By Kathe Albrecht
We depend so much on Laura Graveline for help with those pesky scholarly resources: “I can’t locate Winckelmann!” was a recent lament from cohort ’11. We thought we should find out a little more about IDSVA’s friendly librarian who tirelessly answers our often frantic queries.
Here are the basics. Laura received her BA in Art History, with a minor in studio art, from UMASS/Amherst. After a brief stint working at a dog kennel, Laura applied for a position as Library Director at the Hatfield Public Library in Massachusetts. She did not expect to land the job, as she had little experience in the field. She speculates that she “may have been the only candidate willing to work at their low hours and pay rate.” Despite the hours and pay scale, the job proved to be a wonderful opportunity to expand her library skills and learn about information automation and networking. She was hooked on librarianship. While earning a master’s degree in Library Science from the University of Rhode Island, Laura worked as the Library Director’s assistant at the Smith College Art Library, combining her love of both art and libraries. Laura describes the Smith Library as a wonderful setting which is “housed with the museum and the art departments on campus, allowing me to be really immersed in an art education environment.”
She further explains, “It was that combination of professional experience and education, that I think led George to hire me as the librarian for the Maine College of Art in 1997. I worked with George first as Dean, and later as Co-Director and founder of the MFA program at MECA. My six years at MECA afforded me with some of the most exciting opportunities I have had as a librarian, including planning and developing a new library space, a new library catalog and web site, as well as developing services for non-resident MFA students, and forging participation in statewide library networks, that really enhanced the library experience for students at MECA, but also made that library a unique art resource for the State of Maine.”
Laura has worked at Dartmouth for the past 10 years and added her work for IDSVA about 6 years ago. As she says “the concept of creating a completely virtual library was simply too challenging for me to not want to at least try and see what could be accomplished. I haven’t regretted the decision once. In fact, working with the PhD students at IDSVA is the perfect complement to my work with the art undergraduates at Dartmouth, and has allowed me to expand and develop my own research skills in ways I had not imagined.”
I asked Laura if being a part of this unique enterprise has changed her understanding of information distribution for higher education. “Working with IDSVA has made me realize how much communication, and the transfer of information is constantly evolving and also speeding up. Also important is the evolution of copyright law, and publishers’ licensing of information. Libraries and publishers are experiencing a lot of growing pains right now, as technology has made accessibility to information extremely easy, but copyright and publishers license agreements have not kept pace with technology. I think it will be very interesting to see how this tension works out, and although it may seem to be easier than ever to find information, I believe that certain levels of information and knowledge may become more of a commodity than ever before.”
What is the most unique aspect of your work for IDSVA?
“I would like to say that it is the fact that the IDSVA library has no books to reshelve, but it is actually the breadth and scope of the research done by the IDSVA students, which helps me to stretch and expand my own scope and knowledge.”
Do you have any anecdotes to share?
“Some years ago, the small K-8 school I attended as a child held a reunion for my 8th grade class. We were all asked to fill in a questionnaire, which asked not just about ourselves, but also what we thought our former classmates were most likely to have become. I had only remained in touch with one of my former classmates but all of them wrote that I was most likely to be a librarian.
I never had a career path mapped out, and I literally feel like I fell into librarianship. To this day I’m not sure if I should be more appalled that apparently I am so transparent in my inclinations and motivation in life, or more pleased that I’ve been so lucky to have found a career that has let me combine my love for art and libraries.”