Deborah Kempe

Chief, Collections Management and Access  | March 7, 2016:

3ade337Deborah Kempe studied Art History as an undergrad at the University of Missouri. As an honors undergraduate, she took seminar courses and developed a relationship with the art librarian, Marcia Reed, now Chief Curator at the Getty Research Institute. She decided after finishing her degree that she wanted experience art history at its fullest and thus traveled Europe for a year. After this experience, she concluded that because she wanted to enjoy art and travel, she decided not to pursue a Ph.D in Art History due to time commitment, risk and financial burden. She hadn’t thought about art librarianship until after she returning from her travels when she opted to enroll in the Library and Information Science school at the University of Missouri, run by Ralph Parker who is sometimes referred to as the father of librarianship and labeled as an early leader in the technology associated with the field. While Debbie was good at technology she doesn’t believe that she fully embraced it during her studies.

Following graduation, she found work as an entry level cataloguer at the University of Arkansas. She knew that it wasn’t what she wanted to do for the rest of her life, but wasn’t sure what was next. At that time, AACR2 was just being implemented along with online cataloging. As well as advancing in cataloging, Debbie also met her husband at the University of Arkansas. After teaching at UARK, her husband decided he wanted to go back to NY and set up an architectural practice. After relocating, Debbie got a Melon Foundation grant funded job at the New York Historical Society. Once that position ended, she found a job a the Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library at Columbia. The director there became a great mentor to Debbie.

After the Avery position ended, Kempe  was recruited by Pat Barnett, then Chief Librarian of the Frick Art reference Library, to help set up an online catalog. Within six months, FRESCO was implemented. Deborah really enjoyed the change from academia and being part of a museum, feeling that there was more room to grow specifically by  being involved in the strategic planning of the library. This was also at the time when the NYARC  was forming, allowing Debbie to play a key role in NYARC’s foundation by aiding in the grant writing. Having a consortial catalog was revolutionary at the time and Kempe believed that by compiling their money and forces that would be able to provide a better platform of access. It’s now been ten years since the consortium was established.

Web Archiving has been in the works from the very start of NYARC. Back in 2006, several of the founding members of NYARC heard the Director of the Internet Archive speak. It was at this point that the implementation of web archiving began to resonate with the group. Though they never saw print being left behind they saw web archiving as playing an integral role in the future of libraries. While there have been a various achievements in implementing the internet archive we are just now able to input WARC files in the traditional catalog. Lily Pregill, NYARC Coordinator and Systems Manager, has played a huge role in the Consortium’s development and will continue to do so through the inclusion of WARC files into OCLC.

Kempe emphasized the importance of staying current and feels that continuing education, whether supported by one’s work place or not, should play a continuous role in one’s library and information science career. She believes the integration of technology is key and that the visualization of data is extremely significant. She foresees new jobs in the library world but that job titles and skill the sets required are currently undergoing transition. One of the most important and sometimes difficult aspects of being part of a museum library is demonstrating to the administration that there is purpose.

Debbie offered to us the following advice:

  • Develop skills, be proactive in developing a skill.
  • Volunteer and show what you are capable of
  • Make contacts with professional organizations
  • Do the best you can at whatever job you have
  • Be engaged and interested with the people you are working with and the work you are doing

Above: Egon Schiele, Death and the Maiden, 1915