As the 2018 ARLIS/NA conference did not involve major travel for our members, ARLIS/NA New York was able to make four awards available to students and new professionals to cover the cost of registration. Below is the last of the four write ups from the recipients of the Celine Palatsky Travel Award.
Despite working at the Frick Art Reference Library for several years, I had never attended an ARLIS conference. As a part-time FARL cataloger with a full-time job in an academic setting, traveling to attend an ARLIS national conference would have been difficult to justify to my primary employer. Even attending the local chapter events of ARLIS-NY is a challenge, as my primary workplace is not focused on art resources. So when the 46th Annual Conference was scheduled for New York, I knew I could not pass up the opportunity to attend and engage more deeply with ARLIS.
At the Frick, I primarily catalog European materials, chiefly 19th and 20th century Central and Eastern European catalogs and exhibition ephemera. My goal at the conference was to attend the various cataloging sessions: Cataloging Section, Cataloging Problems Discussion Group, and the Cataloging Advisory Committee, as well as sessions on metadata migration and the ARTFRAME project. On behalf of my primary employer, Fordham University, I was also interested in attending sessions on the changing landscape of scholarly publishing, digital scholarship, and copyright issues.
Attending the three primary cataloging meetings enabled me to get a better handle on the discourse surrounding cataloging art resources and some of the special issues affecting the description of art resources. Notably, there was criticism of some of the prescriptions of RDA and Library of Congress, and participating in these conversations will definitely inform my future work. Having recently completed review for the Program for Cooperative Cataloging-BIBCO, which closely adheres to RDA and Library of Congress practice, I’ve had a number of specific questions about how to navigate between the recommendations of the ARLIS-CAC and BIBCO, many of which were addressed in discussion.
At the Cataloging Section meeting, I was excited to hear about Kelly Swickard’s implementation of the newly defined MARC fields for creator characteristics, in conjunction with the similarly recently released Library of Congress Demographic Group Terms (LCDGT) thesaurus, on the Maryland Institute College of Art’s zine collection. Using these new MARC fields and the LCDGT raises a number of ethical and theoretical questions, particularly pertaining to bias in cataloging, and it was exciting to hear and participate in the related discussions. This issue also came up at the LGBTQ+ Special Interest Group where the recently released monograph Cruising the Library, which explores issues of bias throughout the history of cataloging and classification, was discussed.
Above all, it was beneficial to be able to meet one-on-one with colleagues, even some fellow New Yorkers, whom I’ve only ever encountered via email and listservs. In my experience, nothing can replace this face-to-face contact for building relationships and collaborations. Now that I have a better sense of the structure and culture of the technical services divisions within ARLIS, I am looking forward to engaging further, and I hope to volunteer in the future to serve on these committees.
Timothy Ryan Mendenhall, Metadata Librarian, Columbia University Libraries and Assistant Cataloger, Frick Art Reference Library