Meet VREPS Co-Chair Amy Lazet

Meet our new VREPS Co-Chair Amy Lazet. She has some blog posts planned on job search skills and interviewing, which is a great follow-up to our VREPS/ArLiSNAP session in Seattle, and especially good if you weren’t able to attend.

Amy

Here she is in her own words:

I earned a Bachelor’s in Art History and Visual Culture from Michigan State University and a Master of Science in Information from the University of Michigan. My senior thesis as an art history student was on Antoni Gaudi and the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. While at the University of Michigan, I served as Project Manager for the Prison Creative Arts Project’s Digital Image Archive, where I became very familiar with art produced by Michigan inmates. As Project Manager, I dealt with a wide range of issues including cataloging prison artworks; designing permission forms from artists—some of whom had been released and some of whom were still incarcerated—to publish their information and artwork online; digitizing and performing image editing on the artworks; and corresponding with the artists regarding their artwork and the database.

I am currently the Visual Resources Assistant at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit. My research interests are varied, but I am particularly interested in ethics, specifically in terms of image restoration and alteration. I recently wrote a paper on the various restorations of the movie Metropolis which is currently under review for publication (and I can talk about Metropolis all day).

I am extremely passionate about art: My favorite artists include Carel Fabritius, Rachel Ruysch, Shirin Neshat, Anselm Kiefer, Constantin Brancusi, and Rene Magritte. I love that I have the opportunity to continue learning about art at my job by researching a wide variety of artworks and artists. Working for an art school means that I deal with works by visual artists, illustrators, designers, advertisers, furniture makers, etc.

I have two cats, Anastasia and Beowulf. (I selected rather grandiose names for them, clearly.) I love mysteries and have all 80 of Agatha Christie’s suspense novels, and usually I am reading no less than 6-7 books at one time (mostly non-fiction).

Volunteer in Seattle!

If you’re attending Seattle, consider signing up as a volunteer for the registration desk or one of the events. If it’s your first or even second or third conference, volunteering is a great way to meet people without the awkwardness of trying to introduce yourself to strangers. The joint VRA-ARLIS conference will be much bigger than VRA conferences, so volunteering is even more crucial to meeting other members and, or course, meeting counterparts in ARLIS. Plus, some of my most fun experiences at VRA have been at the registration desk, like the year all of our registration materials got lost in the mail and we were frantically making badges at the desk!

Volunteering is a nice bridge to getting more involved with VRA, as you’ll meet both new and more seasoned members. It’s also a good break from sitting in sessions all day. You can sign up here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1sKpBwTlffB1nPPefBNj-RaYnoYG6FsKq0HzI75a5y98/edit#gid=0, or email VRA Secretary Jasmine Burns at burnsjas@indiana.edu. We look forward to meeting you in Seattle!

Looking for a Conference Mentor?

 

nypl.digitalcollections.510d47df-f902-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99.001.w
Image from the NYPL Digital Collections.

The joint conference of ARLIS/NA + VRA is less than two months away, and remember that the deadline to register with lower rates is this Monday, January 25th.

We’ll have more updates in the coming weeks, but for now, if this is your first or second conference, consider signing up for a conference mentor! Having a mentor can make all that networking stuff seem way less daunting. Plus, being connected to a more senior member can give you all kinds of good insight as to how to further your professional career.

If you are interested in having a conference mentor, or if you are interested in being a mentor, email Karen Bouchard at Karen_Bouchard[at]brown[dot]edu, with the following information

Your name
Your email address
Your institution and location
Whether you want to be a mentor or a mentee
Area of special interest or expertise (optional)

See you in Seattle,

Molly

 

Upcoming Events at the 2015 VRA Conference

cropped-VRA-Denver-banner-4

The 33rd annual VRA conference is one week away!

VREPS is hosting a number of events at the conference. All are welcome to attend. As VREPS is a subgroup of students and new professionals in the visual resources field, we want to encourage a growing dialogue with VR veterans, in the interest of navigating the future of the profession.

This year’s VREPS-sponsored activities include a workshop, a meeting, and informal night out. For more information, visit the VRA Conference website schedule or email me – schoenm [at] umich [dot] edu.

