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/

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Following Up on the Follow Up

Last week, I posted a few questions I sent to the lovely Queensland librarian for more information. She responded quickly with the following information:

Dear Deb

Following your email, I have a bit more information for you about our Artists Books Online http://www.slq.qld.gov.au/whats-on/exhibit/online/ab.

1. I unfortunately can’t provide an accurate costing for this project. For the most part it was time spent by two staff (both librarians) over a period of approximately 9 months. The process involved making a selection from our large collection, so that meant meeting with each other and compiling an initial list. A “realistic” number of around 50 was arrived at. As you are, I’m sure, aware, numerous artists books are collaborative works, involving 2 or more people. For example, you can have a case of one person who has the concept, another might be the printmaker/papermaker or binder, or there could be a piece of text/poem as a starting point. All of these collaborators would be contacted for their permission so that we could “publish” the work on our website. All received a covering letter along with a Non-exclusive copyright form to complete and return to us, as well as a detailed summary of the book, its description, the processes employed and where possible an artist’s statement about the process of making the book, the choice of materials.

2. Our selection criteria consisted of choosing books which we believed would have strong visual appeal in the online environment. Whilst we do have a large collection of titles, not all are visually arresting. Colour was also an issue. Some spectacular examples of artists books do not necessarily “present well” online. We also had a little bit of slippage in the fact that a few (not many) of selected artists could either not be contacted, because they had moved, or did not get back to us. When in doubt, we had to cross them off the list. On the whole, the response from the book artists was overwhelmingly positive. They absolutely wanted to be represented on our website.

3. I would say that the selection phase was fairly short – 2 to 3 weeks. The photography certainly took longer, several months, as we would take a number of books at a time for our photographers in our Image Production Unit to do the work, bearing in mind that our project was not all they had to do. Assigning of the file names would have taken a few weeks, again done over a period of time by our web services people. The Queensland Education Department, known as Education Queensland , had a staff member working at State Library, and her job was to liaise with a number of teachers who had manifested interest in developing curriculum which was added to the Artists Books Online part of the website. The collection was already catalogued, in the sense that all our artists books are catalogued as is everything else in our collections.

4. Artists Books Online comes under the What’s On/ Exhibitions/ Online path accessible through our Home Page. It gives a brief definition of the many definitions of what constitutes an artist’s book. There are quite a few links there with suggested other sites showing artists books. Then there is the capacity to Find all or find a category of artists books. The searching tool is quite good.

5. The artists’ books are catalogued according to the rules that the State Library adheres to for  all cataloguing. They can be found in our OneSearch catalogue via title, author/artist, subject heading/s and keyword. They normally bear a call number ALAAB (Australian Library of Art Artists Books) followed by, generally, the first three letters of the artist’s name, or in some cases, the organisation – in the case of a collaborative work created by artists from a university.

6. We looked at a broad range of online artists’ books collections, some of which are referred to in one of the links. Also bear in mind the fact that the list is probably a bit old now.

I expressed my gratitude to her for providing such informative responses. I also asked Teresa if she could ask the same questions
1. What was the cost of the project?
2. What was your selection criteria?
3. How long did each phase of the project take? (I.e., how long did the selection process take, how long did it take the photographers to shoot all the books, how long did it take for the technical portions to be put together, how long did it take to catalog the collection?)
4. Did you develop a finding aid for the collection?
5. Did you catalog the artists' books any differently than other objects?
6. What other artists' books online collections did you examine prior to producing your collection?
of the list serv folks she's been corresponding with about the project.

In other news, I provided Michael with a copyright permission letter (that I made from a template) to send to Suellen Glashausser's widower and the person who took the original digital photos we'll be using in the finding aid. He has since sent out the letters, and hopefully, we'll be seeing the signed copies soon.

In the meantime, I will be spending the majority of my time entering metadata into the EAD framework Caryn supplied. She and I met on the 15th (last Thursday) to clear up some of the questions I had about converting the EAD to HTML. Unfortunately, I cannot access the library's special collections server remotely (it's not just me, it's everyone), so I'll be doing the work at home on Tuesday in Textpad and transferring it to the server when I'm on campus again on Thursday.

