As a new library director at Pacific Northwest College of Art, a small, independent art college, it’s essential to my college and my professional development that I am able to attend the annual conference of the Art Libraries Society of North America (ARLIS/NA). Adjacent to the conference, there is an annual meeting of library directors from the Association of Independent Colleges of Art & Design (AICAD), a consortium of 42 art schools in the US and Canada. This year’s ACRL-Oregon Professional Development award supported my attendance at this preeminent conference for librarians in my field and allowed me to meet up with other AICAD Directors. In addition, it was my goal to eat as much New York pizza as possible, as I believe it is superior to all other pizza.
My first day in New York was the AICAD library directors’ meeting at the School of Visual Arts library. I met several colleagues for the first time and we discussed timely issues to our communities including diversity and inclusion initiatives, overdue fines, our annual data reports, budgets, and future projects. It was enlightening and validating to speak with other directors, many of whom experience similar challenges in their institutions.
From there, I raced to Midtown to the conference hotel to attend the workshop, “From the Margins to the Center: Cultivating a Critical, Reflective, and Radical Practice in Art Librarianship,” lead by librarians from around the country who have been influential in incorporating critical pedagogy into library instruction. At PNCA we have been seeking more ways to include social justice work in every aspect of library services; this workshop allowed us to reflect on our current practices, what we seek for the future, and how best to serve our community. By the end of Sunday, I had eaten four slices of pizza.
The next day, the full conference began and I attended an interesting session on “Crashing the IR Party: Artists as scholars in Institutional Repositories.” My library developed, maintains, and acquires work by our community for our institutional repository, Mimi. Each presenter shared their challenges and triumphs in their varied experiences and I was most particularly interested in discussions around how to achieve buy-in from stakeholders. It seems that more institutions are collecting scholarship by artists and seeing how different platforms handle visual media was very informational.
Next, I attended a meeting of the Book Arts Special Interest Group, a new one for me. I was interested in hearing how other libraries and museums collect and provide access to artists’ publications in all forms. We discussed cataloging, acquisitions, and housing these collections as well. I got to see one of my favorite booksellers and artists, Marshall Weber, Collection Development Curator & Artist at Booklyn. This organization supports artists and activists and provides exhibition space in New York.
In 2017, a task force was formed to update the “Information Competencies for Students in Design Disciplines,” and Linden How, my coworker at PNCA, joined this group. At the conference she presented their recent iteration of this document that drew from the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy and the ACRL Visual Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education. In this workshop format, we provided feedback and asked questions. I am excited that this work is being done and look forward to seeing the new competencies next year. Today’s pizza slice count: 2.
Between sessions, I perused the posters including an interesting one about pest management and disaster planning. I visited the vendor hall and purchased a few excellent titles from Purgatory Pie Press. They make artists’ publications that take a variety of physical forms and utilize diverse printmaking techniques, and which make great teaching tools. (I have already shared these publications twice with students and will be presenting them to the PNCA Alumni Council in June!)
Next, I moderated a session for my group, the Public Policy Committee (PPC), entitled “Libraries Resist!” where librarians from across the country shared how their programming, students, and exhibitions participate in activism. The session was heavily attended and a lively discussion followed. I was proud to represent the PPC and moderate a session that challenges the way libraries, librarians, and institutions engage in resistance to threats to our professional values and ethics. Among other activities, the PPC “monitors governmental activities affecting art libraries and visual resources collections; drafts position statements on legislative issues consistent with ARLIS/NA’s interests for review and action by the Executive Board… and educates the membership on these issues.” You can find the PPC’s monthly News Alerts (of which I am the new editor) here: https://arlisna.org/news/public-policy-news-alerts I only ate one slice of pizza today, but it was really good.
After an enriching and busy conference, I spent a personal day at the Met Cloisters, the arm of the Metropolitan Museum of Art that is “dedicated to the art, architecture, and gardens of medieval Europe,” and houses the famous Unicorn Tapestries and several illustrated manuscripts including the The Belles Heures of Jean de France, duc de Berry. I finally fulfilled a lifelong dream to spend a day with the treasures of the Cloisters, especially the Annunciation Triptych (Merode Altarpiece), by the workshop of Robert Campin. It is an exquisite example of early Netherlandish painting and I have spent years studying it; It was an unforgettable event to see it in person. Pizza slices eaten: 0, but I did eat many dumplings.