Workshop 3 – The New Applicant: 21st-Century Job Searching and Career Development
Wednesday, March 11, 9:00 a.m.
As the field of visual resources has rapidly evolved over the past fifteen years, so has the job market. While today’s economy has caused increased competition for those seeking a job in visual resources and similar professions, technology allows new applicants to more easily find available positions, network, and create their own opportunities. This workshop will cover a wide range of career-related ideas for everyone from students starting out in the field to seasoned professionals seeking new experiences. Topics include: how to find and apply for opportunities and positions, online resources for the VR job seeker, how to improve application materials and hone interview skills, how to create new opportunities, and the changing nature of the visual resources profession. An open discussion will follow, allowing all attendees to ask questions and share their opinions on the future of the field.

Visual Resources Emerging Professionals and Students (VREPS) Meeting
Thursday, March 12, 12:05 p.m.
Join your VREPS colleagues at this meeting to discuss the future of the group, and the educational issues, employment opportunities, and emerging trends in image management that are important to you. If time permits, we will also be peer-editing resumes, so bring yours!

VREPS Night Out
Friday, March 13, 8:00 p.m.
Terminal Bar at Union Station, 1701 Wynkoop Street, Denver
An informal “Dutch treat” social outing that provides emerging professionals an opportunity to get to know each other, discuss conference sessions and form new professional relationships.

Additionally, we would also recommend that any new members join us bright and early Thursday morning for the New Members & First Time Attendees Breakfast, organized by the Membership Committee. This is a great place to find out more about the Visual Resources Association and all of its subgroups.

See you in Denver!

VREPS Member Profile: Anna Bernhard (VREPS Co-Chair)

Anna Bernhard is the Director of the Stanley G. Wold Visual Resource Center and Library at Colorado State University, a position she began two years ago, and she is the continuing her role as co-chair of VREPS.

annaLike many in the library sciences field, she studied history, and, like many in visual resources, her path was fairly roundabout. “I ended up in VR more by chance than by determination,” she says. “I had been working as an Archives Assistant in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and as a Graduate Assistant in reference at the Pratt Institute Library while I finished my MLIS and began that painful process of sending out scores of applications.” She had applied for the job at CSU early on but says she had almost forgotten about it when they called. “I came out here and had a traditional academic day-long interview and just had a great visceral connection with the faculty and staff,” she says. “Although I always assumed myself to be more of an archives and special collections person, this work has been great—very versatile and involving a lot of research and interaction with students.”

Anna originally considered enrolling in a PhD program in medieval history. She completed a Master of Philosophy (MPhil), a one-year masters program, at Trinity College in Dublin right after her undergraduate studies at Bates College. “I’ve always been extremely passionate about history,” she says. “I love art, obviously, but a lot of people would assume I have more of an academic training in art than I do. In fact, my MPhil was my opportunity to delve into medieval history and see if I ought to do a PhD. I remember someone saying to me that, at [the PhD] level, you tend to learn almost everything about almost nothing, and I realized I loved learning a little about everything—which is probably why I was drawn to the library world.”

Anna moved to New York and enrolled in the MLIS program at the Pratt Institute, and her first archives position was as a digital archivist/editorial assistant at a Buddhist magazine. She notes, “I know nothing of Buddhism but will now always assert that they are great folks to be employed by — very generously spirited.” They gave her release time to intern with the MET, where she started at the Cloisters (the Medieval branch of the MET, in Fort Tyron Park) and was then transferred down to the main branch, working almost exclusively on the architectural records of the museum buildings.

At the museum, Anna says she learned concrete skills like cataloging and database management, but some of the most valuable experiences were abstract concepts, like working confidently and productively with little supervision. “When you work on a collection you become the expert on that subject,” she says. “You learn to honor a collection while understanding the role and the autonomy of the final research experience. In other words, you do what you can to organize and enable access but understand that you still need to be moving through at a quick pace.” She continues, “The temptation to get obsessed with individual pieces is huge in the beginning. If I were there now I could move through a little faster!”

In her current position at the VRC, Anna says that there really is no typical day. There are the daily tasks like responding to questions and checking out materials (resources and tech tools), but each day is different. “Most days I’ll expect to meet with a student or two about a research paper or their artist statement and work with my interns/students who are working in another room digitizing and cataloging our slide collection.” She continues, “Occasionally, I’ll go into a classroom to talk about research and visual literacy. I see myself as an embedded art librarian more than anything honestly. I love working on research with faculty and students.”

Most of the student and faculty users are generally from the art department, which is the biggest department in the college of liberal arts. Like Maggie at Queens College (CUNY), Anna often advises students about transformative use of resources, especially for students in CSU’s new electronic arts program. “One thing that I do see is that students are very nervous about is copyright law,” she says. “In fact, today I’ve got a lawyer from CSU’s general counsel coming in to give an information session about that very issue for students. I see students feeling very fearful about copyright.” It’s a challenge to make sure the students are aware of copyright issues without feeling afraid that they’ll be hit with a lawsuit if they make a mistake. “Hopefully, this session will encourage them to be a little more aggressive, actually. I do think students are scared, although they can also be a little complacent, and there are a lot of Public Domain resources out there.”

