In this post, we’ve invited NDSR Art Program Manager Karina Wratschko to shine a light on the NDSR host role through the example of Frances Lloyd-Baynes. Lloyd-Baynes, Head of Collections Information Management at Minneapolis Institute of Art, is a cultural heritage and information management professional with 35 years experience working in museums–the majority as a collections information management specialist, but also as a curator, collections manager, and chief administrator. Lloyd-Baynes was a 2017-2018 host for the inaugural NDSR Art cohort.
In 2014, the Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia) formed a New Media Task Force out of a recognition that its Time-based Media Art (TBMA) works require proactive preservation and management by staff across the museum. The group began by exploring the unique issues of preserving time-based media art and assessing Mia’s existing collection. A series of staff changes (of the curators responsible for the TBMA) hampered the groups efforts considerably so in 2016, Frances Lloyd-Baynes lead an initiative to become a NDSR Art host.
As project lead, Lloyd-Baynes drafted a proposal that would further the New Media Task Force efforts and support the museum’s goals to enhance their growing collection of time-based media works. Mia’s proposal advanced from the first selection round because it built on existing efforts and involved significant intellectual engagement, leadership roles, collaboration, and hands-on experience. And although the overarching goal of creating a framework for time-based media art management with a moderately scaled collection and budget is a significant undertaking, the program’s selection committee was impressed by their well-defined, measurable outcomes that would make this feat approachable for a 12-month residency. Thus Mia’s proposal advanced to the second round of NDSR Art’s host selection process, which included on-site assessment.
In January 2017, a team of NDSR Art representatives met at Mia’s campus for a site visit to further assess its host organization qualifications. In these site visits, teams of 4-5 NDSR representatives convene for a presentation and tour, aiming to gauge an organization’s readiness to take on a resident. Potential hosts are reviewed on the basis of work environment, mentorship potential, support from senior management, project infrastructure, and organizational culture. This is all to ensure the NDSR residents are placed in organizations that are conducive to their growth and success.
Mia’s site visit demonstrated they had a great foundation for a residency with a collaborative environment and organizational commitment demonstrated by the extensive participation by Mia staff, including Mia Director and President, Kaywin Feldman. Following the site visit, Mia became one of four organizations selected for NDSR Art’s inaugural cohort. Lloyd-Baynes assumed the role of NDSR host/mentor, overseeing the residency project and managing and mentoring the NDSR Art resident, Erin Barsan.
Host as Mentor and Manager
Professional development for residents is a primary goal of the NDSR program, with time and funds set aside for it. NDSR Art residents were assigned two mentors: their host/mentor and a designated ARLIS/NA mentor to connect the residents to the wider art librarian community.
As “host/mentor” for Mia’s residency, Lloyd-Baynes was Barsan’s main point of contact at the organization, her manager and project supervisor, as well as her mentor. In practice, the roles of manager and mentor can be at odds; balancing the duty of day-to-day supervision with future-looking mentorship is a challenge NDSR hosts face. As Lloyd-Baynes explains, “A mentor focuses on the long-term, guiding their mentee to solutions and/or life goals. My role as guide stood in opposition to my project manager role as ultimate arbiter of priorities and project deliverables.” Moving between manager and mentor roles requires a total shift in focus and the acceptance that the resident’s long-term goals and immediate project goals could potentially conflict. Lloyd-Baynes brought to bear previous experience as both mentor and mentee in successfully navigating these disparate roles. As a way to clearly demarcate mentorship from management, Lloyd-Baynes and Barsan scheduled quarterly, off-site meetings. This separation from the normal work environment facilitated conversations and reflection. “Our mentoring sessions focused on exploring Erin’s wider professional goals, unpacking that ubiquitous question of ‘where do you want to be in five years?’, for example,” Lloyd-Baynes reported. She encouraged Barsan to drive their mentoring conversations, seeing her role as offering insight, guidance and assistance.
Host as Subject Expert
NDSR projects are often enhanced by the contribution of expertise that hosts bring. Lloyd-Baynes was able to offer expertise in information management, collections, metadata, and project management gained throughout her career in addition to more recent digital preservation training in the Library of Congress’ DPOE train-the-trainer program. When Mia’s project team decided to focus on the processes and procedures of acquiring TBMA, Lloyd-Baynes’ experience developing collections management procedures as Head of Records at the V&A museum guided the project to meet best practice from the outset. Such directly applicable experience is very helpful in a host/mentor when it can be offered to a project..
