ARLIS/NA Collection Development SIG Blog

For ARLIS/NA members interested in collection development issues.

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Estate Library Gift Offer

Available as unrestricted gift, from the estate of art historian and author of catalogues raissoné:

Library of approximately 500 art books, with a focus on 19th and 20th century American and European art.  The approximately 50 linear feet are located in South Florida, and contain many sub-topics, including art collecting, the Ashcan school, prints and printmaking, 20th c. artists in France, and American regionalists.   The library includes reference books, artist monographs, biographies and catalogues, and both newer and more unusual older volumes.    Any librarians interested in receiving this gift should please contact Neil Ludman at

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New publication: Boucher’s Drawings : Who and What Were They For?

Boucher for blog

Published by the Drawing Institute, The Morgan Library & Museum
6 x 9 inches, 64 pages
30 color illustrations
ISBN: 978-0-87598-167-3
April 2016

The Drawing Institute at The Morgan Library & Museum is pleased to announce the publication of:

Boucher’s Drawings : Who and What Were They For? by Alastair Laing

The Annual Thaw Lecture 2015

François Boucher was one of the most prolific and varied draftsmen in eighteenth-century France. He claimed to have produced more than ten thousand drawings during his fifty-year career and worked in nearly every medium, from red and black chalks to ink and wash to oil on paper and pastel. In this essay, Alastair Laing, Thaw Senior Fellow 2014–15—who is currently preparing a catalogue raisonné of the artist’s drawings—explores the close connection between Boucher’s drawings and the patrons who collected them. An analysis of the complex relationship between the owners of Boucher’s drawings (the “for whom”) and the creation of prints reproducing them, including those in the new chalk manner, yields a more nuanced view of the function (the “for what”) of Boucher’s drawings. Laing’s explication of the ways in which patronage, printmaking, and the art market affected Boucher’s production of drawings is essential to any study of the artist.

To order, please call 212-590-0394. ARLIS/NA members receive a 10% discount.

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Minutes to the ARLIS/NA 2016 Conference Collection Development SIG meeting / Christina Peter

Thursday, March 10, 2016, 3:30-5:00 PM
Olympic Room, The Seattle Westin (1900 5th Avenue, Seattle, Washington 98101)

Moderator: Paula Gabbard
Recorder: Christina Peter

Approximately 35 members attending
The meeting proceeded according to the agenda previously circulated by Paula Gabbard.

  1. Discussion on bookplating gift books, introduced by Mary Wassermann (Philadelphia Museum of Art), who also distributed a printed questionnaire to the participants. Mary was wondering how many libraries still use physical bookplates, and how widely used virtual bookplates are. It emerged from the lively discussion that physical bookplates glued into the items are becoming increasingly rare. The McNay Art Museum Library still uses them; at the University of South California they are added in special cases only; the Frick Art Reference Library bookplates larger batches of gifts; Columbia and the Getty moved away from physical bookplates. Virtual bookplating is more common (Columbia, Met), though the Getty does not credit single items. Credit lines are often inserted in one of the 9xx fields of the bibliographic records (Met, CU, Frick). At Oberlin College paper bookplates are used to acknowledge student workers of the library: when they graduate, they may choose a library book that will then be bookplated for them. The results of Mary Wassermann’s survey may shed more lights on this question. – The discussion briefly touched on the larger question of gifts: many academic libraries do not take gifts at all.
  1. Barbara Prior from Oberlin College introduced a discussion about identifying rare or scarce/hard to replace items in the open book stacks. Oberlin has a vulnerable book project, in the frames of which the librarian tries to establish the scarcity and the replacement value of books deemed vulnerable, searching aggregator platforms (e.g. Bookfinder, Addall; somebody recommended Vialibri) for retail value. Based on the replacement value, books are assigned to average, medium rare ($1,000-$3,000) or rare (over $5,000) categories; books deemed rare are withdrawn from the open stacks. According to Barbara the survey of the entire Oberlin Library collection in open stacks is not a sustainable project without special project funding. Amy Ciccone recommended working with book dealers to identify vulnerable titles, pointing out that our regular book dealers can be the library’s best friends. Others thought that identifying vulnerable books might be a good practicum project, though the amount of training required would be considerable. The discussion touched on the subject of weeding. Ross Day drew attention to Terrie Wilson’s poster entitled “Deselection vs. Weeding: A Systematic Approach to Collection Management”. Somebody mentioned Sustainable Collection Services, a company that has been recently acquired by OCLC ( they will analyze a library collection for a fee for the purposes of weeding.
  1. Paula Gabbard was interested in how art libraries acquire e-books that are published by museums. Paula had conducted a survey and discovered that these books are not available for sale from the usual e-book vendors (EBSCOhost, Ebrary of EBL), though a few might be available via JSTOR or Project Muse. She also wanted to know whether libraries catalog tablet-based e-books. The Cleveland Museum Library has a small collection of such e-books; they keep two IPads at the circulation desk with Kindle accounts on them; they also use the IPads to present PDFs for which they don’t have printing rights. Most libraries don’t catalog these kinds of publications. The Getty Library is an exception: they create records for all their digitized content, and also upload them to the Internet Archive and Hathi Trust.
  1. Paula drew attention to a session that Amy Trendler from Ball State University (who regretted not being able to attend the meeting) was considering to propose for next year’s conference. The session would highlight the different ways librarians involve students, faculty, curators, and other library users in collection development. The session could also encompass the ways librarians work with users to find out what they are interested in and then support that through collection development. The four attending members who were interested in contribuitng to such a session passed on their contact information to Paula who forwarded them on to Amy.
  1. Other issues that were discussed briefly: Mary Wassermann wanted to know whether museum librarians update TMS when rights & reproduction copies featuring objects from the museum collection come to the library (the McNay Library does; at the Cleveland Museum Library the object’s accession number is written on the book’s title page, while the information is also entered in the museum software). – Ross Day mentioned the issues that Watson Library was having with their JSTOR DDA program via YBP: the records don’t always come in a timely manner, and very often a certain title has already been purchased through Ebrary by the time the record for the DDA program shows up, resulting in duplication.