Finally, I have been investigating funding options should the library decide it would be a good thing to apply for a grant for a digitization program in special collections (mainly of artists' books). I've sent Michael a few links on grant funding resources, and will continue to look into it. However, what I've found so far makes me think that the library would need to apply next year in the summer since most of the grants for arts and humanities digitization projects were posted in July and just closed at the beginning of October. Something to remember for the future.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Week in Email

Since my last post, my email has been filling up with correspondence on this topic. Most importantly, my friend and fellow classmate, Teresa has begun her term project for Principles of Searching, for which I have volunteered to be her "person". You may remember that I kept a similar kind of blog for my turn in that classroom.

Well, Teresa is pretty swift. Once she had a grip on my initial needs for the project, she sent an email to ARLIS-L, and received 20+ replies in less than 24 hours. This was the text of her original note (reprinted with her permission and encouragement):
Subject: [ARLIS-L] Book Art finding aids?

Dear Collective Knowledge,

I am working on my MLIS at Rutgers University and am looking for some guidance. For one of my classes I need to assist a real person in a information seeking process. I have decided to help one of my fellow students who is working on an independent study to digitize some of the artists books in Rutgers' Special Collections. She is a novice when it comes to both artistic media and XML, so she is looking for examples to draw from to create her finding aids.

Thus far, she has only been able to find very few examples of online finding aids for artist's books, which has stalled her progress.
I was wondering if any of you have such finding aids or know of any available online. If so please email me the link off list.

Also, this seems more unlikely, but her adviser asked to find some declaration of the 'best' collection of artists books online. I'm not sure how many of these could exist considering the relatively small digital presence of the materials, but I might as well give it a shot.

Thank you all for your time.

Teresa Slobuski
MLIS Candidate ~ Rutgers University

Along the lines of last week's blog entry, Teresa had quite an interesting email back and forth regarding copyrights with a Special Collections librarian at the University of Delaware. That librarian recommended the WATCH file, which is a searchable (by first and last name) database of writers and artists, and their copyright contacts. I tested it by entering "Suellen Glashausser" but received no results. Perhaps it will be useful for others.

In addition to all the emails Teresa's been getting with great interest in the project, she also has been researching finding aids. She revealed that most of the artists' books collections she has seen show the works cataloged at the book level, and not via a finding aid. I think this would be an excellent way to go, but I don't think this will happen at Rutgers.

Speaking of finding aids, I started to finally work on the coding in the EAD framework that Caryn had provided, but was unable to show it effectively as an HTML file. When I spoke with Caryn, she mentioned that they (special collections folks working on EAD documents) had been having trouble with the system and she would talk with me more about it on Thursday.

There also is a related issue in that I may need to relocate to an office where I can access the program that handles EAD on the library's server (which I don't have access to at the moment). Micheal says that they cannot access it remotely, which is unfortunate because I could easily sit at home and work on the code.

Otherwise, I heard back from one of the librarians who worked on the Queensland artists' books site referenced in this blog entry. She mentioned that the first part of their project involved selecting a sample from their collection of more than 1,000 artists' books. Next, the librarians contacted the book artists for copyright permission to display images of their works on their site, as well as to ask the artists for statements about their work to include in the catalog record. They have a photography department, who took all the photos (every page of an item). In some cases, the proofs the photographers provided weren't adequate, so they had to re-shoot the photos.

They employed their web services staff to handle the technical portion of the project. They also collaborated with their education department (which has artists' bookmaking as a course -- how cool is that?) for teaching modules to be posted on the site. Queensland also hosted a local book artist, Adele Outteridge who ran a workshop on how to make artists' books.

I have a few follow-up questions to ask the librarian at Queensland who has been so helpful and informative. Here's my list:

1. What was the cost of the project?
2. What was your selection criteria?
3. How long did each phase of the project take? (I.e., how long did the selection process take, how long did it take the photographers to shoot all the books, how long did it take for the technical portions to be put together, how long did it take to catalog the collection?)
4. Did you develop a finding aid for the collection?
5. Did you catalog the artists' books any differently than other objects?
6. What other artists' books online collections did you examine prior to producing your collection?

I'd probably ask a few more questions, but they have been more than generous with their time already.

