Published 6/10/15

Emily WalzAssociate Librarian, Christie's

During my last year of undergraduate school, I started seriously considering becoming a librarian. I loved doing research, but I also knew that pursuing academia wasn’t the right choice for me. At that point, I hadn’t yet realized that “art librarian”was a career option outside of academic libraries. I was fortunate enough to intern for a summer on an archeological dig in Greece, doing what was ultimately archives work (although since none of us had any archives or library training, we weren’t calling it that). I loved the work, and hoped that eventually I could do something similar as a career. After returning from Greece, I worked an office job and applied to library schools, thinking I’d probably end up working either as an archivist or in a university library.

During my first semester of library school, one of my instructors encouraged us to join professional organizations, especially while we were students and the rate was more affordable. She mentioned a number of specific organizations, including ARLIS/NA. Being a curious overachiever, and eager to be more competitive, I joined. I was thrilled to learn that art librarianship was a significant enough field that art librarians had their own professional society. As I delved deeper into the myriad resources ARLIS/NA has online, I began to understand just how complex art librarianship is, as well as how present and important ARLIS/NA is to the profession.

I attended my first conference in Toronto the same year that I joined. Everyone was incredibly welcoming and encouraged both my friend and I to attend meetings and be active members. It was an incredible introduction and affirmed my choice to pursue art librarianship.

At every ARLIS/NA conference I attend, I meet other members and encounter increasing opportunities to collaborate with colleagues on research and other projects. Since I joined, ARLIS/NA’s resources have been an enormous help; the society knows there are particular problems and challenges that come with being an art librarian. The listserv alone is an incredible resource; ARLIS/NA members are always ready and willing to help other librarians with their wealth of knowledge.

I’ve attended every conference since 2012 in Toronto, and every year has been an amazing, remarkably fruitful experience. Being a “conference regular”has helped me build relationships with members outside of the New York metro area and made me eager to serve the society. With everything that ARLIS/NA has done for me in my nascent career, it feels like the natural thing to do.

As a new professional, ARLIS/NA provides me with a network of role models to learn from. While finishing my BA in art history and then interning on the dig in Greece, I hoped that I could fuse my love of art history with my talent and zeal for research. Finding an entire community of people doing precisely what I hoped to do was a revelation.