moving the needle: advancing the profession through publishing

For this year’s ARLIS/NA conference I asked a group of terrific editors and writers to talk about publishing. I moderated the entire session, Moving the Needle: Advancing the Profession through Publishing.

First we had an excellent paper from Eric Wolf who talked about scholarly publishing outside librarianship. He encouraged us to use our subject expertise (many of us in art librarianship have a second masters) and to write within that field. This is something I have been considering for a few months now – pursuing my interests in outsider art, tattooing, and other “low brow” art forms. Hearing Eric talk about the benefits and seeing his enthusiasm for writing outside information science has convinced me to move in this direction.

The lightning talks I arranged were also a success. In about an hour, seven speakers presented on a range of topics about writing and publishing. Three editors from ARLIS/NA discussed writing for them – Hannah Bennett represented the editors of ARLIS/NA Media & Technology Reviews, Terrie Wilson talked as a co-editor of ARLIS/NA book reviews, and Judy Dyki encouraged us to write for the scholarly journal Art Documentation. I have written book reviews for Terrie; she is great to work with and it was my first foray into writing in librarianship. I published my first peer-reviewed article in Art Documentation. Judy was very encouraging and considerate as an editor.

These three were followed by Anna-Sophia Zingarelli-Sweet who shared her experiences writing as a MLIS student and being a consulting editor for the great blog Hack Library School. I have been impressed by the work she’s done as a student! Then Laurel Bliss talked about publishing in relation to tenure for academic librarians. Laurel is an accomplished writer and had great ideas on making writing “easier” for the beginner.

Patrick Tomlin had an informative presentation on online scholarly profiles. He introduced us to many online tools like ORCID. Wrapping up the session was a presentation by Alex Watkins on open access publishing. Another accomplished writer, Alex discussed why open access matters and how authors can ensure their work is freely available.

I created a Zotero bibliography, Writing Opportunities in Art Librarianship, for the session. I linked to all the resources shared by the panelists and included some of my own recommendations. This proved to be worth my time as it was viewed by many ARLIS/NA participants over the course of the conference!

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Thanks to all the session speakers and attendees for making Moving the Needle a success! See you all in Seattle!

kathleen montgomery at the mattress factory

Kathleen Montgomery is an artist in residence at the Mattress Factory in Pittsburgh. Her sculpture and installations in Body Memory Architecture are sensual and quiet. Many of the wood and found object sculptures suggest heads or torsos. The canvas forms are filled with mud from her own garden. The work is subtle and suggestive without being boring.

Though the materials – wood, mud, string – imply a primitive or tribal influence, I think more about the feminine and the earthly.

You can see works from a few of the other residents on my Instagram or Tumblr pages.

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recommended reading on arts-based research and a/r/tography

More reading for A/r/tography: A Methodology for the Artist Librarian

Anderson, Theresa Dirndorfer. “Beyond Eureka Moments: Supporting the Invisible Work of Creativity and Innovation.” Information Research 16.1 (2011): available at

Anderson, Theresa Dirndorfer. “Kickstarting Creativity: Supporting the Productive Faces of Uncertainty in Information Practice.” Information Research 15.4 (2010): available at

Barrett, Estelle. “Experiential Learning in Practice as Research: Context, Method, Knowledge.” Journal of Visual Art Practice 6.2 (2007): 115-124.

de Cosson, Alex F. “(Re)searching Sculpted A/r/tography: (Re)learning Subverted Knowing through Aporetic Praxis.” Dissertation. University of British Columbia, 2003: available at

Irwin, Rita L. “Becoming A/r/tography.” Studies in Art Education: A Journal of Issues and Research 54.3 (2013): 198-215.

Irwin, Rita L., et al. “The Rhizomatic Relations of A/r/tography.” Studies in Art Education: A Journal of Issues and Research 48.1 (2006): 70-88.

Irwin, Rita L. Introduction. A/r/tography: Rendering Self Through Arts-based Living Inquiry. Edited by Irwin and de Cosson. Vancouver: Pacific International Press, 2004. 27-38.

Marshall, Julia and Kimberley D’Adamo. “Art Practice as Research in the Classroom.”  Art Education 64.5 (2011): 12-18.

Newbury, Darren. “Knowledge and Research in Art and Design.” Design Studies 17.1 (1996): 215-219.

O’Donoghue, Donal. “Are We Asking the Wrong Questions in Arts-Based Research?” Studies in Art Education: A Journal of Issues and Research 50.4 (2009): 352-368.

