Art Libraries Society of North America | Mountain West Chapter Newsletter




Vol.13, No.1
Summer 2014

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Spotlight on Institutions & Collections


Spotlight on Institutions & Collections

University of Arizona’s Museum of Art Expands Collecting Scope
Contributed by Jill McCleary, Archivist, UA Museum of Art

The Museum of Art at the University of Arizona has significantly expanded its educational and research services with the addition of an archival repository, the Archive of Visual Arts (AVA).  With roots going back to 2007, the archives was created to preserve artist’s archives and to make them available to the public.

The AVA collects items that document the creative process of artists, including sketchbooks, diaries, correspondence, photographs, and other materials that tell the story behind the artist’s works.  In addition, the AVA houses a small reference library that provides access to approximately 3,500 books for students, faculty, and docents.

In 2012, archivist Jill McCleary was hired to manage the AVA and oversee the move into a renovated building on the U of A campus.  The new space has a secure vault with temperature and humidity controls and over 2,000 square feet for collections storage. A reading room, available by appointment, allows visitors the ability to work closely with the collections.  As the AVA grows and moves forward, the University of Arizona’s Museum of Art hopes the archives will meet the needs of a larger number of students, faculty, and researchers from a variety of fields.   Additionally, the Museum will highlight the AVA’s collections by exhibiting artwork and archives together to tell a unified story to museum visitors.

Denver Art Museum Completes New Administration Building
Contributed by Susan Ferrer-Vinent, Librarian, Frederick Mayer Library, Denver Museum of Art

The Denver Art Museum (DAM) completed its new administration office building.  The 50,000-square-foot structure is located immediately west of the museum's Hamilton Building and directly south of the Clyfford Still Museum on property owned by the DAM that previously served as a staff parking lot.  The new building will unite the museum’s departments under one roof, bringing together more than 100 museum employees to the museum’s campus, including administrative staff, curators and educators that formerly were housed in office space five blocks away.

The new building will enable a more efficient work environment and closer collaboration among museum staff.  The privately funded $11.5 million project will also contain the research-focused Frederick R. Mayer Library and 9,000 square feet of collection storage, helping to reopen space inside the museum’s North Building for public programs and exhibitions. All the shelving in the library is compactor shelving, affording room for growth of the collection. Administrative offices moved in on March 24th and the Frederick R. Mayer Library opened for business on April 21st.

“The new office building will unite our campus and infuse the Golden Triangle neighborhood with the energy of more than 100 creative people,” said Christoph Heinrich, Frederick and Jan Mayer Director of the DAM. “The building’s open floor plan and various brainstorming zones will provide team members with optimal working and meeting spaces to inspire creativity and capitalize on the amazing talent of our staff.”

Tucson’s January 8th Memorial Foundation
Contributed by Alexandria Caster, Archivist/Curator, Tucson’s January 8th Memorial Foundation

Tucson's January 8th Memorial Foundation was created in the wake of the shootings of US Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and 18 others at a “Congress on Your Corner” constituent event on January 8, 2011 in Tucson, Arizona.  Six people died in the shooting, including a Federal judge, a Congressional aide, and a nine year old girl who was interested in politics and democracy.

Congresswoman Giffords was gravely wounded and eventually resigned her seat in Congress to focus on recovering from her injuries.  The Foundation was formed to create a permanent memorial to those who died, were injured and to all who were affected that day, as well as to care for the materials collected from the three large tribute memorials which grew spontaneously after the tragic shootings.  These items were carefully gathered and stored while possibilities for their future were explored and researched with other memorial sites.

Last September 2013, the Foundation staff began the process of unboxing, inventorying and documenting the large archive of memorial materials, including thousands of cards, letters and signs, as well as artwork, painted tiles, candles, paper chains, stuffed animals, flowers, and assorted well-wishes.

A dedicated volunteer team has been carefully documenting the materials so that some of these community-contributed materials can eventually be formally archived in an archival repository, while others will likely be donated to worthy charities or transformed into artwork.  In addition, their Archivist/Curator, Alexandria Caster, curated three exhibits from the handmade tribute items for the Together We Thrive exhibits at three branches of the Pima County Public Library on the third anniversary of the shootings in January 2014.  

Alexandria also created a large digital exhibit on the Arizona Memory Project, located at:  This collection currently has 600 heartfelt items from the spontaneous tribute memorials, as well as photographs of the tribute sites.  

Next steps for the Foundation include embarking on an important oral history project to document individual stories related to the events of January 8th, as well as beginning the process of selecting a design team for the permanent memorial to be constructed in Tucson.  According to Alexandria “the opportunity to work with such an unusual, complex and nontraditional collection, while bridging museum and archives practices, and honoring the rich cultural, political and emotional content, has been a truly incredible learning experience.  The opportunity to help document, preserve and share these powerful and touching materials from the community, for the community, and for future generations, has been meaningful and moving, strengthening my belief in the Foundation’s motto that Together We Thrive.”  For more information, please visit:

Arizona State Museum Exhibits Regarding Curtis: Contemporary Indian Artists Respond to the Imagery of Edward S. Curtis
Contributed by Marly Helm, Associate Librarian, Arizona State Museum

The Arizona State Museum (ASM) will be opening a new exhibit this October featuring contemporary Native American art.  Regarding Curtis: Contemporary Indian Artists Respond to the Imagery of Edward S. Curtis will be an ancillary exhibit to the Museum’s current exhibit of Curtis’ photographs on display, Curtis Reframed: The Arizona Portfolios.

According to co-curators, Jannelle Weakly, ASM Curator Photographic Collections, and Davison Koenig, Exhibits Curator, the aim of the new exhibit is to provide Native Americans with a stage to present their work that is either informed by, or in response to, the influence of Edward Curtis.  Whether romanticized or contested, the enduring power of the imagery of Curtis has influenced contemporary notions of Native American identity and perception. The exhibit, Regarding Curtis…, will give voice to Indian artists to respond to those issues of identity and perception… Who controls identity?  Who gets to represent identity? 

Sixty images used in the current ASM Curtis exhibit, representing Southwestern Indian tribes, were sent to selected established and emerging regional artists and they were invited to respond to the images.  Their submitted art work will represent all different media forms: painting, photography, pottery, sculpture, and film/video.  Artists will also submit an accompanying artist statement explaining their thoughts on the issue of identity and perception, their response to Curtis’ work, thus the title of the new exhibit, Regarding Curtis…

The exhibit will open on October 18, 2014 and run through March 31, 2015.  An opening reception and panel discussion will be held on November 7, 2014 with Aleta Ringlero, guest Curator to Curtis Reframed: The Arizona Portfolios, monitoring the panel discussion.

String Literature Hanging in the Library and Film Costume as Art at the Museum: Brigham Young University Exhibits
Contributed by Christiane E. Ramsey, Fine Arts Librarian, Brigham Young University



Literatura de Cordel = String Literature: Popular Folk Stories From the Northeast of Brazil

Cordel literature literally means “string literature" in Portuguese. The inexpensively printed chapbooks contain popular poetry, and typically portray traditional folk tales, Bible stories, local and international political events, historical figures, famous literary works, and moral tales. More recently, they have also reflected current issues related to people’s lives such as the national health system, sustainable agricultural projects, environmental awareness, etc. They are typically hung from strings, when sold at local fairs or by street vendors in the Northeast area of Brazil, mainly in the states of Paraíba, Pernambuco, and Ceará.  Usually printed in black and white, their covers are illustrated with stunning woodcuts (xilogravuras.)   It is customary for the authors (cordelistas) to sing or recite aloud the contents of their books to large crowds in markets or public gatherings.

The Lee Library has a small collection of cordéis that were reprinted by the Academia Brasileira de Literatura de Cordel, and they are currently hanging on a string in the art gallery on level 5.  The exhibition also presents several animated cordéis, a new genre in the online environment, projected on one of the walls in the gallery.

Visitors can use their smart phones to connect to QR codes on the posters for additional music or documentaries. This exhibition supported the campus-wide series, Brazil: Beneath the Surface, organized and sponsored by the Spanish & Portuguese Department and the Kennedy Center for International Studies. It was organized by Christiane Ramsey, Fine Arts Librarian, and Rex Nielson, professor in the BYU Spanish and Portuguese Dept.

Exhibition Handout

CUT! Opens at the BYU Museum of Art

CUT! Costume and the Cinema
, a travelling exhibition presented by Exhibits Development Group and Cosprop Ltd., London, England, just arrived at the BYU Museum of Art in Provo, Utah.  The opening reception included a spectacular red carpet event and an outdoor film screening of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003) at the MOA Sculpture Garden.

