ARLIS/NA Collection Development SIG Blog

For ARLIS/NA members interested in collection development issues.

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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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Curated Donation from Thea Westreich and Ethan Wagner increases Brooklyn Museum Libraries’ Holdings on Contemporary and Modern Art / Giana Ricci

This past summer the Brooklyn Museum Libraries received the latest installment of an ongoing major donation from renowned art collectors Thea Westreich and Ethan Wagner. As the 2016-2018 NYARC Kress Fellow, I was given the exciting task of accessioning, cataloging, and documenting this fascinating collection that predominantly pertains to modern and contemporary art from around the world. Spending time with each book and assessing its research topics has allowed me to create rich and accurate catalog records that reflect the importance of each contribution to our collection. While assigning call numbers for each item, I am able to understand how this donation is enriching our collection and where each book belongs within the scope of our entire library. Additionally, each record includes a credit line “From the Library of Thea Westreich and Ethan Wagner” to match the bookplate designed by the donors. Westreich and Wagner started to give part of their private library to the Brooklyn Museum in 2009 and since then over a thousand items have been cataloged ranging from artists books to exhibition catalogs to monographs. By adding specific information to our records listing Thea Westreich and Ethan Wagner as former owners, we allow researchers to easily discover which books once belonged to the donors and are now part of the Brooklyn Museum Libraries.

Many of the books are brand new, such as Body of Art edited by Diane Fortenberry and Rebecca Morrill and published by Phaidon in 2015. Glossy clean pages filled with large color photographs make for a beautiful display piece that also provides a fresh outlook on a heavily researched subject. Other books are older and less common, such as Early Color Photography by Sylvain Roumette and Michael Frizot, the first American edition published by Pantheon Books in 1986, which is now the only copy available in all three NYARC libraries. The acceptance of the Westreich/Wagner donation will allow the Brooklyn Museum Library to support a wider range of research in the field of modern and contemporary art. It can often be hard to supplement a collection through purchases alone. To have a curated collection of books gathered by two extremely knowledgeable and trustworthy art collectors, drastically reduces the amount of resources needed for collection development in this area. The opportunity to interact with this diverse collection has provided me with a chance to not only develop cataloging skills but also to gain a better understanding of the intricacies involved with collection development.

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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.