Operationalizing the Art Research Collective Collection

Art libraries play a vital role in supporting art scholarship, but COVID-19 pandemic impacts have strained budgets to make sustainability challenges more acute than ever. To respond to these challenges and build institutional sustainability, art libraries can look to innovative partnerships and collaborations as one way forward. Operationalizing the Art Research Collective Collection (OpArt) is an OCLC Research project exploring opportunities for collaboration between art, academic, and independent research libraries. This project aims to help art libraries identify opportunities for beneficial partnerships around their collections, build effective collaborative structures to support these partnerships, and navigate the practical challenges involved in making collaborations sustainable and successful.


The work of the project brings together quantitative and qualitative analyses to consider opportunities and models for collaboration. The project team used collective collections and resource sharing activity analyses to explore the potential value art research libraries can bring to and might draw from a collaboration. Since prospective valuable partnerships can only become reality through the hard work of building and maintaining a collaboration, the project also offers lessons learned and recommendations drawn from a set of case studies of partnerships involving art libraires. The case studies share the experiences of participants involved in originating, building, and sustaining the partnerships. .

Responding to Community Need

The concept for this project originated in a discussion between Research Library Partnership (RLP) members and OCLC Research at the 2019 Art Libraries Society of North America Conference, focusing on an acute lack of space at art research libraries, difficulties in arranging for offsite storage of art research print collections, a lack of knowledge regarding the library collections of peer institutions, and the perceived value of art libraries partnering with other types of libraries on the shared management of print collections.  

OpArt engaged Research Library Partnership (RLP) Partners as key stakeholders in our research. Art libraries are an important part of the RLP, and the staff’s experiences at these institutions guided our investigation and informed our case studies work. Throughout the project, OCLC Research consulted an advisory committee comprised of RLP member institutions. The project advisors helped to frame the collective collections and resource sharing analyses, identify case study partners, interpret the findings, and finalize the recommendations.




OpArt: The Art Research Collective Collection in Motion
August 26, 2021 - by Brian Lavoie


April 7, 2022
OCLC Research Library Partnership Roundtable: Operationalizing the Art Research Collective Collection progress report
This year’s edition of the OCLC RLP Roundtable at ARLIS’s 50th Annual Conference featured an update on the OCLC Research project Operationalizing the Art Research Collective Collection (OpArt).
View event details, recording and slides >>

January 25, 2022
Operationalizing the Art Research Collective Collection: progress report
OCLC Research staff will present a progress report at the midway point of the two-year Operationalizing the Art Research Collective Collection project.
Event details and slides >>


This project is supported through a grant by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation with significant co-investment from OCLC. We are grateful for the advice and perspective of our Advisory Committee:

  • Jon Evans, Chief of Libraries and Archives, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
  • Rebecca Friedman, Assistant Librarian, Marquand Library, Princeton University
  • Roger Lawson, Executive Librarian, National Gallery of Art
  • Autumn Mather, Director, Ryerson and Burnham Libraries, Art Institute of Chicago
  • Lori Salmon, Head, Institute of Fine Arts Library, New York University
  • Keli Rylance, Head Librarian, Richardson Memorial Library, Saint Louis Art Museum
  • Kathleen Salomon, Chief Librarian, Associate Director, Getty Research Institute
  • Tony White, University Librarian, OCAD University

Support Materials

An Art Resource in New York: The Collective Collection of the NYARC Art Museum Libraries.
By Brian Lavoie and Günter Waibel