February 2023

Sustaining Art Research Collections: Using Data To Explore Collaboration

by Brian Lavoie, Dennis Massie, Chela Scott Weber

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.

Sustaining Art Research Collections: Using Data to Explore Collaboration is the first of two reports documenting the findings from the Operationalizing the Art Research Collective Collection project. 

The report uses two approaches:

  • Collective collection analysis—Examines bibliographic and holdings data describing an art research collective collection in the US and Canada to illustrate how collection analysis can inform partnership decisions.
  • Resource sharing activity analysis—Analyzes data from resource sharing transactions involving art libraries to better understand these existing collection sharing partnerships and explores opportunities for other kinds of collaboration.

This first report illustrates how quantitative analysis of library collection and activity data can be leveraged by library leaders to inform decisions about collaborative opportunities supporting art research collections.

The findings of this report:

  • Provide insight into the collections of libraries in the US and Canada supporting art research
  • Highlight the unique value art libraries can bring to partnerships
  • Point to possible future collaborative efforts around building, stewarding, and sharing art research collections


Sustaining Art Research Collections is an outcome 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 concept for this report originated in a 2019 discussion of challenges facing art research libraries between members of the OCLC Research Library Partnership (RLP). The issues identified by the RLP include:

  • An acute lack of space at art research libraries
  • Difficulties in arranging for off-site storage of art research print collections
  • A lack of knowledge regarding the library collections of peer institutions
  • The perceived value of art libraries partnering with other types of libraries on the shared management of print collections

These conversations inspired a four-phase 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.

Supplemental Material

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OCLC Research encourages the reuse and distribution of our work by providing it with a CC By 4.0 license. For your convenience we have created Power Point slides for the most requested images, complete with suggested citation. Please feel free to use these slides in your presentations or publications without the need to request further permission.

Image Gallery for Sustaining Art Research Collections: Using Data to Explore Collaboration


Suggested Citation

Lavoie, Brian, Dennis Massie, and Chela Scott Weber. 2023. Sustaining Art Research Collections: Using Data To Explore Collaboration. With a foreword by Jon Evans. Dublin, OH: OCLC Research. https://doi.org/10.25333/V636-PE98