Back to the Business of Information

Submitted by Matthew Gengler on

As of June 30th, the Ingalls Library and Museum Archives is back, more or less.

The museum has opened to the public with timed tickets and safety precautions in place. And keeping pace, library and archives staff are returning in a staggered fashion, preparing for the department to open on August 3 to graduate students and faculty in the joint program in art history and museum studies at Case Western Reserve University.

In the Museum Archives, staff have returned to their historical collections for in-person arrangement and description. With no visitors on site presently, Archives Director Leslie Cade has spread the recently donated collection of artist and former CMA designer William Ward out on large work tables in the special collections reading room.

Ward is represented in the museum collection by two drawings. The archival collection, donated by the estate, shows the full breadth of his work, including watercolors and paintings from Southeast Asia, where he served during WWII. In addition, series of paintings from his many visits to Mexico illustrate the vibrancy of his vision and palette. Once cataloged, portions of the collection will be added to the digital archives for remote research. The full collection will be open to in person visitors when the library reopens.   

In the library circulation department, circulation assistants are hard at work implementing new workflows established by the new library system software, WorldShare Management Services. It is a great leap forward for a staff that made the best of it with our previous system. WMS offers automated pull lists for quick paging, integration of resource sharing within the circulation module, and a whole host of tools to better serve the public. As the library circulation numbers will be slow at first, the circulation department will use the inventory functionality of the Digby app to initiate a full collection inventory. This crucial library function has not been performed in over a decade and will provide useful insights into the collection as we plan for the future.

With the shutdown, a backlog of new and recently acquired books, has become the next big obstacle for a technical services staff already engaged in changing workflows with the new ILS. In addition to plans to stage the material for cataloging and processing, staff in technical services and public services have pulled together to solve the short-term issue of access to this material. In the near term, a system has been developed to make unprocessed material available for use immediately. Though not a complete fix, this provides insight into what should be prioritized for cataloging. Most importantly, if someone wants a book, it is being made available as soon as possible.  

Public services staff too have found new and old ways to make connections utilizing resources already in place and little bit of ingenuity. Email reference continues apace, with connections made to researchers where they work. For the liaison librarians, this means providing a deeper level of service to museum colleagues working in the home offices. The ArtLens: ASK service continues to be a source of contact for more casual reference requests, and one that Director of Ingalls Library will highlight in the Toledo Museum of Art’s International Visual Literacy Association conference with Director of Audience Insights and Services, Elizabeth Bolander. And if the situation requires it, library staff are prepared to provide reference interviews via telephone, video chat, or social distanced conversation.

And finally, as of this week, we are among the first art reference libraries to fulfill resource sharing requests. Now more than ever, resource sharing is a crucial point of access to researchers everywhere. The necessity of this service can be seen in the requests received, over two dozen inquiries from as far as Egypt and Iceland have been supplied in the first week. As a high volume lender, we anticipate our resumption of lending will encourage our partners to restart supplying as well. 

When the library and museum archives finally open, we will meet the needs of our visitors with the same level of service long expected of us.