Friday, 22 April 2011

Conference Session: 'Paving the way for an uncertain future: teaching art information management in the 21st century'

A panel discussion entitled 'Paving the way for an uncertain future: teaching art information management in the 21st century' was held at the ARLIS NA and VRA Joint Annual Conference. This session dealt with many of the major issues facing students, trainees, and new proffessionals. Below are notes of two of the discussion points, dealing with the value of a second Masters in the current competitive job market, and the key skills of a 21st century librarian.

Question: What strengths of art information professionals can be leveraged or sold to both libraries and library students as assets in an increasingly digital arts and education environment?

Amy Lucker (Pratt Institute,New York) pointed out that in the last few years the growth of standards in still image, moving image, and sound have been huge. However the bibliographic field has had these for some 50 years, and although there is a move from AACR2 to RDA this is still a small set of new standards by comparison. Institutions are realizing that metadata management is actually the same as cataloguing and that people working with art information have metadata skills that apply to more than just bibliographic materials. University and museum libraries are hungry for people who understand image metadata and standards, so this is a huge skill that can be sold to a central library, especially if you are coming out of a department library.

Heather Gendron (UNC, Chapel Hill, USA) added that subject specialists also have a deep understanding of pedagogical issues such as how artists work, how they work in an academic environment, how art historians do research, how artists do research and expectations of students in curricula. Bauer added that the technological applications provided should enhance learning and must make the connection to an arts constituency and make it relevant to them, which is the remit of an arts professional. Further it is not necessary to have an exhaustive knowledge of all technologies but have enough knowledge to put the person with the right specialist.

Tony White (University of Indiana) agreed that the Metadata component, pedagogical knowledge, media fluency, and teaching and outreach are critical skills, as well as the curiosity to engage technology and promote it to faculty.

Question: Is a second Masters degree more or less important now?

Gendron carried out an analysis of institutions a few years ago for a core competencies project and found that the number of job descriptions that included a second masters as a requirement were very few. While it is definitely required a lot in Visual Resources and Museum Librarianship, many in academic librarianship do not have a second Masters. Gendron would argue that it is not required for most academic positions, and Gendron herself does not have a second Masters but rather an undergraduate degree in Studio Art. She advises students that a second Masters represents a huge financial and personal commitment and it is possible to find a job without this.
However Lucker cautioned that a survey of job postings now as opposed to a few years ago indicates a significant change and it is also necessary to take into account that there is much more competition now, and in many cases the person with the second degree wins out.
White agreed with Lucker. Having chaired a variety of job search committees in the past he found that candidates having a dual degree go in the preferred pile. Unless other candidates have specialized skills such as languages or are studio artists applying for studio programmes they do not progress further. Because the job market is very competitive he advises students who want to be art librarians to get the dual degree. He also drew attention to the policy at NYU, in which those without the dual degree are placed on a 9 year tenure track instead of a 7 year track, and are expected to get the second Masters degree whilst completing all the requirements for tenure. He commented that it is very difficult to do all this simultaneously. For those students who cannot afford it he recommends they do the specialization, get involved in ARLIS, and start publishing so they have a professional network and they can start building opportunities.
Ken Soehner (Pratt Institute, New York) commented that the second degree has a legitimizing value in terms of gaining respect from faculty and he also tells students that they should pursue it, but they should definitely find alternative funding rather than funding it themselves if possible. However he also feels that while it is good to have special knowledge in an additional subject, it does not necessarily benefit the library. Rather it is more important to have technological, language, management, project management and budget skills. He advocates getting away from specialization and towards the ‘deep generalist’.

Full notes from the session will be published in a forthcoming edition of the VRA Bulletin, details of which can be found on the VRA website at:

No comments: