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Asian Art Library: Comparative Perspectives

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1 Asian Art Library: Comparative Perspectives
Min Xu Associate Museum Librarian, Metropolitan Museum of Art Yue Shu Chinese Librarian, Smithsonian Institution Committee of Chinese Materials Council on East Asian Libraries Annual Meeting March 25, 2010, Philadelphia, PA

2 Thomas J. Watson Library Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Thomas J. Watson Library of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Freer/Sackler Library of the Smithsonian Institution are among the best of museum libraries in the world. Both hold extensive collections of Chinese art materials and provide valued services to domestic and international communities of art researchers. Freer/Sackler Library Smithsonian Institution

3 Challenges: - Staff reduction - Cuts in funding
Solutions: Find cost-effective ways to acquire and process materials Make efficient use of the limited staff resources The economic downturn starting in 2008 has brought us two major challenges: Staff reduction & Cuts in funding. In order to cope with these challenges, it is crucial for us to act more proactively and innovatively. In this presentation we’ll discuss our solutions to these problems in mainly two ways: 1. Find cost-effective ways to acquire and process materials. 2. Make efficient use of the limited staff resources

4 We Will Cover Freer Library Watson Library (Met)
Contemporary Catalogs Project (CCP) Shelf-Ready Project Volunteer Program Depository program In-house cataloging Volunteer Program We’ll talk about a few projects and programs we’ve been working on in the two libraries. By comparing these projects, we hope to share some experience and strategies that may be helpful in dealing with the economic challenges. First each of us will introduce the projects and programs in our institutions, and then we’ll suggest some comparisons.

5 The Thomas J. Watson Library is the central research library of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
My part of the presentation will focus on what we do in Watson Library, and our Asian section, in particular. The Thomas J. Watson Library is the central research library of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Our primary mission is to support the research needs of Metropolitan Museum staff, international community of scholars, and the general public. In 2009 the library was forced to reduce its staff by about 20%, and at the same time, the library suffered cuts on endowed book-purchase fund and operational funds.

6 Watson Library Asian section (CJK)
Staff: 1 full time and 1 part time Responsibilities: Acquisition Cataloging Reference Finance Gift processing Instruction Other library activities Our Asian section (the CJK section) has one full time staff (myself) and one part time staff (18 hours per week), and is responsible for Chinese, Japanese and Korean materials, including acquisition, cataloging, reference, finance, gift processing, instruction, and other library activities such as offsite selection. We’re understaffed.

7 Contemporary Catalogs Project (CCP)
Established in 2003 by chief librarian Ken Soehner Initiative: contact galleries to receive quality exhibition catalogs as donations to the Library The Contemporary Catalogs Project was established in 2003 by chief librarian Ken Soehner. The project's initiative is to contact galleries internationally at the highest level, to receive quality exhibition catalogs as donations to the Library. 

8 Contemporary Catalogs Project : 2008-
Expanded and formed the CCP Team Staff with different language skills Expand globally Received about 800 catalogs in 2009 On mailing lists of galleries In fall 2008, the project expanded into a team of more than ten staff and volunteers with different language skills, and the project expanded globally. Solicitation letters were sent to the selected contemporary galleries all over the world. In 2009, the library received approximately 800 catalogs. The library has been placed on mailing lists of many prominent galleries worldwide. To date, the project continues to grow and to expand as we explore new geographical regions for contacts.

9 CCP : Asian section Contacted 85 galleries in
Beijing Shanghai Hong Kong Taipei Received about 350 catalogs in 2009 As part of the CCP team, the Asian section sent letters to 85 galleries in Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Taipei, and received about 350 catalogs on Chinese contemporary art in 2009.

10 CCP - A Success Free gifts Expanded collection Saved budget
Continue to grow Japanese galleries Korean galleries CCP is a successful project. Of course not all galleries would respond, but those responded are very encouraging. The library receives free gifts from many well-known galleries. The project expanded our contemporary art collection and saved library’s budget. We recently start to work with Japanese and Korean galleries.

11 Shelf-Ready Project Why shelf-ready? More cataloging work
-Regular purchasing -CCP and other gifts -Auction catalogs Staff shortage Cost-effective Started shelf-ready service in 2008 Now covers approx. 1/3 of Chinese materials The CCP project created more cataloging work. With only 1.5 staff in Asian section, we started to explore outsourcing opportunities. I visited one of our vendor’s warehouses in China in the summer of 2008, and observed their whole processing procedures, including how original cataloging was done. In later 2008, with library support, we started the shelf-ready service from this vendor. The project is currently covering 1/3 of the Chinese materials.

12 Shelf-Ready Project Workflow: Select books online
Vendor provides brief MARC, upload to system Generate orders & send to vendor Vendor provides full MARC when books are shipped Receive - match with record - shelve We select books online from vendor’s website; they send us brief marc; we upload into our system, generate orders, and send to the vendor. When shipping the books, the vendor send full marc records which would overlay the short bibs. When books arrive, we just receive, match with record and shelve.

