Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Final Report

Reflections on the project
During the research on how other organizations handle artists' books, I was surprised to discover that less than a handful of them use finding aids to describe the works. However, it was easy to see (literally) how cultural institutions continue to expand access to their artists' books collections through digitizing them and including entries within their organizations' catalogs. I learned a great deal about how many different ways there are to describe non-standard items (although we used a very abbreviated description rather than a MARC record style description). I found that I much preferred more detailed descriptions with quotations from the artists (if possible). I also enjoyed collections with multiple images of the works that could be magnified and viewed from different angles.

One platform I would like to learn more about (especially how to work with it) is CONTENTdm. This semester, while researching this project as well as my coursework, I discovered many digital libraries using the platform in many different ways. It seems as if the software allows for extensive descriptions, many images, and different cataloging techniques. I hope that I have the opportunity to work with this and experiment with creating a digital library on CONTENTdm.

Because I spent so much time with the artists' books, I have a much greater appreciation for them and works like them. Through a great variety of materials, each expresses different thoughts and feelings of the artist. I feel privileged to have been able to not only study the works at length, but to contribute to their being "seen" online by many more people. Working with the books made me want to spend more time with non-standard archival items and learn more about conserving and describing unique materials.

I learned that I need more practice with and knowledge about EAD. After exploring a range of different finding aids from a few libraries (university and otherwise), I discovered that there is a lot that can be done with EAD. I am planning to take the Manuscripts & Archives course at Rutgers in the spring, where I am sure to learn more about finding aids and EAD. I look forward to expanding this knowledge and putting it to work.

While collecting all the resources for the annotated bibliography, I was especially interested in the copyrights issues studied by librarians. It seems as though an entire course on copyrights could be given in an MLIS program such as the one offered by Rutgers. Additionally, I was inspired by all the sites focused on metadata. They made me want to study metadata as applied in digital libraries in much greater depth.

One of the aspects of this independent study that could be considered a drawback was the lack of access to Special Collections shared drives except through workstations on site (no remote access). Because I accomplished much of my work at home, it was necessary to then transfer files manually onto Michael Joseph's workstation when he wasn't using it to do other work or when he was serving on the Reference desk. While this situation delayed the progress of work, I was able to make up time when working at home on other aspects of the project. However, the situation was not optimal.

Creating the EAD files was difficult for a novice to do within XMetal2, the software Special Collections uses for creating finding aids. Fortunately, Caryn had supplied us with a template to use. The way it worked, when I wanted to see how a changed looked in HTML, I needed to key in a line of code within the DOS prompt to translate the file, then open a browser, and open the correct EAD file within the browser. Recently, I saw someone processing archives using the Archivists' Toolkit, which looked much easier to use and more straightforward. However, I do not have extensive knowledge of the software, and would like to learn how to use it.

Additionally, changes to the style sheet could only be made by Caryn and a limited number of others with access to it. When Michael and I considered offering more images with the finding aid, this option could only be handled through the style sheet, which was not available to us. Because Caryn had already been very generous with her time on this project, we decided not to tax her full schedule further by requesting a change in the style sheet that would offer multiple images with the finding aid. Michael's journal article will, in fact, contain links to all the images available for the collection. So, the images will be available online to those who wish to see more.

My first recommendation is that Rutgers should catalog its artists' books in order to make them more accessible within the online library catalog. This also may be done by creating a collection-level record that links to the finding aid we created. I suggest that this be given as a semester project to an MLIS student interested in cataloging non-standard items.

It is important to keep the newly housed artists' books safe, therefore my second recommendation is to find adequate storage space for the Suellen Glashausser collection within the larger archival collection. I also would recommend cataloging, photographing/scanning, and creating appropriate housing for the other artists' books in the library's possession. Because the conservators have been especially conscious about housing the Glashausser collection, I would suggest that they train an MLIS student interested in conservation in housing these unique and fragile items.

Because there may be many other resources the library could digitize and offer for viewing online, I recommend the library upgrade to a system that could house both the images as well as the catalog records (perhaps CONTENTdm). It would make digitizing collections more seamless than our project's steps (putting images on one server, creating the finding aid on another, and a not-as-yet-written collection-level record in the catalog on still another server).

Finally, I recommend creating a collection number for the finding aid so that it can be released for public use. Because that element is the only outstanding portion of the finding aid to be completed, it should be added so that we can accomplish our goal of making the collection accessible to a much greater audience.

To that end, I include this link so that you can see the finding aid prior to it's being formally "released." The only change (other than a possible photo for the last book) will be that collection number.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Tying Up Loose Ends

At this point, there is very little left to do on the finding aid for the Suellen Glashausser artists' books. Only a couple of images remain to be linked to the finding aid -- I made those earlier today from scanning books that had been in conservation while we worked on the rest of the project.

