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Head Library and Archives

Company name
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

Kansas City, MO

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Head, Library and Archives

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, one of the country’s leading art museums is seeking a Head, Library Services to oversee our reference library as a part of its Education division’s leadership team.

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art is dedicated to the enjoyment and understanding of the visual arts and the varied cultures they represent. At the core of the museum’s vision of the future is the goal of playing a central role in Kansas City life by catalyzing connections to neighbors; an ever-expanding range of visitors; and community, civic and cultural partners in the city and the larger region. In short, the Nelson-Atkins is “where the power of art engages the spirit of the community.”

Spencer Art Reference Library

The Spencer Art Reference Library is home to a significant research collection of 264,000 print publications (including 49,000 auction catalogues), 408 current serial subscriptions, as well as e-resources. The collections reflect the rich array of cultures and eras presented in the museum’s encyclopedic collection, with particular depth in Asian art. The Special Collections include materials of institutional importance, such as museum founder William Rockhill Nelson’s Oak Hall Collection, the Karen Gould teaching collection of Medieval leaves, and many more rare publications. The library works with local artists to document the careers of artists who are part of Kansas City’s creative community through the Artists’ File Initiative. The Archives documents the history and activities of The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, the Nelson Gallery Foundation, the William Rockhill Nelson Trust and other affiliated organizations. As a supplement to the official record, the Archives also collects the personal papers and manuscript material of former museum staff and other individuals associated with the museum. The library and archives collections and staff play a critical role in the educational mission of the museum

Museum Collections

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art recognized as one of the world’s finest encyclopedic art museums, with collections encompassing more than 40,000 art objects, including masterpieces from diverse world cultures spanning 5,000 years of history.

Basic Function

The Head, Library and Archives provides vision and leadership for the administration, organization, and development of the Spencer Art Reference Library (SARL) and the Nelson-Atkins Archives. The Head formulates and implements library practices, policies and procedures; assigns, supervises and reviews work of library personnel; oversees collection development, public services, and technical services; and maintains and develops community partnerships. The Head oversees the development, organization, and management of collections responsive to the mission of the Nelson-Atkins and the needs of its users in support of research, learning, user engagement, outreach, and institutional programs.

Challenges and Opportunities

The position presents an opportunity for creativity and leadership at the Nelson-Atkins Spencer Art Reference Library and Archives, a major scholarly resource with extensive collections and a history of outstanding public service. Building on a strong foundation, the incumbent will evaluate the services, policies collections, resources and facilities of the Library and Archives and establish and implement plans for its continued development and improvement.

Ideal Experience

MLS or similar degree from an ALA accredited institution.

Eight (8) years’ experience in a museum, academic, or art research library.

Broad and specialized subject knowledge in art and art history and a working knowledge of research methods; advanced degree preferred.

Teaching or library instruction experience or public presentation skills.

Reading knowledge of one or more of the following languages: German, French, Italian, or Chinese.

Fluency in all areas of library operations including collections development, technical services, reference and public service, and preservation and conservation.

Awareness of current issues and trends in the fields of library and information science relevant to arts librarianship, including emerging technologies.

Demonstrated success in effective fiscal and staff management.

Strong written and verbal communication skills, including public speaking.

Experience with strategic planning and assessment.

Record of contribution to the scholarly discourse surrounding art librarianship through knowledge sharing—including publication and presentation—professional networking, and participating in other activities to advance the profession.

Excellent interpersonal skills and the ability to collaborate with library stakeholders including museum staff and volunteers, faculty, students, collectors, artists, funding agencies, independent researchers, and authors to promote library services and collections, which may include fundraising, grant writing, marketing, social media, and audience development.

Personal Characteristics

The successful candidate should be:

A mission-driven individual with a passion for connecting people with art and ideas;

A strong collaborator – relationship-focused, with strong skills in cultivating trust and building shared goals among a diverse group of individuals;

A good strategist; comfortable receiving input from many sources, and able to analyze and formulate disparate information into sound, well-organized plans;

Ability to be flexible and adapt to changes in the work environment;

Strong commitment to innovation, creativity, and excellence;

An individual with outstanding human qualities; one who is straightforward, shares information easily, listens as well as gives advice, and respects the abilities and expertise of others; high EQ/emotional intelligence; someone who imparts trust and integrity and guides others in a similar vein.

The Community

Geographically, this position is located in the Greater Kansas City metropolitan area, a community known for solid philanthropic support and a thriving arts community. Kansas City is having a renaissance in the arts, food and community. The Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art is located in close proximity to the Nelson-Atkins, as is the Kansas City Art Institute, an accredited four-year college of fine arts and design.

The Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts opened in 2011 and is home to the Kansas City Ballet, Lyric Opera, and Kansas City Symphony. The region also boasts impressive jazz and blues roots, while the Crossroads Art District has helped revitalize downtown as a showplace for art galleries, public arts and architecture combined with entertainment and business.

The Kansas City region is ranked by several national publications as one of the best places to live and work in the United States. Relevant websites that provide meaningful information about the region are as follows:


A competitive compensation package, corresponding to the experience level and credentials of the candidate will be offered.

Diversity and Inclusion

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art is committed to fostering, cultivating and preserving a culture of diversity and inclusion. Our staff and volunteers are among our most valuable assets. The collective sum of the individual differences, life experiences, knowledge, inventiveness, innovation, self-expression, unique capabilities and talent that our staff and volunteers invest in their work represents a significant part of not only our culture, but our reputation and achievement as well.

We embrace and encourage our staffs’ and volunteers’ differences in age, color, disability, ethnicity, family or marital status, gender identity or expression, language, national origin, physical and mental ability, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, veteran status, and other characteristics that make us unique.


We firmly support the principle and philosophy of equal opportunity for all individuals, regardless of age, race, gender, creed, national origin, disability, veteran status or any other protected category pursuant to applicable federal, state or local law.

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