Planning for the Unknowable Fall Semester

Hello from your new Chair, Courtney Hunt (Art & Design Librarian at The Ohio State University) and Vice-Chair, Nimisha Bhat (Visual Arts Librarian at Smith College)! We’re excited to lead discussions throughout this coming year to share ideas and build resources within our community related to research services at our institutions.

Our section met in July to tackle the looming question in all of our minds — planning for a fall semester amid a pandemic as many of us are returning to in-person services at our libraries. Some highlights of the conversation were:

  • Practicing “slow librarianship”: many of us discussed strategies for slowing down our work in this fast-moving window of time when procedures and communications are constantly changing, like giving ourselves more time to answer reference questions and working on being uncomfortable with with uncertainty; instead of planning every small detail out in our teaching, reference, and support practices, it’s important to leave room for the unknown and allow ourselves to fail in front of students, e.g. not over-planning instruction sessions 
  • Re-learning how to to teach in-person classes again
  • How our physical spaces have changed for either better or worse: outfitting spaces with improved and upgraded technology and offering more remote services both for those who can’t get to or across campus easily and for distance learners
  • Major budget changes that affect collecting: some budgets have remained frozen with major weeding and cancellation projects happening; leveraging accreditation; some have found a solution in purchasing magazines with individual ISBNs from their book budget; a few members shared that they were hiring practicum students to help with collection assessment
  • Limitations on ordering artists’ books: at some institutions, artists’ books are considered “less traditional” library materials and therefore some librarians haven’t been able to purchase any during this time of budgetary restrictions; some have secured a permanent budget line specifically for artists’ book collections while some only consider them when requested by faculty; others are dealing with anti-print collection managers and major stacks and space reductions
  • Accessibility and flexibility in the classroom: Students at some of our institutions have been giving positive feedback about having multiple ways to contribute that don’t necessarily center on talking aloud; asking questions in the classroom like: “are you ok with raising your hand and talking or would you rather contribute to a crowd sourcing tool?”; the group also discussed our thoughts on recording our classroom sessions and while this could be a major solution to inaccessibility for students, some mentioned that this might not be a good mode for sharing information privately, tech obsolescence, intellectual property concerns, and image use permission ambiguity
  • Reevaluating the traditional reference desk model: training students or an on-call librarian to navigate basic reference & directional questions and passing referrals to liaisons; practicing tiered reference models like the READ Scale

The topics covered here make up a non-exhaustive list of the challenges and opportunities that we are all dealing with as we continue our work during this pandemic. We hope that some of the things discussed inspire you, or at the very least, make you feel less alone during this difficult and tiring time. 

Our next RISS discussion will take place on Tuesday, October 19 from 2-3 p.m. ET. The topic for our October discussion is “Outside the Canon – Sharing Resources and Tools for Researching and Learning about non-“Western” Art.” Please join us if you can! Zoom information is below: 


Meeting ID: 926 9704 4656

Password: 503817

Courtney & Nimisha

black retractable pen on opened book beside red and white go get'em-printed coffee cup
Image from Unsplash.


Seasons Change…But We’re Still Editing!

Let’s continue to learn from each other and develop awareness about underrepresented artists and movements on Wikipedia!

Linden How and I will continue to host Wikipedia editing hours on the following dates. If you’d like a Hangout invite, please email Alyssa at a-vincent(at)neiu(dot)edu or Linden at lhow(at)pnca(dot)edu.

Wednesday, September 12 at 11am PST/1pm CST/2pm EST
Wednesday, October 10 at 11am PST/1pm CST/2pm EST
Wednesday, November 14 at 11am PST/1pm CST/2pm EST
Wednesday, December 12 at 11am PST/1pm CST/2pm EST

Summer of Wikipedia

We’re in the dog days of summer (I think?), so what better time to edit some Wikipedia articles? Let’s raise awareness about artists and movements that are underrepresented in Wikipedia and try to create community around what can sometimes be a lonely practice while we’re at it.

Linden How and I will host Google Hangouts on the dates and times below – drop in to ask questions, chat about Wikipedia, or just have a dedicated time on your calendar to develop or brush up on your editing skills.

  • Wednesday, August 1 at 11am PST/1pm CST/2pm EST
  • Wednesday, August 15 at 11am PST/1pm CST/2pm EST
  • Wednesday, August 29 at 11am PST/1pm CST/2pm EST

If you’d like a Hangout invite, please email Alyssa at a-vincent(at)neiu(dot)edu or Linden at lhow(at)pnca(dot)edu.


RISS Annual Meeting re-cap

Thanks to those who attended this year’s annual meeting! We talked about how to best put our new mission and goals into practice and had a fantastic discussion about Fobazi Ettarh’s article, “Vocational Awe and Librarianship: The Lies we Tell Ourselves.” Check out Vice-Moderator Linden How’s meeting notes here!

Inspired by the work of Art+Feminism, 1Lib1Ref, and several RISS-ers experiences with Wikipedia edit-a-thons, we proposed collaboratively editing Wikipedia pages through Google Hangouts as a potential way to build community and our critical practice. If you’re interested in participating, please fill out this Google Form by Friday, April 6! We’ll email interested people to start organizing this shortly after that date.

Want to propose an #arlisriss Twitter chat? Please let me know at avincent17(at)gmail(dot)com! If you’d like to do one but aren’t sure how, never fear. We can help!

