Created: 22 April 1996
In 1988, the executive board of the Art Libraries Society of North America established a Staffing Standards Committee, with the charge to revise the existing staffing standards that had been completed in 1977 and published in 1983. Katherine Haskins (University of Chicago) chaired this committee1 for one year and was followed by co-chairs Susan Glover Godlewski (Art Institute of Chicago) and Karen McKenzie (Art Gallery of Ontario), who served from 1989 to 1994 with a new committee.2 The final document was completed by the Staffing Standards Task Force,3 under Carol Terry (Rhode Island School of Design) and Elizabeth Peck Learned (Roger Williams University).
In order to assess the needs and priorities of the general membership, the Standards Committee presented a white paper and held an open hearing during the ARLIS/NA 18th annual conference in New York in 1990. While the response was anecdotal, it was useful in assessing the urgency the membership felt for completion of this mission and the need for as relevant a document as possible. A survey was sent to 320 art libraries throughout the United States and Canada in 1991; 112 (35%) were returned. While the results were too small in some areas to provide a meaningful tabulation of data, they did provide the committee with additional grounding on which to base this document. The committee acknowledges with thanks those who assisted with this project either by participating in the open hearing or by completing the questionnaire.
In 1990, the ARLIS/NA Executive Board authorized retaining a consultant to work with the committee in developing these standards. Antoinette Kania, dean of libraries at Suffolk Community College, expertly fulfilled this role, infusing the project with her vision and expertise. These standards are, in fact, based on the Kania model.4
These standards are intended to assist in the determination of staffing needs in art libraries and visual resources (VR) collections through institutional self-study and the setting of goals and objectives. They present a model that embraces the commonalities found in art libraries and VR collections, while providing descriptions that detail the differences and unique qualities of each type. They review the role and mission of an art library or VR collection within the context of the parent organization's institutional policies and goals. They further suggest assessment measures as tools to establish specific local criteria for self-evaluation and to set goals and objectives. Administrators of individual libraries can also use these standards to manage change, demonstrate specific needs, and
Underlying this document is the recognition that each art library and visual resources collection is unique and therefore should determine its own criteria for performance and evaluation. Because these standards address the process of self-assessment and suggest factors to be considered in determining the needs of the library within an institutional context, prescriptive tables are not presented; the appendices, however, can be used to guide this process.
Staffing an art library or visual resources collection must be done within an institutional context. Many elements contribute to, and have an impact on, the necessary staffing level. First and foremost among these is the need for addressing the library's or collection's mission through the setting of goals and objectives. These are developed through an assessment of the current environment and available resources, which leads to a determination of the desired direction of the library or collection.
The process of setting goals and objectives for the library or visual resources collection should involve appropriate representatives from all constituencies within the organization, communicating at formal and informal levels. The result of this process should be a shared statement that establishes goals and objectives reflective of those of the parent institution; the statement should include provisions for measurement and evaluation as well as establish procedures for review and revision.5 Continuing dialogue is essential.
This process of self-assessment and planning should also yield vital and up-to-date documents which the leadership and staff of the art library or VR collection can use as guidelines and benchmarks. These should allow the library or collection to articulate its staffing needs within the context of, and in relation to, the parent institution's mission and its own mission, as well as in relation to peer institutions.6 The flexibility and robustness of these documents, and of the process by which they were created, will be in direct proportion to their credibility and usefulness.
Requests for increases in staffing or for the retention or restructuring of existing staffing levels requires contextual and rational documentation that speaks to the needs of the whole, i.e., the parent institution and primary clientele. This process should lead to frequent reassessment of the appropriateness and adequacy of staffing in relation to goals and objectives.
Each art library or VR collection-whether public, museum, or academic-has its own distinct character based on the parent institution's objectives, the nature and size of the collections, the scope of services and programs, and the needs of its patrons. In order for standards to be applicable, these factors, as well as the outcomes desired by the library, need to be taken into account. Appendix A includes a list of questions to guide self-assessment and the development of goals and objectives.
