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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Message from the new CDSIG Coordinator

For those who missed the 2017 conference in New Orleans, you can read the minutes that Christina Peter of the Frick Art Reference Library skillfully compiled; many thanks to Christina for doing this for several years now.

At the conference, the role of coordinator of the CDSIG transferred from Paula Gabbard (Columbia University, Avery Library), to Mary Wassermann (Philadelphia Museum of Art, writing here). Paula has overseen the CDSIG since 2014; our heartfelt thanks go to her for keeping the CDSIG blog a lively and interesting read, welcoming new members to this popular group, and last but not least, arranging our conference meetings and making sure they were not scheduled too, too early!

Looking ahead:
A suggestion was made to coordinate some type of meetings between the yearly ARLIS/NA conferences. This could involve engaging with another related SIG or division, and happen as a lunchtime web chat or real event.

The meeting would be on a single issue, here are ideas (some inspired by the NOLA meeting).

Please contact me via email if you’d like to help put something together.

  1. Collecting policies, cataloging and archiving of PDFs-invite the Cataloging Section.
  2. Benefits of consortia for e-resources.
  3. An introduction to collection development for new members of the profession – invite ArLisSNAP
  4. New trends in collection building and management
  5. Weeding of collections

And it is time to submit conference proposals, if you have an idea you’d like guidance with organizing or finding participants from the SIG, please let me know. One topic suggested in NOLA was new trends in publishing.


Finally, I will follow Paula’s lead in asking for volunteers to be scheduled to contribute posts for the blog. If you wish to be a contributor, or at any time have something you would like to post, please contact me as well.

Thank you,
Mary Wassermann

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ARLIS/NA Conference Collection Development SIG Meeting Minutes


Tuesday, February 7, 2017, 8:00 – 9:00 AM
Commerce Room, Hilton New Orleans Riverside Hotel

Moderator: Paula Gabbard
Recorder: Christina Peter
Approximately 30 members attending

The meeting followed the agenda assembled by Paula Gabbard.

