Mark Pompelia

Visual Resources Librarian
Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, Rhode Island
January/February 2011

I started my career in visual resources librarianship halfway through my graduate program in library and information science at Kent State University, at a time when VR was entirely populated by degree-holders from art historical or humanities-based backgrounds. Indeed, my attractiveness as a candidate for my first position at The Ohio State University was primarily due to my pursuit of a degree in art librarianship—a real novelty at the time. 

Visual Resources Library Director John Taormina, supervisor and mentor extraordinaire, understood the revolutionary changes that would soon take place in visual resources in an increasingly electronic environment that mimicked the profile and behavior of an art library: automation, data standards, shared records. John also recognized the need for a professionalization of practice, staffing levels, funding, etc., that could come only from a necessary alignment with libraries. 

From the beginning I was encouraged to seek professional involvement, primarily with the Visual Resources Association but increasingly with the Art Libraries Society of North America. I still recall joint chapter meetings both in Michigan and Ohio that proved the close—and natural—connection between ARLIS/NA and VRA. My experience chairing a VRA bylaws review committee directly informed my capacity to serve on the ARLIS/NA assessment taskforce a few years ago. 

When I left Columbus for Houston in 2000, I encountered a wonderfully collegial ARLIS/NA chapter in Texas that very ably performed double-duty for its visual resources members. I’m very proud that, during my decade there, both VRA and ARLIS/NA annual conferences came to Houston for the first times, to the benefit of all.

I had the pleasure of serving on the VRA executive board during the first joint conference with ARLIS/NA in St. Louis and again during planning for the upcoming joint conference in Minneapolis. As editor of the VRA Bulletin, I regularly seek articles that are authored by ARLIS/NA members and/or presented at the annual ARLIS/NA conference as a valuable source of publishable content. 

My professional alignment of visual resources toward art librarianship has reached a new level in my recent hire at the Rhode Island School of Design. Library Director Carol Terry strongly supports visual resources as an equal and integral part of the library and our path toward digitization and development of new, non-text collections makes visual resources librarianship—with ARLIS/NA membership at the core—a truly rewarding and exciting experience.