The purpose of this session, sponsored by the Museum Library Division, was to examine the changing role of librarians in museum libraries. Ursula Kolmstetter (Indianapolis Museum of Art) posited four points for discussion in response to this challenge. Since many museum libraries are facing budget cuts, one way to broaden the base of visibility is to begin to practice outreach in the community. Another, is to participate in consortia, thus sharing the holdings of the museum libraries with other institutions which can be mutually beneficial. The third area is to examine the role of the museum librarian as web master, and finally, to be instigators of "microgalleries." With this is mind, Kolmstetter set up a panel of three museum librarians who have faced these types of challenges.
The first speaker was Suzanne Freeman (Virginia Museum of Fine Arts), who related her experience of making the library in this institution more visible not only to the in-house clientele, but to a broader public as well. The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is a state institution founded by the WPA in 1935. Freeman has begun initiatives to make the library more visible by offering tours and bibliographic instruction to the in-house staff, curatorial members, Docents, Fellows, etc. She contributes a column to the Museum's Bulletin as a means to inform the public of its existence and to solicit support for expensive new acquisitions. Freeman produces memos to the staff featuring new books in the library, identifies material for possible inclusion in exhibits which are rare and unique to the collection, and contributes items to the local paper, etc. Plans are in the works for making the collection accessible to students, especially those in higher education due to the museum's status as a state institution.
The second speaker, Jennifer Moldwin (Detroit Institute of Arts) spoke about the benefits of joining a consortium. When Moldwin first began to work in the museum library, all aspects of the library, public services, cataloging, acquisitions had deteriorated. In order to bring matters in line a five year strategic plan was developed. She felt it would be beneficial for the museum library to participate in the local consortium called DALNET (Detroit Area Library Network). This network includes nearby libraries of Wayne State University, Detroit Public Library, law libraries, hospital libraries and others. One of the first things was to work out affiliate relationships and change access policies. The Library is now open to students from Wayne State University and the Center for Creative Studies and visiting scholars for use of materials which are unique to the DIA collection and cannot be found elsewhere. Part of OCLC since 1978, the collection has continued to grow. Another benefit from this decision to belong to this consortia, Moldwin was able to negotiate e-mail accounts for the museum staff. In the near future plans are being made for a web site and a telnet access to holdings in the library.
Jeannette Dixon, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, became committed to developing a web site because of the MESL (Museum Educational Site Licensing) Project. By default, being one of the few people on staff aware of e-mail and internet access, she became actively involved in developing this web site. Dixon then opened the floor for discussion by asking the audience to relate their experiences with web sites. Members of the audience exchanged their frustrations and achievements. One librarian spoke of the difficulty in having control of the library web site, since any ideas and plans had to go through the Central Computer Office. Some librarians responded that they were part of steering or formal committees which included participants from the curatorial staff and library administrators and in one case, the publications staff in constructing the library home page. One librarian mentioned that they had an advertising agency develop their home page which met with less than successful results. Others working on library home pages were also including links to other related sites, i.e. other museum libraries with home pages as well as linking, for example, to an in-house digitizing project with restricted access because of copyright issues. In another institution the library home page is part of the Publications department, because the curator felt content in any version was her responsibility. Another provocative question was asked: who is the audience for web pages? For most part those who have access to the web are University students. Another question that was asked--do libraries who have home pages collect web sites on specific topics? A multiple of responses ensued: one librarian is working on a community project on Indiana artists with links to other institutions. MOMA is thinking about putting its list of artists book on a web site.
Other topics included the discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of belonging to a consortium. Moldwin was asked whether the library had access to online databases through DALNET. Each institution that belongs to this consortium is able to customize this type of accessibility, which resulted in the DIA library having access to the Art Index. Further discussion from the audience revealed that some problems ensued when special libraries belonging to a consortium cannot fully participate because of their non-circulating status. The librarian from Nelson-Atkins commented that since they have became involved with the Linda Hall Science Library, the benefits of linking arts and science proved very beneficial. A new consortium is being planned with the Kimbell, Amon Carter Museum, and Museum of Modern Art in Fort Worth, Texas which would combine their Library holdings. A consultant was hired to standardize access to these libraries through the local university art history programs. The Philadelphia Museum of Art is part of PACSCL (Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries) which includes 21 institutions with special collections in libraries. Plans for an an exhibition to celebrate the millennium are in the works and will be involving all participants. The Librarian from the Boston Museum of Fine Arts felt that being part of a consortium was very helpful, not only because of the ability to use resources from other libraries, but also to raise funds as a group. Discussion continued about the lack of OPACs in some museum libraries which is a deterrent for joining a consortia. Some librarians commented on the resistance of curators to use and learn technology.
Some questions thrown out to the audience for perusal were: Since the web page has such the potential for such a wide audience, where does one draw the line for outreach? When serving the public becomes overwhelming, do you then charge patrons? Many museum libraries had different responses. One library is open to the public by appointment only. Another museum library has the policy to serve as many people as possible.
Another problem discussed was marketing librarians to the curatorial staff, which they primarily serve. Suggestions were made on how this could be done: giving orientation tours, presentations in curatorial meetings, soliciting support for the library from within by organizing workshops for curatorial staff. In one institution, a librarian is assigned to a curatorial member to work on exhibition. Another librarian provides a bibliography to the curators working on exhibitions to draw them into the library. Another suggestion was to compile acquisition lists. Also, providing curatorial staff with access to RLIN Eureka so they can become self sufficient.
Discussion was closed by moderator of session.
Art Institute of Chicago