13 Shelf-Ready Project Concerns: Initial problem solving
More correspondence Cataloging quality Benefits: Saved staff time No backlog Cost effective There are a few issues we need to pay some attention to. During the initial period, we spent quite some time checking the records, fixing problems and communicating with the vendor on cataloging and technical issues. We found the cataloging records may not be perfect, but ok. Now we do checking only sporadically. The benefits are the project saved staff time. With both shelf ready and in-house cataloging, our Asian section is now backlog free. We found that the practice is cost effective.

14 Volunteers Program Asian section
10-12 volunteers / 3 hours per week Next I’ll introduce our volunteer program. Our Asian section has about volunteers regularly, and each works about 3 hours per week.

15 Volunteers: What They Do
Preorder searching Processing orders Receiving books CCP project Some copy cataloging Help in original cataloging Volunteers play an important role in our daily operations. They are trained to provide help in all kinds of library work including searching and processing orders, receiving books, CCP project, copy cataloging, and even providing help in original cataloging (we are lucky to have a retired cataloger who help us in original cataloging). For Japanese cataloging, trained Japanese volunteer would do the descriptive part and scripts, staff would edit and put in subject headings and call numbers.

16 Where to Find Volunteers
Candidates: Retirees Library school students Housewives Museum volunteer program Library school (advertize on library school list) Recommendation by colleagues and current volunteers Candidates are retirees, library school students, housewives (Japan). Where to find volunteers: museum volunteer program, library school (advertize on library school list), recommendation from colleagues, researchers and current volunteers. We have a few very good volunteers, very encouraging. 16

17 Volunteer Program Some problems: High turnover rate
Training and supervising take time Scheduling & dependability Challenges of learning new technology Some common problems of using volunteers are High turnover rate: Students leave when graduate. Japanese expatriates’ wives leave and go back to Japan when their husbands’ term is over. Volunteers tend to make more mistakes, training and supervising is time consuming, so is scheduling. There are times that their working hours are less dependable. (They travel more often). That is also why we have a large number of volunteers. Retirees may not be comfortable with new technology. They may not be familiar with Pinyin system. 17

18 Volunteer Program How to solve the problems:
Screening - you have the right to choose Minimum one year requirement Tasks that require more training assigned only to long-term volunteers Utilize individual strengths The best way to solve these problems is to recruit qualified volunteers. Screening is important. During interview, we let candidate know we’re looking for volunteers who can work for at least one year. And we give more training time to those who are expected to stay long. Retirees who are not comfortable with technology and who do not know pinyin system can be assigned to jobs such as receiving books or searching English titles. Those with art background can help with our CCP project. Students are always better in work that requires speed and computer skills.

19 Volunteer Program: Mutual benefits
For the Library Gain free service Save staff time Create better work environment Bring new ideas and technology For the Volunteer Gain experience & skills Networking opportunities Professional references Free admission at many museums and museum store discount For the library, the volunteers provide free service and save staff time. Because of language barrier, solo East Asian librarian in smaller Asian collections tend to work in isolation. Volunteers may bring stimulations and create a better work environment; young volunteers (especially library school students) may bring in new ideas and technology. For the Volunteers, the benefits include gaining experience and new skills, and meeting other people. Students will need reference when they’re looking for professional positions. As volunteers they get free admission at many other museums in the country, and museum store discounts.

20 Volunteer Program: How to keep good volunteers
Good relationship is crucial Respect Recognition Flexibility Caring How to keep good volunteers: good relationship is very important. Treat them with respect and recognition. Be flexible with their scheduling, and caring for their needs, one word “nice” to them. As a result, we have some wonderful volunteers who provide excellent work. They would update each other about new work procedures and some would even help in writing up instructions. When they have to leave, they would let us know in advance and help us in finding and training a new person. Staff may serve as a mentor. Successful story about a volunteer who stayed with us for 3 years during the period she finished her library degree, gained cataloging experiences, and eventually found a professional position in a university library. We benefit from their work, and at the same time contributed to the profession. 20

21 Strong and Collaborative Team
CJK Team Volunteers perform many routine tasks Staff have more time for other projects More library instruction and outreach Better service to users Years ago, we never thought volunteers could be of so much help (do so much work). They play a crucial role in performing many routine tasks, giving staff the time needed to work on improving services to the users, such as giving classes on E-resources. With the wonderful help of our volunteers, we are able to expand our collection, keep up with cataloging of increased materials, develop more classes, and provide better service to our users. Together with qualified volunteers, we have built a strong and collaborative team, we call it CJK team.

