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
Reed College's Artists' Books . (n.d.). Reed Digital Collections, Artists' Books. Retrieved October 14, 2009, from
The WATCH File: Writers, Artists and Their Copyright Holders. (n.d.). Retrieved October 14, 2009, from

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