The new exhibition features 40 original costumes from 25 popular Hollywood films with 24 Academy Award nominations.  It is an exciting opportunity to see these stunning costumes from films including the new Sherlock Holmes (2009), Ever After(1998), Casanova (2005), Goya's Ghosts (2006), The Duchess (2008), Pirates of the Caribbean (2003), Sense and Sensibility (1995), The Phantom of the Opera (2004), Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (2008), Finding Neverland (2004), The Golden Bowl (2000), Gosford Park (2001), Mrs. Dalloway (1997), Howard's End (1992), In Love and War (1997), Defiance (2008), Phantom of the Opera (2004), and many others. It is a unique opportunity to see these costumes upclose in such a well-designed space.

The exhibition will be open until December 6th, 2014 and is expected to be a great opportunity for faculty to incorporate these costumes into their class projects.  "This exhibition can inspire university students to think critically as they consider how the costumes were produced, how fashion is changing and how fashion reflects history.  Students can also compare the historical portraiture with the contemporary costumes and contemplate how the costumes affect the way the subjects think, move and act." said Museum Educator Kalisha Grimsman.

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (2008).
Image credit: Photofest

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of
the Black Pearl
Image credit: Photofest

Museum Hill Libraries Choose Koha Open Source
Contributed by Carline Dechert, Librarian and Archivist, Bartlett Library, Museum of International Folk Art

This summer the Bartlett Library of the Museum of International Folk Art, working in partnership with the neighboring Laboratory of Anthropology (LOA) Library as “Museum Hill Libraries,” is migrating to Koha.  This is the story of how we chose our software and joined together to save money.  Both our libraries are small, each with a solo librarian assisted by dedicated volunteers.  Both libraries automated in the 1990’s, and have operated since on InMagic DBTextworks, a non-MARC database system.  Our implementation is so old that we don’t have web-based catalogs, so anyone who wishes to search the catalog must come to the library to do so.  This is awkward for customers, to say the least, if a curator doing fieldwork in Thailand has a question about whether we own a particular book.  Clearly it’s past time for a change.  It would be nice to have a few modern conveniences like, say, a keyword search function.  I came to the Bartlett Library in September, 2013.  After a week on the existing system I was looking at alternatives.  In the course of my library career, I’ve worked with eight different library software systems and survived several migrations, so discovering I needed to handle a library migration for the Bartlett Library was not the shock it might otherwise have been.

So what were the options?

Funding is limited; we can’t afford the cost of a proprietary Integrated Library System (ILS) from a big vendor like SIRSI/Dynix, Innovative Interfaces, Inc. (III), or – well, I was about to list Polaris but they’re III now, too, aren’t they? And therein lies one problem with the big vendors nowadays.  They are very busy gobbling one another.  If you buy into one, can you be sure your system will still be fully supported next year?  Will you be a Horizon refugee in the land of Symphony?  It would be nice to avoid this particular trap.

I do like the features the big name ILS’s offer, though, so I took a long look at local consortia to see if we might be able to join a larger group and share the costs.  I am a huge believer in consortia.  In two tiny non-profit public libraries that I directed in the past we were able to afford excellent systems because we belonged to groups where library systems were shared and our buying power was dramatically increased.  Those two tiny libraries were able to combine the best of both worlds, small-town personal service style and big-library services, only because of our consortia.  There’s no denying, though, that some consortia are a bad fit for some libraries.  I couldn’t find a local consortium that was a good fit for the Bartlett Library.

No big proprietary ILS?  There are still options.  First, there are small companies with their own proprietary products.  Unfortunately, the company in this category which looked best from the review sources is off-limits.  Biblionix maintains its excellence in the small and medium-sized public library arena in part by working only with small and medium-sized public libraries.  Special research libraries can’t buy this product.

Can’t afford a big name proprietary ILS, no consortial option open, don’t like the features or services of the smaller proprietary systems within your reach?  No problem.  There’s open source software.

If you aren’t familiar with the open source concept, you will find a good definition here:  Open source software is a gift from a community of users to itself.  The source code of the system is shared.  Anyone can use the code; anyone can install the system.  The community of users and developers shares responsibility for deciding what modifications and additions to the system should be made and when, for creating and testing the code for changes.

