By Rebecca Kennedy
Midwinter conference attendees may have been chilly in Philly this past January, but at least one librarian there had a sunny locale to return to. Laurel Bliss, NMRT's Vice President/President-Elect for 2007-2008, works for San Diego State University in southern California.
As the university's Fine Arts Librarian, Laurel does the academic librarian's standard but exciting blend of reference, bibliographic instruction, and collection development. One aspect that Laurel particularly enjoys about her job is having faculty status, a benefit that allows her a relatively large degree of independence within her position. "I have a lot of freedom to work on projects that interest me," she says, although she acknowledges that time management is essential when a librarian is allowed to explore many professional assignments.
Laurel is no stranger to being an art librarian. Prior to moving to California, she had worked as the assistant art librarian at the Marquand Library at Princeton. While she doesn't have a favorite art movement, she has a love for specific artists including Sargent, Turner, and Matisse. Like many librarians, Laurel loves reading and working with print collections. In high school, she worked as a page at her town's public library. But it was only after receiving her MA in history from the University of Virginia that she began seriously considering being a librarian - while job-hunting, she noticed that many of the more intriguing positions required a MLS. "I thought [being a librarian] would be a great way to use my academic credentials and be around books," she recalls. Thus, she returned to school and received her MLS degree from Southern Connecticut State University. Besides Princeton, her other work experience includes a stint as a reference librarian at the Sterling Memorial Library at Yale and four years at Yale University Press.
In her spare time, Laurel loves to take walks and bike along the many beaches that San Diego offers, including Coronado and Mission Bay. For leisure reading, her current favorite authors are Charlaine Harris, Laurie King and Sharon Shinn. She also just finished reading Jim Butcher's novel, Captain's Fury. "He's really good at putting likeable characters into difficult situations," she says. She's also "completely addicted to Facebook." One of Laurel's primary professional interests is diversity. She seeks to encourage more people from varied backgrounds into librarianship, particularly in her own specialty. She notes, "Art librarianship tends to be mostly white, which is not reflective of our society."
Laurel has had the opportunity to serve on numerous NMRT committees and now on the Board. "NMRT has been a welcoming group and our committees actually accomplish things," she says.
Laurel has been fortunate in that her employers have been able to support her participation in professional conferences. In addition to seeing friends and new cities, Laurel enjoys ALA conferences for the all of free advance copies from publishers, plus the experience usually sends her back home feeling "jazzed about being a librarian."
For new librarians, Laurel is empathetic and emphasizes, "Be patient if takes a while to get your first job. It took me over a year!"