Weekly Response 9 — Diana Rosenthal

I really enjoyed Opening Artists’ Books to the User by Myers and Myers. Even though not every cataloger or librarian will deal with art books, I thought this article did a great job of providing specific examples of dealing with special collections cataloging. I’d like to echo many of my classmates and say that many of the points Myers and Myers make–from contacting the artists to subjective descriptions of “aboutness”–reminded me so much of Jenna’s discussion of zine cataloging.

Though lacking clear-cut standards for cataloging art books can be frustrating, it seems that art books necessitate an open environment because of the diversity of the artwork, the artists themselves, and the interpretations of the viewers. I know Starr has mentioned this in class before, but when I was doing research for a project at the Metropolitan Museum of Art over the summer, I often found browsing the shelves to be one of the most effective ways of finding interesting sources. This also brings up the inherent visual nature of art books that can’t quite be communicated through the textual descriptions in a catalog (or anywhere else).

One of my favorite elements of the Myers and Myers article was the lengthy example of the Alpha to Omega cataloging problem. I thought it was really helpful to learn about a particularly difficult item to catalog and then see different interpretations and compare them. If I were developing an institutional protocol for cataloging art books, I think I would prefer inclusivity of description information even if “the cataloger risks misrepresenting the artist’s intention and furthermore veers into interpreting the work.” I think it’s a bigger issue overall if access to the book is limited because of a lack of information, rather than attempting to keep the catalog record free of subjectivity and interpretation.

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About Diana Rosenthal

Scientific publications editor and archivist at the American Museum of Natural History with a Master of Science in Library and Information Science from Pratt Institute. New York City enthusiast.

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