Host as Co-Lead
Mia’s project consciously addressed the development of their resident’s leadership abilities by making Barsan Co-Chair of the New Media Task Force during her residency. Lloyd-Baynes shared the position, both supporting Barsan as she found her feet in this new role and organization and providing the challenge of leading a group of peers towards a defined goal. For an emerging professional new to the field, such growth opportunities are limited and exceedingly valuable.
Host as Participant
During the residency, Lloyd-Baynes spent roughly 50% of her time on the NDSR Art project as both project manager and participant. While NDSR expects its hosts to contribute to the projects they oversee, Lloyd-Baynes’ level of direct involvement was unusual. She and Barsan worked closely on a daily basis defining and delivering project tasks. This level of participation may be unfeasible for many prospective hosts but in Mia’s case they were able to and this provided additional benefits.
Since the residency’s end, Mia staff are taking forward the preservation and stewardship work initiated with Barsan’s help. Lloyd-Baynes’ intimate knowledge of the project’s learning and outputs positions the Task Force to move forward seamlessly.
Host as Project Manager
As a member of Mia’s Media & Technology (MAT) Division, which is responsible for driving all things digital at the museum, Lloyd-Baynes is well-versed in the Agile approach to project management. MAT originally applied an Agile project management approach (using a variation of SCRUM methodology) not only to software development and other digital projects, but also to a wider range of museum projects. Lloyd-Baynes proposed applying it to the NDSR Art residency project as well.
Lloyd-Baynes and Barsan embarked on the residency using the Agile SCRUM method, working with Mia’s in-house SCRUM Master to apply the methodology to their project. It became clear early on that only limited aspects of Agile SCRUM were proving useful: defined ‘sprints’, regular check-ins, ‘product backlogs’, ‘user stories’ and iterative development all worked well in managing the residency project. They found the ‘SCRUM Team’ model, however, was not well-suited for their work. This was due to the fact that although the New Media Task Force made up a substantial portion of the core project team, in practice just two people’s work focused daily on the project: Lloyd-Baynes and Barsan – too few to make a workable SCRUM Team.
The residency team utilized a variety of Mia’s standard project management tools during the project, including Trello and Slack. Trello facilitated both information gathering (e.g. creating a huge Trello board of their questions about TBMA management) and progress tracking. Slack was great for communicating across teams and the resident cohort. Once introduced by Lloyd-Baynes to Trello and Slack, Barsan quickly became a project management tool enthusiast. She and other NDSR Art residents also found the following tools useful: Zotero (for managing references); Google Drive, DropBox and Sharepoint (document sharing and communication); RescueTime, ManicTime and Focus Booster (time management); and Evernote (task prioritization). They recommend exploring and adopting these tools where possible in future NDSR projects.
A Few Closing Thoughts…
The NDSR Art project at Mia and its approach to hosting, as demonstrated by Lloyd-Baynes’ approach, provide an example for how future NDSR hosts might model their projects.
The following takeaways are offered for consideration by prospective hosts:
- Have a vision for the life of the project before and after the residency. In Mia’s case they were beginning discussions before the residency opportunity arose and had created a foundation for the project. Additionally, a host’s close involvement can contribute to the successful continuation of project work.
- In the application, be sure to demonstrate the project’s role in the bigger picture of the institution and possibly for outside the institution.
- Host/mentor involvement in designing the original proposal contributes to successful project delivery.
- Ensure the host/mentor is enthusiastic, engaged, and their expertise is contributed to the project as it’s beneficial for both project and resident.
- Collaborate with senior management and stakeholders across your organization early in the application process. Organization commitment is paramount in the application process and success of the residency project.
- Separation of roles (mentor/manager) is challenging and should be thoughtfully addressed in order to successfully fulfill both.
- Professional development opportunities for residents should be built into the project, for example through providing leadership opportunities, immersing the resident in organizational activities, and offering training on working methods (e.g. Agile) and tools.