Library Staff Meet the Digital Needs of Researchers

Submitted by Matthew Gengler on

With work from home the new normal, workflows have changed in the library and museum archives. While some work has transferred to the home office quite easily, other tasks have not. That introduces an opportunity for new projects for a library and archives staff always eager to serve the mission of the museum.

When the open access initiative launched a year and a half ago, certain aspects of the museum’s Collections Online were deemed long-term projects. Entering the bibliographic citations for thousands of objects is one such task. With the stay at home order, library and archives staff have made great strides contributing to the museum-wide effort to fully document our collection for the public. Below are several examples.

Like the Members Magazine that followed it, the Bulletin of the Cleveland Museum of Art, published from 1914-1994, announced acquisitions and published articles focusing on the museum collection. The publication of each article requires that a citation is added to the object record. One month into working chronologically through the Bulletin, Circulation Assistant Josh Sulser added hundreds of citations and attached many more direct links to articles on JSTOR. When asked recently what year he was on, he replied cheerfully, “All the way up to 1917, only eighty-seven more years to go!”

Articles in the bulletin are provided, up to five per month free, via the JSTOR platform, a subscription database of digitized journals. More can be had of course, by simply contacting the Ingalls Library reference staff. Links from Collections Online open a digitized article directly, allowing researchers access to scholarship without visiting the library.  

For scholars seeking original sources, a trip to the archives is often imperative. While that has not been possible these last few months, Archives Assistant Peter Buettner has worked tirelessly to add press release citations to collections online for museum objects with direct links to digital copies available via the Internet Archive. An art historical jackpot for digital information treasure seekers.

The opportunity to work on different projects has also provided moments for all library staff to discover how their skills and values apply to different projects.  Cataloging and Reference Associate Stacie Murry, while working on entering citations from an exhibition catalog, soon found herself correcting bibliographic citations, exercising her eye for detail fine-tuned from decades of cataloging. Library Technical Services and Administrative Assistant, Ariella Har-Even has entered citations for an entire catalog of studio art glass and another exhibition catalog. Picking up where a former staff member left off on digitized collections she too has corrected URLS and added full text to citations.  

While it certainly serves as evidence of positive individual impact, this work really adds up when taken as a whole. In the month of May, the library and archives added over a thousand citations to the museum collections online. And as we plan for our return to work, we will seek new ways to engage with the museum’s mission and our visitors. We may never be the same after this experience, but we can hope to be different in a better way.