Collection Analysis of Art Libraries

Just in time for the annual ARLIS conference, we’ve published the study An Art Resource in New York: The Collective Collection of the NYARC Art Museum Libraries (.pdf: 136K/18 pp.), which characterizes the overlap and uniqueness of the Frick Art Reference Library, the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Thomas J. Watson Library, and the libraries of the Brooklyn Museum and the Museum of Modern Art (the New York Art Resources Consortium or NYARC for short.) Together with Milan Hughston from MoMA, I presented on the study to an audience whose interest was clearly piqued by the results: whether you compare the NYARC institutions to each other, to other local research libraries (Columbia, NYPL, NYU) or a peer institution (the Getty), to the RLG Union Catalog or WorldCat, what emerges is an intriguing degree of uniqueness in this aggregate collection.

Some of the questions in the q&a were about our level of confidence in the numbers. While we did not sample NYARC collection items to establish a margin of error for the analysis (which is based on RLG Union Catalog clusters), Milan confirmed that current clustering work by the Frick, Brooklyn and MoMA to integrate their respective catalogs [pdf link] confirmed the high rate of uniqueness found in our study. Constance’s recent webinar on Assessing Uniqueness in the System-wide Book Collection (.wmv: 71.3MB/54min.) also provides a useful context for the findings of the NYARC study: in a 250 item sample of records with a single holding in WorldCat, only a little over 10% were unique due to, let’s say, differences of opinion in cataloging.

While there’s a significant amount of uniqueness in the NYARC collection, there’s still overlap to be exploited as well. Interestingly enough, both uniqueness and overlap make for great fodder for collaboration: a highly unique collections adds more value to the whole collaborations around resource sharing, for example. On the other hand, overlap can be exploited in collaborative projects around off-site storage and deaccessioning. As Milan’s remarks made clear, the NYARC are currently investigating a wide range of options.

Many thanks again to my colleague Brian Lavoie, who crunched the numbers for the NYARC study and wrote the report. I’ll say publicly that he is a very generous man for giving me co-authorship for whatever little editing I contributed to the piece.

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