Last but not least, Teresa found this neat collection of online artists' books at Reed College. I really like the way each work's accompanying information is organized and how the site offers links to external information about the artist. I also like that it offers a way to view the cataloged books in Contentdm, the program used by the college to catalog its library's contents. I've seen it used by many libraries and other digital collections. What I don't like is that you don't have the ability to zoom in on elements of individual works. Some of the pieces are very detailed and the visitor doesn't have the opportunity to really see the detail in those works. Regardless, each site I see brings more lessons on how to do or not to do an online digitization project.


Artists' books (State Library of Queensland). (n.d.). Retrieved September 30, 2009, from http://www.slq.qld.gov.au/whats-on/exhibit/online/ab.
Reed College's Artists' Books . (n.d.). Reed Digital Collections, Artists' Books. Retrieved October 14, 2009, from http://cdm.reed.edu/cdm4/artbooks/index.php.
The WATCH File: Writers, Artists and Their Copyright Holders. (n.d.). Retrieved October 14, 2009, from http://tyler.hrc.utexas.edu/.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Copyrights, Fair Use, and Attribution

From the beginning of this project, I've had two to-dos on my list:

1. Obtain permission to publish photographic images of Suellen Glashausser's works both in the finding aid and in Michael's journal. This will be done by sending a letter with a copyright permission form to Ms. Glashausser's widower. We will need the signed form prior to publishing the images.

2. Develop attribution information (and possibly obtain copyrights permission, if not within fair use) for the artist's statements that accompany some of the descriptions of the works.

Yesterday morning, while folding invitations for the upcoming book arts symposium, Michael and I discussed those to-dos as well as a few others. Point 2 was of particular interest because we differed in our opinions on how to handle the matter.

For the majority of this semester (the last 6 weeks), the readings for my two online classes have included content on copyright law because it figures very heavily in digital collections as well as online interfaces. The references below include class readings for the WISE course Creating and Managing Digital Assets as well as results of other searching I've done on the topic myself. While I am not an expert in this field, the information was fresh in my mind as we discussed the matter.

Michael and I also discussed fair use as it would apply to the quotes. I agreed that the quotes could fall under fair use because they were one or two sentence snippets of the original works and would be used solely for scholarly information. However, the attribution information for each of the statements was still an issue over which we disagreed.

My assertion was that each of the statements should have its own citation (whether in a references section or as a footnote). Michael argued that we could identify the quotes with an umbrella statement saying that the artists words originated in a variety of documents, without specifically naming the documents or their dates of publication.

After much consideration, Michael pulled the quotes from the descriptions, although we did save a copy of the document with the quotes just in case it was decided that we would research the origins of the statements from the archives. It would most likely require some intense detective work, which is not within the scope of this Independent Study. However, if a student wished to take on the effort and contribute the information later, I am sure that it would add a nice dimension to the finding aids and eventual digitized collection.

I think that if I had not been so steeped in my recent (and continuing) readings of copyright law with regard to digital collections, I probably wouldn't have stood my ground as solidly. However, on this point, it is clear that if a user who had been involved in producing one of the original documents were to discover a quote that had not been properly cited in our finding aid or Michael's journal, he/she could potentially sue the university for violation of copyright if the attribution issue were not resolved. Regrettably, there are case studies of this kind of thing happening.

A very important lesson in all this is that collegial discussion of differing opinions is key. I'm glad that we work in an atmosphere where we can honor each others' thoughts and knowledge on subjects. It is the responsibility of researchers and students to be able disagree without becoming disagreeable. A lively debate is an important part of learning for everyone. We all gain by the experience.

Old Business

Last week, Stew left the following note:

V. nice, thorough job in overviewing digitized collections of artists' books. You note that few are done "well." Is there one that is recognized as "best" or is otherwise well noted that you could use as a benchmark? What are its characteristics that could be emulated? Or pick and choose from several, for example, the intro. page from the Queensland site. This is out of my domain, but I visited several and think they all might have some copy-able (??) characteristics.

It looks like the finding aids work is gaining momentum, and that aspect will be interesting to follow.

Regarding your reference list, do any of the ones you listed have authors? Groups responsible for the intellectual content.

Overall a very inclusive, readable and informative report. Thanks!

To address Stew's questions/comments (in order of appearance):

1. I have not yet found a digitized collection of artists' books recognized as "the best" and we have not yet identified one to use as a benchmark. Part of the reason is that the scope of the project is now limited to the finding aid and Michael's journal rather than a true digitized collection of artists' books. (See the comment below about the grant discussion.)