“I see VR management changing a lot,” she says. “I think we’re a little bit in a Wild West moment. Yet I think these changes are dependent on the culture of particular institutions and also their needs. I also think it is shifting in response to the interests and passions of the emerging professionals. One of the great joys and challenges of VRA is how diverse its members are, particularly new members.” An important role for VRA is promoting the work that VR curators and managers do, especially as they are often the lone VR professionals at their institutions. Anna hopes VREPS can help by recruiting more students and new professionals: “We have something in the works to encourage internships with VRA members, which I think will help. I also think that it is important for VRA members to continue to be active in other related associations and be visible.”

She continues, “I think the value in being a member of a professional organization like VRA is in learning to advocate for yourself in a professional capacity. Many, if not most, of us are operating our own little ‘shops’ so to speak, which is great, but it is important to remember you are part of a profession.” Anna makes an effort to define herself as a professional distinct from counterpart faculty or staff members, which she believes creates a natural role for herself as a liaison with those communities and also between them and students. “Being part of a professional network reminds you that you have your own community, even if you don’t see it right in front of you every day.”

______________________________________________________________

Marie Elia is the Processing Archivist in the Poetry Collection at the University at Buffalo Libraries. If you would like to participate in the profile series, please get in touch at eliam@buffalo.edu.

VREPS Member Profile: Molly Schoen (VREPS Co-Chair)

Molly Schoen is an Information Resources Specialist in the Visual Resources Collections at University of Michigan—Ann Arbor’s Department of the History of Art. She studied English and Creative Writing at Michigan State University and went on to earn her MLIS from Wayne State University.

mollyschoenWhile at MSU, she worked in the Government Documents Library, which led her to pursue library school. She did not start out with the intent to become a Visual Resources Librarian, but Wayne State was offering a pilot specialty program, focusing in Fine & Performing Arts libraries. “The great thing with this program was that there were internships built into the curriculum,” she said, including partnerships with the Wayne State Library, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra Library, the Detroit Institute of Arts, and, her favorite, the Motown Museum. “I would intern at one place for 1-2 semesters, then switch.”

Although the Wayne State pilot program targeted work in Fine Arts, most of Molly’s professors never talked about visual resources management. She worked at the Wayne State VRC for a few weeks but said she was not fully aware of VR as a separate profession. Then, her first position out of school was as a Registrar / Librarian at the Mott-Warsh Collection, a private art collection in Flint, MI. “It was a fantastic organization,” she said, “A collection of modern and contemporary art by African Americans, based in Flint, and we’d install exhibitions at different sites around Flint—for example, churches and libraries—and also loan works out to national exhibitions.”

The position was only part-time, so she began volunteering at University of Michigan’s VRC, working under one of her former Wayne State professors, Kim Schroeder. As with all of the other VREPS interviewees, Molly emphasized the importance of mentorship in furthering her career. Kim, then-director of the VRC, and Marlene Gordon, VR Curator at UM-Dearborn and the Chapter Chair of VRA-Great Lakes, introduced Molly to VRA and encouraged her to attend the conference in Providence last year.

Attending her first VRA conference helped Molly feel a connection to her peers in visual resources. “I always felt my job at UM was so niche, and it always took me a few minutes to explain to my friends what exactly my work entailed,” she said. “So when I got to VRA, and there was a joke made about 2×2 cards, I thought, ‘Wow! These are my people!’” Like most of us new to the organization, Molly was also impressed with how friendly and accessible VRA members are. “What I like about VRA is that, since it’s not a huge organization, it’s easy to get involved and share ideas.”

Molly has stepped up this year to become the new VREPS co-chair as Heather Lowe steps down. As a fairly recent graduate, Molly hopes to help new and emerging professionals the way so many people helped her along the way. When I asked her how she thinks VREPS can do that, she said, “I think a lot of it is just getting the word out. When I worked at Wayne State’s VRC, I wasn’t really aware that it was a separate department. I didn’t know about the VRA.” And while many students want to go into art librarianship, not many know how to translate their MLIS degree to work in a broader art and visual resource field. “I was trying to use my MLIS to apply for museum jobs,” she said, “But even though I had museum experience, I didn’t get many interviews because I didn’t have the Museums Studies degree.”

