Art and Library work. Art Librarian? Book Illustrator? Dreams.

Well — it’s interesting.  Yesterday I actually called M from school to talk to her about this very topic:  being uncertain as to where to focus my energies.  I have the Art thing, which is going well.  I found out over the holiday that I can produce a lot of work in a short time when I put my mind to it; and on the days I had free, I was working for at least two hours a day in drawing, which was…nice.  Plus, I was assembling a portfolio of my best work, and at the end of Break, I was able to see all that work, together.

I was intimidated by this project at first, but getting an F is much better than getting a 0, so I had a go at it — and a lot of those drawings really turned out nice.  Not “professional” nice, not yet — but high enough to give hints that I might be able to be employed in the sector.

It got to the point where I felt like I might actually be able, with more practice and time devoted, to be able to be something like a book Illustrator.  I’ve heard that most of the Art jobs are in Animation…but one of my profs offered to get me into touch with one of her friends who is an Illustrator, so that I could have a point of contact!  And I realized that being an Illustrator is one of those things where I actually do have questions that come to me easily, about what the life and work is like.

At first, I was thinking that I would need to stop doing the Art so that I could focus on the Library Science stuff, or stop the Library Science stuff so that I could focus on the Art.  Stopping Art would mean that my skills would degrade, and I would probably have an uphill battle getting back into them.  Stopping Library School would mean that I would have to make the choice to be an Illustrator, or work in Special Effects in movies, or become an Animator — there is really no obvious and clear career path here, and most work would seem to be contract/freelance work.

However, M seems to think that I can do Library School and advance my Art skills at the same time, so long as Library School takes priority over my Art grades.  There are still a number of courses that I would like to work at in Community College, despite the fact that I’ll be getting the A.A. at the end of this semester (paperwork is in! finally).

As regards Library School:  I am planning on taking 2-3 courses per semester, not more than one of which is a core course, at any given time.  The difficult thing is, mainly, how to fit in all of my graduation requirements without too much wasted space — which means, planning.  (Each class fulfills a different set of graduation requirements, all of which have to be met by the time one graduates.)

It would have been different if I had kept on with it after Fall 2012 (the timeline would not have been so collapsed — I have until Fall 2019 to complete all of this), but at the time I was just…not wanting to go back because my first semester had been so intolerable for me.  I’m told that this was because I took three core courses at the same time, though really I think it was both that and culture shock and having a prof who didn’t teach well (if at all) and needing to get a B as my lowest possible grade.

It’s not the easiest thing to deal with, working at school through an online environment…and I had to become fairly public with what I was doing, which wasn’t something I wanted, either.  Being anonymous and public is one thing; being on Facebook is another — and it was required.  And I had a super-paranoid friend who was all about permanent data trails online.  All of that together was not a recipe for success.  I was able to get through with the G.P.A. I needed, but it led to my not wanting to continue on in the program.  (Yes, politics were an issue, here.  So was mental health.)

The other thing that was mentioned was the idea of becoming a Librarian who specialized in Art.  I am assuming this would be an Academic Librarian or Special Library position.  Or, possibly, a Museum position — I haven’t checked it out, yet.  However, I can gear my work toward becoming an Art Librarian, and see where that gets me.  I am not sure that I’d be able to work in an Academic Library position specializing in Art without an undergraduate (I mean B.A. or B.F.A.) degree in Art History or Studio Art — especially if it were required (as it sometimes is) that I teach Art if I’m an Art Librarian.  I might be better off actually teaching English, as my undergraduate degree is in Creative Writing.

However — I have thought of the M.F.A. option in Drawing and Painting.  The drawback is that I would likely not be able to obtain financial aid through the normal routes for an M.F.A. if I already have an M.L.I.S.  The positive point is that I would likely be able — at some point, anyway — to pay for an M.F.A. myself, if I became a Public Librarian and had my tuition cancelled through the A.L.A.’s program (I believe I would have to work for 10 years in a Public Library position — I’m on my fifth year as a Student Assistant).  Also — the pay is decent for someone with an M.L.I.S.

I’ve heard, though, also, that it’s difficult to become an Academic Librarian once one is a Public Librarian — though I am not certain how heavily I should weight this bit of information, given that my source is no longer pursuing a career in Libraries.

Is it possible to become a Public Librarian who specializes in Art?  I am not sure, though somewhere — I’m positive — it probably happens.  What is amazing, though, is this vision (not yet obtained):

Undergraduate Degree:

  • B.A., English — Creative Writing
  • A.A., Art

Master’s Degree:

  • M.L.I.S., Master of Library and Information Science

Gainful (stable) Employment:

  • Library Science — Art Librarian, or
  • Library Science — Technical Services, or
  • Library Science — Cataloging

Additional Employment:

  • Book Illustrator (if I work in a Public Library, I’ll constantly be around kids’ books; Writing and Art talent together would probably give me a good background here)
  • Fine Artist (for those ineffable things)

Granted that right now I only have that first step in my pocket, with the second definitely on the way, but we all have to have a vision we’re advancing toward, right?

I still haven’t decided whether I’ll specifically illustrate books for kids or adults.  Regardless, I want to remain involved with Art, somehow.  If I don’t succeed with the M.L.I.S. (I should know by the end of Spring 2017), at least I have a backup plan — keep on with the Art in Multimedia Arts, and in Fine Arts.  It’s just not as financially secure or stable a path (unless, that is, I go on to teach Multimedia or Fine Arts).  And, actually…that could be a really fulfilling path, too.

I think that if I did, by not being serious enough, get kicked out of the M.L.I.S. program (only likely or possible through getting a B- or below in my technical course for two semesters in a row), Financial Aid would cover an M.F.A. (hopefully covering both Art History and Studio Art), and with that I could teach at a University or at the Community College level.  While I’m doing that, I can be a Library Assistant and then move on after the M.F.A. is complete.

I’m looking like I’ve got it together, don’t I?  Huh.  I suppose that this is one of those things that I can’t help but allow to take its course…

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Haru ("Codey") is a third-year Master's student in Library and Information Science, hoping to find a way to fuse their desire to make the world a better place and to finance their art.

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