ARLIS/NA Collection Development SIG Blog

For ARLIS/NA members interested in collection development issues.


ARLIS/NA Conference Collection Development SIG Minutes (March 21, 2015) / Christina Peter

Co-coordinators: Paula Gabbard, Chris Sala
Moderator: Paula Gabbard
Recorder: Christina Peter

Approximately 40 participants attending

The meeting proceeded according to the agenda previously circulated by Paula Gabbard.

  1. Discussion on born-digital collection development: Paula Gabbard introduced the topic suggested by Kathleen Salomon, who had been unable to travel to the conference. Numerous art libraries engage now in creating digital content, but quite a few of these initiatives remain isolated; sharing the metadata for newly created digital collections is of paramount importance for the entire art librarians’ community. Librarians also face the challenges of cataloging back lists being published as online/virtual collections. Dan Lipcan of the MMA’s Watson Library set an example by having shared the MARC record set for all the Met’s digitized titles with the ARLIS community via ARLIS/L. Some libraries (e.g. Columbia) have already downloaded these files in their catalogs; the download of the files is not complicated. The records have also been contributed to WorldCat and are available via OCLC, but batching them is not easy. – Janis Ekdahl mentioned Princeton’s Blue Mountain project: while the metadata for the digitized titles has not been made publicly available, the records are available to subscribers of Serial Solutions and Princeton is working on making these records available as a file.
  2. Gabbard introduced the subject of collective collection development again suggested by Kathleen Salomon. Institutional politics often get in the way of developing shared collections. Amy Ciccone of USC pointed out that space crunch made it an imperative for libraries to rely on shared digital repositories – USC’s policy was to dispose of the print version of titles available digitally via JSTOR. Mary Wassermann of the Philadelphia Museum of Art mentioned their project of weeding periodicals available online via the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries. Amy Naughton of the Minneapolis College of Art and Design said that they were deaccessioning pamphlets and small exhibition catalogs, some of them unique, as their library was not focused on research and it didn’t have sufficient staffing to process this material. A number of librarians offered to take in and process the deaccessioned material, as there was a general feeling that unique information of research value might get lost in the deaccessioning process.
  3. Gabbard voiced her frustration at OCLC’s forcing libraries to migrate from the FirstSearch interface to Worldcat Discovery Services (OCLC is going to phase out FirstSearch by the end of 2015). The new interface looks somewhat like the free Worldcat version; access to OCLC’s beta version is difficult. Participants were urged to e-mail Linda Barr at OCLC to provide access to the beta version of Worldcat Discovery Services and to voice the community’s needs. Jon Evans recommended communicating with Dennis Massey. Someone pointed out the existence of a listserv to facilitate communication among Worldcat Discovery Services users. The new interface will affect SCIPIO as well.
  4. Gabbard talked about the ARLIS/NA Marketplace Proposal Committee, charged with proposing a plan for vendors to have multi-tiered membership, which would include the ability to blast email announcements to ARLIS/NA members. Gabbard’s participation in the committee sprang from this group’s concern last year that vendors and dealers were not allowed to post announcements to the ARLIS/L listserv. A proposal to this effect was submitted to the ARLIS/NA Executive Board during the conference. [UPDATE: The proposal was tabled by the Board for the near term, as it was impossible to initiate with a joint conference planned for 2016. Additionally, the Board felt that it would radically change the structure of the Society and the way we handle commercial activity, conference sponsorship, and the needs of our business members and partners. Some of what was proposed will be taken forward and used in other ways, some was food for thought. (UPDATE was a paraphrased message from Gregg Most to the committee)]
  5. Gabbard talked about the ARLIS/NA Collection Development blog, which now has 135 registered users, and 18 posts. Paula encouraged attendees to submit posts.
  6. Discussion about the present and future or electronic e-books, born digital material and the challenges of acquiring and preserving them. Bronwen Bitetti of the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College posed a question about how to handle electronic artists books not distributed by vendors (some libraries buy and catalog them and make them available via IPads). Amy Ciccone mentioned that some vendors sell ebooks only to individuals and not to libraries.
    Further challenges: some ebooks are published as apps or flash drives – while some libraries make these available to their users, the preservation of the contents is a serious issue.
    Amy Ciccone asked about libraries downloading PDFs. Dan Lipcan said that the Watson Library instituted the policy of soliciting e-catalogs from contemporary art galleries: they catalog them, put the PDFs in Amazon storage, and create metadata in OCLC. He admitted that Amazon storage was not an ideal solution. Galleries currently produce a mix of print and digital catalogs. Archiving born digital exhibition catalogs is a necessity; Debbie Kempe mentioned that the Frick Art Reference Library was planning to capture them.
    Paula Gabbard recommended that the SIG should sponsor a proposal for next year’s conference on art e-books, and there was general support for this.