Have you ever had the experience of requesting a system change from a vendor, knowing that every other librarian you spoke to had also requested that change, yet seeing release after release of software go by without the inclusion of your enhancement?  In the open source community that is less likely to happen, as the enhancements are suggested, funded, and sometimes created and tested by the community of users.

In the early days, the community of users for each piece of open source library software was small, including only the very brave and committed first adopters.  Open source is as strong as its community; many people stood aside (and are still standing aside) watching and waiting.

Early discussions of using open source library software also often focused on do-it-yourself installation and implementation of the code.  This requires a dedicated, skilled IT staff – which many of us don’t have – and library staff willing to direct their own training.

There is no way the Bartlett Library could take on the burden of do-it-yourself open source.  Fortunately now there are companies who offer hosting services for open source software.  They are not proprietary ILS companies, though they compete with ILS companies.  They are service companies that provide the level of hosting and support a librarian expects from an ILS company, but they do not own or control the structure of the system they support.  It’s important when you begin to research the pros and cons of open source to understand that the download-and-maintain-yourself style of open source system use is a world apart from the hosted-and-supported model.

Here is a quick rundown of the rationale for choice of a hosted open-source product for the Bartlett Library:

  • Cost: Open-source software is maintained by a community, so installation and maintenance costs are far lower than those of proprietary software.
  • Flexibility: There are multiple hosting and support providers for the same open source software.  If a provider decides to leave the business or discontinue support, it is comparatively easy to switch to another host.  In some cases there is no added charge for migration since the data can be transferred easily from one implementation to another implementation of the same open source system.
  • Customization: Specialized research libraries require different cataloguing and search settings from most libraries and open-source software may provide the best customization for us.

Two major open source library systems are widely available today:  Evergreen and Koha.  There are various companies that offer hosting services using these two systems.  Be aware that some companies may offer what are considered to be “forked” versions of the software, versions that deviate from the shared open source to a degree that makes them essentially proprietary, diminishing the strengths of the open source concept.  Be sure you know whether the company you are reviewing offers the widely shared version of the software, or a unique forked version.

After realizing that the Bartlett Library was probably headed to open source, I began to play with test systems online and to get long, detailed tours of systems from hosting vendors.  Before taking on this work you need a good, strong list of features that are essential to you, and those that are desirable.  The more time you spend creating this list the happier you will be later. 

While touring test systems, check everything on your required and desired features list, both from the staff side (the part of the software called the staff client) and from the public catalog (the OPAC or online public access catalog).  Can you do everything you need and want to do?  Is it easy?  How hard will it be to retrain staff?  Is one interface more intuitive than another?  Is the screen too hard to read?  Can you change font sizes, colors, and other visual settings on the staff side as well as the public side?  You and your staff will be staring at these things most of the day. Do your eyes hurt after the demo?

Both Evergreen and Koha open source systems are strong and performed well in testing, but a close comparison of features made it clear that Koha would be the better choice for the Bartlett Library.  The selection was based on the specific features our library needs.

In looking at Koha more closely to confirm that it was a good fit and that it would be reliable, I could see a large, growing worldwide community supporting this open source product.  That argues for the longevity of the system.  With a large community behind it the software is likely to continue to be supported and to survive.  We will probably not be stranded with unsupported software.

The large community also means that enhancements are added quickly and often.  For example, version 3.12.0, released May 2013, included 21 new features, 160 enhancements and 436 bug fixes.  By November 2013, version 3.14.0 was released with 11 additional significant features including a new course reserves module and a new facility for MARC modification templates.  There are not just a few employees of one large company working on this software; as of July, 2013, 216 different developers had patches pushed into Koha.  A vibrant community of Koha users and developers is committed to co-creating the best system possible.

Now it was time to select a hosting and support vendor.  And by this time “my system” had become “our system.” The Bartlett Library of the Museum of International Folk Art sits on Museum Hill in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  A few steps away is the oldest of our sister institutions on the hill, the Laboratory of Anthropology, now attached to the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture.  We’re all part of the Museum of New Mexico.  The Laboratory of Anthropology has its own splendid small research library, and Librarian Allison Colborne, was also busy looking for a new library system.  Independently she, too, had chosen Koha.  We were also both leaning toward the same vendor, ByWater Solutions.

Before going further, two important notes: first, Allison reached the Koha decision long before I did and has been working toward her migration steadily; second, this article is written from my point of view, which may (or may not) differ from Allison’s.

