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!


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?

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Fortunato Depero website / Steve Kroeter (

My colleagues at Designers & Books and I are happy to announce the launch of the website

While many people are aware of the Italian Futurists, it is not unusual at all for the work of Fortunato Depero not to be well known, even among the very knowledgeable.

New Yorker art critic Peter Schjeldahl said that for him Depero’s work at the Guggenheim’s Futurist exhibition was, “a fascinating discovery.”

Having had the chance to get familiar with the wide range of his work, we take his ideas—especially as depicted and described in the monograph he wrote and designed, Depero Futurista—as striking examples of something from the past that resonates with the present.

Designers & Books is collaborating with The Center for Italian Modern Art in New York and the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Trento and Rovereto, Italy (which houses the Depero archives) to help make Depero’s work more visible and accessible. On October 22nd we launched a website that we hope will serve as a go-to online resource for those interested in Depero and Futurism. The site includes the complete contents of Depero Futurista, spread-by-spread, along with images that can be enlarged for closer inspection.

We hope this will help elevate Depero and place him more squarely in the current conversation about the relationship of artists and designs to their work and also their role in contemporary society.


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A Brief Look at an Art Library DDA Program / Mary Seem

Since September of 2013 the Frick Art Reference Library has been providing its readers with access to ebooks through EBL on a demand-driven basis. Nearly three years of usage has provided some perspective on how this program has performed and ways in which it has impacted the use of the Frick’s collection. Numerous webinars and eforums have focused on ebook usage such as a recent ACRL webinar entitled Ebooks Usage on a Global Scale: Patterns, Trends, and New Conclusions. However, I feel concrete data as it pertains to art libraries will be beneficial to any institution currently participating in or considering a Demand-Driven Acquisition (DDA) program.

Since its inception, statistics have been kept on the use of our DDA program including Short Term Loan (STL) cost, STL instances, purchase price of title, STL percentage of purchase price, as well as the number of times the title was requested. These statistics, when examined at the micro and macro level, reveal the extent of the use of our DDA program and whether it corroborates the trends and concerns associated with DDA and ebooks.

The scope of the Frick Art Reference Library’s collection focuses on Western art from the fourth century through World War II. Our DDA plan includes titles relating to our scope but also touches on related elements such as architecture, photography, history, and museology.  The purpose of our DDA plan is to provide remote access to titles within our scope as well as titles that supplement our holdings. With the exception of a few titles – The Language of Doctor Who: From Shakespeare to Alien Tongues is one that comes to mind – this has largely been realized. Usage has been especially high for titles pertaining to museology and museum studies. There are also noticeable trends in the use of titles that reflect upcoming exhibitions – our own staff and interns have been using the DDA plan to supplement their research.

One of the larger concerns with DDA plans is the increasing cost of the short term loan. In fact, this seems to be the area of greatest consternation whenever the discussion of DDA plans arises. However, an examination of our statistics shows that the STL percentage of purchase price has decreased over time. As reflected in the chart below, the percentage of purchase price of the average STL has gone from 14.6% in 2013 to 12.3% as of June 2015. The increase in STL price has in part been stymied by implementing a mediated request on all titles with very high rate of STLs. Requests to access such titles have to be approved in order to prevent frivolous expenses. Also, compared to when the DDA plan was first implemented we have shortened the length of the STL from several days to only one day. Overall, the 300 instances of STLs have resulted in an 85% savings compared to the outright purchase of the requested titles.

STL Percentage

Despite the benefits of our DDA plan outlined above, there are some points of contention. One is the variability in yearly usage. As outlined in the chart below, usage does not seem steady year-to-year. There are a number of reasons that could point to this fluctuation:  the rather convoluted login process or readers may simply be using our library to access physical material. Our own staff is responsible for a lot of early usage as we tinkered with the new system. Also, our early system allowed users to access content with a login which increased use until we found it to be too costly. It will be interesting to see if usage levels out – or increases – over time. Another area of frustration was the initial available titles and publishers. The previous provider for our DDA plan did not follow specific classifications for titles and included non-scholarly titles. As a result, large swaths of publishers had to be eliminated from our ebook holdings because they were blatantly out of scope. YBP, our current provider, has a more granular subject access that has excluded non-scholarly or wildly out of scope titles from our holdings.

