April 2023

Sustaining Art Research Collections: Case Studies in Collaboration

by Dennis Massie, Chela Scott Weber, Mercy Procaccini, Brian Lavoie

Sustaining Art Research Collections: Case Studies in Collaboration offers recommendations for building strong collaborations based on real-life examples of art library partnerships. These case studies document the practical experiences and lessons learned from collaborations involving art and academic libraries to identify successful collaboration characteristics and typical challenges when planning, implementing, and sustaining a partnership.  

Art libraries provide vital support to art scholarship within their own institutions and in the broader scholarly community. As art libraries face challenges from an evolving environment, repercussions from the COVID-19 pandemic, and static or diminishing resources, finding sustainable pathways forward becomes an increasing priority. An important option for art research collections in achieving long-term sustainability is collaboration.

Building on OCLC Research’s ongoing efforts in library collaboration, this report highlights important considerations for art libraries and institutions that might partner with them. Library leaders can leverage the findings presented here to inform decisions about collaboration opportunities supporting art research collections and stewarding existing partnerships to greater success. While derived from the art library context, the report’s recommendations will be useful to any type of library considering collaboration. 

Three Case Studies in Library Collaboration

The case studies in this report offer rich perspectives on how art libraries have built and maintained partnerships in various settings to illustrate partnership models that art libraries could adapt in other contexts.   

  • Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and Rice University—A museum library’s partnership with a neighboring university library focusing on shared access to and storage of library materials.   
  • OCAD University and the Ontario Council of University Libraries—A small art and design university’s membership in a regional consortium with 20 other university libraries of various sizes and types.   
  • Worcester Art Museum and College of the Holy Cross—A museum library’s partnership with a neighboring university, which includes a shared staffing model, cataloging and ILL infrastructure, and reciprocal access to the collections of both institutions. 

Operationalizing the Art Research Collective Collection

Sustaining Art Research Collections is the second in a two-part series describing findings from the Operationalizing the Art Research Collective Collection project, which is supported through a grant by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation with significant co-investment from OCLC. The first report, Sustaining Art Research Collections: Using Data to Explore Collaboration, models how library collection and resource sharing data can support decision-making about partnership opportunities.

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. 


Suggested Citation

Massie, Dennis, Chela Scott Weber, Mercy Procaccini, and Brian Lavoie. 2023. Sustaining Art Research Collections: Case Studies in Collaboration. With a foreword by Amelia Nelson. Dublin, OH: OCLC Research. https://doi.org/10.25333/kc2z-an73.