Patrick Tomlin

Head, Art + Architecture Library
Virginia Tech
April 2014

I was a rogue art historian when I first learned of ARLIS/NA. The organization became a welcome presence shortly after I finished my doctoral work in art history at Northwestern University and proceeded to enroll in the graduate library science program at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. The year was 2006. Pat Thompson, head of the Sloane Art Library at UNC (and a great mentor, to boot), introduced me to ARLIS/NA, its wide-ranging activities, and many of its regional ARLIS/SE members.

I became a member of ARLIS/NA in 2007.  With all the fearlessness of (professional) youth, I dove in headfirst: the first ARLIS/NA conference—and also the first library conference—I attended was also the first at which I presented.  I delivered a paper for the “New Voices in the Profession” panel at the 2008 annual meeting in Denver.  Although it would be another year before I attended ALA and longer still before I encountered ACRL, what I immediately grasped about ARLIS was the power and benefit of its size. I saw an organization that was large enough to have an impact upon the broader field of librarianship, but small enough to prove welcoming to a student eager to learn more about the art information profession. In Denver I saw a community of diverse but likeminded colleagues who were excited about the future of art librarianship and willing to share their knowledge with me. 

That conference experience led to further involvement in ARLIS/NA: volunteering for mentoring/mentee opportunities, participating in committee work, scholarly collaboration with other members, additional presentations and sessions at our annual meetings.  All of these activities have been personally rewarding and professionally enriching, and so I urge any new member: Volunteer! You won’t regret it! Now, as Head of the Art + Architecture Library at Virginia Tech, I look back at that first conference and realize that it laid the foundation for much of the work that I have done, and much of the support that I have received, in subsequent years. ARLIS/NA is a resource that I draw upon regularly, whether it is to cast out quickly-answered obscure reference questions to ARLIS-L or to attend informative, timely webinars.  As someone just entering the field, I could not have asked for better professional support than ARLIS/NA, and I look forward to fostering that experience for others.