Reference Librarian - Art Institute of Chicago

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Position Summary

Reporting to the Associate Library Director, Access Services, and working closely with the Ryerson and Burnham Libraries team, the Reference Librarian provides reference, research, interlibrary loan, and instructional services to a diverse group of patrons in the Ryerson and Burnham Libraries branch of the museum’s Research Center. As part of the Access Services team, the Reference Librarian serves patrons and museum staff. The role supports collection development, including acquisitions and curatorial requests for purchase, and assists with outreach to museum colleagues, SAIC staff and students, and the general public through reference services, instruction, and the development of research guides, web text, and other discovery tools. The position serves as an active member of the Library team in the design and implementation of reading room and circulation policies and procedures.


  1. Facilitates access: Provides service at the reference desk on a regularly scheduled basis, and reference and research services to museum staff on demand. Responds to questions in various channels on a regular basis, and answers requests for loans, scans and copies in collaboration with the Access Services team. Regularly scheduled for providing bibliographic instruction, training, and orientations for AIC staff, fellows and interns, SAIC classes, and other groups as necessary. Assists with planning and management of Research Center-led events that engage a broader academic community, such as workshops, convenings, visiting scholars, class visits and seminars.
  2. Departmental support: Works collaboratively with fellow staff to achieve Research Center goals and manage fundamental on-site operations. Supervises the reading room as needed. Oversees circulation and reception desk scheduling and interlibrary loan lending in the Access Services Manager’s absence. Assists in monitoring patron-facing equipment, such as scanners and microfilm. Collaborates with Academic Engagement and Research to ensure research needs are met for fellows and interns.
  3. Collection management: Manages incoming and outgoing interlibrary loan operations. Supports the long-term care of the collection by promoting safe handling practices and examining holdings for conservation or special housing needs, referring works to the Conservation and Science Department as needed. Assists in collection development of both print and digital resources and serves as selector and main point of library contact for assigned curatorial departments.
  4. Digital Infrastructure: Promotes the libraries’ collections and services through developing discovery tools and web content.
  5. Collaboration: Maintains clear communication with colleagues about ongoing priorities, goals, and projects. Participates in Research Center and museum-wide committees and task forces, and completes other duties as assigned. 


A hub for scholarship and training, the Art Institute Research Center brings together the museum’s Ryerson and Burnham Libraries, the Art Institute of Chicago Archives, and the department of Academic Engagement and Research with the aim of fostering engagement and access to the Art Institute of Chicago’s rich educational and research offerings.

The historic Ryerson and Burnham Libraries are among the preeminent art research libraries in the United States. The collection holds more than 670,000 print titles, 100,000 auction catalogs, 200 current serial subscriptions, and extensive digital resources. The Libraries support the museum’s eleven curatorial departments, representing myriad research fields spanning the globe and all time periods. The Libraries are a vital resource for the art research community, faculty and students, artists and architects, as well as scholars and inquisitive public visitors from around the world.

  • MLS from an ALA accredited program required. Some educational training with art history is preferred.
  • At least 1 year professional experience providing reference service and bibliographic instruction to a diverse patron base, or equivalent experience in a similar environment, required.
  • Experience assisting researchers with accessing rare and special collection materials, preferred.
  • An understanding of issues related to electronic resources, including vendors, packages, aggregators, platforms, licensing and pricing models, is desirable.
  • Familiarity with circulation procedures and trends in access services, required. Familiarity with bibliographic tools (printed and electronic) and research methods for art history is preferred.
  • Familiarity with the interlibrary loan codes and guidelines, and experience with interlibrary loan borrowing and lending helpful.
  • Excellent communication skills: oral, written, and interpersonal, including email etiquette, and a proven ability to respectfully engage colleagues, patrons and stakeholders from a diverse range of backgrounds.
  • Aptitude for proactive, self-directed work; as well as ability to work collaboratively as part of a team, motivate others, and work across organizational boundaries.


  • Capacity with physical labor minimally required. Handling collection materials comprises approximately 50% of the role, but most of this work is completed at a desk.
  • Most of the day consists of sitting at a desk and working on a computer; must be able to remain in a stationary position 75% of the time.
  • Often moves about inside the office, stacks and across various museum spaces to access storage areas, receive and move collection materials, and other related tasks.
  • Capable of stooping, bending, stretching, lifting up to 40 pounds, and pushing book carts weighing up to 150 pounds in order to receive, process, and perform essential maintenance for physical collection materials.
  • Often operates a computer and other productivity machinery, such as scanners and printers.
  • Specific vision abilities required by this job include close vision, ability to adjust focus, and the ability to sustain prolonged visual concentration.


All staff members are expected to embrace the museum’s commitment to creating an inclusive and equitable institution and to adhere to the museum’s shared values.

  • Our museum reflects and deepens our collective humanity; the arts are integral to an inspired and just society.
  • We respect and acknowledge each of our colleagues’ contributions and expertise across all roles within our organization.
  • We share in the responsibility to create an antiracist culture built on equity, inclusion, and justice for all, acknowledging that these efforts are intersectional and ongoing.
  • We encourage and advance a culture of hospitality, empathy, and gratitude for each visitor, supporter, and member of our staff.
  • We embrace innovation and foster change with a progressive understanding of—and obligation to reconsider—our past.
  • We sustain an open and dynamic civic platform, inviting and advancing the diverse perspectives of our city, staff, visitors, and supporters.

Apply Here

Vaccination Expectation

Becoming vaccinated against COVID-19 is the most important contribution we as individuals can make to ensure our own safety and the safety of our museum and school community. All employees must complete an attestation and provide proof of their vaccination status, or request a medical or religious exemption within the first week of employment.

The Art Institute of Chicago is an equal opportunity, equal access employer fully committed to achieving a diverse and inclusive workplace. We believe in a staff culture that benefits from a wide range of experience, backgrounds, and career paths, and we encourage nontraditional candidates to apply.