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"The Hirsch Library" - A Group Research Project by Christy Duhon, Deborah LeBeau, Danielle McGavok, Brandon Shoumaker, and Michael Staton
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"The Hirsch Library" - A Group Research Project by Christy Duhon, Deborah LeBeau, Danielle McGavok, Brandon Shoumaker, and Michael Staton


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For completion of LIS7403-Special Libraries, a class offered at the School of Library and Information Science at Louisiana State University. …

For completion of LIS7403-Special Libraries, a class offered at the School of Library and Information Science at Louisiana State University.

This is a group research project on the Hirsch Library, located inside of the Museum of Fine Art in Houston, Texas.

All images in this presentation are from the Hirsch Library and are copyright MFAH.

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  • 2. About The Hirsch Library The Hirsch Library is located inside of the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Texas and provides reference assistance and bibliographic instruction to Museum professional staff, docents, and members, as well as to college and university art history students, teachers, and the general public.
  • 3. About The Hirsch LibraryFounded in 1927, the library was introduced by then Museum director James Chillman to givepatrons the ability to “judge the arts.” The original library was then settled in the basement of thewest wing of the Museum. The collection was started with a public fund and thereafter a budgetfor the library itself was implemented with the museums budget. By the 1970’s the library hadoutgrown itself and a new facility was needed and in 1974 the library was relocated to the Mies vander Rohe addition inside of the Museum.
  • 4. About The Hirsch LibraryIn September of 1981, an endowment for the library was established by General Mauriceand Winifred Busby Hirsch, two longtime museum and library patrons. Maurice became a trustee of the Museum in 1960 and his wife, Winifred, played an active role in the volunteer groups. General Hirsch passed away in 1983 and Mrs. Hirsch followed him in 1990, leaving her jewelry collection to the Hirsch Library, and its proceeds from their sale at Christies, New York, which were then used as endowments funds. This endowment was designated to be used for, "the maintenance, repair, embellishment of the present or subsequently substituted premises of the Museum Library and for the purchase of fixtures, furnishings, books, manuscripts, book illustrations, periodicals, appropriate art objects and any other use pertinent to a museum library.”The Library was then named the Hirsch Library that year, as a lasting tribute to these twoMuseum patrons.
  • 5. About The Hirsch LibraryAs was the case in the 1970’s, by 1989 the library found itself again outgrowing itself. High densitycompact shelving was then added, and the number of periodicals was reduced, which enabled thelibrary to double in size. In 2000, renovation to the Library took hold and the physical size wasincreased from 3,900 to 8,400 square feet. The main floor contains the reading room overlooking theAlice Pratt Brown Garden, and the downstairs portion housing the main stacks, vertical files, rare bookcollection, and cataloging offices.
  • 6. Users of the Hirsch LibraryMore than 7,000 individuals visit the Hirsch Library annually, with library staff providing reference assistance and bibliographic instruction to students, instructors, the public, and Museum staff.The Hirsch Library provides access and assistance for anyone interested in art and art history, and while the library’smission is to support the museum and its operations, the library services the art community of the greater Houston area.
  • 7. Users of the Hirsch Library Benedetti defines the main goal of any art museum library: “The primary purpose of the museum library, therefore, is to support research concerning the museum’s objects, as well as those it may not own but exhibits, by providing information on those and related objects as well as pertinent information on their cultural context, and the creators of those objects.” Joan M. Benedetti, "Managing the Small Art Museum Library," Journal of Library Administration 39, no. 1With this definition in mind, the library serves three tiers of clientele with adescending level of importance towards satisfying the parent organization’smission:•Museum Staff•Researchers•The General Public
  • 8. Users of the Hirsch LibraryMuseum Staff:The library’s first and highest tier of clientele is the museum staff, from the curators anddocents, to the administrators and volunteers.This first tier of users form the focus for the library as an institution; supporting the museumand its staff is the main goal of the library and most of the funding and energy is directedtowards this goal. Museum curators often begin preliminary research for future exhibitsmany years in advance of the actual opening of the exhibit. The library provides thefoundation for this research, often gathering the material for the eventual exhibit catalogsthat are produced in conjunction with the exhibits. The library also provided the docentswith the needed information to enhance their presentations during tours and presentationsonce the exhibits have arrived in the museum. The library also serves as an area of quietworkspace for museum staff wishing to work uninterrupted, away from their respectiveoffices.