Looking forward to an exciting year of working together.


Image of an excited Oprah Winfrey on her show.

Yes, we’re as excited as Oprah.

Revising our Mission and Goals

If you were unable to attend the RISS annual meeting in NOLA you may view our meeting agenda/notes here. The majority of the meeting was spent working to revise our mission and goals for the section and I’d like to highlight this activity in order to share it with those who were not present. In total, we had approximately 40 people in attendance and all participated in the following activity.

Each person was given a stack of post-it notes and asked to provide one word or one thought per note addressing who we are, what we do, and why we do it. (This is also a follow up to the interest we had at the meeting last year in “why we do what we do.”) Everyone was then asked to place their post-its addressing who, what, and why in various locations around the room (all of the “who” post-its were grouped in one corner, for example). Next, everyone received stickers and up-voted their top choices for each category. 20170207_114237

After up-voting, volunteers organized the ideas based on the number of votes each one got.



Each group reported back to everyone on the themes that emerged and what the top ideas were, based on votes. These were then compiled by RISS leadership to develop a new mission and three goals that represent the group’s input. We are currently working to incorporate further input from our membership on the mission and goals and will share those once it is agreed upon. Thank you to all who attended, participated, and helped develop the mission and goals so far!

If you would like to join us for a conversation on our mission and goals please participate in our Twitter chat on March 28th at 9pm EST/6pm PST. Follow along and tweet using #ARLISriss during that time.

Amanda // RISS Moderator


Tuesday, January 24 #arlisriss Twitter Chat

Our first #arlisriss Twitter chat of 2017 on Tuesday, January 24 at 9pm EST will focus on utilizing design thinking in libraries, archives, and museums. Come one, come all for a thought-provoking conversation!

Twitter chat // Use #ARLISriss to participate
Tuesday, January 24 at 9pm EST
Moderated by: Alyssa Vincent @vin_alyssa
Topic: Design thinking in libraries, archives, and museums (LAMs)

Questions for discussion:

1) How do you define design thinking?
2) What are some “wicked problems” in the LAM world that can be served by design thinking?
3) What does a “designerly way of thinking” in LAMs look like?
4) How can you engage in design thinking with a limited budget and time?
5) Have you gone through an “inspiration, ideation, iteration” cycle to solve a problem? What did your process look like?
6) What can design thinking teach us about libraries?


Design Thinking for Libraries
Fosmire, Michael. (2016). “What can design thinking do for libraries?Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship, 83. Retrieved from

#ARLISriss Librarian/Artist Collaboration Storify

If you weren’t able to participate in last night’s #ARLISriss Twitter chat or you want to recall a resource that was shared, make sure to check out the Storify of the chat! It will also be posted shortly to the ARLIS/NA Learning Portal.

We’re always curious for new topics and moderators, so if you’ve got an idea for a chat, email Amanda at amanda.margaret3(at)gmail(dot)com.

#arlisriss Twitter chat on October 10

Mark your calendars! Our final #arlisriss Twitter chat of 2016 on Monday, October 10 at 9pm EST will focus on collaborations between librarians and artists. All are welcome for what’s sure to be an inspiring conversation!

Twitter chat // Use #ARLISriss to participate
Monday, October 10, 2016 at 9pm EST
Moderated by: Beth Morris @bethieelon
Topic: Librarian / Artist Collaborations

Questions for discussion:

  • Have you had any successful librarian/artist collaborations or know any that stand out?
  • What has your experience been in terms of who initiates collaborations? Is it you or the artist(s)? How might we foster more?
  • How can we, as librarians, learn from the artists we work with and what might they learn from us? Any cross-disciplinary themes emerging?
  • What role does creativity play in these types of collaborations?
  • What are the pedagogical links between ‘making’ and ‘knowing’ within the arts?

Areas for thought and exploration:

  • Makerspaces
  • Artists’ Archives,
  • Exhibitions
  • Artists’  books
  • Artists-In-Residence
  • Artists in the Archives (exhibition project)
  • Activities : Outreach, Collection Development, Special Events, Projects, etc…

Journal Club on Wednesday, August 10

Our next Journal Club meeting will be next Wednesday, August 10 at 3:00 pm EST. We’ll discuss Samuel S. Green’s short article “Personal Relations between Librarians and Readers”: To join the meeting, click here:

As you read, consider these questions (and please bring any of your own!):

  • How does curiosity factor into your day to day job responsibilities and what role did it play in your decision to become a librarian?
  • The author warns to “be careful not to make inquirers dependent.” What examples of dependency vs. effective teaching does the author point out?
  • The author mentions “slyly consulting a dictionary” when unsure about a question he was asked. When you don’t know something at the reference desk or in the classroom, do you model your “figuring it out” process for users? Why or why not?
  • How do you build relationships with people that might not feel comfortable approaching the reference desk?
  • When Green states that some researchers may “need encouragement before they become ready to say freely what they want,” what do you think he means? How often do you come across this hurdle in your library?
  • At the Frick, we have artists and researchers come in from time to time to, as Green puts it, “assist his imagination.”  How can we as gatekeepers of collections assist with this type of request? How do you help researchers with queries looking for “suggestion and inspiration”?

We will only use GoToMeeting’s chat function. Audio will not be used. All are welcome!