Published 08/05/17

IRCST17 Forney

Catherine Robertson, Reference Librarian, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum

I was recently asked to write a short blog post highlighting the impact and outcomes of the most recent ARLIS/NA International Relations Committee (IRC) study tour to Paris in June 2017. I'll be honest: it took me some time to digest the overwhelming amount of people, materials, discussions, and experiences that I encountered on our whirlwind tour of the City of Light. The cumulative effect of these encounters is impressive, not only in my professional career, but in my personal life (this was my first trip to Paris after all!), so I have decided to present you with my top three impressions.

  1. Foreign Relationships
    One of the main focuses of the IRC is to connect art librarians in North America with those doing similar work throughout the rest of the world. I was pleasantly surprised to find that though oceans may separate us, many of us are pursing similar projects and facing similar challenges domestically and abroad. Being able to discuss issues and bounce ideas off of our colleagues in France gave me the opportunity to creatively approach new and existing projects and has already expanded my base of go-to experts.
  2. Domestic Relationships as a Young Librarian
    As a young librarian (Simmons MA/MLIS 2013), one of the most important aspects of this trip was meeting colleagues from the United States with a range of experience, all of whom were eager and willing to discuss their work with a relative newbie. Having been in my current job for almost four years, my professional network is regionally focused. Though I attend the national conference each year, conversations and connections made there are often of the '10-minute chat' or 'quick lunch' variety. Over these five days, I spent significant time with nineteen other like-minded librarians with whom I was able to make stronger connections and more personal ties that I believe will serve me well in the coming years as I continue to grow in the profession.IRCST17 SalleLaBrouste
  3. Expectations Exceeded
    Far and away, this trip exceeded all possible expectations I could have envisioned. The librarians at each institution were more than generous with their time, materials, and spaces. We were blessed with exclusive tours and access to behind-the-scenes areas. The conversations were professional, relevant, and appropriate to our interests, which were always a top priority to our hosts. On a personal side, we had time to ourselves to explore, evenings to dine at-will, and some optional group activities like a boat tour on the Seine. Group lunches and breakfasts were a great opportunity to chat with my fellow travelers and hosts in a less formal setting (and because we were in Paris, the food was unsurpassed).  Finally, almost as if it was specially ordered, the weather was divine.

As you can likely imagine, I have much more I'd be willing to say on this topic so please contact me with any questions at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. All images in this post were taken by me for the group Instagram page—there are many more images available there as well. TLDR: Go on a study tour, you won't regret it!