Profile: Art History Librarian, Margaret English

For her final feature story, the Department of Art History's Social Media Intern, Laura Lamont, sat down with Margaret English, the Art History Librarian. While the Art Library is currently closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Margaret would like everyone to know that she can still be reached for assistance via email.

Margaret English is the librarian here at the Art Library at the University of Toronto. Earlier in March I sat down and spoke with her about her experiences here.

Margaret has a master’s degree in Art History from the University of Toronto. She has always had a strong interest in art, and still makes a point to read as much from the collection as possible to both learn herself and better help students and researchers navigating the collection.

After graduating with her Master’s of Library and Information Science from the University of Western Ontario, Margaret almost immediately got a job at the Toronto Reference Library as a subject specialist in art. She worked there for eleven years before moving to her current job at the Art Library at U of T.

A typical day at the library for Margaret includes a number of things. She may answer reference questions, purchase new books, help people scan pages, help researchers with references, and even does some light cleaning in the library. She also interacts with rare book dealers and the donors who support the library. Margaret’s love of the library is very clear. Her favourite things about her job are helping students and building the collections. There is a massive amount of material that needs to be catalogued, and with a large selection of books for a relatively small library many books need to be processed and sent for storage. She also attends meetings to stay informed about what other libraries are doing on campus. 

Margaret does a lot of work with the Ontario chapter of the Art Libraries Society of North America, and she is also currently a part of the Jackman Humanities research group on Soundscapes.

When talking about her favourite books in the library, Margaret took a volume off a shelf in her office to show me. It was an exhibition catalogue of Christian Marclay’s Footsteps, and it is a part of the library’s growing collection of sound art. Footsteps was an exhibition in Switzerland in which thousands of records were laid out on the floor of the gallery for visitors to walk upon. When played, each record plays the sound of footsteps. The exhibition catalogue includes one of the records from the exhibition.

There are many resources in the library that a lot of students don’t seem to know about. It houses a lot of primary documents for modern and contemporary art such as the Fluxus (experimental artist movement) and the sound art collections. An example of a work from the Fluxus Collection is “A Great Bear Pamphlet,” which was published by Something Else Press in 1966 and includes manifestos from Fluxus artists.

Students should all know that we are welcome at the Art Library and that the staff are interested in what we are working on. Help is available and you are welcome to discuss research and papers with Margaret.

While the Art Library is temproarily closed due to the COVID-19 virus, Margaret English can still be reached via email for assistance.

Laura Lamont is an undergraduate student studying Art History, English, and Renaissance Studies.