  • 9. Users of the Hirsch LibraryResearchers:The second tier of clientele is the researcher.The library provides research assistance to all of the local universities and high schools. Indepth art research for local university students nearly always requires the use of the HirschLibrary for the completion of the assignment, and the library staff is extremely helpful inthis type of endeavor. For the local area high school students, the library provides a treasuretrove of materials unavailable to high school students in smaller communities. Anotherfocus of research in the art community is from appraisers and collectors researching theprovenance of certain pieces or the value of upcoming auction pieces. The library’snumerous copies of auction house catalogs from over a century ago provide a definitivehistory of many works of art from which researchers can draw.
  • 10. Users of the Hirsch LibraryThe Public:Finally, the last tier is the general public.The library remains open to the general public, but only to those interested in art and artresearch. While the general public is allowed access to the library, it is not openlyencouraged among the staff to promote the library to the average museum patron. This isreinforced by signs on library computers stating that they are only for use in art research.
  • 11. Services and Products The services and products provided by the Hirsch Library include reference assistance, bibliographic instruction, tours, orientations, and presentations. These services areprovided to the museum staff, curatorial staff, docents, students, faculty, appraisers, art collectors and the general public.
  • 12. Services and ProductsReference books are located in the public space. Ready reference materials are interfiled with thereference collection. This encourages the staff to beon the floor with the patrons and providesopportunity for further research engagement. Thelibrary also provides access to subscribed databases. The library offers tours, orientations, and presentations, and it has hosted members of museum associations, art societies, and historical organizations. Workshops with a focus on basic research skills, and object-focused and online research are available, as well. Eight public computers are available on the first floor. The primary use of thecomputers is for art research. Docents and interns are active users. Also, the docents and interns are allowed to access webmail from one of the computers. Patrons sometimes use the computer to print museum tickets.
  • 13. Services and Products•Displays that complement the current, forthcoming, and past exhibits are provided.Materials on the exhibit subject area are displayed for quick reference. Other displaythemes include highlights of the previous month, and also, displays with information ofdeceased artists. As with many other areas of the library’s collection, the library collectioncomplements the museum’s collection.•An interlibrary loan service is offered, but it is strictly used for staff purposes only, with theexception of special patrons who may be working on dissertations and such.•There is a self-service copier and a microform reader. Photocopying is allowed with acharge of .25 cents for a black and white copy, and $1.00 for a color copy. The prices areset high, as to protect the books, keeping with the philosophy that if the public finds itexpensive then they will think twice about making a copy.•Clients who are working on a dissertation are allowed to hold all the books they are usingin a special storage area, so that the books will always be available when they come in towork on their paper.
  • 14. Services and Products In addition to the services listed, the library has resources located in the stacks on the bottom floor, as well as off-site storage. The off-site storage facility islocated three miles from the Hirsch Library. The storage facility is visited once a week for pick-up and drop-off.
  • 15. StaffingAn art museum library is ultimately responsible for supporting the museum to which it is attached, and this affects the library’s staffing requirements.The library is staffed by trained professionals with a considerable knowledge about art and subjects relating to art. This idea was expressed in the Staffing Standards for Art Libraries and Visual Resources Collections, “The professional and paraprofessional staff in an art museum library musthave subject knowledge in the collecting areas of the museum. The librarians must have parity with the curatorial and research staffs.”This level of parity requires that the staff utilize trained, motivated professionals, along with the use of volunteers to keep up the standards set for art museum libraries.
  • 16. StaffingBetween the Hirsch Library andthe Kitty King Powell Library atBayou Bend, fifteen employeesand several volunteers staff the various departments.They have their own cataloging department and a dedicated technical services librarian.The technical services department employs a full-time technical services librarian, andshe is assisted by two full-time catalog librarians, a part-time catalog librarian and severalvolunteers. While most of the cataloging for the library is copy cataloging, the originalcataloging that is performed on-site necessitates the full-time librarians. A departmenthead and two full time reference assistants staff the reference department. Other staffmembers filling staffing shortages when necessary also serve in this department.