I have submitted the massive annotated bibliography as well as a draft of the documentation to Stew for his perusal. Left outstanding is a final document summarizing learnings and recommendations.

Next will be learning how the finding aid is released for public viewing.

Monday, November 16, 2009

In the Home Stretch

Earlier this afternoon, Caryn emailed with the needed code and some direction on how to go about making the links to the images from the EAD work. I will give it a try tomorrow when I get back to the library. It's getting very exciting. Once all that is in place and Michael and I have proofread and made our corrections to the finding aid, we'll just have to release it online.

At this point, there aren't that many to-dos left. I'm shaping my annotated bibliography, which has grown to be quite extensive. I also have to write my documentation of the process. We still need to label all the new housings for the artists' books and find them a new home other than Michael's office and Conservation. Michael asked me to copy edit his journal article, and I said I'd need to put it off until I met some of my deadlines (big projects due very soon). After I get the EAD file squared away, I should be able to give it an edit. Finally, I'll need to write an exit report with my observations, learning experiences, and recommendations.

I will sincerely miss working with the artists' books. I've come to appreciate them and know them after spending so much time with them, their images, and their descriptions. It also has been a very good experience spending Tuesdays and Thursdays with Michael this semester. He has taught me a great deal, and for that I am grateful.

I am also thankful for Teresa's help. She found all kinds of good and useful links for us in her research.

Best of all, I had the opportunity to meet many of the people who work in the Alexander Library on a daily basis and see how they do their jobs. The experience made me even more sure that I want to work in a university setting in special collections.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Nuts and Bolts

In the past week, we have been nailing down the details with the finding aid. Other than linking from the EAD document to the images on the library server, we're in the home stretch. Caryn is still working to figure out how we can make that happen. In our work toward that goal, I contacted a new pal at Princeton who directed me to an expert on EAD there. He then emailed me some code, which we haven't yet been able to apply successfully here. I hope we'll be able to figure it out in a week or so.

In the meantime, I will be helping Michael with his journal article for the Journal of the Rutgers University Libraries on Suellen's artists' books. He's asked me to copy edit the article and provide a list of the artists' books we're using for the finding aid along with links to the images online (a lot easier done in Word than in EAD). I immediately agreed to the editing work since reading the material would help me to develop more background for the finding aid. It also is work I am accustomed to doing -- I was copy chief at Electronic Design magazine and later managing editor of three technical magazines at IEEE.

I'm also working on the annotated bibliography as well as juggling my other course work this semester. It is quickly coming to a close, and my biggest worry is not completing all my deliverables prior to starting my winter vacation and apprenticeship in January.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Another Quick Update

I'm posting about this wherever I can because it's important to those of us studying copyright law:

N.J. gubernatorial candidate Chris Christie has violated Monty Python's copyrights.

Sunday, November 1, 2009


Last week, instead of my usual time at the Alexander Library on Thursday, I attended a full-day workshop at MARAC. I also went for a few sessions and the reception on Friday. Because this blog is focused on my independent study project, I decided to put my post on MARAC up on my first-ever blog, Here and There. All that to say, I invite you to read about my experience at the conference. It's a bit lengthy, but if you like hearing about these kinds of things, it will be worth the read. Hope you enjoy it!

My Time at MARAC

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

What's the Cost? (And other questions)

Last week, I wrote about our friends in Queensland and the information they shared with us on their collection. Since then, Teresa's questions have yielded a few responses that I'll share later.

But first, I'll address Stew's questions in last week's comments.

Stew, it's interesting that you mention the copyright process. For my Creating and Managing Digital Assets course (WISE, online), I'm working on a copyrights project that has given me lots of material for my annotated bibliography. Those resources will be included in my annotated bibliography for this project. I'm guessing the two will be very similar.

As far as the EAD goes, it is very structured. Caryn Raddick provided a framework for me to use into which I inserted our pre-edited text. The tags are already provided (EAD tags). As far as the language for the individual items go, we're not using a controlled vocabulary or a thesaurus. That's most likely because when we started this project, it was decided that we would not be making a collection-level IRIS record which would require so much more restriction than a finding aid requires.

We also wouldn't be able to showcase the images in IRIS the way we could in a finding aid. However, there is value in putting together a collection-level IRIS record in order to link to the finding aid and make it more findable. That's a recommendation for a future project.

If Rutgers used ContentdM as it's cataloging system, we would not have to making these kinds of decisions. We would just use the system to include the images and descriptions with the text as was needed. Ah well.

