Q: I want to be an art librarian but I don’t have a degree in art. How do I address this when applying for jobs?

Q: I am currently getting my LIS masters degree. I want to pursue a career in art librarianship and I am attempting to tailor my courses to this even though my school does not offer an art specialization. While I have an undergraduate minor in art history, I do not have a major in it but I am fairly proficient in the subject. The majority of my library work has been in an art library. I plan on getting an art history masters in the near future (~5 years?) but want to work in an institution before this. How should I go about addressing these facts when I am applying for jobs? Thanks in advance.

SM: Your experience working in an art library will help with your job search, but without a degree in art, you might have a hard time finding a position as an art librarian. Here are some suggestions that might help you in your job search:

  • see if you can do an art-related research project (e.g., thesis), independent study, or practicum, as part of your school work
  • be mobile, widen your search, if at all possible, to include all art-related librarian positions in any part of the country
  • if you are currently working in an art library, see if you can create research guides/sites/tools (you can then showcase these in your portolio/resume)
  • highlight your experience working in art libraries (provide examples of work that you did)
  • highlight your minor in art
  • mention, or list on your resume, any art-related classes or research
  • mention your plan to obtain a second masters in art history
  • apply for general positions (not necessarily art-related) at institutions that have art programs

In the mean time, look into possibly taking an online art librarianship course at another institution. Research art history programs, so you have an idea of where you might want to go and what you might want to focus on for your art history degree. Maintain your vision for your dream job and create goals for yourself. This will also help you when you get to the interview stage, as many academic positions require a second masters. They want to know that if you are hired, you already have a plan to complete your advanced subject degree. Caveat: if you do apply for more generalized positions that do not require any subject expertise, you may want to tone down the art librarianship speak. A search committee might get the impression (rightly so) that you will leave after a few years, to move into your dream ‘art librarian’ job. Which is completely OK… but they don’t have to know that.

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