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Re: [BKARTS] cataloging artist books


It's great that your partner is studying descriptive terminology for cataloging artist's books. This is one of the most important areas that needs to be encouraged in order for our field to advance. The easier it is for librarians to catalog the Works, the more likely they are to read about them and purchase them. Even more important, the easier it will be for them to FIND them in their collections.

At the Los Angeles Artists' Book Conference last May I attended an ARLIS session on just this topic. See
scroll down to the May 22 session at the Otis College of Art.

I suggest your partner contact the moderator and panelists identified there.

What was MOST interesting to me in the discussion was the report from a librarian who had an extremely difficult time locating book art works in their collection for an exhibition held in conjunction with the conference. She knew several of the works by their appearance, but there were no descriptive search terms in any fields that brought them up in the database without knowing the title, author, etc.

There are several approaches. The main resource of descriptive bibliography for artists books is the AAT, Getty's Art & Architrecture Thesaurus:

Two of those present at the session intended to work on researching additional terminology to add to its artists books section.

There are other approaches. FOr example, Mindell Dubansky at the Metropolitan Museum of Art developed a system for cataloging all the books in the various departments, including extensive descriptive fields for the bindings.

Johanna Drucker is doing a particularly interesting cataloging project at the University of Virginia called Artists Books Online, which encourages artists to participate in the cataloging process. You can see it at


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