  1. Introduction and changing of the guards. Paula Gabbard, who has been coordinator of the Collection Development SIG since 2014, announces that she will step down from her position. She introduces Mary Wassermann as the new SIG coordinator to begin after this meeting.
  2. Paula Gabbard introduces antiquarian bookseller Ray Smith, who proceeds with a presentation about his work and his relationship with ARLIS/NA. Smith has been a member of ARLIS/NA for 35 years; he last exhibited at the Boston conference in 2010. He is also a photographer who studied with Walker Evans and published an album of his own photographs of America. In Smith’s view, antiquarian vendors and librarians work together in a symbiotic relationship based on shared interests and scholarly pursuits. Vendors contribute to ARLIS by becoming members and also by generously supporting receptions and offering travel grants. Librarians learn from booksellers about titles they wouldn’t know of otherwise. Vendors are active partners in building library collections – as an example, Smith mentions his work with Milan Hughston at MoMa and Stephanie Frontz at the University of Rochester, who relied on him for their comic book collections.
  3. Mary Wassermann brings up the issue of small private collection catalogs. She has seen lately at the Philadelphia Museum Library a large influx of dealers’ catalogs as well as catalogs of individual named art collections, some of them ephemeral. She was wondering if other librarians have also noticed a proliferation of these kinds of publications and if so, whether they were keeping them. Deborah Smedstad of MFA Boston Library and Christina Peter of the Frick Art Reference Library stressed the importance and documentary value of these publications; both institutions collect them actively. Other librarians said that they did not feel the necessity for every institution to collect such items; they would be content to rely on interlibrary loans.|
  4. At this point Kim Collins enters the meeting and introduces herself as the board liaison for the SIG. She offers help for feedback and project charters.
  5. Susan Flanagan from the GRI brings up the subject of the acquisition of electronic resources through consortia. Susan described her work on the Product Review Committee of SCELC (originally the Southern California Electronic Library Consortium, now a nationwide organization) in her November 15, 2016 post to the ARLIS/NA Collection Development SIG blog. As member of the Committee Susan reviews and recommends new art-related databases to SCELC, which in turn negotiates pricing and licensing terms and offers the products to member libraries. The consortial group offers substantial discounts on products, which is a significant draw for libraries to join; the membership fee is $750/year. Comments to Susan’s remarks indicated that most academic art libraries as well as some museum libraries acquire their electronic resources via consortia. Deborah Smedstad mentions a potential drawback to consortial buying: the backlist may disappear by consortial agreement, something that happened to MFA Boston’s expensive Ebrary collection.
  6. Susan Davi, Head of Collection Management at the University of Delaware wants to know how art librarians handle single and package e-book purchasing and how they see the impact of electronic books on print collections. Susan is under serious pressure from her administration to reduce print collections in order to create space, and is wondering if others are in the same predicament. Anne Evenhaugen of the Smithsonian Libraries subscribes to the Taylor & Francis Conservation, Heritage & Museum Studies collection e-book package; she finds the e-books on conservation more useful than the art e-books. Beverly Mitchell of Southern Methodist University offers an option to users between print and electronic format; the faculty almost always asks for print. She thinks one of the reasons might be that the e-readers are very clunky. Laura Schwartz at UC San Diego subscribes to both JSTOR and Taylor & Francis e-book packages. She has good experiences, especially with the JSTOR package that does not require DRM. Susan Davi remarks that JSTOR is used more like its own database. The question whether librarians buy a certain title in both print and e-book format is raised; the comments seem to suggest that practices vary. Barbara Prior of Oberlin College mentions a survey at Oberlin asking faculty and students whether they prefer print or ebooks: not only the faculty but most of the students also opted for print. The Oberlin survey was in-house and the results have not been published. An increasing number of articles show a general preference of print over e-books from users. Paula Gabbard says that Columbia also did a survey on the issue with similar results.
  7. Christina Peter asks how librarians develop collecting policies for PDFs. The Frick Art Reference Library has developed a workflow to archive and catalog PDFs. Christina would like to know whether other libraries duplicate print and PDF publications, whether they target born digital publications only, and how how librarians keep track of new titles and backlogs. Jared Ash of the Metropolitan Museum’s Watson Library and Deborah Smedstad of MFA Boston are involved with collecting PDFs; there doesn’t seem to exist a consensus on the issues at this point.
  8. Christina Peter introduces her colleague Mary Seem’s idea of trying to coordinate meetings between the ARLIS conferences. Mary thinks that much could be shared and learned and it would be nice to connect with others involved and interested in collection development; such meetings would also benefit librarians who are not able to travel to the annual conferences. Mary Wassermann likes the idea; Beverly Mitchell suggests the use of the ARLIS lunchtime chats for the purpose; she would be in favor of meetings centering around a single issue.
  9. Mary Wassermann asks for ideas for the future. Laura Schwartz suggests the topic of new publishing models and recommends a potential session on how to deal with publishers for next year’s conference.

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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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Agenda items sought for Collection Development SIG 2/7 / Paula Gabbard

Second notice:

Hello to those interested in the Collection Development SIG.

If you will be attending the 2017 ARLIS/NA Conference in New Orleans, we hope to see you at our meeting on Feb 7 from 8:00-9:00 in our conference hotel.   The exact location has not been posted, but I sure hope it is eventually!

If you have burning issues you wish to discuss, could you kindly let me know so that I can add them to the agenda?  If they inspire a great deal of discussion, I will stop the discussion and ask that those interested meet as a group at another time either in a self-scheduled room or another location, and ask that someone be designated to report back to me, even in bullet point form, what occurred, or what actions are going to be taken.

If you have suggestions for a session for the 2018 ARLIS/NA Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana, please let me know, and let’s add this to the agenda to discuss as well.

We will be continuing with the Collection Development SIG Blog, and I would like to invite those of you with thoughts, ideas or concerns on subjects in our realm to please contact me if you would like to become a contributor or a regular author (contributing on a schedule at twice a year, and more if you’d like).  These blog posts can be as short as a few sentences.  The point is to provide useful information or to offer up thoughts about our lives in Collection Development or examples of ways to solve Collection Development problems, anything that will help our community and/or inspire dialogue.

At the end of our meeting, I will be transferring my chairmanship to our colleague Mary Wassermann of the Philadelphia Museum of Art (  Please join me in thanking her for taking on this assignment.

Thank you so much, and please email me with your suggestions and ideas,
Paula Gabbard  email:  phone: (212) 854-6745