She continued, “The great thing about VRA is that there are no set requirements: The position is a little different for anyone, so a profession in VR can be an option for anyone with a library, archives, or museum background, and it’s very closely related to the art library track, too. So I think if more students are made aware of it, they’ll be glad to know of other options available to them.” The more that students know about the kinds of work VR professionals do, the better they can prepare by finding appropriate internships and courses.

Speaking of internships, I asked Molly for her advice to current students: Predictably, she recommends interning and volunteering, and building a relationship with a mentor. “Also, even if you’re a new student,” she said, “Start looking at job postings. Save the ones you like, so you can see what experiences and skills you should have by graduation.” She added, “One thing I wish I would have done differently is to be more vocal at my internships. I wanted to get more involved but felt too intimidated to ask. Looking back, I should have asked. If you do it in a polite way, show genuine interest, and can bring your own ideas into the internship, most supervisors are pretty receptive.” Her final tip for students and recent graduates? “Apply, apply, apply. Once you’ve written a few cover letters, they become easier. Even if you don’t think you’ll get the job, there’s always that chance.”

Molly presented at VRA 32 in Milwaukee as part of the panel “The Teaching Turn: From Static Collections to Dynamic Learning Centers.” Her talk, “Promoting Visual Literacy Across Campus: a Case Study,” focused on revamping the VRC to better meet contemporary VR needs. To extend the collections’ reach, the VRC moved away from cataloging individual images at item level in favor of creating encoded finding aids as well as converting old finding aids to EAD, for which MLIS students from Wayne State were recruited. The VRC staff visits classrooms to promote visual literacy, collaborates with UM library staff, and works the Department of the History of Art (HART) marketing specialist to incorporate VRC information and announcements into the HART page. Her presentation slides will be uploaded to the VRA SlideShare site.

Molly is excited to get started in her new position as co-chair of VREPS, so be sure to get in touch with her with ideas and questions: schoenm @ umich.edu.

______________________________________________________________

Marie Elia is the Processing Archivist in the Poetry Collection at the University at Buffalo Libraries. If you would like to participate in the profile series, please get in touch at eliam@buffalo.edu.

VREPS Member Profile: Kate Thornhill

Kate Thornhill is the Visual Resource Curator at Lesley University College of Art and Design Library in Boston, a position she calls ideal, a mix of her library and art interests. She earned a BFA and a BA in photography and Art History from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth before attending Simmons for her MLIS. She spent two years as the Senior Digital Assistant at the VRC at UMass Dartmouth, which helped her crystallize her path to a VR career.

thornhill

My junior year I was playing around with the idea of getting a masters in visual culture studies,” she says. “I saw myself gravitating more towards research instead of focusing on becoming a professional photographer. I am interested in everything, so focusing on one career was really hard for me.” Like many VR professionals, Kate was guided by a mentor, Allison Cywin, Director of the UMass Dartmouth Visual Resource Center. “I met her through the art history program, and when I started asking her what the VRC does, I thought, this is so awesome: It’s art history, photography, and research all in one thing. At the time I had no clue it related to library science and information management.”

At the VRC, Kate quickly realized she liked building digital collections and helping people find images. “I thought, how do I turn this into a job? That’s when Allison said I should really look into an MLIS.” Kate completed a rigorous program at Simmons, including coursework in Digital Libraries, Web Development, Digital Stewardship, and Scientific Research Data Management. “Since completing grad school, all my professional interests have dovetailed,” Kate says, though VR management was not covered in her MLIS program, as is often the case. “I think VR gets lumped into digital humanities, digital initiatives, and digital curation studies.” Even though MLIS programs focus on metadata and digital collections creation and management, few programs specifically address how these disciplines are applicable to VR management.

We revisited a topic that Jasmine and I had discussed, the MLIS as a companion degree: Deciding on a subject specialty and tailoring MLIS curriculum to that field. Kate hopes to take her targeted education further, with plans to earn a graduate computer science degree. “It would make digital assets management more streamlined and flexible, and help digital preservation practices. It would also open a lot of doors for working with open source programs and developing tools for VR,” because using open source software is often impractical without in-house IT staff to manage it.