Teresa's Contributions
First, thanks once again to Teresa for all her great detective work. She sent me a collection of items which I examined at length. Here is an excerpt of the summary I sent her:

1. What was useful and why:
a. Artists' Books: Bound in Art - Library and Archives Canada -- This was useful to obtain some well-articulated historical information about artists' books (and the naming issue), the copyright statement (shown as "source"), the Further Research section. The descriptions were very thin, though, despite the 360 views and multiple photos. The social tagging element was worth considering. I used it to post about the site to my Facebook page.

b. Joan Flasch Artists' Book Collection -- This was especially good to see for the "browse by search terms" option. It revealed all kinds of helpful terms that we might be able to use in our descriptions or in perhaps a keywords section in the finding aid. I also really liked the metadata fields offered. I just finished researching metadata for my WISE course, and this collection offers info about the digital specifications that are particularly useful for digital preservation purposes. I've seen the Contentdm interface used in quite a few online collections. It seems that it's a very flexible system because there are tons of ways to use it (bad and good, I assure you!).

c. http://cool.conservation-us.org/lex/bookdsc.html -- was very helpful in terms of book arts terminology we could use to better specify in our descriptions (however, I'd need a glossary to truly understand them).

2. Books go to War: The Arms Services Editions in World War Two -- This was an interesting exhibit, although there was not copyright permission information on the letters in the CODA section you referred to in your summary. Michael and I had talked about combining the Suellen Glashausser archive with the artists' books finding aid, but it would become too unmanageable to handle unless a truly digitized collection. I also think the appearance of this site is very dated and incomplete. All that to say, it's useful in a lesson of what I wouldn't want to do with the Glashausser collection. Regrettably, it seems that we'll be limited by the format of the finding aids used by Rutgers Special Collections. Nonetheless, it's good to have an idea of what others are doing.

What doesn't do much for us:

1. Exhibits with limited metadata.
2. Exhibits with little descriptive information about the artist/work.

Online exhibitions are a bit different than collections within libraries, which is something we need to consider. For instance, the GBW Marking Time exhibit is just that -- the works aren't cataloged, although adequately described for an exhibit. So, that to say, they are interesting to look at and to think about in terms of display methods, but are not adequate for what we're doing now.

Being able to see how others catalog their artists' books and describe them in metadata such as in 1.b. above is extremely useful. Different techniques are important to consider. Learning about the technical aspects of bringing the collections to the web would be great as well.

If you could keep plugging away at objects that are included in finding aids, that would be really helpful. Thanks!

In a separate emailing, Teresa sent me a link to the Special Collections University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Book Arts Finder. This site is a pretty elaborate finding aid for the artists' books collection at this library. It is a good library teaching tool, albeit a bit low level. It in no way resembles any of the other finding aids that I have seen in that it is not a straightforward document, but rather a web site dedicated to finding these items within the library and online.

As far as the feedback that Teresa has provided from the ARLIS-L list serv goes, there is a pattern emerging that people do not know the actual costs of their digitization projects/programs. That puzzles me because if they had to account for the cost by a department head, they should be able to produce that number. Oh well. So far, the university libraries who responded all used graduate students to assist in their projects (a great way to save money and help them to gain experience).

Additionally, as we have found before, finding aids for artists' books are very few and far between. These items are cataloged as books, if they are held in libraries, which makes me think that our situation here at Rutgers is an anomaly. It makes me want to catalog the collection. Perhaps this will be a project for me to take up next semester as part of one of my classes.

Finally, one of the best things to come from this project has been the discovery of Zotero for creating the bibliography as well as the references for this blog. It is a great bit of software that lives within Firefox and goes a long way toward making web-based items more bibliographable.


Books Go To War. (n.d.). Retrieved October 27, 2009, from http://www2.lib.virginia.edu/exhibits/ase/

Espinosa, R. (n.d.). Structure outline for book description documentation. Retrieved October 27, 2009, from http://cool.conservation-us.org/lex/bookdsc.html

Introduction - Artists' Books: Bound in Art - Library and Archives Canada. (n.d.). Retrieved October 22, 2009, from http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/livres-d-artistes/index-e.html

SAIC Digital Libraries: Joan Flasch Artists' Book Collection. (n.d.). Retrieved October 22, 2009, from http://digital-libraries.saic.edu/cdm4/index_jfabc.php?CISOROOT=/jfabc

University of Wisconsin Digital Collections Artists' Book Collection, Book Arts Pathfinder. (n.d.). Retrieved September 30, 2009, from http://digicoll.library.wisc.edu/ArtistsBks/