Anna’s ARLIS/NA New Orleans Conference Experience

Anna Boutin is the recipient of the 2017 ARLIS/NA National Conference Travel Award.

Read on to learn about Anna’s conference experience…

First, I would like to thank the award committee and the New England Chapter for the wonderful opportunity to attend the New Orleans conference. I had a great time, taking advantage of workshops, conference sessions, and my own independent time in the city to explore and enjoy the gorgeous weather!

I started off my conference attendance at the letterpress printing workshop with fellow attendees and the artist Jessica Peterson at her print shop, The Southern Letter Press. The shop featured a small storefront that Jessica rents out, featuring local, independent artists’ work – I was grateful that I arrived early and had time to peruse because I found some great pieces! The workshop itself was a great experience, as we collectively channeled our feelings about the current state of affairs in our nation into slogans for printing, ultimately picking two that we each had a chance to run through Jessica’s Vandercook Press. The resulting works have been incredibly popular with my colleagues back home, and are on proud display in my office.

My day began on Monday with several sessions, including my favorite of the conference – “When Research Doesn’t Start with a Question: Teaching with the Framework in Art and Architecture Librarianship.” This panel session left me so inspired (and with such great notes!) that I have made a concerted effort since returning to work to champion the Framework in my daily work and instruction sessions. I was grateful to have such an inspiring, albeit short, day so that I could go out and explore all that the city had to offer – not the least of which was the delicious Southern cuisine!

Tuesday’s visual literacy session was jam-packed – I ended up sitting right there on the floor! I was happy to see such a large crowd, however, as visual literacy is an increasingly important topic, and one that I know captivates art librarians. Anna Harper’s comment about images not being respected as sources of information in their own right was particularly relevant, and it’s been prompting me to think more critically of the secondary role that images play in collegiate education and how art librarians can change that. In addition to this and other sessions, I spent quite a good deal of time on Tuesday in between tornado warnings (that aspect was certainly not something this New Englander is used to!) in the Exhibits Hall. We have a small but growing collection of artists’ books at my institution, and I was thrilled to have the time to speak with the knowledgeable vendors and a few other librarians on the topic.

My Wednesday turned out to have a social justice and diversity theme, which was timely. With recent events on nearly everyone’s mind, the New England Chapter spent most of our meeting time discussing activist efforts and what we can do as librarians to ensure that all of our communities are safe and welcomed within and outside the library. The Diversity Forum proved a great opportunity to discuss pressing issues in our workplaces with colleagues from across the country, and I truly enjoyed the panel on critical information literacy. The activities and efforts highlighted by the presenters were informative for my own practice.

Though I ended up having my flight cancelled due to the snowstorm that plagued New England that Thursday, I was grateful to have a final day in New Orleans to spend enjoying the city and reflecting on my conference experience – the extra beignets sure didn’t hurt, either! I am looking forward to next year’s conference in New York City, and all the wonderful opportunities it brings with it. I hope to see you all there!

About Anna: Anna Boutin has a BA in Theatre Performance with minors  Art History and Women’s & Gender Studies from Emmanuel College, as well as an MLIS from the Simmons College School of Library and Information Science. She is currently the Librarian for the School of Architecture + Planning at MIT, and the Treasurer for the New England Chapter of ARLIS/NA.

About the ARLIS/NA New England Chapter Travel Award: The Travel Award is intended to encourage the professional development of ARLIS/NA New England Chapter members by supporting travel to the ARLIS/NA annual conference. Money for this award is generously donated by ARLIS/NA New England Chapter members.