Friday, February 27, 2004

What is a photo librarian?

I noticed someone searched for the keywords "photo librarian" and landed on this blog. I didn't post anything about the job because I don't do the job. However, our head librarian (of two) sent this notice to the photo staff, so I feel obliged to include it on this album (you are way too old if you understood the reference).

  • Subject: We know you're wondering just exactly what Cris and I do. I hope this will enlighten you!

    Our primary function is to build and maintain a reputable and dependable photo archive. Our major goal is to have every published photo* preserved in the archive.

    Here's what we do:

    Daily we move into the archive every photo from the previous day saved in these SCC libraries: DMN Staff, Photo BBS, DRC (Denton Record-Chronicle), and Al Dia Staff. If you saved your photos there, they'll be archived. This averages about 300 photos per day, and because of that amount we do not look at each one before moving it to the archive. So if you saved your wedding pictures, outtakes from those homemade videos or whatever else, they go into the archive! Too, if you include comments in your captions along the lines of "Those unbelievably egotistical, grossly overpaid, reality-challenged sports editors** had the names misspelled on the assignment sheet!," that gets archived as well.

    Next, we take the day's paper (usually three editions, four to five on Sunday, each with unique photos) and identify all the wire photos published and move those into the archive.

    Then, for each published photo we add publication date data, publication section data and any keywords that we think will make the photo more easily retrievable. For example, at the end of each photo caption you'll see a tag similar to this: 02142004xREL; this indicates that this photo was published February 14, 2004 in the Religion section. (Sorry, we don't do page or edition identifiers). We also look for, and correct, any obvious misspellings and spacing issues that might hamper efficient searching.

    I hope this answers some of your questions. If you have others, or if you have suggestions, complaints, tips, "how we did it at The New York Times" stories, or anything else, we'll be happy to talk with you.

    Jerome Sims
    Photo Librarian

    * Editorial photos, not brides, ads, etc.
    ** Any section editors, to be fair.

From what I've observed, this isn't a job for most PJs. It's a great job for clerical people who enjoy the challenge of being calm in the throws of chaos and being surrounded by 40-year-old teenagers (me included).

For those still interested, ask your local (large Metro) paper about a summer internship. I've never seen a summer photo librarian intern, but what the heck.

Within the next five years, I expect Spanish to be required for this job. Al Dia, our Spanish language newspaper, has all its images archived in Spanish. The photo librarians must be able to make corrections to their cutlines and coding as well as ours.

Enough for now,


Unknown said...

Hi Mark and Jerome,

Thanks for blog this article, very useful for me right now because I´m applying for this job, I just wonderingto know about the professional background, is more for librarian or journalist? PLease contact me: Many thanks

Mark M. Hancock said...

Hi Mariana,

It's a library science vocation. I've learned almost all publishers (books included), need pro archivists/librarians to keep everything orderly.