2. I also believe that there are items on each of the sites that are worthy of imitation -- especially the landing page of the Queensland site.

3. We are still working out the details on the finding aid, and will most likely nail down how to move forward on that this week (we'll need to because we're already pretty far into the semester and I need to start coding).

4. Regarding the reference lists, I don't have a lot of references with actual authors rather than institutions. However, you will be happy to discover that this week's list includes quite a few authors.

Otherwise, I suggested to Michael that we look into getting a grant for a full digitization of the artists' books collection for the following reasons:

1. It would expand the scholarly knowledge of artists' books.
2. The project requires significant funding not currently available to the libraries (for a professional photographer, for a full-time person to create the code for the metadata and enter the metadata and digital images into the database, etc.)
3. It would add prestige to the libraries if the collection proved to become the benchmark needed for this type of object digitization within libraries (or at least artists' books).

I'm not sure if the grant will be considered since the library is already making cuts that are quite painful (staff, etc.). However, it was worth thinking about and is now documented for future students to consider in their efforts.


Cornell University Copyright Information Center. (n.d.). Retrieved October 7, 2009, from http://www.copyright.cornell.edu/.

Hughes, L. (2008). Digitizing Collections. Digital Futures Series (p. 327). London: Facet Publishing.  

Minow, M. (n.d.). Library Digitization Projects and Copyright. Retrieved October 7, 2009, from http://www.llrx.com/features/digitization.htm.

Samuels, E. (n.d.). The Illustrated Story of Copyright. Retrieved October 7, 2009, from http://www.edwardsamuels.com/illustratedstory/iscsmall/indexsmall.htm.

Smith Levine, M. (2000). Overview of Copyright Issues. In Handbook for Digital Projects: A Management Tool for Preservation and Access (First., pp. 74-92). Andover, Mass.: Northeast Document Conservation Center.  

U.S. Copyright Office - Law and Policy. (n.d.). Retrieved October 7, 2009, from http://www.copyright.gov/laws/.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Boldly Going Where Not That Many People Have Gone Before

Over the past week or so, I have been researching at length digitized collections of artists' books available online. The upshot is that there aren't that many and, sadly, there are fewer that do it well ("well" meaning that the collections are easily navigable, the images are high-quality, the descriptions are consistent, etc.).

This morning, I sent a few representative samples to Caryn Radick, who was kind enough to invite me to her class yesterday on EAD. I'll share a bit about that later. But, for now, here are the examples I sent her:

  1. The Artist's Books Online site is a compendium of artists' books organized by title, artist, publication date (a misnomer, really it should be "creation date" in most cases), and by collection. What I like most about this collection is that in the individual records, users can see the metadata organized into nice chunks. Here's an example of a record: http://www.artistsbooksonline.org/works/dark.xml that shows what I mean. Data such as "reception history" is particularly interesting and unique. I haven't yet seen that elsewhere. Finally, probably the most useful for our project is the FAQs, where the site has all kinds of helpful info on the DTD, tags, etc.
  2. The University of Wisconsin Digital Collection Artists' Book Collection (http://digicoll.library.wisc.edu/ArtistsBks/) is a nice example of what can be done with the images to make them more accessible to users. However, the sizes of the images aren't listed. It's also inconsistent in terms of its metadata. But, it does give us interesting things to consider. Once you get into the collection, the navigation is somewhat improved, but I wouldn’t want to have folks stumble around so much right off the bat.
  3. One of the oldest and largest collections of artists' books in the United states is at the Otis College of Art and Design (http://www.otis.edu/life_otis/library/collections_online/artists_books.html). I really don’t like their nested scrolling, but I do like how they incorporated a way to manipulate the image to see it better or from different angles. They are the only place I’ve seen to do that for artists' books, but I have seen the interface used at other digital archives to achieve the same goals. They, on the other hand, implemented it correctly, hence no annoying nested scrolling.
  4. The State Library of Queensland, Australia provides the best intro page I've seen: http://www.slq.qld.gov.au/whats-on/exhibit/online/ab. While we wouldn’t need all of those links, this page is a great example of how to show users an easy way to find out more about the collection. This type of design will be especially helpful when the remaining artists books are added to our collection. Another page I really like is this one: http://www.slq.qld.gov.au/whats-on/exhibit/online/ab/find_artists_books. It allows searchers to search by the type or theme of the work. It would also provide us a way to showcase N.J. artists. I’m not saying we would need a separate page for this, but we need to consider how people will search for these items. In individual records, I like that they include a "Conditions of Use" line. This feature makes it easy for users to find this important information for each item.
  5. The Victoria and Albert Museum (http://www.vam.ac.uk/collections/prints_books/features/artists_books/index.html) has displayed a limited number of items in its artists' book collection. Their records are pretty elemental – simple, yet informative. The photo info is good as well because it tells users how to correctly caption photos should they obey the copyright and use an image, but (like most of the others) no image size is included. On individual record pages, at the bottom, it just says “Other Images of this Object” so it will excuse objects that only have one image.That will work well for us. One other thing I don't like is how the text flows around the image in some cases. It looks sloppy.

