Undergraduates Who Became Art History Librarians

by Kathryn Wayne, History of Art Department News, 8/15/2013

Alex Norlin, librarian

Photo caption: Alex Watkins, Norlin Library, University of Colorado, Boulder

As the Head of the Art History/Classics Library, one of the most enjoyable aspects of my job is to interact with a strong and diverse group of students and faculty. Over the years, I have had several opportunities to mentor students who were interested in pursuing the field of art librarianship. In this column, I am pleased to highlight two History of Art undergraduates, Barbara Rominski (1999) and Alex Watkins (2007). Please read on for their inspiring stories.

BARBARA ROMINSKI (History of Art BA1999)

UC Berkeley was an obvious choice when I decided to pursue my undergraduate degree, studying both art and archaeology, from Greek and Roman studies to the Northern Renaissance and Asian arts. In 1998, I had the privilege of serving as an undergraduate representative on a committee for a proposed new Visual Arts Library, chaired by Fine Arts Librarian Kathryn Wayne. She was the person who also helped guide me to my next degree–a Master’s in Library Science–when she counseled, “you love art, you love books and libraries, why not become an art librarian?”

While earning my degree at San Jose State University, I had the good fortune to serve as the Achenbach Graphic Arts Council (AGAC) Fellow, where I worked with the Reva and David Logan Illustrated Book Collection. After the fellowship, I stayed on as a project liaison with the Anderson Graphic Art Collection, giving me an introduction to Hunk and Moo Anderson, private collectors in the Bay Area. Later, Hunk Anderson hired me to help manage and tour his private collection of art and to assist with his foundation.

In 2003, I was hired as the Head of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s Research Library. As SFMOMA’s third librarian, I have established the SFMOMA Institutional Archives and Institutional Records Management Program. Looking forward, I am excited to design and shape SFMOMA’s new library in our Snøhetta expansion. Art librarianship has, most assuredly, been a rich and rewarding career!

ALEXANDER C. WATKINS (History of Art BA 2008)

When I saw Fine Arts Librarian Kathryn Wayne at a recent Art Libraries Society of North America conference, I was brought back to how I got on the path to becoming an art librarian. When I began as an undergraduate at Berkeley, I wasn’t much of a researcher, until I took Professor Elizabeth Honig’s Gender and Representation class, where Kathryn led a research seminar. Her enthusiasm really opened my eyes to the value of good research and the unlimited potential that Berkeley’s world-class library represented. Doe Library became like a second home, as I spent countless hours there, working for ILL, working on my assignments, and working as a research assistant for HA professors.

After graduating I worked in a public library and then decided to go to Pratt Institute where I was able to get a dual Master’s Degree in both art history and library science. Living in New York City had great advantages as I was able to study and work at some of the best museums and libraries in the country (Met, Columbia, New York Public Library). In July 2012, I was pleased to be hired as Assistant Professor and Art & Architecture Librarian at the University of Colorado Boulder where I work closely with the Program in Environmental Design and the Department of Art & Art History. I love my job, and, like Kathryn, I now get to teach classes on research methods, consult on research projects, and develop the collection of books, journals, and databases.