22 Freer Gallery of Art Library
Exterior of Freer Gallery of Art. 22

23 Freer Gallery of Art Library
Good old days. The reason I am not showing you a current picture of the library is that we are going through a major renovation now and I have no idea what it will look like when it is reopened in about a week from today. 23

24 Introduction of the Freer Gallery of Art Library
Founded in 1923, one of the best Asian art libraries in the world; Over 80,000 volumes; 4 full-time librarians; Slowed down by budgetary cuts; Needs innovative ways to deliver quality service and improve. I hope I can fill her shoes. I will start my part by giving you a very brief introduction to the Freer Gallery of Art Library which is one of the 22 branches of the Smithsonian Institution Libraries. The library was founded in 1923 by the bequest of Mr. Charles Lang Freer, a railroad car manufacturer in Detroit. In the course of 80 plus years, the library has become one of the finest Asian art libraries in the world. The collection has more than 80,000 volumes focusing only on Asian art and is particularly strong on Chinese and Japanese art. The work is shared by 4 librarians and no technicians. I am going to address this unique situation later in my presentation. The library is facing a lot of challenges nowadays with inadequate funds. We have to be innovative to maximize our resources to deliver excellent services and acquire the necessary books and e-resources to satisfy the expectations of our users and their research needs. This is what we are doing: 24

25 Gift/Exchange Japanese Art Catalog Project (JAC Project)
NCC and Japan Association for Cultural Exchange since 1995; The only US depository library for catalogs of exhibitions of Japanese art, including a small percentage of Chinese and Asian art; Annual averaging 360 titles. With the proliferation of contemporary art in research and market, we are trying to collect as much as possible. Different from Met’s approach, we have a unique practice I’d like to share with our Chinese colleagues here. Even though, this is a Chinese Materials Committee presentation, I think the project, Japanese Art Catalog Project, is a good example to develop long term gift/exchange partnership for our Chinese collections. Starting from 1995, the NCC (North American Coordinating Council on Japanese Library Resources) and Japan Association for Cultural Exchange developed a project in which ACE-Japan collects and sends exhibition catalogues of Japanese art to the U.S. depository library which is our library. The efforts are financially supported by the Japan Foundation. Currently the collection has proximately 5,000 volumes and with a steady increase of 350 to 500 volumes annually. Among them, more than 50% covers modern Japanese art, 30% on traditional art, 10% on Chinese art and the rest on Asian art. 25

26 Gift/Exchange The dedicated shelves for this collection. 26

27 Gift/Exchange Benefits: Free; Available via ILL to all; Prestige;
Comprehensive. We don’t have to make any efforts in soliciting the catalogues and they are free of charge; For those who do ILL probably know that Freer Gallery of Art Library doesn’t loan its books, but the books in this collection are available for loans via ILL; Since we are the only US depository library for Japanese and Asian art, it brings prestige to our name; The coverage of the catalogues is very comprehensive as the collectors are experts and keep close eyes on the cultural sphere to look for exhibitions which produce catalogues, so we don’t have to worry there are certain exhibitions or artists left out. It is really a good deal, worry free, stress free, best of all fee free. 27

28 In House Cataloging With no need for outsourcing our cataloging practice, we are still doing the old fashioned in-house cataloging by our own staff performing: Original Copy cataloging Authority work Unlike Met, we didn’t have any organizational change or staff reduction at the Freer Gallery of Art Library (counting our blessing). The in-house cataloging practice has been working well for us and we don’t see a necessity for outsourcing at this moment yet. Also we want to make our little money go a long way, to maximize our annual budgetary allocation to acquire as many books as possible. There is only one staff who does all the cataloging related to China, for both Chinese and western languages. Original, copy cataloging and authority works are all done in house. In case you are interested the cat who is my favorite, it’s an album leaf from the gallery’s collection. The artist is unidentified and the painting was done in the early 20th century. 28

29 In House Cataloging Pros No extra training; No extra reviewing;
In house expertise with subject headings; Better quality control. Since it is in house, we don’t have all the baggage that comes with outsourcing: things like extra training, reviewing and unfamiliarity with subject headings. The quality control is easier to achieve. 29

30 In-House Cataloging Cons Heavy workload on solo cataloger;
Slow pace creates backlog. But of course there are two sides of the coin and with only one Chinese librarian who has other duties as collection development, acquisition, reference and shelving, the cataloging itself is a heavy load for one person. Due to the large number of books we acquire each year, our backlog is getting bigger and bigger. On this note, I’d like to introduce you to our volunteer program. 30