On a related note, we discussed how tech-savvy VRA members are, and how capable they are with respect to managing digital collections. Kate says, “It makes me wonder how much VR collaborates with ASIS&T and SAA because they do a lot so much with managing/preserving digital collections. I think there should be more collaboration between professional organizations because there are so many special interest groups focusing on DAM,” but many people are intimidated by working with their digital assets. “That’s where professional development should come in,” Kate says. “I’m a strong advocate for continuing professional development and doing research in the library, but it’s hard with limited budgets and finding a balance between work and life,” which is why she thinks professional organization membership is valuable. “I think it’s really important to be actively participating, maybe not necessarily serving on committees, but showing what you are doing and how you are solving problems because there are others trying to figure out the samethings.” Kate described how the VRA listserv helped her recently while working with IRIS. Through the listserv, Kate was able to connect with a Visual Resources Librarian at MIT. “She took time out of her day to sit with me for an hour just to learn some basics about IRIS. It was tremendously helpful!”

Kate and the LUCAD library are currently making plans for a big move, relocating across the river to Cambridge. “The new library is going to be transformational for us,” Kate says, but it requires a massive overhaul of the collection, including a weeding project scheduled for summer 2014, and a deaccession project for the slide collection among other projects to be executed this summer. The slide collection currently consists of 50,000-60,000 slides, though 80% of the slide collection is in ARTstor. “Right now my team (2 student workers) and I are focusing on new media, graphic design, and illustration. We’re finding a lot of slides that aren’t in ARTstor but I have to be mindful of how much of the slide collection is kept because of limited space (for slides) in the new library. But, like many VR Curators, my goal for the future isn’t so much to focus on slides.”

Kate has the opportunity and challenge to build the program from scratch. “I have a number of projects going on: research and instruction-based, DAM-based, and overall VRC vision- and mission-based.” But, as a relatively new curator, her main goal in her first year is to get to know her community. “I started by revamping the VRC’s digital image research LibGuide: http://research.lesley.edu/artimages. It’s going to be a continuous project (forever evolving) but some areas I’ve focused on building include digital image course specific guides and building a “special topics” in image research page. This is for non-art images because a lot of the questions I get from art students about images are not art based. I’ve also built an ARTstor help guide with some homegrown video tutorials along with a page dedicated to copyright and fair use.” This led us to a discussion about who uses the VRC, and Kate’s answer is that “Faculty, students, and staff do. It’s really great. This semester I have been working one-on-one with an instructor and students for a Fashion and Body Adornment class specifically focused on integrating visual and information literacy into studio art practice. Also, I’ve been addressing the elephants in the room: Google Images and Tumblr.

Another project Kate is working on involves the Fenway Libraries Online consortium (a group of small/medium sized academic libraries) and DAM systems. “We are currently working on a Digital Repository Review, not just for VR but for all library and archive digital collections. This is one area I am very excited about because I have a strong interest and developing experience with managing research data and working with institutional repositories. I have a long term goal to start collecting student at LUCAD to deposit into our future IR. It’s going to take a lot of work since ultimately it’s an institutional effort, but I would love to develop arts research data management services for Lesley.”

Kate believes that VR managers can be leaders in data management across disciplines. “We create and manage materials for digitization and similar concepts cross over for born-digital content. We understand the workflows for proper digital curation. For my final internship at Simmons, I ran a study at UMass Medical School with their Repository Librarian to assess biomedical PhD student research data needs. Along with this experience, library school, working in a VRC, and getting a degree in photography bells were ringing that research data management doesn’t only have a place in eScience. I see VR experts in tune with the repository management side and teaching data literacy skills. We are the ones who should support the visual arts community and developing their data management needs.”

This flexibility and interdisciplinary knowledge base comes from the broad skill set that is required of VR managers. With this in mind, I asked Kate for her advice for students who want to get into VR. “Focusing on digital curation is going to be important, and thinking about how to help faculty and students manage their research or non-research digital collections. And look at the job ads! A lot of the classes I took were based on what jobs wanted, for example, hard skills like XML and XSLT.”

And of course there are the internships: “My work experience at UMD, Tufts, Simmons, and UMass Medical School positioned me to have a lot of experience and projects under my belt to start at a job like the one I have now. I pretty much had no life for 2-3 years, haha.” But knowing where she wanted to be, looking at what current VR curators do as well as reading postings for new VR and digital initiatives positions helped her plan a curriculum. “I knew I wanted a job that would be in a field that’s only going to develop more. I think [MLIS education] is what you make of it. That’s the challenge: Knowing where you want to be.”

Kate will be attending SEI this summer, so be sure to say hello!

______________________________________________________________

Marie Elia is the Processing Archivist in the Poetry Collection at the University at Buffalo Libraries. If you would like to participate in the profile series, please get in touch at eliam@buffalo.edu.