Operationalizing the Art Research Collective Collection | OCLC Research

Art libraries play a vital role in supporting art scholarship, but COVID-19 impacts have strained budgets and sustainability challenges are more acute than ever. To respond to these challenges and build institutional sustainability, art libraries will look to innovative partnerships and collaborations as one way forward. Understanding the opportunities, challenges, and potential strategies for cooperation between art, academic, and independent research libraries can help identify new collaborative models to support the continued availability of the art research collective collection. Operationalizing the Art Research Collective Collection (OpArt), an OCLC Research project, will help art libraries identify potential collaborative models to address shared sustainability barriers and consider practically what institutions will need to make these models operational.

OpArt project phases

We will divide our exploration into four phases of work:

  • Analyze Art Research Collective Collections: Using the WorldCat dataset, we will analyze how art library collections, and the collections of other types of libraries, compare to help identify potential opportunities for cooperation, coordination, and/or sharing across collections.
  • Identify Art Research Collection Sharing Patterns: Using OCLC ILL data, we will identify patterns in resource sharing activity (past and present) across art library collections and the collections of other types of libraries.
  • Conduct Collaborative Case Studies: This phase will build on the findings from the first two phases with a “deep dive” into several case studies of regional art library cooperation/coordination/sharing to gain insights from real-world examples.
  • Operationalize Collaboration: This phase will synthesize findings to describe the practical challenges and provide general recommendations for creating and maintaining cross-institutional relationships that help art libraries create and manage partnerships around their collections and sustain access to art research materials.


OpArt will engage Research Library Partnership (RLP) Partners—particularly from SHARES, the resource-sharing arm of the RLP—as key stakeholders in our research. Art libraries are an important part of the RLP and SHARES, and the staff’s experiences at these institutions will guide our investigation and inform our case studies work. OCLC Research will consult an advisory committee comprised of SHARES member institutions throughout the project, including to help frame the collective collections and resource sharing analyses, identify case study partners, interpret results, and finalize recommendations.


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. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has only increased the urgency of these and other issues related to the long-term sustainability of art research collections.


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