31 Volunteer Program Source:
Retired American Chinese (all walks of life, but all have a passion for Chinese art); Expatriates’ wives ; Library school or college interns; America born Chinese high school students. The volunteer program is absolutely necessary for the library. As I mentioned at the beginning of my presentation, we have only full time professionals, the volunteers help us to ease a lot of clerical burdens. Because of the library reputation and people’s love for art and books, we are fortunate enough to have a steady supply of volunteers. They consist of: retired American Chinese from all walks of life, expatriates’ wives who don’t have a working permit, but aren’t happy confined to home. Library school interns, some coming here to earn credits, some simply want to get a first hand experience as what an art library is like. During the summer time, college and high school students offer their free service to the library to get in touch with the real world and make their resumes look good. This is the most active group and are will to try all the new concepts and technology, like social media and etc. that the library starts to explore. The volunteers have different education background and computer skills. The younger generation, students and college graduates are more comfortable with computers and inputting Chinese characters, the older generations are more willing to do manual work, like labeling. 31

32 Volunteer Program A picture of one of the senior volunteers. 32

33 Volunteer Program Work: Pre-order searching;
Input Chinese characters into order records; Labeling; Annual renewal checking; Indexing using the homegrown database and experiment; Preliminary searching in OCLC. The regular tasks they perform include: Since we order books in both western languages and Chinese, the volunteers help us to do pre order searching, particularly in western languages; This process seems tedious, but it is very important as we not only look for duplicates, but also compare prices with different vendor catalogues; The volunteers are either native Chinese speakers or first generation American Chinese, their Chinese is good enough to put Chinese characters into order records; We also ask them to put spine labels to our new books; Speaking about backwardness, we are still very 19th century in terms of circulation. We are still using checkout cards and each year the annual renewal is a big endeavor. The summer interns come in handy. For library school interns, we offer them the opportunity to do preliminary searching even copy cataloging in OCLC. They talk the talk and walk the walk. The training is minimal. 33

34 Volunteer Program Advantages:
Free, passionate with art and art related work; Native speakers, minimum language training; Devoted to work, even with their advanced age, and long commute, they seldom miss their work. Initially the volunteers, to a certain degree, approached us due to the fact they had a great passion for Asian art and are willing to work in an Asian art environment without any compensation; Most of the volunteers are native speakers and don’t require any training in Chinese; Even though, a majority of them are retirees and some of them commute from Richmond, Virginia which is more than 2-hour drive each way, they are very devoted and seldom miss their work. 34

35 Comparisons: Gift/Exchange
Contemporary Catalogs Project (Met) Depository Programs (Freer) Intensive soliciting efforts, free Expansion of the collection Home grown project, part of a parent library team effort Non-soliciting, free Expansion of the collection Organized by two organizations and financially supported by a third party After you’ve heard our introduction to our different programs, I’d like to give you a quick overall of what are the similarities and differences between our two libraries. I will start with Gift/Exchange programs: Both of our gift/exchange programs emphasize on getting free publications; Both our efforts help to expand the collection scope; The difference is that Met has a home grown program whereas the Freer is supported by outside organizations.

36 Outsourcing vs. In-House Cataloging
Met Shelf-Ready Project Freer in-house practice Pros Reduce cataloging workload for staff Leave staff more time to do other projects Cost effective No backlog Pros No fundamental change in librarian’s daily work No record reviewing, not worry about books getting lost, in house subject expertise Next: cataloging: outsourcing vs. in-house From the benefit’s points of view, both practices work for us respectively. Met’s workload has been reduced and it’s more cost effective. Freer enjoys its own in house expertise and not worried about extra work coming with outsourcing.

37 Outsourcing vs. In-House Cataloging
Freer in-house practice Met Shelf-Ready Project Cons Time spent on quality control Frequent initial correspondence Cons Heavy workload for solo cataloger Slow pace creates backlog Of course, nothing is perfect and we are facing the typical problems of outsourcing and in-house cataloging respectively. 37

38 Comparisons: Volunteer Program
Freer Met More volunteer help in summer More retirees More high school interns Volunteer help all year around More library school students Screening Perform more tasks The last aspect: volunteer program. Volunteers are crucial for both of us in our daily operation. But as you can see from this slide, there are some difference between us. One thing I want to point out is that Met actively recruits its volunteers from library schools and their screening process is more strict. Freer takes more retirees and summer college and high school students. Our different approaches serve our goal well and we are very grateful the volunteers devote their time, energy and expertise to help us out. 38

39 Conclusion To overcome the current financial difficulty, we’d like to recommend the following strategies: Maximize global partnerships Increase acquisition of free materials. Explore alternative practices for cataloging Weigh pros and cons with respect to the specific situation of each library. Develop volunteer programs to help with routine library operation Screening and good relationships are the keys to the success of the volunteer programs. We hope the sharing of our experiences and strategies in this presentation will stimulate new ideas and discussions that will benefit not only Asian art librarians, but also East Asian librarians in general, particularly to those solo East Asian librarians who are working alone in academic or special libraries.

40 Thank you!
Thank you! Please ask questions at the end of the session or contact us by .

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