ARLIS/NA Collection Development SIG Blog

For ARLIS/NA members interested in collection development issues.

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Collection Development in two complimentary formats for Special Collections: print holdings and electronic resources / Susan Flanagan

Building special collections is always predicated on availability of resources, timing and funding. As materials come to market, a single library is able acquire a unique item or a few libraries may add a rare publication to their collections. These special resources allow a library to grow and develop into a valuable research collection.

With the advent of special collection electronic resources, more libraries are now able to offer rare collections to a wider audience. These resources may supplement an existing collection or open doors to a new topic or idea.

I’d like to share an example of an electronic collection recently acquired by the Getty Research Institute to complement our extensive print holdings in special collections on world’s fairs and expositions. By searching “world’s fairs” in our catalog Primo, users can now discover our print holdings, which include items from some of the following fairs:

Additionally the Primo results display the recently acquired database compiled by Adam Matthew Digital: World’s Fairs: a global history of expositions. Access to the database is available to on-site Readers, Getty Staff, and Visiting Scholars.

This database provides digital access to primary source material collated from thirteen archives in North America, the U.K., and France. Material includes pamphlets, guide books, official catalogues, periodicals, minutes, and correspondence. There is also a selection of visual material including maps, photographs, postcards, and illustrations.

Opening of the Great Exhibition, London, May 1, 1851. 1851.
© The Victoria and Albert Museum

While over 200 hundred fairs are represented, most material relates to the following fairs:

  • 1851 Great Exhibition, London
    • 1876 Philadelphia Centennial International Exhibition
    • 1889 Paris Exposition Universelle
    • 1893 Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition
    • 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition, St. Louis
    • 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition, San Francisco
    • 1933/34 Chicago Century of Progress International Exposition
    • 1939/40 New York World’s Fair
    • 1967 Expo ’67 Montreal

By adding this database, we are now able to expand our coverage of world’s fairs and expositions.

Do you have similar examples to share with the group?

-Susan Flanagan, Collection Development Librarian for Electronic Resources (


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Libraries Unbound, a resource for collection librarians / Leslie Abrams (

Keeping up with the seemingly endless changes in the library collections world is a challenge. I recently received notification about a new web resource created by Library Journal, Libraries Unbound at

Each month Libraries Unbound “focuses on a key theme in the library industry” and provides commentary from librarians addressing impacts, insights, best practices on the evolving industry as well as announcements, white papers, and links. This April’s theme was on a centralized approach to collection development and offered entries such as “Demand-Driven Acquisitions: Do Library Patrons Get What They Need?” and “Discovering Open Access Content” as well as announcements about a new publication, “2016 EBook Usage Reports: Academic Libraries”, and upcoming Webcasts on “Best Practices for Increasing Usage of your e-book Collection” and “Mainstreaming Open Access Monographs.” The page has navigation that can direct you to specific items about eCollection Management, Collection Development, and RE:Thinking the ILS.

This easy-to-scan resource is a quick way to keep up with trends related to enhancing our ability to build and manage our collections and expedite providing users with needed information resources.

You can sign up for alerts to this resources, suggest future themes, or contribute materials.

Check it out!

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Morgan Library & Museum publishes Treasures from the Nationalmuseum of Sweden, The Collections of Count Tessin

The Morgan Library & Museum is pleased to announce the publication of Treasures from the Nationalmuseum of Sweden, The Collections of Count Tessin, by Colin B. Bailey, Carina Fryklund, John Marciari, Magnus Olausson, and Jennifer Tonkovich.

The core holdings of the Nationalmuseum, Sweden, were assembled by Count Carl Gustaf Tessin (1696–1770), a diplomat and one of the great art collectors of his day. On assignment in Paris from 1739, Tessin came into contact with the leading artists of the time and commissioned many works from them. He was also among the most active buyers at major sales of old master paintings and drawings. By the time he left Paris in 1742, he had amassed a truly impressive collection.