Phelan, Peggy and Irit Rogoff. “‘Without’: A Conversation.” Art Journal 60.3 (2001): 34-41.

Pryer, Alison. “Living with/in Marginal Spaces: Intellectual Nomadism and Artist/Researcher/Teacher Praxis.” A/r/tography: Rendering Self Through Arts-based Living Inquiry. Ed. Rita L. Irwin and Alex de Cosson. Vancouver: Pacific International Press, 2004. 198-213.

Springgay, Stephanie, Rita L. Irwin, and Sylvia Wilson Kind. “A/r/tography as Living Inquiry Through Art and Text.” Qualitative Inquiry 11.6 (2005): 897-912.

Sullivan, Graeme. Art Practice as Research: Inquiry in the Visual Arts. Thousand Oaks,CA: Sage Publications, 2005.

Sullivan, Graeme. “Research Acts in Art Practice.” Studies in Art Education: A Journal of  Issues and Research 48.1 (2006): 19-35.

Zanin-Yost, Alessia and Erin Tapley. “Learning in the Art Classroom: Making the Connection Between Research and Art.” Art Documentation 27.2 (2008): 40-45.

i did a research project & it was good (aka show me the awesome)

Artwork by John LeMasney,
Artwork by John LeMasney,

 This post is part of Show Me the Awesome. Find out more from sophiebiblio and Stacked.

In July 2012 I spent two weeks in Cairo, Egypt interviewing young, Egyptian artists about their information needs. It was my first romp into the world of information science research. As a student, I thought I would do more academic library-related research (instruction, assessment) but my limited world travel just kept asking to be a part of my professional research.

Thus, Egypt and guessing my way through the research and publication process as I go. Here’s an brief (and truncated) overview of my research. At ARLIS/NA 2013, I presented a fuller report.

Cairo (This is me just saying, "Yeah, I did this. Booyah!")
(This is me just saying, “Yeah, I did this. Booyah!”)

I interviewed eight Egyptian artists living in Cairo – a photographer, a playwright, a fashion makeup stylist turned videographer, a graphic/textile designer, an author, a mixed media artist, and two painters. I talked with 5 men and 3 women; the median age of the artists is 33 years; the oldest is 38 and the youngest, 25.

The eight artists I interviewed had college degrees in: French literature & history (makeup & video artist); psychology (painter); business administration (two artists: author and photographer); management & information systems (mixed media artist); commerce & accounting (playwright); Faculty of Fine Arts (painter); and College of Applied Arts (fashion & graphic designer).

I framed the interview questions from Susie Cobbledick’s 1996 investigation into the information needs of artists:

sources of inspiration and specific elements of work
books (8 artists) – includes fiction, science, history, and Sufism. Fashion, philosophy, plays, and art; read in Arabic and English; prefer print

images (7) – Google Image, visually strong websites/blogs, taking personal photos as sources

personal life experience (5) – The author said, “What I write is inspired by this country, by me living here.” This category includes Arab Spring (5). A painter who splits his time between Cairo and New York City said, “New York used to be very stimulating as opposed to Cairo, but then, for the first time, when I was throwing rocks at the pigs and they were shooting at me and there were explosions…you were actually, literally doing the struggle of art in the streets against what’s holding you back.”

other – film (4), magazines (3), travel (3), television (2), and music (2)

sources of information about materials and technical issues
Finding sources of information to solve technical issues or getting feedback on work in progress varied for each of these artists. Most commonly, the artist speaks with other artists working in a similar media. Usually these conversations happen in person, however these conversations are moving into the digital realm. The graphic designer mentioned using Facebook and Skype to hold conversations with other artists. The photographer uses an online community of photographers where he posts for feedback on his work and to get technical questions answered.

graffiti in Cairo

sources of information about exhibition, production and sale
It’s rare to have an open call for visual or performing arts in Egypt. This means that artists must network in order to know curators, publishers, directors, and government-sponsored artists. These connections not only lead to more offers for showing work, but also residency and grant opportunities.

In the words of the makeup artist, “You have to know the right people to know the other right people.”

