ARLIS/NA Collection Development SIG Blog

For ARLIS/NA members interested in collection development issues.

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Pondering 21st Century Collections Competencies for Art Librarians / Sarah Falls, Director of the Joint-Use Library, Tidewater Community College

During the 2000-2005 Strategic plan cycle of ARLIS/NA, an important goal for developing the core competencies of Art Information Professionals was set forth. A few years later, in 2003, a subcommittee of the Professional Development Committee published its findings, creating a template of knowledge and skills for all arts information professionals. This work was very important at the time, and remains an essential guide to the profession. To update this work, the ARLIS/NA Executive Board chartered a task force which reports to the Professional Development Committee to conduct new research and write new competencies.

Working on this update will be challenging—how do you communicate the essence of a profession without becoming too prescriptive, or bogged down in the minutia of the everyday? Collections work, for instance, can be quite detailed. And, in the original document, technology was viewed as a separate competency. However, considering present workflows, it might be more integrated into many aspects of work.

One area that I believe will be particularly challenging to update will be Section 6: Collection Management, Development & Organization. In thinking about the trends and technological developments of the past 15 years, developing a new list of competencies will require language that is succinct but also flexible enough to anticipate what may come next. The competencies as a document help to guide new professionals as they move through LS education programs, anticipate how to form themselves as employees during the job hunt, and help those of us more seasoned professionals continually retool and reconnect. Institutions use them to write job descriptions, and faculty members who teach Art Librarianship use this document in their courses—so getting it right is paramount.

But how do you get it right in the ever changing environment of arts and scholarly publishing? I’m not sure, but thought I’d use this space to explore some of the changes and trends that impact work with arts information collections, and particularly those that have emerged since the last iteration of the document.

Trends impacting art subject collections since 2003:

-eBooks. I could go on and on here, but in 2003, it would be 2 more years until the advent of the Sony Reader and more years to the Kindle, Overdrive and other delivery systems. As we all know, there has been a dearth of arts publishing available from academic vendors such as eBrary and others—and while adjacent subject areas such as history, philosophy that produced text-based works have helped art librarians through Project Muse, JSTOR Books and other sites, eBook purchasing is still not proforma in Art Libraries-mostly due to copyright of images and format.


-Open Access. This is a huge challenge. Understanding how to integrate OA collections and resources into discovery systems can be a critical part of collection development now. And as amazing as these collections are, OA books (from the Met for instance) must be added to each and every local catalog via a MARC load to fully integrate them with institutional resources. Wouldn’t it be great if we could just pull up a page through Worldcat or some other utility, and check off the boxes next to OA collections we want displayed with our own? But for now, the collection manager must understand how to ask for packaged MARC and must know who to work with on their campus to implement.

-Digital Humanities and image databases. How do we integrate these scholarly resources into our collections? How do we make them accessible to our users as resources? How do we help our colleagues the content creators make them sustainable, so if index them, we have them for a while?

-Ebay and internet purchasing of rare materials. ARLIS members maintain strong working relationships with dealers, who identify and make available to us unique materials. But life is becoming harder for these same dealers due to the rise of internet purchasing. It’s a blessing and a curse, but managing these relationships while understanding how to find rare and special collections works online can be a balancing act.

-Access and Discovery tools. Aggregators such as Primo, Worldcat Local, Browzine and other sites and apps pull content together in new ways. Worldcat local can be configured to display results geographically, but might miss the most important sources on a topic. And Primo pulls together all sorts of information, but again, the results may have varying means of depicting relevance that sit far outside the methods of Art and Art History. How these tools are configured can have real impacts for how collections are used.

In conclusion, I’m sure there are many other trends and technology to explore in the context of collections development and management. The five I’ve explored above are pretty big topics in and of themselves—but repeatedly updated the Core Comps over time, we will be better able to address their impacts on work with collections within our profession.


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CONSERVATION ENCLOSURES WORKSHOP at the Center for Book Arts / Maria Pisano.

Center for Book Arts – May 21-22, 2016 – 10am-4pm

Protective enclosures are made to support and protect your books from environmental damages.  Additionally for the artist they can also serve as an extension of their book to enhance their presentation and provide an additional surface where one can customize the box to reflect the contents.

Learn to make three simple archival enclosures that enable you to store your books in a acid free protective environment. We will make the archival phase box enclosure used by the Library of Congress, as an alternative to the clamshell box and in addition a case wrapper with hard covers and a self-closing wrapper. If time permits, we will also create storage for a pamphlet. The class will cover do’s and don’ts in conservation enclosures and materials, show examples of damages from bad conservation practices along with learning to measure for custom fit, creating jigs, adhesives, and other helpful hints. For the book artist, librarian and collector. No experience necessary, just come with your books.

Most materials are included in the price; students will need a basic bookbinding kit. See CBA site for more details.

Ms. Pisano, who will teach this workshop is an adjunct professor, teaching papermaking, printing, bookbinding and conservation. Additionally she presents workshops at venues such as The Center for Book Arts in New York, Professione Libro in Italy, The Morgan Conservatory and at her studio. Please refer to the <> for more information on her teaching experience.

Pisano_3Boxes            Pisano_4Boxes(1)

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Library liaisons / Anne Champagne, Art Institute of Chicago

Last fall, the library embarked on a “library liaison” program. The curatorial departments, Conservation, and Museum Ed were each assigned one of eight librarians as their library liaison. The program, which is still evolving, has two main objectives: 1) to get a clear picture of what is driving current and future research needs — including exhibition research, acquisitions priorities, and provenance research — to inform collection development and reference services; and 2) to introduce (or re-introduce as the case may be) museum staff to the full suite of library resources and services currently available and to communicate our strategic plans for the future.

To get the program started, a letter of introduction was sent to each curatorial department by the Library Director, describing the program and introducing the liaisons. Then, each library liaison set up an appointment with her assigned department. A few departments did not respond — they were either too busy or uninterested — but most were very enthusiastic about the opportunity to meet with a library representative. After initial meetings with departments, liaisons wrote up their notes for the library’s intranet so selectors and liaisons can refer to them. In addition, selectors and liaisons have met on regular basis to discuss what we have learned from the museum community.

Not only has this been a good way for us to learn in more detail about on-going research taking place across the museum, it has also been a great opportunity to discuss with our curatorial colleagues tangential issues, such as off-site storage, serial cuts, budgets, and city-wide collaboration. It has also allowed us to forge new relationships and join conversations taking place outside the library. All of this continues to be a great boon for selection, as we learn more about the community we serve.

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Free book to Libraries: 45 Years at OK Harris

Ron Weis, author/compiler of “45 Years at OK Harris” has generously offered to donate copies to art libraries, including shipping!

The volume consists primarily of color photographs featuring 45 years of exhibition announcements as photographed on the walls of O.K. Harris Gallery at a celebration prior to its closing in April 2014. It also includes black and white reproductions of the gallery’s exhibition schedules.

To quote Joanna Mattera’s review at

The volume is “Beautifully printed on glossy paper, it features a gray bookboard cover–the material that usually gets covered with fabric or paper–and a visible binding. Red endpapers offer a visual jolt. Weis worked with Randem Press publisher Abby Kinsley to get the volume’s unique look and feel. Want to know who showed there? The last third of the book includes scanned images of the year-by-year exhibition schedule, with every single artist for every year from 1969 to 2014”.

ISBN: 9780692424742
New York : Randem, [2015]

Please contact Ron at