The Wonderful World of Disney’s Animation Research Library

Career Blog

Published: February 9, 2018 by Evelyn Hudson

Special librarians, such as those at Disney, provide library services in a non-library-based environment.

As MLIS students, we know that libraries exist in all organizations. From medicine, to law, to corporate and in between, libraries are essential everywhere. This past Tuesday, SJSU students learned that even Disney requires the special skills of librarians. The SJSU Special Libraries Association and the Society of American Archivists Student Chapter co-hosted a Q&A with Special Librarians from Disney’s Animation Research Library webinar, during which attendees got to hear from three current employees.

Special librarians, such as those at Disney, provide library services in a non-library-based environment. Collections are highly specialized and sometimes very unique. The over 80 lucky webinar attendees got to see examples of actual assets in the collection, such as 3D objects, story sketches, drawings and more.

Unfortunately, due to the examples shared, the webinar was not recorded. But, fear not, the iSchool blog is here for you!

Jill Breznican, Senior Archivist, explained that Disney’s Animation Research Library, located in Burbank, CA, used to be called “The Morgue” until the 1980s when the organization became more formal. Today, the collection holds 65 million pieces of animation artwork from Disney’s 100-year history—both physical and digital. Breznican described the Library as the “official repository for original animated materials.”

According to Breznican, there are 11 art vaults, digitization and design studios, a conservation lab, research rooms and more.

“We also have a physical book collection . . . [I’m] also really proud of the small subset of rare books in the collection,” said Breznican.

The collection is not open to the public. Sharon Mizota, Archives Data Specialist, explained that “all of our cataloging is done at the item level in a custom database,” which has limited access.

Although many librarians are familiar with cataloging books, these special librarians catalog all kinds of animation-related items. They are even creating their own authorities list to best classify items.

“[It is] rewarding and challenging to work with material that is so complex,” said Jane Glicksman, Digital Archivist.

The library deals with everything from preservation to access of all materials. “[We] occupy a space between an archive and a museum,” Mizota explained.

The library truly makes an impact all over Disney. Library employees work with artists to retrieve materials for research about future projects. Glicksman explained that “assets are used for inspiration across the company.”

Imagine knowing that your work as a librarian contributed to Disney’s next blockbuster film!

The Library also works with outside organizations in their conservation efforts. The speakers mentioned a current project with The Getty Conservation Institute that deals with how to best preserve animation “cels” or celluloids, the transparent sheets traditionally used for hand-drawn animation.

Each of the speakers had an MLIS degree and recommended that interested listeners apply for jobs or internships at Disney’s Animation Research Library, even if they lacked an art background. Mizota also emphasized the benefit of mentor programs as a way to help students get into the jobs they seek.

If you think that special libraries like Disney’s Animation Library might be in your career future, take this self-assessment provided by the iSchool to get a sense of where your interests might match up.


Upcoming Webinars

iSchool Webcast Series on Leadership

Part 1 Dana Vanzanten and Heather Robinson
St. Thomas Public Library
Friday, March 23, 2018
Time: 10:00am PST – 11:00am PST
Location: Online via Zoom https://sjsu.zoom.us/j/640243104


New LIS Jobs in Handshake

Community Library Manager     Contra Costa County

Collection Development Librarian     Yale University

Don’t forget to explore job openings outside of the public and/or academic libraries in Handshake. Consider searching on topics such as taxonomy, research, data management, digital asset management, and similar terms that may reflect your particular LIS skills or area of emphasis.

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