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Artists Files – Collection Development Committee blog submission / Suzy Frechette, St. Louis Public Library

An important part of many art libraries is the local Artists File Collection. In my case, our St. Louis area artists clipping file collection was started soon after the 1912 Central Library building was completed. Today, it includes over 3000 artists and organizations– everything from a blurb in a City Directory to extensive multi-envelope files containing clippings, fliers, exhibition lists, personal correspondence, questionnaires, and more. This collection has been developed by many dedicated staff members for over a century, but it is possible to create a successful local artists file collection today, given the right inspiration, institutional support, and dedication.

My case in point is the Artists File Initiative (AFI) at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri. The head librarian there, Marilyn Carbonell, was inspired to create a KC-area file in 2013 during an event at the museum attended by many local artists. She realized that here was a large source of information about art—information that would be valuable to future researchers and collectors—that was going untapped. She developed a plan to address this and received approval from her administration to proceed. She consulted museum staff, local galleries, and art organizations, identifying an initial core of artists to get started. Artists were contacted and asked to submit materials for their files, more contacts were made, and the project took off. Marilyn and other library staffers offer information programs and visit galleries and shows, distributing a specially designed AFI calling card with their contact information. By this winter, over 80 of the 250 originally identified artists had donated materials and information. The individual files are stored in folders or boxes and cataloged at a hybrid manuscript-level in WorldCat, and can be searched in the library’s catalog, accessible through the Nelson’s website.

This project has been a big hit in the Kansas City arts community. One gallery owner says it is “an overdue miracle that will have positive effects on the artist community for decades to come” [KC Studio, March/April 2016].

Marilyn is preparing an extensive paper for Art Documentation about the AFI that should be published in 2017. I’m sure she would be glad to answer any questions before that, however, at

I see the challenges to this project as being, “How to maintain physical files in an increasingly digital world?” and “What if people start asking about historical, non-living artists?”  But those are questions for another post!

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New book on Amelia E. Barr / Richard Minsky

Librarians whose constituency includes Women’s Studies, Book History, American Literature, Material Culture, or Decorative Arts may be interested in my newest work,  American Publishers’ Bindings on the Books of Amelia E. Barr 1882-1919.  Amelia Barr was an important and influential advocate of women’s rights.

Now widely forgotten, she was one of the most popular women authors in America at the turn of the 20th century. She is one of only five women named on the dust jacket flap of Lyle Wright’s American Fiction 1876-1900.

She caught my attention because many beautiful covers on her books were in exhibitions I organized.  In December I presented a Keynote lecture at Smith College titled “Saved by the Cover: Rediscovering Amelia E. Barr.”

This is a limited edition exhibition catalog of 50 copies, 38 of which were ordered pre-publication. Details are at

If you are interested in how this book is constructed, some photos of the binding process are here.

The Books of Amelia E Barr by Richard Minsky

The Books of Amelia E Barr by Richard Minsky

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Vendor spotlight: Elliot’s Books / Joan Jocson-Singh, Columbia University (

A provider of rare and out-of-print books with a specialty of providing out-of-print Yale University Press titles, Elliot’s Books has been in the bookselling business since 1957. Physically located in Northford, CT, the store, which is housed in a charmingly gigantic barn, has been a treasure trove of scholarly titles, hard to find art and catalog books, and out-of-print titles which marks them as a perfect vendor for special purchases. Some of our wonderful finds include:

As of last summer, the bookstore has been open to customers strictly by appointment which makes for quite a serendipitous title-browsing experience for the interested customer. However, if you can’t make it out there for a physical trip, their online Webstore ( offers easy navigation for browsing an extensive category listinga feature to make any librarian happy.