Usage over time

While there are an infinite number of trends and insights to be gleaned from our DDA plan statistics, this brief overview hopefully elucidates some of the findings after three years of use. Ebook usage is often mentioned only in an overarching sense that fails to address the specific needs of special and art libraries, especially museum libraries. I hope to use this initial post as a starting point for discussion about ebook usage and DDA plans. I would be very curious to see how other institutions have fared.


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On the need for a Digital Library of Arts / Erik Wysocan.

“I see my own publishers in a silly panic of ignorance and greed, charging public libraries for an ebook six or seven times more than they charge customers […] I see a lot of us, the producers who write the books, and make the books, accepting this. Letting commodity profiteers sell us like deodorant, and tell us what to publish and what to write.

Books, you know, they’re not just commodities. The profit motive often is in conflict with the aims of art. We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art, and very often in our art—the art of words.”
– From Ursula K. Le Guin’s acceptance speech at the National Book Awards, 2014

The large-scale digital book markets of Amazon, Apple and Barnes & Noble have created new distribution channels for many contemporary artists and independent arts publishers. New digital formats (apps, video files, PDFs, and ebooks) are creating opportunities for artists, and new modes of distribution. While epub, the open ebook standard, has existed since 2007, it has yet to find widespread adoption by independent publishers—largely due to a lack of accessible markets and some significant technical hurdles. Meanwhile, large commercial publishers have found new opportunities to reach wider audiences through ecommerce channels, and publication formats like Kindle, Nook (using Adobe DRM) and Apple’s iBook. Embedded within these digital protocols is a new legal regime with significant implications for libraries, and those concerned with the sovereignty of open and noncommercial research databases. In this text, I discuss some of the reasons why libraries should worry about this turn to closed digital formats, why it is a particular problem for arts libraries, and argue for the necessity of a dedicated, open database of digital arts publications. Finally, I will propose one strategy for addressing these issues: a new database project and distribution platform that is designed to serve the needs of both libraries and artists. I hope here to solicit responses from those most proximate to the issues at hand.

Let me first describe my own interest (and perhaps biases) in this field, and how I came to be concerned with current trajectories of independent publishing. In 2009 I founded Halmos, a small, experimental publishing imprint, as an extension of my own arts practice. Ebooks were of particular interest for their potential to reach wider audiences at minimal material cost. Both the Amazon Kindle and Apple iPhone had been released 2 years earlier, marking the creation of two new major ebook markets. Halmos’ first ebook was released on both platforms—seemingly an obvious choice for any small publisher looking to inexpensively maximize their audience. With these two channels, it is possible to reach over 90% of the ebook market ( The remaining distribution options and formats (eg Barnes & Noble’s Nook, Kobo, etc) offered little in return for the considerable time and effort required to make use of them. However, it was immediately obvious that neither Kindle nor iBook would allow for circulation amongst institutional and public libraries, nor was it clear how a small publisher might do so through any other ebook distributor. While library print collections are shaped by their own internal acquisition processes, digital content is typically mediated by volume aggregators such as Overdrive or EBSCO, who have little or no concern for niche art content. Moreover, the vast ebook catalogs of Amazon and Apple were designed to be closed ecosystems, entirely inaccessible to libraries or the content providers who serve them. In investigating the counterintuitive realization that ebooks are in fact less free to circulate than their print counterparts, it became clear that they are books in name only. With the shift to digital, the paradigm of the book has itself been restructured: as digital media, the book is no longer an autonomous object, rather it is a service made available through a chain of contracts. Following from this understanding, this text argues for reconceptualizing ebooks towards what I call ‘digital objects’.

