SLIS Student Allison Ruth Moves from Art Studio to Art Librarian

Allison Ruth realized that her true calling might be librarianship when she spent more time doing research than actual studio art while pursing her Master of Fine Arts degree.

“I developed a strong affinity for connecting artists with resources and information, and for finding contextual and historical links between differing aspects of contemporary art,” said Ruth, who earned her undergraduate degree in studio art from Cal State Northridge and her MFA from Cal Arts. “Art librarianship was the perfect way to meld all of my interests into a fulfilling career and, for me, was an obvious choice.”

The switch to studying for an MLIS is paying off. Ruth, who expects to graduate in Spring 2010, was invited to speak at the Art Libraries Society of North America annual conference in April 2009 on a panel called Hot and Bothered: Erotica in the Museum and Library Context. She received a student travel award from the ARLIS Southern California Chapter to attend the conference, as well as the Judith A. Hoffberg Student Award for Conference Attendance.

Ruth described the ARLIS conference as “a wonderful experience” that introduced her to new mentors and friends – including art librarians, image management professionals, and curators. “This was my first presentation, and I can’t think of a group I care more about impressing, so it was extremely important to me,” she said. Her speech went so well that Ruth was invited to give it again at Indiana University in May.

Next year, Ruth plans to apply for doctoral programs in Gender Studies. In the meantime, she plans to continue working as a messenger clerk at the Los Angeles County Public Library, which awarded Ruth a Reference Institute Scholarship, made possible through grant funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The scholarship allows Ruth to intern at various branches and within subject departments. She also volunteers at the library of the Tom of Finland Foundation, a Los Angeles-based non-profit organization, where she’s learning about OCLC and Koha, an open source integrated library system. Next Spring, she plans to write her thesis while interning at the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex Gender and Reproduction on an archiving project.

Outside of work and her SLIS studies, Ruth is a “passionate” belly dancer — a hobby that has paid off with library connections. Her first two teachers were librarians, and her first gig was dancing at an educational program on Middle Eastern dance and culture at the L.A. library.