One outlet for marketing and publicity was dominant: Facebook. Six of the eight artists mentioned Facebook, and in particular Facebook’s Events application, as an important source for promoting their work. Additionally, all of the artists said they do most of their publicity in English. “If I didn’t speak English I would have lost at least three or four chances to work in the last few years,” the playwright told me. The other artists echoed this sentiment.

sources for keeping up with the contemporary, global art community
Facebook and email subscriptions to various art and cultural centers are the preferred choices for finding about new events and opportunities. Two of the artists mentioned a popular website, Cairo 360, for discovering what’s new in the arts. But the main source of information on the global art community is Google. All of the artists use Google in English because of the quality of the websites available in English.

use of libraries
Uh, there isn’t any. In brief:
“The libraries here are not good enough,” said the photographer, “because a lot of the books are outdated.” Every artist I spoke with echoed this comment. The makeup artist said she used to go to the public library for books on fashion but when she couldn’t find any, she stopped going.

Perhaps most telling about why libraries are underused in Egypt comes from understanding the educational and cultural systems. In their study of Middle Eastern information literacy challenges, Fahmy and Rifaat state “students in Arab countries are used to being ‘on the receiving end of information’ and that they are usually told exactly what to read, exactly what to study, and exactly how to do homework.”

One of the painters told me, “We as artists and students, we didn’t really get the chance to study or research the right way. Like when you go to the library and you read, read, read…but we don’t have this here in Egypt. Studying by going to the library, that doesn’t really exist. Which is really bad.”

Of course, I have so much more to share about my research and what I learned. That’s why I’m hoping to find an outlet for publishing this work as an article. As I’m again rushing in blindly and full of enthusiasm, wish me luck!

graffiti in Cairo
graffiti in Cairo

works cited & other reading
Cobbledick, Susie. (1996). The information-seeking behavior of artists: Exploratory interviews. The    Library Quarterly, 66(4): 343-372.

Mendelsohn, Henry. (March 2011). Civil unrest affects libraries in Cairo, Egypt. International Leads, 25(1): 1-4.

Rifaat, Fahmy & Nermine M. Rifaat. (2010). Middle East information literacy awareness and indigenous Arabic content challenges. The International Information & Library Review, 42(2): 111-123.

Steiner, Rochelle. (2006). Nilehilism: Is Egyptian art cutting edge or cut off? Modern Painters, 19(3): 104-5.

Thompson, Seth. (2008). Cairo’s Avant-Garde. Afterimage, 36(2): 2-6.

Winegar, Jessica. (2006). Creative Reckonings: The Politics of Art and Culture in Contemporary Egypt. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

last bit of notes from arlis pasadena

The final day of ARLIS Pasadena was full of great sessions. In the morning, I attended Doing Data Together: Engaging End-Users in Building Richer Resources, More Efficiently. Here are my notes:

BWR: Collaborating to Document the World’s Built Environment  by Carole Ann Fabian, Director, Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University
Built Works Registry – architects and designers; building or structure that has been built (even if no longer present) and is habitable at the human scale
– for artworks and architectural structures, there is no equivalent to ISBN or ISSN…had to create a unique identifier system
– core data is a disaster and needs to be limited and corrected…even not consistent across singular database
– three major work efforts: policies (founders and contributor agreements); tools and infrastructure (ARTstor; data – contribution environment, repositories, sharing); content (name, location, unique ID required for Core)
– content development: curate, aggregate, disambiguate, normalize, enhance
– enhancing data: geo-coding strategy (issues with buildings outside traditional locations like named streets or issues with anonymity so they created a hierarchal data block to deal with levels of generality/specificity)
– How will Built Works Registry gain scale? institutional contributory model and expert crowdsourcing experiment

Your Paintings: The UK’s Entire Public Oil Paintings Collection Goes Online For The World To See  by Andrew Ellis, Director, The Public Catalogue Foundation
– opening up UK’s public art collections for enjoyment, learning and research
– engaging the collections: creating your paintings; 80% of paintings in UK are in storage…
– publicly owned – over 210,000 paintings in oil, tempera, acrylic, and mixed media
– 50% of collections have fewer than 10 paintings!
– London team doing data processing, image management, editing and copyright clearance (2,700 cataloging contracts, 30 freelance photographers, 50 regional researchers, over 6 mil pounds over 10 years)
– 300,000 unique users per month
Galaxy Zoo as inspiration for cataloging; free text workflows and fixed list workflows; over 9,000 registered taggers
– Tweet about this painting and it automatically links your tweet back to painting!
– technology + goodwill + verification = useful resource

