Summer Internship at MOMA, by Mary Glynn

theartrag.wordpress.comI spent the summer interning at the museum of modern art library, which really was a great experience, once I got over the fact that I was the oldest intern ever! There were a lot of general circulation duties like shelving and paging because it is a closed stacks library, but I also got involved in a number of specific projects. My favorite work was working with the preservation librarian, which is so much more involved than I was aware of. The MOMA library has a wonderful collection of art books but many of them are special collections and in pretty bad condition. These were sent to the building MOMA has in Queens and put on a waiting list essentially for repair. This varied from simply creating covers for them to very involved re creation of books where the spine was badly damaged. I was able to utilize my creative side working on these projects, and the only down side is the building in Long Island city was seriously the coldest place I have ever worked. Artwork and special collections not on exhibition are housed there so it is a very climate controlled environment. The book collection housed here though is unbelievable, and I had many books in my hands worth over $20,000.

I was very shocked to find out that MOMA library does not have a collection development policy at all, basically because they do not have a large acquisitions budget and rely heavily on donations that come from all over the world. This however has turned into a ridiculous situation with a three-year backlog of books just sitting in a warehouse, and donations coming in every day. I actually persuaded them   to have a meeting discussing the idea of developing some type of collections development policy, and sat in on that meeting before I left. They are now working on putting some limitations on donations. It was my task some of the time to go through this three-year backlog of donations and de duplicate (check the library system for copies already in existence). I found some really awesome books here, and some with notes attached basically begging to have the book in the collection. This was a pretty tedious job, but when I had a box of books that we did not already have, I worked with the cataloger putting them into the system, which was interesting. They use Millennium software for cataloging and managing their collections, and it seemed to work pretty well, but they send a lot of their books out to get them cataloged, because of staff shortages and a hiring freeze.

After doing this internship, I learned that I did not want to be a serials librarian. Managing the collections of magazines that came into the library was so much work, and is the task of one person. Every issue had to be entered into the system and barcoded, and there was also a serious backlog here. I was also a little disappointed to find out that a lot of the people working at the museum did not have library science degrees, and some did not even have degrees in art history or anything related to it. Only three people in the library had library science degrees, the others were assistant librarians, but some of them are going to work on getting the degree. Of course, I promoted Saint Johns University, so maybe we will see some of them in the future. The head cataloger has been working there for 45 years and has a degree in classical music, so he basically learned on the job. The director of the museum, Glenn Lowry did his ph D in Ancient Islamic Art, and somehow fell into the director job in the world’s most prominent modern art museum!

I could check out any book I wanted while I was there and there were a lot of discounts and other perks. All of the interns met with some of the most prominent people involved in the museum, and those who give large endowments, which was great. Agnes Gund was the most famous of those, she is a philanthropist who supports the museum heavily and has a massive private art collection. She also really supports the arts in general and particularly struggling artists, so meeting the interns was important to her. Overall, this was a great internship. I worked very hard but I learned a lot about art libraries and the amount of work involved in day-to-day circulation.

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