Improved Access to Artists’ Books at Cleveland Institute of Art

The Project

The artists’ book collection at the Cleveland Institute of Art’s Gund Library contains over 1300 books dating from the 1960s to the present. The collection includes fine press, conceptual book objects, artists’ books and alternative publications. Students at CIA often use the books for inspiration in their own work or for examples of various techniques.

While in library school, I volunteered to help CIA improve this sort of access to artists’ books. I systematically evaluated sections of the collection by comparing individual books and their catalog records. For each book I examined, I created a short set of descriptive notes for the librarians, highlighted the most important pieces of information, listed the controlled vocabulary terms used in the catalog record, and suggested new terms for improved access. Gund Library professionals will incorporate my notes and suggestions into cataloging guidelines and individual records.

The Findings

Preference for Controlled Vocabulary or Original Wording?
In the note (500) field, is it better to use direct quotations from the work itself (from a colophon, verso of title page, etc.) or a party responsible for its content (artist’s statement, publisher’s catalog), or is it better to describe in a consistent manner? The librarians at CIA will need to answer this for their cataloging policies.  The catalog reveals inconsistent use of hyphens, abbreviations, and numerals in relevant terms.  Name authority is also an issue in notes which refer to “the artist,” initials, or non-standard versions of a name.

Preference for Translation or Original Language?
Because the main target audience for this collection is composed of studio art students looking for examples of techniques, I argued for either translating foreign language colophons or including English-language controlled terms.  I found several completely untranslated catalog records.

Controlled Terms
I compiled the following list of terms which apply to this collection:

includes colophon, letterpress, handmade paper, slipcase, hardcover, paperback, woodcut(s)/ wood block(s)/wood-engraving, folding book, rubrication, type: [name], paper: [name], printer’s mark(s), deckle edges, non-type letterforms, handsewn binding, signed, unsigned, accordion fold, guilt/foil, pop-up, holes/cut-outs, offset, blind embossing, Coptic binding, pamphlet/chapbook binding, stapled binding, reproduction, ragpaper, press: [name], original jacket, ink: [name], linocut, marbled paper, watercolor, paper sculpture, watermark, ephemera, spiral-bound, perforation, lithography, silk-screen, portfolio/wrapper, centerfold/fold-out leaves, Asian style binding, wet printing, dry printing, hand printed, collage, laid paper, wove paper, pastepaper, double leaves, stained edges, copperplate engraving, frontispiece, etching

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