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The Engaged User; Architects and Books / Barbara Opar

Architects love books. I think most of you will agree with this statement. We have all been in faculty offices or the homes of working professionals and seen the piles of printed material open to select pages. If you have not encountered this, just check out the images in Unpacking My Library: Architects and Their Books (New Haven: Yale University Press in association with Urban Center Books, 2009) As Jo Steffens, the editor of this work, says: …it affirms the importance of books in our lives. As you browse the books shown in these pages, a familiar title will spark recognition; an idea or a conversation may be recalled.” (preface, vii-viii). Architects seem to share this view. That is certainly the case at my institution’s architecture school.

Because the very nature of a blog allows for personal reflection, I would like to make some observations about books and architects. Of course, artists and art historians are known to be book lovers, but architecture is the area I inhabit, and want to offer reflections on it. Beyond personal examples of conversations centering on books at receptions, new book displays actively perused, frequent recall requests, the architect—be it student or faculty member –appears to value books in a different way than those in other disciplines.

As an academic librarian, I have collection building responsibility for three different disciplines. I have served as the architecture librarian at Syracuse University for close to forty years (scary!). Despite that fact, this is the group which makes significant new book requests. I have no reason to feel that there are any trust issues. I think it is because they are engaged users. They turn to books for verification of information; for inspiration and just to keep up with the myriad publications on the market. I have actually not seen a decline in overall engagement with the architecture book. Of course, there have been high points and lows over the years. While students may find it easier to “google” a project, when it comes to a serious consideration of a topic they still turn to the printed word. They are certainly encouraged to do so by faculty. Some faculty have specific books set aside for students. Others bring classes to see the materials on a topic or teach a class using sets like El Croquis.

In the past several years, despite the proliferation of other sources of information, interest in the book especially among faculty has actually increased. Campus delivery services certainly help. To date, over this past fiscal year I have had 160 different faculty requests for new book purchases; many of these for more than one title. This represents requests from 32 out of 44 faculty members. Most of the faculty, but not all, are full-time and continuing appointments. While long-term tenured faculty continue to make requests, quite a number of requests come from newer faculty. Requests from our visiting critics vary from year to year. Those who have taught before –even elsewhere- tend to make more requests, often for reserve. Of course there is also a correlation to new courses being taught or research for publication. A long term faculty member has made more requests over the past year than he made to date over the course of his appointment here. This, of course, is because he is now engaged in a writing project. Most requests are directly or indirectly related to teaching. Some requests represent books coming on approval or already selected, but not all. By and far, the books are on some aspect of architecture- an architect, a time period, a geographical area or a topic like sustainability or urban design. But titles related to art historical topics, philosophy, social issues and elements of technology (wind effects on tall buildings; tensile structures; infrastructure) come across my desk as well. Historians are steady borrowers and requestors, followed by theorists. But design faculty certainly make frequent use of the collection, often requesting titles of a topical nature- spatial agency, composite drawing, digital design, EFTE foil, landscape urbanism—to name a few.

Such engagement is gratifying and has enabled me to request additional funds for collections. But more than that it leads me to believe that the next generation of students will continue to refer to the printed word and see value in presentation on paper.

Is my situation unique? Let me know by completing this brief survey which will be open through May 15, 2015……I will be happy to share the results in the future blog entry.

SEE Survey :

–Barbara Opar (