A few recent statistics demonstrate the significant impact that ebooks will have on the wider publishing industry, including libraries that chiefly collect print materials. While initial ebook market growth has slowed for major publishers, digital publishing from independent imprints will continue to drive the overall market, with digital overtaking print sales in the near future—in one estimate by as early as 2018 ( Ebooks already account for 30% of all book sales, with Amazon Kindle at a 65% share of the market (and 19.5% of the total book market) ( Recent statistics detail an increasing sector of independently made books published through Amazon and similar platforms. Fully 60% of all ebook titles sold through Amazon fall into the category of ‘nontraditionally published’ – that is, many more sales than the titles sold by the top 1200 publishers ( A significant number of artist publications must fall into the category.

A short list of emerging art or cultural publishers experimenting with digital publication may help to make the problem more concrete. My point is to demonstrate the increasing importance of digital works, and the need for art libraries to find ways to access them. Badlands Unlimited (, a digitally focused imprint started by artist Paul Chan, publishes ebooks on Kindle and iBook including recent releases by Yvonne Rainer, Hans Ulrich Orbist and Calvin Tomkins, with a number of titles exclusively available in digital formats. Strelka Press (, a digital-first publisher with a focus on architecture and design theory (whose authors include Metahaven, Bruce Sterling, Keller Easterling, and many others), also provide their digital books in the closed formats of iBook, Kindle and Bookmate. Another example hints at problems for even those avoiding commercial sales channels entirely. Meson Press ( works with a number of important cultural theorist (Isabelle Stengers, Matteo Pasquinelli, Benjamin Bratton and others), and releases digital content as free, open access PDFs with a Creative Commons license. Despite this effort to use a permissive license, their ebooks have not been cataloged by libraries. In fact, the circulation problem for open access content mirrors that for books in closed formats, namely: that the licensing model of commercial ebooks dictates the mode of circulation so strongly that any format falling outside of that technical horizon requires too much retooling by distributors to be financially viable. Even with efforts to archive open content on sites like the Internet Archive, contemporary, independently published ebooks tend to be cataloged solely through private databases, and indexed only by commercial search engines; influencing how they are found and accessed in ways that we cannot fully know. The strong and weak commercial biases imposed by the current system are precisely the reasons that libraries are perhaps best equipped to work towards an alternative.

I do not claim that books are in a state of crisis, or that making and selling them should not be profitable. But, I want to draw attention to our growing lack of control on the matter. We need to reassess our engagement with digital media and decide if we want to allow commercial interests to determine all future modes of circulation. Six months ago, Halmos launched the beta version of a new initiative called Library Stack ( to begin to address the problem. It is a growing portal for art and culture ebooks, apps, video and sound media, providing general information, external links and online lending whenever possible. The goal is to build a comprehensive digital catalog of works by contemporary artists and cultural thinkers. Library Stack collects a range of dispersed, open projects, from free-standing artist applications to the digital output of established, medium-sized publishers. Thus, the closed databases of Amazon and iTunes are mixed with individually-produced works and various forms of open-access content. Library Stack’s growing catalog provides records to the OCLC Worldcat database system using the Open Archive Initiative standard protocol (OAI-PMH). In addition, Library Stack is built upon standardized structured data (i.e. to allow for more complete results with popular search engines, helping researchers find artists’ contributions in digital publications that might otherwise go overlooked.

Admittedly, addressing the metadata problem is only the first step; we have already begun working directly with publishers and authors to make primary content available to patrons through open digital lending. Though modest in scope, the process has so far been invaluable in learning the limits of public lending without a viable market-driven distribution system. Ultimately, we hope to provide both a new ebook database for research, and a distribution platform for libraries, but in order to do so we feel that we must first resolve the impasse between commercial and noncommercial interests through new modes of distribution.

