This question was also posed at the Visual Resources Association (VRA) conference in February and this session was part two of the series. All speakers agreed it was a timely topic and that both "sides" shared common issues and problems. Debbie Kempe of the Frick Art Reference Library questioned "why can't we all just be friends?", observing that this is an ever-present topic. She suggested that collaboration with many different professionals is important. She presented the idea that although it may be liberating to not blindly follow the Library of Congress headings in cataloging materials, it is important to agree upon certain standards. At the Frick they are just beginning to consider a system for images and so far they've agreed upon the following criteria: textual description must be first; item level is important; different systems must be linkable; there must be some contribution of records to a national database; use MARC as foundation, but not be restricted to it. The problems of attribution, provenance and name authority are still being debated. The Luce Foundation has provided a five year study grant to develop a record structure. She hopes the record structure will be flexible enough to change as standards change. She expressed hope for future cooperation at conferences, more opportunities for communication and dialogue, and a desire to see professionals move into administrative positions.
Marty Stein of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, said she must rely on opportunities at meetings to discuss standards, museum issues, name authority, and other such issues with librarians. There is already positive collaborative work going on with Museum Educational Site Licensing Project (MESL) and Art Museum Image Consortium (AMICO). It is our job to educate the museum professionals as to what we/they should be doing and that we are the ones who know how to work with record structures.
Joy Blouin, of the University of Michigan, has been designing an electronic database since the mid-1980's which includes text and images. Others at the University of Michigan are now getting involved in like projects and the University is moving toward an integrated image environment. Collaboration with the School of Information started two years ago. Currently, Joy is working with staff from the Archives to identify photographs of local architecture and sculpture to build a database. In the future, she sees integrating images into the library's OPAC. She sees administrative questions arising due to the existence of divisions dependent on format and different reporting relationships for each department. Each area has developed a unique system for pulling their things together. The specific projects undertaken at Michigan have shown many obstacles can be overcome. What can we learn from the integration of traditional and non-traditional forms of media? 1. Information professionals' approach to solutions with conversations and cooperation may mean yielding some control. 2. Educate faculty and collaborate closely so funding is more likely to become available. Joy stressed that we spend more time talking to other people within our institutions.
Margaret Webster, Cornell University., asks herself, "What am I doing, Why am I doing it, Who am I doing it for?" Changes in our environments must reflect these questions. As many visual resources professionals continue to work in awkward surroundings, with the image collection serving as the "hub of the department", the Internet begins to change all that and allows communication beyond the department. It's been demonstrated that the visual image enhances curriculum and eventually a national image database is required. To do so, standards need to be established, with the possibility of local adaptations. Visual resources professionals need to develop a clear set of goals, be flexible, and look to serve old and new clientele. Consider what was essential in the old systems, what's new and necessary, and communicate constantly. Visual resources collections must be integrated into a complex new environment.
Merrill Smith, from Rotch Library at MIT, took the librarian's point of view, with the advantage of having spent ten years in a visual resources collection. She sees this as an exciting time, with the challenge of setting standards for visual resources collections and databases. At MIT, the new library director asked each academic department what they wanted, and the answer was: we want it at our desktop, images at the drafting table, Computer Assisted Design wherever necessary, etc. Images and maps, just another form of information, were desired in the same way that full-text is--wherever and whenever. Training becomes an issue--some faculty, librarians, and visual resources people have a long learning curve--students don't, usually. Publicity is important to let faculty know what's available. Merrill suggested that we should learn lessons from the book world: share information to control costs; set standards and adhere to them; minimize customization; develop standards for site licenses, acquisitions, etc.
Martha Mahard, Visual Resources Librarian, Fine Arts Library, Harvard College, Fogg Museum, observed that, like the world's oldest profession, visual resources professionals have become so specialized that they are identified with their media. Users are looking for information that's media-blind and need a system that responds to that need. VR professionals can't afford to be isolated or to "re-invent the wheel". Book librarians have figured a lot of this out. Visual Resources curators should develop and use collection development policies. At the Fine Arts Library, staff are working on developing one policy for both the book library and the slide collections. Such collaboration is a first--these collections previously prided themselves on not talking to each other. Harvard has realized that its 54 separate visual collections needed to work together, and a collaborative policy-making group has been formed, including museums, archives, and slide collections. They can and will all learn procedures and practices from the previous experience of the book collections.
Questions from the audience centered around sharing questions and concerns with the book librarians and the need for greater overlap between the Visual Resources Association (VRA) and Art Libraries Society of North America (ARLIS/NA). Another big topic was standards--moving from an environment of no standards to an environment in which nation-wide standards are used. Margaret Webster announced that the VRA Data Standards Committee will be working on a second version of the Core Categories. The Research Libraries Group (RLG) has proposed that core categories be developed during summer, with testing by a group in RLG during September. Evaluation of the test would occur during late fall and early winter with feedback and results presented at joint session of ARLIS/VRA in Philadelphia. Thus, collaboration has started and this test will show what might be needed--perhaps a supplement to AACR2. Other developments on the collaboration front include Art NACO (art authority consortium), some library OPACs loading collection level records for visual resources collections (Indiana University), getting images on the web into OPACs, and having visual resources representation on the ARLIS Cataloging Advisory Committee.
Stephanie J. Frontz
University of Rochester