09_BR_DesMarais

Book Reviews

The Handbook of Art and Design Librarianship, 2nd edition. Paul Glassman and Judy Dyki, eds. London, U.K.: Facet Publishing, 2017. 343p. $85.00, £69.95 (ISBN 978-1-78330-200-0).

The Handbook of Art and Design Librarianship, second edition, is a collection of thirty essays by nearly forty experts in the field that offers readers insight and advice on this specialized area of librarianship in exclusively postsecondary environments. Divided into six sections, the chapters consider “Roles and Responsibilities,” “Materials and Collection Management,” “Teaching and Learning,” “Knowledge Creation,” “The Physical Environment,” and “Promotion and Sustainability.” Each section is preceded by a brief paragraph that summarizes what the reader can expect from the following chapters and additionally provides perspective on the given topic within the current professional landscape. Chapters close with a list of references perfect for guiding the interested librarian who wants to learn more.

Book cover: The Handbook of Art and Design Librarianship, 2nd edition

Seven years have passed since the publication of the first edition of The Handbook of Art and Design Librarianship. During that time, technology and social media have altered and shifted the educational landscape. New standards and guidelines now inform teaching and learning activities in academic libraries. Digital publishing models are forcing disciplines to reconsider how success as a scholar can be measured. This publication responds by offering mostly new content with only seven previously published chapters returning, edited with updates, for the second edition. “Knowledge Creation” is a newly added section (one chapter from this part is an updated version of what appeared in the “Materials and Collection Management” section of the first edition) that explores the art library and art librarianship within the context of digital art history, digital humanities, and scholarly communication. This section also presents a unique case study (chapter 23) in which the notion of art as information and commodity and the ACRL threshold concept “information has value” are explored through a juried student art contest and purchasing process led by the library at Valparaiso University.

This book is built on a foundational belief that art librarianship and its related users and activities are different enough from general librarianship to justify a “handbook.” This may in fact be true, as the experiences of many will attest, but not all chapters in the book assert this statement strongly enough. For example, chapter 1: “The Governance and Administration of the Art and Design Library” and chapter 7: “Developing Digital Collections,” although written by individuals close to if not in art libraries, perhaps reveal that some aspects of and procedures in librarianship are universal. The inclusion of these considerably more general chapters in this book may disappoint some readers.

The strongest and most valuable chapters are those that move beyond the basic, introductory, and routine and instead consider new challenges, speak to understanding and reaching art and design users better, find novel ways to interpret recent teaching and learning standards for the art and design audience, and present concrete initiatives that librarians can implement. For instance, chapter 12: “Tactile Libraries: Material Collections in Art, Architecture and Design,” considers material collections—a relatively new endeavor for many academic libraries—and offers inspiration and guidance for those exploring this potentially new collection type for their own audiences. Chapters that analyze and present practical approaches to the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education and offer ways of modifying typical library instruction to meet artists and creative types where they are mentally and physically are fresh and enlightening as well (chapter 14: “Embedded in Their World: Moving Mentally into the Studio Environment,” chapter 15: “Teaching with Threshold Concepts and the ACRL Framework in the Art and Design Context,” and chapter 23: “More Than Just Art on the Walls: Enhancing Fine Arts Pedagogy in the Academic Library Space”). Chapter 25: “New, Renovated and Repurposed Library Spaces: Responding to New Demands” has a welcome international focus as it examines changing library spaces with great attention paid to the needs and habits of art and design library users.

Arguably one of the most important chapters in the Handbook is Patrick Tomlin’s “Beyond the Monograph? Transformations in Scholarly Communication and Their Impact on Art Librarianship.” Tomlin, formerly Assistant Professor and Head of the Art and Architecture Library at Virginia Tech and now the institution’s Associate Director of Learning Environments, relates information that is highly important for art and design librarians to understand, empathize with, and act upon. Art librarians unfamiliar with the methods used to measure scholarly success, especially in the field of art history, need to read this chapter. The author explains how the richly illustrated and costly-to-publish monograph is the traditional mark of success in art history. Several contemporary pressures, like the for-profit business model of publishing, the commodification of scholarship, and art history’s justified hesitations related to the open access movement, present opportunities for art and design librarians to intervene with knowledge, assistance, and the means to facilitate communication and change. Academic librarians know that faculty buy-in is often crucial to reaching students. Gaining the respect and trust of faculty is a necessary yet nuanced task; Tomlin’s chapter gives the librarian confidence-building information toward this goal. His information and advice is mostly specific to art historians, but that can be extrapolated to help librarians understand the similar struggles a practicing artist or industrial designer may face.

The intended audience for the book includes new and experienced art librarians and those interested in researching the field. Experienced art and design librarians may find some of the coverage too introductory to be useful but should be pleased with the handful of fresh and insightful chapters that can inform their work. Those who are just beginning in the field or who have recently accepted an administrative-level position will most likely find high value in the Handbook in its entirety, as even the more general topics can help them to understand their roles. The book includes a list of contributors and their institutions at the beginning and expands upon this information in an appendix entitled “library profiles” (of the authors) divided into four categories: art and design school libraries, academic branch libraries, academic department-based libraries, and main academic libraries supporting art and design curricula. This information is valuable to graduate students exploring career paths and also to new and experienced art librarians looking to broaden their professional network. The Handbook of Art and Design Librarianship, second edition, would be a welcome addition to any library that fits the criteria of one of the four types described above as well as those supporting graduate programs in library and information science.—Janis L. DesMarais, College of the Holy Cross

Copyright Janis L. DesMarais


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