When we discovered our two libraries were intent on migrating from the same old software (with slightly different configurations) toward the same new software (again, needing slightly different configurations) we wondered if we might be able to save some money by partnering together.  This wouldn’t be the major cost-savings you can gain with a large consortium, but in our libraries a little extra money can (and must) be stretched a long way.

With a potential partner library there are some things to consider:

  • Is the vendor willing to enter into a joint agreement?  Be sure you explore and explain all the complexities.  In our case, for example, the vendor has to sign two different contracts, each involving two other parties, for one job.  One contract covers the Bartlett Library’s parent museum and also the Foundation funding our side of the project.  The other contract covers the Laboratory of Anthropology’s parent organization and its funding foundation.  Some vendors won’t take on that kind of extra overhead.

  • Would you really save money by joining your contracts together?  We found we would.  We will also have the chance to share experience and expertise and to help each other more in the future if we are using the same system.  Sometimes, especially when working with one-person libraries, this chance to share expertise with a neighboring librarian, to help or even cover for each other, can be worth a partnership even when no money will be saved by joining contracts.

  • What will you give up by joining together?  With some software, libraries that join together may have to share certain customization options – in other words, there may be some loss of flexibility.  We asked carefully about whether we’d still be able to have separate (or at least separable) databases and different configurations of patron categories and online catalogs.  We learned we would not have to give up the customization options we wanted.  In fact, our vendor ultimately decided it would be best and easiest to put our two libraries on completely separate Koha instances on one server.  All we have to share is the server.  All our other choices and settings are completely independent, yet we still save money.

  • Do you trust your potential partner?  Is this someone you respect professionally, with whom you would be comfortable working?  Carefully examine the amount of interaction you will have with your partner(s) during and after migration.  Can you work together?  This relates both to the individual you are working with today (who won’t be there forever) and the institution behind that individual.  If you come from different institutions with different leadership, is leadership on both sides open to this?  These issues can be tricky.  There can be jockeying for control or power (I am happy to say we have not experienced the slightest whisper of this, but clearly it could occur in some instances).

Even if you trust your partner, talk about how you will work together and write an agreement.  Check online for examples of various kinds of inter-library agreements.  Talk about what seems good and what seems annoying.  Write down your agreement, and then, if at all possible, have an attorney review it.  We have constructed our agreement to cover how our two libraries will work together and also, how we would consider letting others join our group, and how we would all work together if the group grows.

Writing the agreement is important in its own right, and it is also a good test of how well you and you partner really work together.  Do you share common goals?  Agree on approaches and methods of resolving disputes?

Our agreement is still under attorney review, but here are the sections included in the draft:

  • Purpose & Definitions (what is this agreement about and who are the parties?)
  • Mission (why are we doing this?)
  • Membership (who are the founding members and who might be eligible to join later?)
  • Requirements for Membership (how do members join and leave?)
  • Membership obligations, responsibilities, and privileges (what do members agree to?)
  • Governance (how and when are meetings held; how are decisions made; how will shared work be done?)
  • Amendment and review (how do we change the agreement if necessary?)
  • Duration and termination (how long does the agreement last?)

I expect there will be significant changes after legal review, but we have a good working understanding – meaning both that we know how we will do things and we know that we can agree on how things should be done.

As I write this we are in the scary and frantic stage of migration.  Our non-MARC data has been shoved kicking and screaming into MARC format, though we’re still discovering quirks in the data, fine-tuning the conversion process, and figuring out the priorities for data correction projects in the years to come.  Training is over.  System settings are in place and being tested.  A few hairy decisions loom, mostly over the best choices for adding serials data (which never seems to migrate properly) and analytical records.  It took three days to figure out how to get labels to print properly.  The OPAC isn’t completely configured, and I’m well aware that the museum’s new branding will come into play right after I get the new OPAC set up, so I’ll get to re-do it all very soon.  This is the way of the final month. It will all be over soon – and the more I work with configuring Koha, the more certain I am that this is the best choice for this library at this time.

The conclusion of the migration story will be detailed on the Mountain West’s new blog. So check the blog at: to read the ending… or, should we say, the beginning of a new ILS for the Museum Hill Libraries. 

Please feel free to email Caroline at for more information.

Good resources to evaluate potential systems:


Newsletter Editor:
Marly Helm, Arizona State Museum Library, University of Arizona

Online Editor:
Christiane Erbolato-Ramsey, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University

August 1, 2014