Architecture Collection Development: Musings on the Modern / Barbara Opar

Our library collections budget is structured in such a way that we are asked to “spend down” our allocations about now, retaining some funds for routine orders, approvals and faculty requests. Most University press and core publisher titles are automatically received through our vendor interface. So I am looking to enhance the collection by seeking other, more unique titles. This requires a concentrated effort, including reviewing strength and currency of holdings, usage patterns, determining areas/topics needing expansion and then locating the appropriate resources. I do this for both architecture as well as French language and literature.

That said, I have, through the years, not surprisingly, noticed certain differences. While I feel the need to seek new authors to add to our French literature collection, I do so knowing that I am building for the future and not the here and now. The foreign language literature collection should ideally include current authors but our curriculum and teaching across the department does not include contemporary writers and for the most part ends mid-century. Contemporary issues are sometimes addressed in the culture classes. So I have the small luxury of buying “just in case”.

How different this is from architecture- and possibly art! In architecture, the new is constantly being sought and students continually peruse those periodicals and serials which provide in-depth coverage of new designers. Modern and contemporary architecture are the parts of our collection most highly consulted, especially for design inspiration. I am definitely buying “just in time.” As a school still vested in teaching through design precedents, classic examples like the work of Andrea Palladio do come into play. Works by Frank Lloyd Wright and Le Corbusier still appear on lists for students to research. But with senior faculty retiring and younger faculty coming in with different educational backgrounds and mindsets, contemporary examples as well as more multinational ones often overshadow the more traditional projects that previously appeared on studio research lists. Faculty pull examples from ArchDaily or firm sites. So I am constantly looking to expand our holdings on newer, more esoteric architects. I just purchased a book on Aureli’s firm, Dogma. Oro Editions, Actar, Axel Menges and Parks Books are among my go-to publishers for current firms and topics. The 2018 Pritzger Prize was just awarded to Balkrishna Doshi and I quickly reviewed our holdings, knowing that students will be seeking information about him and that faculty will be mentioning him more in reviews.

So while I will certainly be checking our library holdings for the next winner of the Prix Goncourt, I will do so more to complete our collection rather than to anticipate increased interest. The nature of architecture is such that the modern and contemporary and cutting edge (should there be anything available) are increasingly important. Students may not use the resources in the same in-depth way they would in terms of a work of literature. But architecture students and faculty are curious, explore and will make use of any and all modern and contemporary book resources that come their way.

Barbara Opar is Librarian for Architecture and French Language and Literature. Syracuse University Libraries


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