Now, for the first time, the Nationalmuseum, Sweden’s largest and most distinguished art institution, is partnering with the Morgan to bring more than seventy-five masterpieces from its collections to New York for a rare visit. The show and catalogue include work by artists such as Albrecht Dürer, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Raphael, Annibale Carracci, Hendrik Goltzius, Jacques Callot, Peter Paul Rubens, Rembrandt van Rijn, Antoine Watteau, and François Boucher.

Published by the Morgan Library & Museum, New York

9 1/2 x 11 inches, 268 pages
203 color illustrations
ISBN: 978-0-87598-179-6
January 2017
To order, please call the Morgan Shop at 212-590-0390.

ARLIS/NA members receive a 10% discount

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Why Didn’t I Buy That or Other Woes on Collection Building? / Barbara Opar

While working on another project, I found myself reading an article entitled: Why Did We Buy That? New Customers and Changing Directions in Collection Development.  Kay Downey’s article discusses how Kent State began directing its collection policies to better align with the University’s mission of student retention, higher graduation rates, increased international enrollment, and enhanced recruitment.[1]

My thoughts turned in another direction. Though a strong part of my concern does focus on globalization. Rather I started to think: Why didn’t I buy that? This concern relates to now seeking to purchase titles that were ‘missed’ for various reasons twenty or thirty years ago and if found now paying triple their initial cost. As well, I fret over past students missing out on key information.

Over the course of my long career I have certainly sighed a few times over purchases made. A then $75.00 book did not appear well written, had poor quality illustrations and did not meet library binding standards. Other times, I would read a review of a newly purchased title that indicated poor scholarship on the part of the author or found another new book on the same architect that would have been a better selection. I remember being excited about a book on factory towns to later find that it had a very different focus and did not concern company built communities or workers’ housing at all. The Libraries once bought a French romance writer on my recommendation instead of the critic we thought we were buying. That item went to our book sale! (Certainly mistakes like that are less common in the online environment.)

These examples stick out in my mind, but I am sure that faculty have wondered from time to time about specific acquisitions or students wondered why we bought such a specialized title in Japanese on ancient building techniques in that country.

Libraries themselves often now allow approval plans to include titles that a selector may not have wanted, determining that it is more expensive to make the exclusion.

Still I find myself more concerned over missed opportunities. We are now trying to buy materials on Demas Nwoko, a Nigerian architect. Two faculty members want the book(s)- one tenured and researching this architect specifically; another tenure track faculty looking more broadly for African material. We are also seeking to expand holdings about other regional architects such as Dimitris Pikionis. Again, when we do locate such books, the cost is very high—ca. $750.00 for what was probably a $35.00 title at the point of publication.

So how can we avoid such mistakes? We probably can’t in totality. But when a name pops on a book dealer’s list that I don’t know, I more actively try to access the value of having this title. Even when I can’t justify buying it now, I at least make note of it. The faculty member wishing to update and expand our holdings on regional modernism prepared a list of architects’ names for me. So when I see low cost titles about these architects, I can make purchases. I am signing  up for more mailings. Yes, all those catalogs we got and discarded were problematic. But lack of information can be as well. Emails do not take up that much storage.

What about ‘weeding? When I was first hired, the then dean of Architecture suggested we did not need Edifices de Rome Moderne. Several years later, his replacement has excited to handle this title, which luckily I had kept. We also kept books by Royal Barry Wills, certainly out of fashion in the mid- 1970s, but now being used by another new faculty member exploring mid- century house types.

No- we cannot buy or keep everything. I admit I error on the side of keeping rather than discarding titles. I try to do a little research when necessary and seek faculty advice. Most libraries now have off site storage facilities. We do not want to fill them with titles likely to never be used. But when making choices, I would keep a work by or about an architect rather than old directories- which I think less likely to be routinely used and sought by the researcher with a long term project.

Every library, institution and user group is different. But taking a little time to find out about an architect or topic or seeking advice about potential discards may help with collection building. We all want to build the best collections we can. Being a little more intentional will help.