The Creator as Cataloger: Shared Shelf and Faculty Collections by Vickie O’Riordan, University of California San Diego Library
– using social media can bridge the gap between expert and non-expert
– digitizing audiovisual materials from department of music…using shared shelf allows the faculty member to do the metadata
– Zambian Storytellers project has over 1,300 stories to be documented (over 20 years of field work) – committed to share his work as freely as possible and can sure it with the University of Zambia!!!
-inSite: public projects

Then I switched directions and listened to Sue Maberry (Director of Library and Instructional Technology), Debra Ballard (English faculty and Chair of Liberal Arts and Sciences), and Parme Giuntini (Art Historian and Director of Art History) from Otis College of Art and Design talk about teaching and assessing information literacy across the curriculum. Some notes from the session:
– first efforts: one shot library visits; required 1 unit research class (didn’t work; not sustainable) – lack of transference of research skills in these efforts
– embedded in curriculum. how? move from faculty and librarian working together to faculty and librarian involved in curriculum and course design
– TILT Texas Information Literacy Tutorial for students (3 hour tutorial) – didn’t really work; seemed like an add-on and the faculty didn’t even have the skills!
– We began to think that librarians were more than people who help us find things to people who make us think about information.
– mentor to student researchers; instructional partner to faculty
– “must be nice to have a PhD; your students don’t”
– step by step pathfinders @ OTIS
– create an evaluation form for student annotated bibliographies asking them to do a citation, evaluate, and tell where the source was found – it’s on web
– embedded video tutorials in online syllabi
– embedded instruction: scavenger hunts, show and tell, chronology lesson using Oxford Art Online
– curriculum mapping: proficiencies identified by librarian and instruction, assignments, & assessments
– redesigned first year core to include readings on the role of information in society, intellectual property & copyright, and social media
– aligned information literacy and critical thinking (getting the faculty to know that they are very similar and require each other)
– mandatory guided research module into course assignment – turned into training faculty to assist with guided research and this gave librarians the opportunity to talk with faculty about how the students are researching
– iSearch: paper about how they did their research
– library assessment has moved from data stats (circ, gate counts) to instruction
– VALUE rubric…
– started learning portfolio on learning management system to have students track their research and discoveries over their 4 years
– baby steps mean you don’t fail too much and it’s easy to pick yourself up!
– sell your services to one faculty member in the department and let them do the internal outreach for you

more notes from arlis pasadena

On Saturday, after a very early ARLIS/Ohio Valley meeting, I was able to attend more sessions and lectures. First up was The Evolution of Art Reference and Instruction: Outreach, Overlay, Online. Here are my notes from that great group of speakers:

Assessing Online Reference Services through ARLIS’ Information Competencies for Students in Design Disciplines by Audrey Ferrie, Information Literacy Librarian, Academy of Art University
– ARLIS Information Literacy Competencies and Remote Reference Benchmark
– wants to use reference stats in a meaningful and productive way and determine if she was hitting her benchmarks (online)
– RUSA guidelines for reference interview; Internet Public Library standards (best practices for email reference)
– created codes for the standards and applied codes to the reference questions (emails) and assessed through codes (essentially summarized competency into a few words and then labeled: orientation to information/organization and access/ searching/topic/strategy and search techniques/citation)
– assessed reference responses by the codes and then went back and rewrote the responses to better meet the needs of IL standards
– now codes as the emails come in and writes according to the standard

Deeply Embedded: Library/Studio Partnerships in the Development of Graduate Design Curriculum by Michael Wirtz, Head of Research and Library Technology, Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar
– student deficiencies: identification of thesis topics; collection and use of information; development of a research plan; organization and presentation of info; comprehension of what research is and how it relates to design
– developed hybrid studio/lecture course; team teaching model with graphic design faculty
– emphasis on collecting and using information (not just text scholarship!)
– simplified as a mini thesis exploration
– presented the non-linear design process which iterates the non-linear research process in the arts

Embedding Outside Your Comfort Zone: Reference & Instruction for the Non-Art Side of Arts Management  by Kimberly Detterbeck, Art Librarian, Purchase College SUNY
– useful sources: Guidestar, artnet, Nielsen Reports, Opera America, PollStar Pro, Billboard Charts for Professionals

(m) iReference: Roaming, Flashing and Embedding with Mobile Technology by Liv Valmestad, Art Librarian, University of Manitoba
– moving from collection centered to engagement centered; increases visibility of library; point of need reference
– uses Optoma Pico PK 100 projector (hand held) and accessories to attach projector to iPad or iPhone
Mobile Technology for Art and Architecture
–  from The User Experience: Revamping Reference
– document the service and tie to strategic plan