All art library and visual resources collections must support the mission of the parent institution. The library or visual resources staff must be of adequate size to provide materials and services to fulfill this mission and must have the parent institution's support for staffing, space, and budget. The staff of an art library or VR collection is the link between a specialized community of patrons and a collection of focused, although often diverse, types of materials. The staff makes these materials accessible to their patrons through various functions that include the following: selection, acquisition, cataloging and processing of materials; reference and other information services; and circulation and collection maintenance. The staff must be highly qualified and of sufficient size to administer, develop, organize, support, and maintain the collection and to guide and inform its patrons.
All types of art libraries and VR collections foster learning by making art information available through print, visual, and/or electronic media relating to the fine arts. The staff, united by a common discipline, are assigned to various functions in order to carry out the objectives of the art library or VR collection and its larger institution. In a small collection, one person may perform several or all functions that in a larger library may be dispersed among several positions or units. For example, the establishment of centralized technical processing, interlibrary loan, or acquisition services within a larger institution will affect the staff functions and responsibilities of the individual art library.
Staff levels denote areas of responsibilities, levels of expertise, and complexity of duties.7 Based on the level of responsibility, scope of independent decision making, education, training, and special skills, the staff of the fine arts library or VR collection should be divided into three categories:
B. Paraprofessional and technical
C. Other support staff
The proportion of each group to the whole is determined by the distinct character of the library or collection. The staff must incorporate the skills and academic training needed to support the goals of the institution it serves. Staff levels and their corresponding duties must also reflect the fundamental activities required to carry out the functions and, ultimately, to achieve the objectives of the library or collection. The numbers required must be determined by the size and nature of the constituency, size of collection, breadth of services, budget, hours, consortial commitments, and other factors.
Volunteers may be used for special projects but must not take the place of staff positions required for the regular functions of the library or VR collection; guidelines for accepting, training, and dismissing volunteers should be in place.
Art librarians, including those in visual resources collections,8 are professionals with graduate-level education, demonstrated knowledge of the principles of library and information management, and subject knowledge in the field of art. The weight given to each of these qualifications depends upon the requirements of the position. Each library or collection must be under the direction of a professional staff consisting of one or more individuals whose responsibilities require the exercise of independent judgment in making decisions and setting policies.
Areas of responsibility for the professional may include, but are not limited to, the following: administration, policy making, problem solving, evaluation, planning, analysis, collection development and organization, authority control, direct patron assistance, governance, and research. Thus, the professional position is characterized by the intellectual nature of the work and is focused on programmatic issues and the overall success of the library or collection.
Whether an art library or VR collection is part of a museum, a public library, or an academic institution, the rank, status, and salary of the professional staff must be equivalent to that of comparable professionals within the institution, e.g., museum curators and faculty.
It is essential for the art librarian/VR professional to participate actively in specialized professional organizations as a manifestation of career commitment and as a means of continuing education. Attendance at conferences, special programs, courses, and workshops should be encouraged, funded, and facilitated by the institution or administrative body. Where the possibilities of teaching, writing, and publishing exist, the librarian should make full use of these opportunities.
Education: The mandatory minimum educational credential of a professional art librarian is a master's degree in library science and/or information science from an American Library Association accredited school or a recognized graduate school in countries other than the United States. This degree equips the librarian with the technical and bibliographical knowledge necessary to direct the basic functions of a library. Professionals in VR collections must have a master's degree in library and/or information science or a master's degree in an art-related discipline. Additional graduate-level course work is highly recommended. In some libraries, educational requirements may be set by law due to compulsory certification requirements.
Knowledge/Expertise: Art librarians and visual resources professionals must be knowledgeable about the basic principles and practices of librarianship, including pertinent aspects of administration, strategic planning, selection and collection development, cataloging and classification, information and retrieval, bibliographical and research methods, preservation, and collection maintenance. Furthermore, they must be informed about advances in electronic technologies and proficient in their applications to art libraries and visual resources collections. Course work in archives, special collections, nonbook media, and indexing may prove useful. In addition to a strong art history background, an art information specialist must have knowledge of art bibliography (the basic literature, reference sources, indexes, abstracting services, and databases). A VR professional must also have knowledge of photographic processes, electronic imaging technology, and audiovisual equipment and services.