Overall, I was surprised to see how low the quality of the images were. I'm hoping that ours will surpass these. I have been opening them all to see their sizes and have found some to be quite satisfactory (although some will be unusable.

Regarding yesterday's EAD class, I wish I had thought to ask a few questions in advance, but I didn't. Chalk it up to a learning experience. Questions I wish I had asked:
  1. What is the name of this course?
  2. Can I please have a list of the links to the reading materials provided online?
  3. Who are the other students in the course (there were only 8 students in the class last night)?
  4. Where does the lesson on EAD fit with the rest of the course materials? (I.e., may I have copy of the syllabus?)
  5. What is the full name of the other person teaching the course (he introduced himself as "Tom")?
Otherwise, I was surprised to find that after doing only the cursory reading I've done on the topic, I was able to follow along. I'm still a bit lost as to how it fits in with the rest of the software and programming for an online library, but I'm sure that will come with time.

Caryn mentioned that it's unusual for folks to take the course without first having taken the archives course, but it's only given in the spring at Rutgers, so I have to wait for it.

The class seemed to be focused on finding aids, so that fit in nicely with what Caryn, Michael, and I will discuss on Thursday. The most useful part of the class was when she walked us through the code of the finding aid alongside the end version (which she called the html version, although we didn't see the code, we just saw the browser output). She also showed a finding aid the library had done that included some images and was trying to learn how to produce something like it for our project.

I hope that some of the items I sent her (above) will help her.

Last but not least, I'm trying a new way of handling references online using Zotero. It's a work in progress, but getting closer.

Artists' books (State Library of Queensland). (n.d.). Retrieved September 30, 2009, from http://www.slq.qld.gov.au/whats-on/exhibit/online/ab.
Artists' Books Collection - Otis College of Art and Design. (n.d.). Retrieved September 30, 2009, from http://www.otis.edu/life_otis/library/collections_online/artists_books.html.
Artists' Books in the Collection - Victoria and Albert Museum. (n.d.). Retrieved September 30, 2009, from http://www.vam.ac.uk/collections/prints_books/features/artists_books/database/index.php.
Artists' Books Online. (n.d.). Retrieved September 30, 2009, from http://www.artistsbooksonline.org/index.html.
University of Wisconsin Digital Collections Artists' Book Collection. (n.d.). Retrieved September 30, 2009, from http://digicoll.library.wisc.edu/ArtistsBks/.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Metadata and Consistency

Earlier today, Michael Joseph and I discussed cataloging and metadata for the collection of Suellen Glashausser artists' books. The discussion was inspired by my recent discovery of the online artist's book collection at the University of Wisconsin. I had performed a Google search on the keywords "digitizing artists books" and found some nice examples, but this collection appeared to be the best digital representation of the group. When I emailed Michael about it, I had suggested using it as a formatting template.

The way the books are displayed is very useful. The collection offers a variety of different views and image sizes, although the sizes aren't labeled. We started looking deeply at the metadata provided for a few of the books and found that the information provided was not consistent. Because this became immediately apparent after viewing the first three books in the collection, we began discussing exactly what we wanted to do about form and genre, as well as subjects within the metadata of our collection.

We wondered what the controlling agent was for the controlled vocabulary at the University of Wisconsin. Is there an "approved list" of metadata terms? Will we need to become indexers as well as catalogers in this process? I made a note to email the UW folks to ask them those questions directly.

