applicants could contact:
Pauline Saliga, Executive Director
Society of Architectural Historians and Charnley-Persky House Museum Foundation
Position Description: Digital Scholarship Researcher
Period: January 2015 – July 1, 2015
College Art Association and the Society for Architectural Historians
Reports to the CAA and SAH Executive Directors and CAA Director of Publications
The Digital Scholarship Researcher will play an integral role in the development of Guidelines for Promotion and Tenure in Digital Art and Architectural History, a project of CAA and SAH funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Working closely with the CAA and SAH Presidents as Co-Chairs of the task force on digital scholarship, the Executive Directors of CAA and SAH, and the CAA’s Director of Publications, the Digital Scholarship Researcher will:
- Identify fifteen universities and colleges where digital scholarship is developed and published by faculty, post doctoral students and graduate students in art and architectural history disciplines;
- Review existing tenure and promotion guidelines to determine which criteria are applicable to digital scholarship; review newly developed criteria required for digital scholarship; and consider the processes used to develop guidelines in other disciplines
- Review and compile bibliography of the extant literature for developing guidelines for digital scholarship;
- Interview visual arts faculty and administrators who have developed new digital research tools, utilized visual and spatial technologies, and who have utilized new computational technologies in order to determine the different evaluative criteria needed for each category;
- Interview members of tenure committees to determine how they presently evaluate digital scholarship in the visual arts and the criteria they would like to see included;
- In consultation with a statistician, develop a survey to gather information from CAA and SAH members related to the evaluation of digital scholarship in the visual arts;
- And prepare a summary draft of the research results with recommendations for criteria for tenure and promotion related to digital scholarship. Include bibliography of the extant literature for developing guidelines for digital scholarship. The draft will be reviewed by the CAA and SAH Presidents, Executive Directors, and the CAA Director of Publications before it is sent the task force which will develop the final guidelines.
Experience and skills: This position requires a graduate degree in a humanities field; knowledge of digital research, scholarship and publication in academic art history and architectural history; statistical data computation skills; and good writing and communication skills.
Schedule: CAA anticipates that this research project and the preparation of the recommendations to the task force will take eight (8) months from November 2014 through June 2015. His/her written report will be crucial to the task force will develop and published guidelines.
Residency: This position does not require residency in New York or Chicago where the CAA and SAH are located. The research will be conducted by phone, on the internet and at libraries. The presentation of the final research document to the task force will occur at one face-to-face meeting where the hotel and expenses will be compensated.
Compensation: $30,000 plus health insurance
Commitment: Half-time for eight months (December 2014 through July 1, 2015)
How to Apply: Please submit a CV with a cover letter and three references to: CAA Researcher, 50 Broadway, Floor 21, New York, NY 10004.
Deadline for Applications: January 15, 2015
ArLiSNAP and VREPS (Visual Resources Emerging Professionals and Students) are joining forces to host a virtual conference this winter! The conference is titled Visualizing the Future: New Perspectives in Art Librarianship, and will take place on the afternoon of Saturday, January 17th, 2015. This is an excellent opportunity for those who cannot be physically present at our annual conferences.
We are looking for students and new professionals with an interest in art librarianship or visual resources management to present their work. Have you been working on a project using technology in a new way? Do you have thoughts to share on topics such as metadata and visual resources, copyright and the arts, or visual literacy? Would you like to share your work with the ARLIS and VRA communities? Submit your proposal, and add your voice to our discussion on the future of the field!
Other sessions in this event will include:
- A roundtable of new professionals, who will share advice about starting out in your career. The speakers will answer questions about their work, as well as their thoughts on the best ways to gain experience and job hunt in this field.
- A panel on initiatives in art archiving, where speakers working on documentation and preservation will discuss their work, and suggest ways for students to get involved.
- A keynote speech from art librarian Elizabeth Lane, who will discuss her current work and her thoughts on the future of the profession.
- Presenters must be MLIS students or new professionals with fewer than five years of experience in the field.
- Presentations will be between ten and fifteen minutes in length.
- Ideally, presenters will be available for a live presentation and brief Q&A session on the afternoon of Saturday, January 17th, 2015. However, pre-recording the presentation prior to the event may also be possible.
Submit your proposal via this link by Saturday, November 15th.
If you have any questions about this event, please don’t hesitate to contact Ellen Tisdale, ArLiSNAP Co-Moderator, at ellen.j.tisdale [at] gmail [dot] com.
Graduate Student Assistant in Visual Resource Library
Description and duties:
The graduate student will help to digitize teaching, research and archival collections for FADIS and other image resource collections at the University of Toronto. This position will involve skills and knowledge about the visual arts and an interest in in archives or museums. An interest in cataloguing is important.
This position will involve skills and knowledge about the visual arts, archives or museums. An understanding of archival inventories and/or museum collections would be helpful. Knowledge of basic computer programs, as well as, photoshop for editing images is required.
Candidates must be eligible for the work study program.
$18.00 per hour for a maximum of 120 hours; starting October 2014 through to April 2015; flexible work hours can be arranged.
Description and duties:
Sexual Representation Collection, Mark S. Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies
The Sexual Representation Collection at the Mark S. Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies is looking to hire an archival assistant for a work study position. The student will work on a team to complete a variety of listing and housing projects as well as aid in hosting researcher hours and contributing to other projects through the year as needed. Please forward cover letter, resume and a copy of unofficial transcript to curator firstname.lastname@example.org
The ideal candidate will be interested in sexuality and general archives management, as well as have some experience working in archives, especially archival listing and housing.
This is a work study contract position for 180 hours between hire date and February 27, 2015. No more than 12hr/week, $11/hour, 4% vacation pay.
The Visual Resources Librarian, embedded within the Department of Art, coordinates the creation, management, and use of Visual Resources for art history and studio art instruction at Lafayette College, as well as for faculty and students from other academic departments. Manages digital imaging lab within the Department of Art. Participates in the Library’s instruction program, serving as campus lead for visual literacy education. Contributes to the development of disciplinary image collections to support the curriculum, including image production, using and displaying digital assets, and consultation on best practices for daily use of digital resources.
The Dallas Museum of Art is seeking a Rights & Reproductions Coordinator for a full-time position. Working within the Digital Media department, the Rights & Reproductions Coordinator secures permissions for images and other digital content, resolves issues surrounding copyright and intellectual property, and retains appropriate documentation. The activities are primarily pertaining to the museum’s collections, but extend to related Museum exhibitions, publications and programs. This staff position spends equal time administering DMA-owned object photography requests and securing appropriate permissions for exhibition and publications projects.
Ideal candidates will thrive in a fast-paced environment and enjoy working as part of a dynamic and active team.