  • 17. Staffing The final components, and possibly the most important, are the volunteers. Thevolunteers staff numerous areas of the library. Several volunteers serve as pages, while others take care of the vertical file collections.
  • 18. The CollectionThe entire collection is a non-circulating collection and consists of over 140,000 volumes of work dedicated to the arts.These items range from books, periodicals, online resources, artists’ books, worldwide museumcollection catalogs, and artist files covering more than 25,000 artists.
  • 19. The Collection Their rare collection, which is viewable by the public by appointment, is searchable ontheir online catalog. This collection dates back to the 15th century and contains works byGiorgio Vasari with his early edition of Lives of the Artists (1647), which many consider to be the first work of art history.
  • 20. The Collection The collection also contains roughly 30,000 auction catalogs, used by collectors and appraisers who frequent them often. The most recent, up to five years, is kept in the library itself, with the remainder kept in storage and is available upon request. The auction catalogs are not searchable, but are available in the access database.
  • 21. The CollectionThe collection is ever increasing its online databases as well as providing free online resources devotedto art research. These are extremely beneficial to appraisers and collectors as well as the curators and art students. The MFAH libraries currently provide free access while in the library to numerous specialized art databases or collections such as the Archives of American Art, Art Inventories of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Documents of 20th-century Latin American and Latino art, The Getty Provenance Index Databases,, and the Wilson art abstracts and index.
  • 22. The Collection Periodicals are also an important part of the collection.There are 250 periodical titles in the collection with the most current on view, and the past few issuesstored on a shelf underneath the new issue. As with the auction catalogs, most are in storage and can be retrieved as needed by a patron or staff member. Complete years of periodicals are bound.
  • 23. The CollectionWhen a special showing is taking place at the museum or is scheduled, special books pertaining to that show will be purchased for the collection as a supplement to the show. These are used for displays while the show is available in the museum.
  • 24. The Collection Each month hundreds of new book titles are added to the collection and are available in the library’s reading room. These new titles include exhibition catalogs, monographs, biographies, collection catalogs, artists’ books, and the latest issues of the periodicals.
  • 25. The Collection A special element to the library’s collection is the ephemera files which consist of three large, motorized and rotating filing cabinets. These cabinets house files on over 25,000 artists and each file contains anything printed about the artist, ranging from newspaper clippings to gallery openings. Many artists or the representatives send in such matters, and it is a great treasure for individuals doing research on a particular art and their works. These files are added to on a daily basis as new information is found in newspapers or received in the mail. Some little known artists may only have a few items in their files while well known artists can have multiple files filled with information.
  • 26. The CollectionThe collection is housed in three separate buildings. The majority of the collection is located in theHirsch Library on the main campus of the Museum of Fine Art. A smaller collection is housed in the newly established Kitty King Powell Library and Study Center at Bayou Bend. A third building is used for storage of older items or items that are rarely needed. The Hirsch Library and the Kitty King Powell Library buildings are open to the public for research. The entirecollection is a non-circulating collection. The storage facility is only open to staff. A staff member visits the storage facility once a week to retrieve items that have been requested. Virtually the entire collection of the Hirsch and Powell Libraries can be searched through the Hirsch Library’s catalog. Books, online resources, periodicals, theses and dissertations, and artist files can be searched from home, work, or school via the internet. The individual issues of the serials are not searchable using the ILS system yet. You may locate the titles of theserials using the catalog but not the complete record of the holdings. The Hirsch Library currently uses an internalsearching system, but they are working on getting the Serials function up and running. A phone call or visit to theHirsch Library will be necessary to gather information about items that are not included in the catalog such as the auction catalogs, museum files, and commercial gallery catalogs.
