Presentation on theme: "Asian Art Library: Comparative Perspectives"— Presentation transcript:
1Asian Art Library: Comparative Perspectives Min XuAssociate Museum Librarian, Metropolitan Museum of ArtYue ShuChinese Librarian, Smithsonian InstitutionCommittee of Chinese MaterialsCouncil on East Asian Libraries Annual MeetingMarch 25, 2010, Philadelphia, PA
2Thomas 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 LibrarySmithsonian Institution
3Challenges: - Staff reduction - Cuts in funding Solutions:Find cost-effective ways to acquire and process materialsMake efficient use of the limited staff resourcesThe 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
4We Will Cover Freer Library Watson Library (Met) Contemporary Catalogs Project (CCP)Shelf-Ready ProjectVolunteer ProgramDepository programIn-house catalogingVolunteer ProgramWe’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.
5The 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.
6Watson Library Asian section (CJK) Staff: 1 full time and 1 part timeResponsibilities:AcquisitionCatalogingReferenceFinanceGift processingInstructionOther library activitiesOur 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.
7Contemporary Catalogs Project (CCP) Established in 2003 by chief librarian Ken SoehnerInitiative: contact galleries to receive quality exhibition catalogs as donations to the LibraryThe 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.
8Contemporary Catalogs Project : 2008- Expanded and formed the CCP TeamStaff with different language skillsExpand globallyReceived about 800 catalogs in 2009On mailing lists of galleriesIn 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.
9CCP : Asian section Contacted 85 galleries in BeijingShanghaiHong KongTaipeiReceived about 350 catalogs in 2009As 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.
10CCP - A Success Free gifts Expanded collection Saved budget Continue to growJapanese galleriesKorean galleriesCCP 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.
11Shelf-Ready Project Why shelf-ready? More cataloging work -Regular purchasing-CCP and other gifts-Auction catalogsStaff shortageCost-effectiveStarted shelf-ready service in 2008Now covers approx. 1/3 of Chinese materialsThe 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.
12Shelf-Ready Project Workflow: Select books online Vendor provides brief MARC, upload to systemGenerate orders & send to vendorVendor provides full MARC when books are shippedReceive - match with record - shelveWe 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.
13Shelf-Ready Project Concerns: Initial problem solving More correspondenceCataloging qualityBenefits:Saved staff timeNo backlogCost effectiveThere 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.
14Volunteers Program Asian section 10-12 volunteers / 3 hours per weekNext I’ll introduce our volunteer program. Our Asian section has about volunteers regularly, and each works about 3 hours per week.
15Volunteers: What They Do Preorder searchingProcessing ordersReceiving booksCCP projectSome copy catalogingHelp in original catalogingVolunteers 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.
16Where to Find Volunteers Candidates:Retirees Library school students HousewivesMuseum volunteer programLibrary school (advertize on library school list)Recommendation by colleagues and current volunteersCandidates 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
17Volunteer Program Some problems: High turnover rate Training and supervising take timeScheduling & dependabilityChallenges of learning new technologySome common problems of using volunteers areHigh 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
18Volunteer Program How to solve the problems: Screening - you have the right to chooseMinimum one year requirementTasks that require more training assigned only to long-term volunteersUtilize individual strengthsThe 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.
19Volunteer Program: Mutual benefits For the LibraryGain free serviceSave staff timeCreate better work environmentBring new ideas and technologyFor the VolunteerGain experience & skillsNetworking opportunitiesProfessional referencesFree admission at many museums and museum store discountFor 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.
20Volunteer Program: How to keep good volunteers Good relationship is crucialRespectRecognitionFlexibilityCaringHow 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
21Strong and Collaborative Team CJK TeamVolunteers perform many routine tasksStaff have more time for other projectsMore library instruction and outreachBetter service to usersYears 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.
22Freer Gallery of Art Library Exterior of Freer Gallery of Art.22
23Freer 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
24Introduction 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
25Gift/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
26Gift/ExchangeThe dedicated shelves for this collection.26
27Gift/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
28In House CatalogingWith no need for outsourcing our cataloging practice, we are still doing the old fashioned in-house cataloging by our own staff performing:OriginalCopy catalogingAuthority workUnlike 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
29In 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
30In-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
31Volunteer 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
32Volunteer ProgramA picture of one of the senior volunteers.32
33Volunteer 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
34Volunteer 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
35Comparisons: Gift/Exchange Contemporary Catalogs Project (Met)Depository Programs (Freer)Intensive soliciting efforts, freeExpansion of the collectionHome grown project, part of a parent library team effortNon-soliciting, freeExpansion of the collectionOrganized by two organizations and financially supported by a third partyAfter 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.
36Outsourcing vs. In-House Cataloging Met Shelf-Ready ProjectFreer in-house practiceProsReduce cataloging workload for staffLeave staff more time to do other projectsCost effectiveNo backlogProsNo fundamental change in librarian’s daily workNo record reviewing, not worry about books getting lost, in house subject expertiseNext: cataloging: outsourcing vs. in-houseFrom 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.
37Outsourcing vs. In-House Cataloging Freer in-house practiceMet Shelf-Ready ProjectConsTime spent on quality controlFrequent initial correspondenceConsHeavy workload for solo catalogerSlow pace creates backlogOf course, nothing is perfect and we are facing the typical problems of outsourcing and in-house cataloging respectively.37
38Comparisons: Volunteer Program FreerMetMore volunteer help in summerMore retireesMore high school internsVolunteer help all year aroundMore library school studentsScreeningPerform more tasksThe 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
39ConclusionTo overcome the current financial difficulty, we’d like to recommend the following strategies:Maximize global partnershipsIncrease acquisition of free materials.Explore alternative practices for catalogingWeigh pros and cons with respect to the specific situation of each library.Develop volunteer programs to help with routine library operationScreening 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.
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