ARLIS-NA 2019 Conference Report

by Jennifer Riestenberg, ARLIS/NA-TC Travel Award Recipient

The 2019 ARLIS Conference, held in Salt Lake City, UT, was a fantastic, work-affirming experience, and I thank the ARLIS Twin Cities chapter for the opportunity to attend. The theme of the conference was “incite, insight, in sight,” and sessions and workshops centered on many topics, including critical librarianship, diversity, choosing print vs digital, museum library futures, promoting artist files, and how to manage digital resources.

Conference sessions began with “Catalogers’ Judgements: Ethical Cataloging and Artists from Underrepresented Groups.” Each speaker discussed different cases in their experience in which more critical cataloging practices were necessary, pointing out a need to re-consider our current methods and assumptions. This included representing indigenous artists, reviewing married names of southern, female artists, and being mindful of the privacy of zinesters by using their pseudonyms. One speaker made the interesting suggestion of providing a code of ethics for catalogers, given the importance of the work. Other sessions this first day included: the Diversity Forum, the Book Art SIG, and “Assess Don’t Assume: What Gets Considered When Choosing Print vs Digital.”

The next day, I learned how other museum libraries promote their space with programming in “Museum Library Futures.” The Virginia Museum of Fine Art focuses on making their entrance approachable and communicating how valuable their resources are by using library materials in exhibitions. Other libraries have hosted events such as show-and-tells with staff, artists’ books book clubs, Wikipedia edit-a-thons, and tours for friends of the library. These ideas could easily be implemented in local libraries. Another session that day, “Approaches to Building, Managing, and Promoting Artist Files” focused on best practices for managing artist files, including cataloging practices and promoting them with programming.

The third day, the session titled “Artists’ Book Cataloging Manual RDA Project” with Andrea Joosten of the Hamburger Kunsthalle was especially interesting. Joosten discussed the work of a committee made up of catalogers from Germany, Austria, and Switzerland who are working on an RDA-compliant manual for cataloging artists’ books. Special issues brought up in the session included defining what an artists’ book is, maintaining consistent levels of topic and subject description across a collection, and whether or how to use binding terms. Joosten noted that there is still much work to do, but once complete, we can expect to see an English version released. 

Beyond the sessions, I was able to attend workshops on basic conservation and letterpress. I learned simple and effective ways to conserve paper works, including flattening paper and repairing tears. In the letterpress course, I was introduced to the print technique, and the class collectively produced a broadside. This knowledge helps to inform work with rare and artists’ books.

Salt Lake City also had many interesting cultural institutions I was able to visit, including the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art, a small museum with excellent exhibits, the Utah Public Library, which has its own zine collection and stunning views of the mountains, the Natural History Museum of Utah, which holds fossils and interactive exhibits, and the Utah Museum of Fine Art, which showed an amazing variety of art from medieval to contemporary. Finally, the highlight of the experience was the powerful, meditative experience of visiting Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty in the Salt Lake. Expert Hikmet Loe led the tour and provided much information during a Q&A session. 

In all, the ARLIS conference featured many thought-provoking topics, and enabled many fruitful discussions. I approached the ARLIS conference with the goals of learning more about the broader issues in the field and what other librarians are doing to deal with them, and to connect with other librarians; this conference delivered. I left with a stronger sense of where the field is going and how I can meet future challenges, and I look forward to attending the conference again next year.

Announcing the 2019-20 Professional Development Awards!

This year the ARLIS/NA-TC-Chapter is pleased to offer a $400 award for professional development to enhance the professional development of early, mid, and late career ARLIS/NA members by supporting attendance at the ARLIS/NA annual conference in St. Louis, Missouri, on April 20-24, 2020, ARLIS/NA regional chapter meetings, enrollment in the Summer Educational Institute for Visual Resources and Image Management, or a one-year membership to ARLIS/NA for first-time members


Applicants for the award must be current ARLIS/NA and ARLIS/NA-Twin Cities chapter members at the time of application. Applicants who receive partial or no institutional funding toward the cost of attending a conference will be given priority. Preference is given to chapter officers, conference speakers, moderators, ARLIS/NA committee members, students, and first-time attendees, but all are encouraged to apply. A person who receives an award will not be eligible to apply for another award until after 3 years. 

Timeline and Process

Applications are due on December 20, 2019.

Applicants seeking the $400 award are asked to present a letter (via e-mail) to members of the Award Committee. The letter should include a statement of qualifications, the amount of expected institutional funding, proposed conference program involvement, and expected benefits or outcomes. 

This award is intended to cover the cost of a single member-rate early registration to the ARLIS/NA conference plus fees for at least one workshop or tour, or registration for similar ARLIS/NA affiliated assemblies. 

Please send letters of application to the head of the Award Committee, Beth Goodrich at

Administration of the Award 

The Award Committee will review all applications and select a recipient. The recipient will be informed and asked to accept or decline the award in writing. If the first choice award recipient declines, an alternative person from the applicant pool will be selected and offered the award. Upon receiving written acceptance of the award, the ARLIS/NA-TC Secretary/Treasurer will send the recipient a check four to six weeks prior to the start of the conference.

Award recipients are asked to write a brief conference recap for the chapter web site and give a short presentation at the first chapter meeting following the conference.