2019 Professional Development Award

Kirstin Cutts, Library Services Assistant IV with the UTSA Libraries Reference Services, was the 2019 CORAL Professional Development Award recipient.

Kirstin attended the Association of Academic Museums and Galleries’ 2019 Conference held at the University of Minnesota from June 27-30 where the theme revolved around the library’s relevance to parent institutions and local communities. Read Kirstin’s experience below!

AAMG 2019 Conference

One of my objectives in attending the Association of Academic Museums and Galleries’ 2019 Conference was to return with approaches that could be adapted for libraries. The UTSA Art Collection has recently come under Library stewardship and we are currently merging with the Institute of Texan Cultures. Though there is exciting potential, we are currently without a university museum or Library-specific gallery space, a preexisting educational plan incorporating the artwork with instruction or classes, or much of an established relationship with the objects of the Art Collection at all. Though I currently work for the Libraries, I have a background in museum education, and was hoping to identify objectives and strategies that are harmonious with both institutional environments. I was pleased to discover almost immediately that, among the 355 attendees, several were fellow library representatives, and that numerous institutions have an art-library connection that could provide models for UTSA.

I was happy to see that the panel on Museum-Library Collaboration was one of the most popular of the conference, with a standing-room-only crowd despite a faulty central air conditioning system. Highlighting a recent initiative from the Andrew W. Mellon foundation to support university library-art museum partnerships, the panel introduced professionals from three separate institutions who were undertaking such collaborations. The panel focused not only on institutional case studies, but provided guidance and suggestions of how to structure a museum-library bridge relationship that would serve both facets of an institution, which I expect will be particularly helpful with UTSA Libraries’ current initiatives.

The conference also featured poster sessions that outlined several individual programs from a number of institutions, and this was an excellent opportunity to see how other academic libraries were already participating with their campus museums. One project I was especially interested to see outlined a full course co-taught by an outreach librarian and a curator of exhibitions and education. Their course objective was to boost student confidence in identifying and incorporating scholarly discourse by merging the art education model of Visual Thinking Strategies and the Association of College and Research Libraries’ Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education. Their course content resonated with the instruction I’ve observed from our librarians at UTSA and the student interactions I have had at the Information Desk. A detailed account of the research findings from this course will be published this fall by ACRL, and I look forward to reviewing it with our librarians to see if we can implement similar tactics at the UTSA libraries.

Hearing about the educational programming offered by so many other institutions also gave me a number of ideas for the long-term future of UTSA Libraries. As our campus grows along with our community, I would be thrilled to see more space and opportunity for students to be directly involved with the Libraries, particularly as our work with the Art Collection progresses. Many museums and galleries also have robust student staffing, with positions that include creativity and scholarship as part of the job description. From leading tours and discussion to groups of their fellow students and members of the public, to designing and developing special events and other programming, GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums) spaces offer students a unique opportunity to pursue their interests and strengths while having a measurable impact on campus life and the accomplishments of the institution. Even a small gallery or display space with a potential for student-curated exhibitions could allow them to exercise similar creative ownership within the library, naturally integrating relevant materials from the Library’s collections.

Opportunities for creative scholarship at one institution can be met with chances to collaborate with others. Museums share their collections for traveling exhibitions, and even non-academic institutions are very often sites for continuing education. San Antonio’s own Tres Museos event, for example, sees the San Antonio Museum of Art, the Witte, and the McNay collaborating to host area teachers at the three institutions for a day, showcasing their exhibitions and education programming and providing essential continuing education credit. Following the museum model might lead to student exchanges between university libraries, opening up new avenues for creative application of research projects and reinforcing the collaborative partnership of CORAL member institutions.

I returned from AAMG energized, excited and motivated to share what I learned with my colleagues so we can enhance the services and opportunities we offer to our students. I am incredibly grateful to have received the CORAL Professional Development Award: I believe my attendance at this conference has opened doors for me to bring meaningful and engaging interaction to our students and to other member institutions. I’m looking forward to putting it into practice.