Rethinking digital distribution demands significant attention. At its most fundamental, it means wresting digital content away from the software-license model and re-conceptualizing it as a digital object: a media file that may circulate online without dependencies on web services, proprietary DRM systems, or any central authority. Many existing media formats already meet these basic requirements, however, critical to any new scenario is the digital object’s ability to circulate through financial exchange systems as well: to be owned, resold and lent, as with physical objects, while also leveraging the infinite reproducibility of digital media. A key question for digital objects is how to create a market for them without inducing artificial scarcity. Rather than a central authority used in DRM models, we propose a cooperative model where each creator, publisher, distributor, lender, customer—and even would-be pirate—shares in the process of distribution as well as its profits. Without getting into the technical details, and at the risk of using a few buzzwords, Library Stack sees blockchain technology and “distributed apps” (sometimes collectively called Web 3.0) as providing mechanisms to circulate works in an open manner while disincentivizing piracy, and without having to resort to closed formats. (A whitepaper detailing the intricacies of this proposal is to come.) At this stage, we are chiefly interested in better understanding the needs of libraries and how they want to work with digital content. A truly library-forward digital distribution model may ultimately require the same level of library involvement as with their print collection management. Are libraries willing to make this investment for digital content if it allows for owning the works in a more meaningful way? Or is a service arrangement with an ebook collection provider an easier entry point? What are the critical features for libraries looking to expand their digital collections?

Current digital media has already been strongly shaped by commercial forces that are foreclosing on the future of digital library lending. We can build interim solutions (such as with the Library Stack), but the fundamental problems may not be fixable within existing media licensing regimes. Which is all the more reason why the future of digital library lending systems should be rethought now, as new technologies and new opportunities emerge that can redirect their trajectory.

Erik Wysocan
Erik Wysocan is an artist and founder of the independent arts imprint Halmos ( Last year Halmos launched Library Stack (, a digital card catalog of arts and culture media. He is also the creative director at Standard Analytics, a company working to reinvent scholarly publishing using open standards and artificial intelligence.

Works Cited

“What Market Share Do Amazon, Apple, B&N Kobo and Google Have Selling EBooks?” Good EReader EBook Audiobook and Digital Publishing News. N.p., 9 Oct. 2015. Web. 03 Jan. 2016. <;.

“Turning the Pixelated Page.” The Economist. The Economist Newspaper, 09 Oct. 2014. Web. 03 Jan. 2016. <;.

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The Package Deal / Barbara Opar, Syracuse University

Another fiscal year has ended and my library again was able to use unspent and reserve funds to acquire a number of large sets, including digital packages. One of these purchases is directly tied to my discipline so I am grateful for our ability to acquire such materials. However, I am also aware that not every institution uses funds this way or makes such a commitment to large packages– even those institutions with stronger collections budgets.

So I would like to review reasons for and against large purchases. Purchasing large sets at the end of the fiscal year is an easy way to spend down the budget and make a big impact. These resources are the kinds that one can advertise on library sites and describe in newsletters. To some extent, our library sets aside some funds specifically in order to make such purchases, intended to offer new content to a broad spectrum of the user population.

Large packages are often cross disciplinary- so do serve the community at large. As pre-selected content, the end use does not need to spend time trying to locate appropriate material- it is there conveniently prepackaged. Such packages allow the library to quickly build up a collection of resources to meet new program needs.

So what is the downside to such spending practices? Title by tile selection is not available to the librarian. Not all important academic content has been packaged or digitized. Scholarly titles may account for a very small percentage of the e-market. Duplication of existing materials in the collection may occur. Vendors are generally free to add or remove content during the negotiation process. While digitized content is most often of high quality, sometimes licensing agreements preclude inclusion. So the user assumption that the prepackaged content contains all the necessary material may not be accurate.

Large packages, especially digital ones, are not always cataloged down to the title level. Vendor supplied cataloging and search engines are making it easier to identify such material. Vendor access policies also vary greatly; the number of pages that can be printed may be limited. Preservation and maintenance of e-packages presents unique problems to the library already operating with less than optimal staffing. And what about the content that is not used or useful?

The pros and cons of large (digital) packages are considerations which must be weighed against the content being offered. E-packages allow 24/7 access. Archival content – not previously available – may only be offered via subscription to the whole. Such content may be new or just reformatted.

There is no right or wrong to the practice of acquiring this type of content. While the librarian may wish to have more monies available for title by title selection at a smaller scale, this may not be an option at the time.

My interest in writing this blog is not to challenge the purchasing method but rather to have collections librarians understand the differences in their institutions buying practices, share their thoughts with colleagues and learn from such discussions. Clearly more research on this is needed and should be considered. But as a start, I would certainly welcome your thoughts. Contact me at