The Handbook of Art and Design Librarianship

Georgina Binns (Music, Visual and Performing Arts Discipline Librarian (supporting the Faculty of the Victorian College of the Arts and Music), University of Melbourne Library, Melbourne, Australia)

Library Management

ISSN: 0143-5124

Article publication date: 26 July 2011




Binns, G. (2011), "The Handbook of Art and Design Librarianship", Library Management, Vol. 32 No. 6/7, pp. 485-487.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

The new academic year is imminent as I read The Handbook of Art and Design Librarianship, edited by Amanda Gluibizzi and Paul Glassman. Eager, starry‐eyed first year art students and new post‐graduate students are about to arrive on campus, and the information literacy (IL) staff are preparing for the usual library tours/orientations, IL classes and liaison with academic staff around embedded IL programs and research consultations introducing library and electronic resources to practice‐based art students. My reading of the Handbook is timely as my team seek to find new, more relevant and more successful ways of interacting with our students and staff, introducing them to the library, its collections on the shelves and its collections in the electronic domain, as well as the excitement of discovery and learning for their particular areas of practice and research.

Turning to the section on “Teaching and learning”, I read of Gluibizzi's outreach studio visits personalizing and individualizing library services at Ohio State University, Columbia; Mayer's survey of embedding IL into a studio art course and her experience of this at the University of Wyoming; Roberto and Robinson's approach to incorporating image databases into teaching and learning at the University of Leeds; cultural difference and how to cope with the reality of differing IL competencies as experienced by Fawley at the Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar; and Haras's theoretical and practical approach to using evidence‐based learning for teaching art history research. I particular enjoyed and found inspiration – which I will definitely put into practice this semester – in the essay by Wilson and McCarthy. Identifying the multiple literacies required by students in an art and design library, the authors focus on visual, kinesthetic and tactile learning styles and how these are more pronounced in the current generation of students influenced by a society full of images and interactive media. How do we keep these students engaged and finding relevance in their libraries? In a successful application the authors outline their technique of “drawing the information‐seeking experience” encouraging students in the first IL contact session, to draw their interpretation of how they see their information‐seeking experience. This is built on during the session, providing direct and relevant interactions between students and librarians, resulting in connection and greater understanding of information seeking activities. It is an activity that is perhaps obvious for a cohort of art and design students, and the authors have expertly described (and provided student generated illustrative examples) of a successful bridging exercise bringing the studio into the IL class environment. It has certainly inspired me to introduce this into the sessions at the University of Melbourne. An additional element that prompts further reading and understanding of IL standards around the world is the excellent set of references cited in the articles, with relevant and current bibliographies. Each essay in the Handbook is carefully supported with relevant academic articles, professional association reports, and professional standards. An index is also provided for quick access.

This is a summary of the “Teaching and learning” section in the Handbook, but there are equally rich essays with relevant case studies in the other three sections: “Roles and responsibilities”; “Materials and collection management”; and “Learning spaces, promotion and sustainability” with four to six essays in each section. Some of the essays provide a base‐ and practical‐level approach which would be useful for the entry‐level professional or budding manager. The current environment for collection development and management is fast paced and extremely difficult to capture in a short essay, as are the changing technology and learning spaces in our libraries and institutions. No sooner is a decision made around teaching and learning technology and spaces, funding found and even installations made, it is often made redundant by some new development or learning trend. Book‐based handbooks incorporating content of this kind become out of date quickly, but it does provide a point in time, on what is current and how the issues are being considered and implemented.

In her introduction Gluibizzi explains that the publisher asked for a global focus for the handbook. Claiming this is “the first art librarianship publication that has an international purview”, a call for papers went out to the professional organizations including ARLIS/NA, ALIS/UK, ARLIS/ANZ and IFLA‐Art. The result is a selection of chapters written by authors from the UK, Canada, the Middle East and the USA. With a definite leaning towards USA content, nevertheless there is universality around the concepts, theories and issues of art and design librarianship which readers will find relevant. It is not necessarily a book to read from cover to cover, but one to dip into as the need and inspiration requires. This is a valuable resource that could be used in a number of ways:

  • As a teaching resource for specialist library skills in our library and information management schools (if indeed there is an opportunity as the curriculum for these courses appear to be becoming more and more generic), and for the budding art and design librarian. There are many art and design graduates who seek to undertake further graduate study to become librarians or information specialists – possibly out of proportion to many other specialist areas – and library school often disappoints as students find no opportunity to specialise except during their industry/work experience placement component of their course.

  • For the library professional about to commence work in the art and design library environment, and seeks to build skills and find inspiration for this role.

  • For the art and design librarian, in whatever role – manager, liaison, collection development and management – for guidance, inspiration and professional development.

To encourage and strengthen the art and design librarianship profession more publications of this type are encouraged. Regular updates (perhaps available as an electronic handbook to encourage timely publication) and a broader global approach would assist in building the literature on this specialized field of librarianship. This Handbook is a worthwhile contribution to this, and recognizes the skill and dedication required to build and manage relevant collections and spaces for information seekers in art and design.

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