[1] Kay Downey (2013) Why Did We Buy That? New Customers and Changing Directions in Collection Development, Collection Management, 38:2, 90-103, DOI: 10.1080/01462679.2013.763741

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Engaging Library Users in Collection Development session at the ARLIS/NA Annual Conference in New Orleans / Amy Trendler

If you’ve been perusing the program for the 45th annual ARLIS/NA conference in New Orleans you may have noticed that there’s a session on collection development first thing Monday morning. In “Engaging Library Users in Collection Development” we’ll be hearing from six speakers who are collaborating with curatorial staff, faculty members, students, and other users to shape library collections. Read on for a sneak preview of what some of the speakers will be covering in their talks.

Expanding on the idea of working with faculty in a department, Fine Arts Librarian Laurel Bliss will explain how she worked with a new faculty member at San Diego State University to focus on developing the library’s collection of materials on a specific subject, in this case jewelry and metalworking.  This meant doing a collections analysis, taking a snapshot of the curriculum, evaluating a large book donation, and determining what new books to purchase with very limited funds.

Librarian and Archivist Caroline Dechert’s talk will cover a transition in the collection of ephemera for artist files at the Bartlett Library of the Museum of International Folk Art. This used to be a passive process; the Library staff would accept and file material as it came in, but would not collect actively. Over the years, as galleries, exhibits, and markets have moved to more online invitations and guides, the Library received less and less to file. The talk will describe how the Library has engaged curatorial staff to identify artists for whom we want to collect more actively; to make connections between the Library and artists, cooperatives, and galleries; and to implement an active approach to collecting artist ephemera.

In her talk, “ZineHaw! and What the Fluxus?!: Counterculture Materials are Campus Magnets”,  Arts & Architecture Librarian, Deborah K. Ultan, discusses how counterculture materials are drawing interest from faculty and students in visual communications, gender studies, and a variety of art classes at the University of Minnesota. Classes are being designed around these rare materials with group study and coordinated exhibitions. Focused collection development of counterculture publishing is supporting curricula around semiotics, political agency, social justice, production and reception. Within the context of this interactive environment and engagement with the collections, the acquisition, cataloging, and preservation of alternative press materials is proving to be a valuable and exciting direction.

Join us at 8:30am on Monday, February 6 in New Orleans to hear more about these projects.  Also presenting will be John Burns, Jennifer H. Krivickas, and Anne Trenholme on their projects to engage users in collection development through working with faculty members in an academic department, a patron driven acquisitions program, and collaborating with curatorial staff in a museum.

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Special Offer: The Drawings of Abraham Bloemaert: Supplement by Jaap Bolten

bloemaert — Master Drawings —
Volume 55, Number 1
March 2017
The Drawings of Abraham Bloemaert: Supplement
by Jaap Bolten

$35 with free shipping
Offer valid until 15 January 2017*


The issue is a supplement to the author’s 2007 catalogue raisonné of Bloemaert’s drawings.

Order at

*Thereafter $45 plus postage


Electronic Resources Consortiums: Do You Participate? / Susan Flanagan

In this post, I’d like us to discuss electronic databases in art libraries and how we acquire them. In future posts, I’ll cover other electronic resources issues.

Here at the Getty Research Institute, we were fortunate to join SCELC  a consortium of nonprofit academic and research institutes in 1986. Originally called Southern California Electronic Library Consortium, it is now incorporated as SCELC, which expanded to a nationwide organization. Currently there are over 100 members and 215 affiliates in 36 states. As a member of the Product Review Committee, I review and recommend new art related products and new vendors that the organization should offer to the client base. Then SCELC negotiates pricing and licensing term, and offers databases to SCELC libraries.  Every year SCELC organizes a Vendor Day event in Los Angeles that draws 200+ librarians representing more than 70 libraries from across the state of California. In addition, more than 50 vendors attend the event and together give over 130 presentations over the course of the day. The next event is March 9, 2017 and you are most welcome to attend and it is free! Click here for more information:

Now a few questions for the group:

How do you acquire databases? Are you a member of a consortium? Which one(s)? Who are the other library members? Any thoughts or comments?