The art librarian/VR professional must have a broad knowledge of the periods, schools, styles, movements, and leading figures of art history, as well as the techniques of art forms and various media. Given the focus of the collection and the community being served, more specialized and in-depth studies in art history, architecture, design, the decorative arts, photography, or studio art may be required. For professional positions in many art libraries and VR collections, it is desirable to have a reading knowledge of several languages. The professional should make use of all relevant continuing education opportunities.
Experience: Administrative or senior positions in an art library or VR collection require practical experience working in the field. Although the number of required years of experience may vary from job to job and institution to institution, it is generally expected that three to seven years of progressive experience in an art library or VR collection are needed before assuming administrative or senior-level duties. The number of years of experience will vary with the size and scope of the collection. It is expected that anyone chosen for an administrative or supervisory position will be selected on the basis of subject and professional knowledge, experience, and leadership.
Paraprofessionals and technical staff members, also called library associates, library assistants, or technical assistants, are high-level support personnel. They are normally supervised by professionals and work within the framework of policies established by them. In comparison to lower-level support staff, their job duties require special skills and education as well as more initiative and independent judgment. They may supervise other support staff.
Education: A paraprofessional in an art library or VR collection may be required to have an undergraduate degree or certificate from a two- or four-year program, preferably with course work in art history or studio art, as well as specialized training or experience pertinent to the responsibilities of the position. In some institutions a paraprofessional must be enrolled in a library or information science graduate program. In Canada and in some United States libraries, paraprofessionals are library technicians who have successfully completed a one- or two-year program that has trained them in specific library/media-related skills.
Knowledge/Expertise: Paraprofessionals must have training, experience, and interest in library or VR operations, as well as basic clerical, computer, and interpersonal skills. In VR collections, the technical staff may need specialized training in photography, imaging, or media services. Employees must be motivated to deal with technological change. A reading knowledge of at least one language other than English will be helpful in some work environments.
The parent institution should encourage paraprofessional and technical staff in their career development and afford them the opportunity for educational enrichment and growth. Memberships in appropriate technical or professional associations should also be encouraged and supported.
Other support staff, including student assistants, are generally delegated process-oriented tasks that do not require higher education or extensive experience or training. Their duties follow specific guidelines. Their tasks typically require efficiency, accuracy, attention to detail, and general clerical and mechanical abilities.
Education: Lower-level support staff in an art library or VR collection must have a high-school diploma or the equivalent. Interest or a background in fine arts or art history as well as foreign language ability should be considered special assets.
Knowledge/Experience: For some positions, previous library experience and clerical and computer skills may be desirable.
The academic library in a college or university supports the mission of the institution and the academic programs in studio art, architecture, design, and/or the history of art and architecture. Library collections and services are developed in accordance with accreditation standards to support the particular curriculum and faculty/student research needs of the school.
The academic art library may be an autonomous unit-physically and administratively-or it may be a subject collection within a larger unit. If it is an autonomous unit, the head of the art library should report directly to the chief academic officer or to the director of libraries, as appropriate. If the art library is a collection within a larger unit, it should be managed by either a bibliographer who may report to the head of collection development or a reference librarian with a fine arts background, who may report to the head of public services. Or this subject specialist may report directly to the head of the library in which the collection resides. Technical services and other functions, such as preservation, may be provided by a centralized facility.
At a minimum, an academic art library must have professional staff who are subject specialists in fine arts, specifically responsible for collection development, faculty liaison, public service, and library instruction. They should have professional status within the institution and hold tenure-track positions. In many institutions this is defined as faculty status; regardless, there must be parity in terms of status and benefits with the faculty or other professional staff with similar responsibilities or duties.
Art and design school libraries support the mission of the school, which in most cases is to educate artists and designers in their chosen fields and to introduce them to the cultural and social context in which they will function. Library collections and services are developed in accordance with the needs of the curriculum and the criteria for accreditation. The library serves as a resource for faculty and students, not only for their course work but in their individual creative pursuits. It may also serve the local alumni and the community at large, providing a means for continuing education and for ongoing work. The collections and services must be attuned to the special needs and interests of a visually literate and visually aware constituency.
The library in an independent art and design school should be an autonomous unit within the academic area of the school. The director of the library should report to the chief academic officer and should be included at decision-making levels in the academic area. Unless arrangements have been made with other institutions, independent art and design school libraries provide all of the services of a college library, including technical services, and should be staffed accordingly.
