Friday, 9 December 2011

Workshop review: An Introduction to Art & Design Reference Resources, Monday 5th December 2011

Thank you to Jennifer Laurenson, Graduate Trainee at the Courtauld Institute of Art, for providing the following report on 'An Introduction to Art & Design Reference Resources':

This year’s workshop took place at the National Art Library on the 5th December. The event was a chance for some to update their skills in enquiry work or for those new to art librarianship, like myself, to get a thorough introduction to the wealth of art and design resources available.

The day started with a presentation by Bernadette Archer from the National Art Library (NAL) which served as a good introduction to enquiry work within an art and design institution and more specifically about the NAL. It was particularly interesting to hear how replacing individual email addresses with links to a web-form run by RefTracker has improved the way the NAL handle enquiries. The use of a web-form has improved how online enquiries are received and recorded, allowing more efficient use of staff time and producing statistics at the click of a button. Another insightful aspect of the session was seeing actual enquires and responses from the NAL, showing the types of questions they receive and how the NAL put enquiry handling techniques into use.

The second talk, given by Vicky Brown from Oxford University, explored visual resources in an academic environment. She spoke of the advantages and disadvantages of analogue visual resources, like slides, used in the past and brought us through to the present and the abundance of digital resources available now. Resources available to us today range from image database subscriptions, to in-house resources, to the - practically limitless - internet. Vicky made it clear that this is a time when people with visual literacy skills are vital to guide people through the maze of resources out there and as art librarians it was important to keep informed and to future-proof yourself.

We then went down into the NAL and took part in a practical session to use the resources we had heard about earlier. The group was split into pairs and asked to think about how we would respond to various enquiries, using physical and electronic resources in turn and discussing our findings afterwards. The session was extremely helpful in putting the ideas of the morning into practical use and discovering new resources.

In the afternoon we heard about supporting students with dyslexia in art and design enquiry work from Andrew Callen of Salford University. He explained the various difficulties that dyslexic students may face and how academic libraries could try to overcome these problems. The solutions ranged from actions that individuals could do when at the enquiry desk, like avoiding jargon and writing down long shelf numbers for students, to larger changes like introducing a spellcheck feature for online catalogues or colour/picture coding alongside classification systems. This interesting session also brought up some unexpected issues with online navigation; some students with dyslexia have issues with ‘sequencing’ or remembering the steps necessary to get to a particular outcome.

At the end of the afternoon we had the opportunity to look behind the scenes with a tour of the National Art Library. This was a fantastic end to the day and we saw some treasures of their collection. The day was incredibly thought-provoking and useful in a practical sense, as I will certainly be able to use a lot of the advice and recommendations that were mentioned throughout the day.

Jennifer Laurenson
Graduate Trainee Library Assistant
Courtauld Institute of Art

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