Other topics we discussed at length included the following:

Form and genre: this would be one line in our system because there is such a blurring of the lines that takes place in artists' books that it would be best to just approach them both at the same time. Some examples of terms for that field would be "artists' books," "altered books," and "flexagon."

We also looked at one of the already-existing catalog records in IRIS for artists' books. To our dismay, however, many of the records were for books that we wouldn't classify as artists' books. Michael was able to find one for an artists' book in our collection that showed we need to include more information, particularly descriptive information rather than just what was included in IRIS. Additionally, I noted something helpful for another project I'm working on -- a proposed redesign of IRIS. We tried to follow a link to a cross reference named "cataloging of artists books" which did not reveal anything. Users also cannot search on either form or genre within IRIS.

I still have to sort out the images for our collection, because I discovered (via Michael's direction) that there is another folder of accompanying images that are superior in quality to the previous set of photos I had viewed.

It might be a good idea to start forming a project plan at this point.


University of Wisconsin Digital Collections. (2009). Artists' book collection. Retrieved from http://digital.library.wisc.edu/1711.dl/ArtistsBks.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Deliverables Update

As I mentioned in my last post, while the overall shape of the project really hasn't changed, some of the deliverables will, if only slightly. This morning, I spoke with Stew about the project to check in and let him know how it's going. I mentioned that while there were many photographs of the artwork, some would be unusable for the ultimate goal of producing finding aids with photos of the works.

A limitation for me personally is that I am not a professional photographer with professional cameras, lights, etc. Otherwise, I would do my level best to replace some of the photos with ones that could be used in a professional archive. The rooms in the Special Collections area are not suitable for this type of work due to the fluorescent lighting. However, much of the Alexander Library is an atrium, with lovely natural lighting.

While we were chatting, I remembered that at the Zimmerli museum, a photographer was hired to come when new works were to be displayed or added to the collection. I wondered aloud to Stew if I ought to suggest teaming with the Zimmerli or obtaining the photographer's contact information to get a quote for photographing the artists' books collection in a professional environment. He thought it was a good suggestion. I will mention it to Michael Joseph later today.

If it turns out that there is no budget for the photographer, at Stew's suggestion, I'll document the photographs that need replacement for a time when funding does appear.

In the meantime, in the Suellen Glashausser artists' books' descriptions, I can note where new photos need to be provided.

With regard to some of the conservation challenges, I contacted a high school chum who works at the Metropolitan Museum to pick her brain. She was enormously helpful and suggested contacting a friend of hers who is a book conservator at the National Archives. I am enormously grateful to be able to gain new knowledge on the topic as well as professional contacts in the field. It seems that each challenge seems to come with its own gifts.

Last week, I also had the good fortune to meet with Caryn Radick, a processing archivist at Alexander Library's Special Collections. She is an EAD specialist, and spoke to Michael and me about how to use the digital archiving structure to produce finding aids. One of the things we will have to do is to plan where we can store the works because that cataloging information will be an important part of the finding aid. A typical way of doing that would be to label the boxes once we have had boxes made for the books by the conservation department.

Caryn asked me to provide her a sample of some of the entries I have already produced in order to best compose a structure for us to use. I emailed them to her on Friday, but have not yet heard back. I might stop into her office on Thursday, and ask if there is anything further I could provide to her.

Finally, one of the outstanding questions in my mind (especially due to my online courses this semester on digital libraries and such) is where we stand with copyrights. Do we have permissions to publish photos of the artists' works? Will our material be copyrighted? Do we need to provide usage notes or does Rutgers already have that covered? Does the library have its own policy? I posed these questions to Michael Joseph, and we will most likely discuss them further on Thursday.

Today, working from home due to big, costly car problems, I will be resizing and examining all the photos that Michael provided of a past Suellen Glashausser artists' books exhibit. I'm a novice Photoshop Elements user, but it's high time I learned how to use the program. I love technology and learning new things, so it should be fun. The object will be to match the images to the descriptions I have been working on during the past week.

Friday, September 11, 2009

First Day

Tuesday was my first day working with Michael Joseph at the Alexander Library. The Special Collections department is located in the basement, and his office is a long, interior room with no windows and lots of antique books. And artwork.

As we sat in his office discussing how the day would progress, I learned that Michael is putting together a journal about Suellen Glashausser's work. As a foray into my independent study work, Michael asked me to immerse myself in her artists' books (all 60 or so of them) in the Special Collections. Glashausser's books make up the lion's share of the artists' book collection, so it only made sense for me to spend some time with them.