As academic librarians, the professional staff in the art and design school library should have professional status within the institution and hold tenure-track positions. In many institutions this is defined as faculty status; regardless, there must be parity in terms of status and benefits with the faculty or other professional staff with similar responsibilities or duties.
The art museum library's function is to support the mission and research needs of the museum for acquisition, exhibition, interpretation, and publication of works of art from the museum collection. The library is the center for scholarly research, which is necessary in order to collect intelligently and to exhibit the museum's own collections as well as loaned objects. In addition, many art museum libraries serve their communities as research centers for university or college faculty and students, visiting scholars, museum members, and the general public.
The library should be an autonomous department within the museum. The head of the library should report to the museum director or, in larger institutions, to the administrator of the curatorial departments. The professional and paraprofessional staff in an art museum library must have subject knowledge in the collecting areas of the museum. The librarians must have parity with the curatorial and research staffs. Support staff are essential in the museum library, particularly in those cases where the librarian has museum responsibilities extending beyond the library. If the library includes institutional archives and/or VR collections, adequate staff trained in these specialties is required. Volunteers may provide valuable assistance for special projects but should not replace paid staff.
The public library as part of its larger educational, social, and cultural mission, serves a varied community ranging from skilled practitioners and educated researchers to interested laymen. The community of the public library may be the residents of the city in which it is located, or it may encompass a larger region due to reciprocal agreements, regional library systems, networks, or
Very often materials on music, the performing arts, dance, theater, film, and recreation will be included within the scope of collections in art departments in public libraries. Specialized research collections focusing solely on art, architecture, and the decorative arts may be found in larger, more established public libraries. Audiovisual materials and special collections (e.g., photograph collections, original art work, archives) may also be under the jurisdiction of the art department. Special indexes and files that document local art and architecture have traditionally been important hallmarks of public library art departments.
In public library systems, the art librarian should be a designated subject specialist who may be part of a general reference department and who has responsibility for reference, collection development, outreach programs, and the creation of information and visual files pertaining to art. Most public libraries will have centralized acquisition and processing departments, but art librarians or art department staff will often find themselves acquiring, organizing, and processing special collection, picture, and other vertical file materials. Public libraries with large, specialized art collections should have a fine arts cataloger as part of the technical services staff.
When art collections in a public library are administered as a separate department or division, the department head should report to the head of public or reference services or to the library director. The art librarian or head of the art department must have status equal to other professional staff with similar responsibilities or duties.
A visual resources collection usually consists of slides and photographs, often augmented by film or electronic imaging technologies, such as video or digitized images, which support the mission of its parent institution. The administration and staffing of a fine arts VR collection will vary, depending upon whether the collection is under the jurisdiction of an academic department or media center, the library system of a college or university, or an art school, museum, or public library.
The academic VR collection is primarily a teaching resource for the art history curriculum of the parent institution but may serve liberal arts and studio courses as well. The collection may be used for academic and public lectures, for workshops and presentations, for student review and study, and for scholarly research. Collections of visual images may be available electronically on campus-wide networks. The museum VR collection primarily serves the curatorial and educational staff of the museum for lectures and research purposes; the images contained in this type of collection usually document the museum's collections and special exhibitions. Museum slide collections are sometimes open to the public or museum members, or may provide special services such as slide rentals and commercial sale of slides. The public library fine arts VR collection exists for public use; regional centers and networks may provide this service.
Regardless of its placement within the institution, the VR collection must be included within the structure of a professional administration. Staffing should consist of at least one professional and sufficient paraprofessional, technical, and support staff to further the needs and mission of the institution. The VR professional should report to the head of its sponsoring unit, such as the director of the library, chief academic officer, or head of the fine arts department. The VR professional must have parity with other professional staff in the institution.
The following questions are suggested to assist in self-assessment and the development of goals and objectives relating to staffing. Understanding one's institution will aid in the identification of cohort institutions, which will be useful in the compilation of comparative statistics.
The summary of data from the 1991 ARLIS/NA Survey to Revise the Standards for Staffing Art Libraries and Standards for Staffing Fine Arts Slide Collections is available on request from the ARLIS/NA headquarters.