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Hack Your MLIS Program: Visual Resources Librarianship

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.

Visual Resources Center, Lamar Dodd School of Art, University of Georgia. Image courtesy of Courtney Baron.

Visual Resources Center, Lamar Dodd School of Art, University of Georgia. Image courtesy of Courtney Baron.

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.

Independent study

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.

Metadata

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.

Image resources

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!


Job postings

Assistant Archivist– Corning Museum of Glass

P/T Records Manager/Archivist– Segerstrom Archive

Collections Photographer (Library Technical Assistant IV)– NYPL


My Experience at SEI 2014

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.

sei2014GroupPhoto

SEI 2014 attendees. Photo courtesy of the SEI 2014 website, http://sei2014.org/past-seis/pictures/.

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


Job Posting: Audio-Video Preservation Fellowship, San Francisco

This is a one-year fellowship, 20-25 hours per week, paid but with no specific salary information.

The Bay Area Video Coalition (BAVC) is accepting applications for its Preservation Educational Resources Fellowship. The Fellow will work for a period of one year within the Preservation Department, assisting with the development of  a suite of educational resources designed to assist individuals and organizations alike in taking initial steps to assess and establish a preservation plan for their audiovisual materials….

We wish to work with a library, archives, film production or history student/recent graduate who aspires to learn about preservation planning and archival audiovisual formats and who demonstrates the strong desire to help us advance the field of moving image preservation.

Duties will include:

  • Researching existing audiovisual preservation tools and educational resources

  • Assisting with the research and acquisition of various samples of audiovisual formats

  • Assisting with the identification and documentation of conditions that can impact the well-being of audiovisual materials (during both storage and also playback)

  • Participating in, and providing support for, the production of educational resources (including print materials, instructional videos, and web content).

Skills acquired will include:
Knowledge of audiovisual preservation best practices and familiarity with the field of media preservation. A thorough understanding of the preservation of audiovisual materials (including equipment, format identification, proper care and handling and cleaning techniques, and playback and storage best practices).

Experience desired:

  • Video or audio production or post-production

  • Training in preservation or archives (particularly video or audio preservation), library education/ experience or current training in audiovisual archives or museum studies.

If interested, please send a resumé and cover letter to the BAVC Preservation Department at preservation@bavc.org

Bay Area Video Coalition

2727 Mariposa Street, 2nd Floor

San Francisco, CA 94110


Interview: Starting a Student Chapter

We’ve talked before about the value of having professional-association student chapters on campus, whether it’s just general awareness of career options and extracurriculars or the impact on your resume of helping to manage and plan events, fundraisers, field trips, etc. There are no ARLIS/NA student chapters (yet), but that doesn’t mean you can’t start one! (I guess ArLiSNAP is sort of your virtual student chapter.)

During my MLIS these past two years, I watched some fellow McGill students start up a student chapter of the Association of Moving Image Archivists. As media preservation is a pretty important topic to arts-librarianship students, I thought I would ask a few questions about the process, the need, and the benefits of bringing special-interest representation to your school. Justin Mckinney kindly agreed to answer my questions about his work founding the chapter.

(Photos by Fiona Mak.)

Film handling workshop with George Eastman House

Film handling workshop with George Eastman House

George Eastman Film Handling Workshop

George Eastman Film Handling Workshop

ArLiSNAP: Let’s start with student chapters generally – were you members of other student chapters to start?

Justin Mckinney: During my first year of library school, I was a member of the Association of Canadian Archivists student chapter at McGill. I started out keen and not knowing what I was doing and imagining all the great things we would accomplish, but nothing really happened all year and I wasn’t exactly as active as I could have been.

ArLiSNAP: What’s the value of having local representation of professional associations?

JM: I think it has the potential to help raise awareness about the organization. Also, it can educate student members about issues in the field and maybe even lead to practical opportunities to do stuff. I think it probably varies from year to year and association to association, and is really dependent on the group of people involved at any given time.

ArLiSNAP: Why the Association of Moving Image Archivists specifically?

JM: I became really interested in film history and film preservation after my undergrad, which led me down the path to library school. I was already an AMIA member before starting library school, and my main interest in the archivy/LIS world was and is film preservation. After a sort of underwhelming experience of my first year at library school (which included a complete absence of film archiving content), I was determined to take more of an active role in my own learning. Fortunately, I had a couple of great friends in the program who had similar interests and were very supportive, and it snowballed from there.

ArLiSNAP: What was the process for starting a student chapter?

JM: I started emailing (and harassing) the fine people at AMIA about how to start a student chapter and they explained what was needed, which was mainly a constitution and that the executive members all be members of AMIA. They put me in touch with the folks at the NYU AMIA student chapter, and they were kind enough to send me their constitution, which I basically amended to change any mention of NYU to McGill — from there, we were off and running.

As for McGill, I just emailed people at the School of Information Studies (SIS) and let them know what I was doing and they got us a table at the student chapter fair at the start of the school year. Throughout the year they were generally helpful about any questions I had and they also helped us get connected with the Masters of Library and Information Science Student Association (MLISSA), and the Post-Graduate Student Society (PGSS), which both provide funding for SIS student groups.

In general, though, it was mostly a lot of me emailing and badgering people and then getting information as needed. It’s not really a clear process to setting up a chapter, and I think it would be beneficial if there were more guidance or upfront information given about the process of starting one.

In regards to gauging student interest, we really had no idea what would happen. To start it was just the executive (myself, Mark Haydn as vice-president, and Nicholas Avedisian-Cohen as secretary and treasurer). My main goal was to make the student chapter viable enough for someone to take over for a second year, once we all graduated. At the aforementioned student chapter fair, we were pleasantly surprised to get over 20 students to sign up for our email list, and we held our first meeting, which had over ten people, including first- and second-year students. This was a pleasant surprise and I think demonstrated that many people are interested in the field and also frustrated with the lack of film/media archiving content in library school.