Michael also asked me to reconcile the collection with the accompanying list and descriptions he has of Glasshauser's books. He is concerned that some may not be co-located with the rest of the easily accessible books he keeps in his office.

The other important factor was the need to work with the Libraries' conservators in order to conserve and preserve the books. Some have already been housed in acid-free boxes, but the vast majority are unprotected. Yesterday, during my visit with the books at a long wooden table in the Special Collections reading room, I also discovered that several works (the Garden series) were experiencing acrylic paint flaking from their glassine bodies. This worried me immensely, and I was glad to speak directly with the conservators about my concerns. Tim, the conservator who stepped up to handle my concerns, seemed like he would address them well, and I will see him again on Thursday to pick up some boxes to house the other works.

As I said to Michael, I'm very glad that my summer internship at the Zimmerli Museum gave me so many opportunities to learn about art handling and storage (and a small amount of preservation and conservation). It definitely prepared me for working with the artists' books in a sensitive way.

A few things that I also learned relate directly to the deliverables of this project. Michael let me know that descriptions and photographs of the artists' books already exist. However, after working with the descriptions to match them to the artists' books I viewed yesterday, I can see that in order to create adequate and consistent metadata, I will need to spend some time with each of the descriptions.

Speaking of metadata, tomorrow, Michael and I will meet with an expert on EAD, a markup language for archival materials. I'm very much looking forward to this meeting and will try to prepare by reading up on the topic.

Overall, I very much enjoyed my first day and am looking forward to the next for a handful of reasons:
1. Michael Joseph is an engaging teacher and a font of interesting information.
2. Many of Glashausser's books are lively, colorful, and exiting pieces that I feel honored to have the opportunity to experience in such a tactile way.
3. The Special Collections have a completely different feeling than the rest of the Alexander Library. Despite the fact that it's hidden in the basement, away from the atrium feel of most of the rest of the newer parts of the building, it is a welcoming place. In fact, I was warmly welcomed by Weatherly from my Art Librarianship course over the summer, who was working at the front desk.


EAD – Encoded Archival Description. (2009). In Metadata reference guide. Retrieved September 9, 2009, from http://libraries.mit.edu/guides/subjects/metadata/standards/ead.html

Education and the book arts in New Jersey, or, preaching what we practice (n.d). Retrieved September 9, 2009, from http://www.libraries. rutgers.edu/rulib/abtlib/danlib/bookarts/ba-seg.htm

Sunday, August 23, 2009


Welcome to my Independent Study, Fall 2009, blog of the experience.

Here is a brief overview of what this semester has in store for me, as far as this independent study goes. First, at one end, I will be working with Michael Joseph, the Special Collections Librarian of the Alexander Library on the College Avenue Campus of Rutgers University. Meanwhile, at the other end, I will be communicating with my advisor, Stew Mohr, a professor in the MLIS program.

My Understanding of the Work:

I will endeavor to provide much wider access to the artists' books collection at the Alexander Library. This will be done by creating electronic records for finding aids that will be available in the library's online catalog. The electronic records for the artists' books will include high-quality photos and descriptions of the art, and in some cases, the artists may be contacted to provide the descriptions.

The goal is to make more researchers aware of the collection and contribute to the discourse in this area of art. I will be working with rare and unique artist materials, organizing objects, and generally creating greater access to the collection.

What Stew and I Agreed Would Be My Deliverables for the Independent Study Credit:

a. To benefit all involved, I will create a documented process of the work described above. In other words, I will provide step-by-step instructions for handling and photographing the artists' books, as well as creating the finding aids.
b. I will create an annotated bibliography of resources for the project. This will include papers by librarians who have done this type of work as well as documents describing handling procedures and digital photography and archiving, amongst other resources.
c. I will keep an ALA-style referenced blog (this lovely blog) to document my experience on the project. This will be updated on a regular basis (most likely weekly, if not more, depending upon events and how excited I am about a particular moment in the project). Some of the areas to be covered include: addressing the "aboutness" of the descriptions, how to make things findable, metadata and tagging of electronic records/finding aids, the different areas I will draw upon to accomplish my work, and what I learn along the way.

That should pretty much cover it for now. In the meantime, I can't wait to get started!