Art Libraries Society of North America/Visual Resources Association 2002 Joint Conference
St. Louis, Missouri
March 25, 2002

Session X: Stretching the Mold: Standard Cataloging and Special Materials

Introductory Remarks: Sherman Clarke, New York University

This session explores the cataloging of types of materials commonly found in art libraries. The papers delivered in the session use the necessity of cataloging rules and standards as a point of departure. The papers insist, however, on the necessity of going further, to test the limits of rules in the cataloging of certain materials, including artists’ books, manuscript facsimiles, auction catalogs, as well as groups of items that suggest themselves for collection-level cataloging, such as pamphlets. The papers examine the negotiation of the boundary where the science of cataloging meets the art of cataloging.

Challenges to Cataloging Artists’ Books: Kay Teel, Stanford University

This paper examines the challenges posed by artist’s books to the conventions of cataloging. Such books, in their construction and presentation, often defy description and the principles used to provide access to library materials. Catalogers face numerous challenges when such items appear to be in multiple formats, despite the adoption of the term “book” to describe them. While materials in the art library are usually described and arranged by format, and description is based on what the item presents itself as, an artist’s book that appears to be, for example, a noodle, challenges attempts at definition, preservation, and access. Description of the item must therefore occur primarily through the use of note fields. Even with these notes, the bibliographic record can only be the most limited surrogate, and the limited functionality of the record cannot fully describe the complexity of an individual artist’s book. Even in the absence of perfect solution, it is nevertheless possible to draw a great deal of pleasure from dealing with such items. Collecting artist’s books implies the necessity of cataloging and preserving them. Therefore, use the cataloging tools you have, and use them freely, exploiting the fullest flexibility of the MARC record (i.e., the use of 655 genre terms). In short, “stop agonizing!”

Collection-Level Cataloging: Possibilities and Problems: Sara Harrington, Rutgers University

This paper addresses the problems and possibilities inherent in the project of collection-level cataloging. While item-level treatment is very often preferential, this paper posits collection-level cataloging as a feasible solution in a variety of situations. First, collection-level cataloging is a plausible solution for combating cataloging backlogs. Secondly, certain types of items, such as pamphlets, may even benefit from collection-level treatment, as scholars can better study individual items when each is examined as emerging from the larger context of the collection. The utility of collection-level records, however, depends of the full exploitation of the MARC fields, including ample subject heading assignment, a fully fleshed out scope note, and, if possible, a linked online finding aid or database. The paper goes on to describe the author’s experience in her role as Art Librarian at the Rutgers University Art Library during the initial stages of preparing a collection-level record for a group of art exhibition catalogs.

Auction Catalogs: Anne Champagne, Art Institute of Chicago

This paper examines trends in the cataloging practice surrounding auction catalogs. Cataloging auction catalogs for inclusion in art libraries has become a mainstream practice. It remains a challenge to expeditiously process such time-sensitive materials. One option is to treat such items as serials, with the advantage of rapid processing through a sort of “check-in” method. A disadvantage, however, is that the entire record must therefore be treated as a serial, with the resultant loss of single catalogue information. SCIPIO’s method of cataloging such materials was rather outside the mainstream of then-current book cataloging standards, which allowed the use of paraprofessional staff in processing. Due to the desire to load SCIPIO records into OPACs, SCIPIO catalogers have, however, created or updated the auction house records in the Name Authority File to conform to AACR2. They have also mainstreamed the adoption of cataloging guidelines that follow AACR2, as well as exploited the use of certain MARC fields. Most libraries cannot afford to reinvent the wheel in the cataloging of auction catalogs. It is therefore most appropriate to use what is available, but to add or incorporate important elements of the auction catalog’s bibliographic citation, as a benefit to patrons and colleagues.

Manuscript Facsimiles: Maria Oldal, Pierpont Morgan Library

The complicated nature of medieval and Renaissance manuscript facsimiles, and their rarity in most library collections, makes cataloging them a particular challenge. AACR2R has specified many rules and preferences for their cataloging. An unpublished Cataloging Facsimiles of and Works about Illuminated Manuscripts appeared in 1985, complete with a compilation of rules and an extensive set of examples, which was later incorporated into the Library of Congress’s Subject Cataloging Manual for Subject Headings, under H1855. Facsimiles reproduce simultaneously both the content and the physical appearance of the original. The cataloging in the MARC format must, crucially, describe the facsimile, not the original, although there is some flexibility to include information about the original in the physical description field (notes on the facsimile must necessarily be given first). The paper is accompanied by an extensive handout reviewing several crucial cataloging rules, including the creation of uniform titles, evidenced by an example of the cataloging of the Morgan Library’s Farnese Hours facsimile.

Report by Sara Harrington, Art Librarian, Rutgers University
saraharr@rci.rutgers.edu