The main paperwork was getting the constitution ratified. We also had to apply for funding for various events through PGSS and MLISSA. A lot it was just learning on the fly, as none of us had ever done anything like this before. So it involved a lot of asking questions of people at McGill and AMIA, and remaining persistent.

Probably the biggest challenge was forging a relationship with the Moving Image Research Laboratory (MIRL) at McGill, a research project which houses a wonderful cinema space and collection of 16mm films. Pretty much all of the Fall 2013 semester was spent sending emails, stalking professors, and showing up unannounced, just trying to get our foot in the door. Finally in January, we got access and that proved to be our greatest success, as it allowed us to start handling film, cataloguing the collection, and providing real hands-on experience in the field.

ArLiSNAP: You also organized a one-day symposium, which brought in guest speakers and gave students a chance to present their research. Why did you choose a symposium as your first event? How did that organizational process work?

JM: Technically, our first event was a field trip to the National Preservation Centre at Library and Archives Canada in Gatineau. We had 20 people come along and we got a great tour of the facilities there, and met a bunch of professionals in the field. Mark Haydn and I also attended the AMIA Conference in 2013 and met a bunch of the students at the Eastman House in Rochester, NY. Thanks to these friendships, we were able to organize a trip down there as well, where we got to tour their facilities and participate in a film-handling workshop.

As for the symposium, I heard that all the other groups were doing one, so we just copied them. The process of organizing it wasn’t that difficult. We booked the space at SIS and just sent out a call for papers and presentations to members of our email list. I also contacted David Stevenson, the conservator at the Canadian Centre of Architecture, whom I met on a class field trip, about presenting. I also contacted Phil Spurrell, the proprietor of CineClub Film Society, who I’ve known for several years and volunteered with. He is very knowledgeable about the medium of film and had a lot of interesting experiences working with film.

ArLiSNAP: Have you found someone to hand off the reins to? Do you have any thoughts on the sustainability of the group, long-term?

JM: One of the really encouraging things about our membership was that we had a lot of first-year students who were incredibly eager and motivated. So by the time we started cataloguing the MIRL collection, we were regularly getting 15 to 20 people out to volunteer. So we knew we had a solid base of people who might be able to take over next year. From there, we asked for nominations and were able to come up with a four-person executive committee for another year.

My hope is that some of the connections we made with the folks at LAC, and the folks at Eastman House, will continue and allow for more educational opportunities and networking. Also, the MIRL collection is really outstanding and needs a lot of work to catalogue, plus the cinema space allows for screenings and projections of the collection. This hands-on practical experience is invaluable and I think should be a major factor in the success of the group long-term.

ArLiSNAP: Do you have any ideas or recommendations about how to improve LIS curricula to contain more of the useful things your AMIA chapter is trying to do? Or do you think it’s better off as extracurricular activity?

JM: I feel like the major deficit of the MLIS program is the lack of hands-on experience of working with materials regardless of type. Particularly in the archival end of things, where the theoretical felt very abstract and weird to me. I found my understanding only started to come together through some of the volunteering I was doing at the Jewish Public Library Archives, where I was handling documents, creating finding aids, and writing accession numbers on folders.

Obviously, because of the broad focus of the program, it would be hard to have a dedicated film archiving course, but it is certainly something that could be touched on. Maybe a course dealing directly with the preservation of objects, rather than the theoretical preservation of objects would be useful.

Unfortunately, I think everything is becoming so focused on digital objects and becoming “information specialists” to the detriment of acquiring actual tangible physical skills, which I fear is leaving a lot of graduates ill-equipped to manage the physical aspects of library and archive work. Maybe it’s for the better, as having a broader and more transferable set of skills could help grads deal with the job market, but I can’t help thinking something valuable is being lost in the transition.

AMIA Montreal Meets AMIA Rochester

AMIA Montreal Meets AMIA Rochester in New York

We’d love to hear about your experiences with professional associations, and if you’re thinking about starting a student chapter at your school (ARLIS/NA or otherwise). It’s not too late to plan something for the coming school year. Let us know in the comments!


Visual Resources Intern– The Jewish Museum

POSITION SUMMARY:

The Jewish Museum’s Visual Resource Archive consists of photographic materials depicting permanent collections objects, past exhibition installations, and themes relating to Jewish history and culture.

Under the supervision of the Visual Resources Coordinator, the Visual Resources Intern will be responsible for researching and cataloging physical photographic collateral including glass plate negatives, 35 mm slides, and 4×5 transparencies. The successful candidate will have film handling experience and will be familiar with collections databases. This is an excellent opportunity for someone looking to pursue a career in the visual resources fields and to observe the inner workings of a museum visual resources collection. The internship will also provide experience and hands-on training working with the most commonly used museum collections software, The Museum System (TMS).

The intern will receive a museum identification card that allows for free admission to other museums and various discounts.

RESPONSIBILITIES:

 Identify, research, and store photographic materials in the Visual Resources Archive
 Transcribe information associated with the images
 Label archival envelopes for the permanent storage of analog photographic materials
 Use TMS to find information about artwork depicted in images
 Entering data and attaching images to records in TMS may be required

REQUIREMENTS:

 At least 3 years coursework toward Bachelor’s Degree in Art History or Photography
 Experience handling delicate materials such as negative and transparencies
 Experience working with analog photographic materials and scanners
 Strong attention to detail
 Applicants with coursework toward advanced degree in Art History. Photography, Archives and/or
Library Science preferred

Full posting here.


Visual Resources Curator– Lamar Dodd School of Art, University of Georgia

Athens, Georgia

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.

Requirements:

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.

Desirable qualifications:

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.


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