They’re quick to reply to inquiries and quite handy at searching if an item doesn’t look to be in their online catalog, and that’s because their inventory boasts an impressive aggregate volume of 200,000 items. Being that they’ve been in the business for such a long time, it comes as no surprise to see how adept they are in this age of technology. Of course, if what you’re looking for isn’t online, simply fill out their form under the Offline Search Service page and you’re set. To add, multiple payment options are accepted and they work diligently with all types of libraries.

Although Columbia University Libraries’ business is conducted with them mostly via email, you always get the personal shopper experience with the Elliots and we can attest to a happy fulfill rate, especially when care is always taken with the wrapping and shipping of items to our library.

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When it rains, it pours- thoughts on architectural publishing and academic library collection development / Barbara Opar, Architecture Librarian, Syracuse University Libraries

  • Ever notice that when it rains, it pours? I sometimes think that when doing collection development for architecture. It seems that when a title comes out on a new topic or up and coming architect/firm, more titles quickly follow creating a dilemma for the librarian with limited funds. For the most part, the addition of new materials on current architects is welcome. The Dean here recently asked me to locate as much information as I could on Snohetta AS. While the Avery Index to Architectural Periodicals identifies articles back to 1996, the first actual monograph was just published in August of 2015, making it a necessary addition to our collection even without the specific request. Big, Hot to Cold: An Odyssey of Architectural Adaptation was another 2015 publication, with a different focus than the few other publications on BIG. Bjarke Ingels has lectured here at Syracuse several times so again this was a welcome publication. As well, 2015 saw a limited number of important new works on Louis I. Kahn– one dealing his teaching at the University of Pennsylvania, another capturing interviews with Heinrich Klotz over a few years and another detailing Kahn’s use of concrete. Each of the books adds new insight into the legacy of this iconic architect, whose work is still studied here today. Though the 2015 book on Kahn’s use of concrete appeared after another book on the same topic had just been published in 2014.

So perhaps it is not that difficult for the architecture librarian to determine what is needed for

his/her collection in terms of the work of important architects, past and present. When faced with determining which if any new titles on new or key architects should be added to holdings, basic collection development protocols can be employed[1]. Questions to ask oneself include usage statistics on existing content on the architect/firm, range of work covered, graphic quality and content, and/or the addition of a critical essay or analysis. Is the firm’s work likely to be used for precedent research which might be asked of freshman students and result in heavy use over a short period of time? Will thesis students be drawn to the work and need to make longer term use of the title? Will faculty want to show the work in class? For instance Lewis.Tsurumaki. Lewis; Opportunisitic Architecture is frequently used by faculty to show graphic layout rather than actual projects by LTL.

Selecting new architectural history or theory books presents other challenges. Both of these types of books often appear on reading lists, if not reserve lists. Many become course textbooks. Here selection issues include the format. Should one consider electronic versions or print? E-books here have not gained much ground as certain vendors limit printing and many students and faculty like to go back and forth between chapters. The prestige of the author and/or editor is an important consideration. What is different about the book versus another one on post-modernism? Are the images used in the history titles different than those in other similar works? With respect to theory, is the book the writings of one theorist or compilation/excerpts of well- known texts? Is there a strong introductory chapter? Does it provide value added?

Selection of titles for the field of architectural technology involves some of the same decisions/analysis noted elsewhere. Here though the level/language of the text and currency are the major considerations. All architecture students are not able to deal with high-level engineering terminology. Is the information dated? Solar energy titles from the late 1970s remain relevant. Is there new information not contained in other works?

This brings me back to my original comment about the number and redundancy of architecture books sometimes coming out in the same year/time frame on a topic. The area most problematic from my point of view is a subfield of architectural technology—that of sustainable architecture. The term is broad – means a lot, means nothing- and every year hundreds of titles are published with this keyword. While certain titles focus on a specific building type such as residential design, others are not as easily defined. One must then use some of the standard collection development criteria to place limits. But since the librarian is often selecting new materials sight unseen, deciding on books for this arena can prove to be time consuming to say the least. Publisher descriptions and Amazon blurbs do help.

However, when it rains it does pour in this field. Someday this could all change. The number of titles coming out year after year may decrease. But for now I am grateful that for some other aspects of architecture, collection development it is more straightforward and needs determined more quickly and with less effort.

[1] Opar, Barbara. “Collection Development in Architecture: A View from the Field.” Library Collection Development for Professional Programs: Trends and Best Practices. By Sara Holder. Hershey, PA: IGI Global/ Information Science Reference, 2012. 390-422. Print. (Book Chapter)



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