That afternoon I had the privilege to moderate a session, Alt-ARLIS: How Non-Traditional Paths Can Serve Your Career and Society. A quick survey of the audience, via clicker questions, showed that most attendees were students or young professionals. Meredith Kahn (Publishing Services and Outreach Librarian, University of Michigan), Ian McDermott (Collection Development Associate, ARTstor), Jamie Lausch Vander Broek (Exhibits and Programming Librarian and Learning Librarian, University of Michigan), and Alice Whiteside (Librarian and Information Technology Consultant, Mount Holyoke College) all discussed how they work in non-art jobs but still call ARLIS/NA their home. With the growing diversity of ARLIS’ members and the need for young professionals to be creative in finding their first job, Alt-ARLIS may have a future as a repeated session or SIG!

I finished off the day checking out the exhibits and posters sessions. I also sat in on Olivia Miller’s (MLIS candidate, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill) Power Up! How Can Academic Libraries Collect for Video Game Design Students. She introduced me to some great resources like Gamasutra, Kotaku, and Polycount Forum.

notes from arlis pasadena

The first full day of ARLIS/NA Pasadena was rather busy! I spent the morning attend Rebecca Feind’s (Librarian for Art and Design, San Jose State University) and Kathy Clarke’s (Librarian, James Madison University) workshop Crafting Assessment Questions: Creating the Tools to Assess Information Literacy Objectives for Art and Design. The session allowed us to try developing our own multiple choice questions for assessing competency. The most valuable lesson of the workshop: assessment takes time and practice. Writing effective test questions is rather hard! Fortunately, Rebecca and Kathy created a LibGuide, ArtScore: Creating Assessment Questions for Information Literacy Competencies for Art and Design.

In the afternoon I attended the ARLiSNAP section meeting for Art Library Students and New ARLIS Professionals. It’s a great group for meeting young art librarians and the blog has helped many folks find jobs and internships. I’m hoping to become more involved in ARLiSNAP in the coming year.

Much of the afternoon was spent in the session in which I was presenting, New Voices in the Profession. Yvonne B. Lee (Research Assistant, Placa Project) was a terrific speaker. She presented on the Placa Project which is archiving Los Angeles gang graffiti, making the project easily accessible to street artists. Marsha Taichman (Visual Resources and Public Services Librarian, Cornell University) discussed her involvement in developing Visual Resources Talks (brown bag lunches) at Cornell. Amanda Milbourn (Assistant Librarian, Disney Consumer Products) presented her MLIS project on embedding visual literacy instructors into undergraduate classes. She won the Gerd Muehsam Award for this as the best graduate student paper!

I presented my research on and interviews with young Egyptian contemporary artists. In July 2012, I interviewed eight Egyptians living in Cairo about their information needs. My paper provided an overview of the higher education system in Egypt and the contemporary art community in Cairo. Then I discussed some of my findings from the interviews. I received a lot of positive feedback and interest in the work! This summer, I hope to find an outlet to publish this research as an article.

graffiti, Cairo, Egypt
graffiti, Cairo, Egypt

lacma & watts tower from arlis pasadena

As part of my time at ARLIS/NA’s 2013 annual conference, I took a tour of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and Simon Rodia’s Watts Towers.

Clockwork Orange
Clockwork Orange

At LACMA, we were given a private tour of the Stanley Kubrick exhibition. You walk through the exhibition following the chronology of Kubrick’s films, viewing on-set photographs, video clips, and costumes and props. Fun fact of the tour: Dr. Strangelove was suppose to end with a pie fight.

With about a half hour to myself, I wandered through the contemporary art. Stephen Prina was on view as well as Ends and Exits: Contemporary Art from LACMA and the Broad Art Foundation. I saw my first Richard Serra!

David Wojnarowicz
David Wojnarowicz
scientists work at Watts Towers
scientists work at Watts Towers

Before leaving LACMA, we had a lecture by a leading scientist on the preservation of Watts. The Towers were built by Italian immigrant Simon (aka Sam) Rodia during his ~30 years at the residence. He worked alone, without scaffolding (the tallest tower is almost 100 feet), building with reinforced cement and broken tiles. Heat is a major trouble factor for the work. Cement cracks are opening wider and wider every day. To date, preservationists attempts to fill the cracks haven’t held.

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