Art Libraries Society of North America | Mountain West Chapter
Winberta Yao Travel Award
Past Recipients

2010 Winberta Yao Travel Report:  Alexandria Caster

38th ARLIS/NA Annual Conference
Boston, Massachusetts, April 2010

The words “thank you” seem somehow insufficient to convey my immense gratitude to the ARLIS/NA Mountain West Chapter for their generous support of my attendance of the national conference in Boston in April.  When I was selected as the recipient of the Winberta Yao Travel Award for 2010, it was clear to me that this represented a rare and important chance to be engaged in a national gathering of the leading professionals and scholars in the field. As a current graduate student and Knowledge River Scholar at University of Arizona’s School of Information Resources and Library Science, I have explored a range of professional development opportunities and career pathways. My introduction to the field of art librarianship, and consequently to ARLIS/NA-MW, has proven to be most valuable as it has opened my eyes to the vibrant community of innovative, creative and inspiring professional art librarians, setting  the stage for my future career direction and pursuits.

I began my ARLIS/NA conference experience on Friday morning as a participant in the Career Mentoring Program Workshop. This was a wonderful introduction to the conference, offering a chance for interaction and conversation with other participants, both experienced professionals and early-career/students like myself. Each mentee had been paired with a mentor based on previously submitted applications detailing career and professional goals. I was paired with art librarian Darrin Murphy from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts (SMFA) Boston. In addition to discussion, role-playing and defining of goals for both mentee and mentor during the four hour session, we committed to monthly telephone mentoring sessions over the course of the next year. I was extremely pleased with my mentor and the session. I am certain that the opportunity to converse and interact with a mentor in the field for an extended basis will be very beneficial for my professional development and understanding of the field of art librarianship.

Later that day I participated in a First-Time Attendee’s Orientation session with ARLIS/NA President Amy Lucker and other members of the ARLIS/NA Board. This event displayed the conference organizers’ sincere and pervasive efforts to welcome new attendees to the conference and sessions. It was wonderful not only to meet other students and first-time attendees, but to also feel that our presence was valued and important to the leaders of the organization. This event led into the 38th Annual ARLIS/NA Convocation. The presentation of awards to leading art librarians, researchers, authors and students was both interesting and inspiring as well as a great introduction to important people in the field. The following Welcome Party and Reception was delightful and offered a great opportunity to chat with a wide variety of attendees in a festive setting. The evening was rounded out by joining with the other new professionals at the lively ArLiSNAP social event at a local Boston restaurant filled with new friends, camaraderie and laughter. What a great first day!

The next day’s sessions began bright and early with the ARLIS/NA Mountain West Chapter Business Meeting. As a new member, this was an invaluable opportunity to meet other members and learn about chapter business. I felt honored to be included with the group and appreciated the welcoming reception.  My hope is to become more involved in committee work or future conference planning as opportunities arise. I look forward to meeting and working with all of you!

I next attended a conference session focusing on efforts to document living artists and their work. I found this to be a very interesting session with dynamic presenters sharing innovative projects focusing on artistic archives. The themes presented were of great interest to me and coincided well with my own archival and art historical experiences and interests. The archival theme also carried into the afternoon session focused on “Reforming the Discrete Practices of Libraries, Archives and Museums”. The very well-attended and thought-provoking session explored collaboration through the use of cross-collection search tools.

I found it to be powerful example of the sort of collaboration and reinvention between institutions which will help ensure the future of the profession. The day came to a close with the delightful Ar(Tea) Party during which I had a chance to meet many interesting artists, students and art librarians.  I enjoyed cake with a famous performance artist and conversation with a leading photo librarian before collapsing into bed with a smile on my face!

I was interested to attend the collaborative digital collections workshop on Sunday since I was in the midst of creating a digital collection from archival materials as part of my graduate assistantship in Special Collections, University of Arizona Libraries. Technology was also an important aspect of the later session I attended focusing on how art librarians are using the internet to conduct research, to network and to create new avenues of collaboration and expression. I was inspired by the dynamic and creative ideas expressed by these artist-librarians. Next I attended the Photography Librarians Special Interest Group meeting, an amazing opportunity to learn about issues of concern and import to some of the most important figures in the profession. I am excited to be part of this emerging special interest group and a participant in the SIG’s planning for next year’s conference focus. The last session of the day was the copyright session which offered valuable information about the current state of the Google book settlement and its impact on libraries. The presenters provided excellent information about a very complex topic which will certainly continue to affect all of us. I was fortunate enough to cap off the evening by joining the very special Society Circle dinner at Lala Rokh, where we enjoyed fine Persian food and music and another wonderful chance to meet and talk with ARLIS/NA Board members, supporters and important art librarians from all over the country.

I finished up my first ARLIS/NA Conference by attending one of the off-site sessions on Monday which took us to the Fenway area. This was a exciting day of exploring the Museum of Fine Arts Boston with their archivist which was followed by a session detailing collaboration between New York art museum libraries which resulted in shared a shared ILS and the creation of a common digital collection. The importance of collaboration, use of technological tools and stretching beyond traditional roles and boundaries nicely sum up the theme of many of the inspiring sessions I was fortunate to attend at my first ARLIS/NA conference. I returned from Boston reinvigorated and inspired to pursue future opportunities in the field of art librarianship.

Once again, I wish to extend my deepest thanks to members of the Mountain West Chapter and the Winberta Yao Travel Award committee for granting me the opportunity to embark on this truly inspiring journey.