  • 27. The Collection An Acquisitions Librarian is in charge of the selection and purchasing of the items and databases in the collection. The curators also play a suggestive role in collection decisions since the collection reflects the exhibits. The auction catalogs are sent to the library free of charge and automatically, so there is no decision to be made and they are an important part of the collection. The items and databases are purchased from individual vendors andcompanies located throughout the world.The endowment money is budgeted once a year and collection decisions stay within the budget.
  • 28. Organizational Structure The library is led by a Director. The Director supervises fourteen full time positions.The positions fall into three tiers below the Director.
  • 29. Organizational StructureThe first tier contains two positions which fall directly beneaththe Director position:•One position is a Library Assistant/Acquisitons Librarian• The other position is a Library Association Librarian
  • 30. Organizational StructureDirectly under these two positions fall three more positions whichsupervise the majority of the staff:• The position of Technical Services Librarian supervises the Technical ServicesDepartment and staff and the volunteers whom assist with work in theTechnical Services area.• The position of Reference Librarian supervises the Reference Department andstaff and the volunteers whom assist with tasks in the Reference Department.•The position of Director of the Kitty King Powell Library supervises the staff atthat location and the volunteers whom assist with work at the Powell Librarylocation.
  • 31. Organizational Structure
  • 32. FacilitiesThe Museum of Fine Arts actually contains two special libraries:The Hirsch Library and The Kitty King Powell Library andStudy Center.
  • 33. FacilitiesThe Kitty King Powell Library and Study Center specializes in American Decorative Arts from the 17th to 19th centuries and its facility resides on the second floor of Bayou Bends Lora Jean Kilroy Visitor and Education Center in Houston.
  • 34. FacilitiesThe Kitty King Powell Library and Study CenterThe library offers research and reference assistance and the books can be transferred tothe Hirsch Library free of charge to any patron who desires them for research. Thecollection housed here consists of more than 6,000 books, periodical volumes, andauction catalogues and assists those interested in the history of American materialculture, including furniture, ceramics, metals, glass, and textiles. Also contained are theHogg Family Collection, consisting of information relating to the history of Texas and rarebooks dating back to the 18th and 19th century and include English design guides, andbooks for cabinet makers and architects.
  • 35. Facilities The Hirsch Library contains the main, core collection that coincides with the artcollections housed at the Museum of Fine Arts and is housed at the Museum itself.
  • 36. FacilitiesThe Hirsch LibraryIn 2000, renovation to the librarytook hold and the physical size wasincreased from 3,900 to 8,400 squarefeet. The main floor contains thereading room overlooking the AlicePratt Brown Garden, and thedownstairs portion houses the mainstacks, vertical files, rare bookcollection, and cataloging offices.
  • 37. FacilitiesThe museum libraries also have one offsite storage facility that contains journals, auctioncatalogs, and other books. This staff only facility is visited once a week, where holds are picked up and brought to the library for patrons.
  • 38. Approximate BudgetThe Hirsch Library operates on a budget supplied strictly by its endowment in addition to donations from benefactors. While we were denied insight by Hirsch officials into the library’s annual budget because of thenature of the library’s funding (i.e. endowment), we were given a couple of small windows through which an idea of what goes into the library’s budgetary concerns can be discerned.
  • 39. Approximate Budget Endowment money is funneled directly into the library’s operating budget and is not shared in any way with theMuseum of Fine Art, eliminating any potential squabbles over money between the museum and library. This endowmentpays for staff salary, professional development, collectiondevelopment, and conservation.
  • 40. Approximate Budget In addition, we were told the library receives a large amount of donated books frommembers of the community. These books are vetted for potential inclusion in the library’s collection and, if they are not accepted for inclusion, the library places the rejectedmaterials in a book sale. The proceeds of this book sale are then used to purchase more appropriate materials for the library. Approximately 300 to 600 books are retained and catalogued into the collection each month.
  • 41. Approximate Budget This is important given the recent rise in the cost of art books published in the United States. According to the Library and Book Trade Almanac 2009, the price of trade paperback art books has risen in price from, on average, $30.78 in 2005 to $38.20 in 2008, a roughly 24% increase in three years, while the average price of hardcover art books increased from $62.51 to $80.55, a 28% jump.
  • 42. Approximate BudgetTo get some idea of what an art library like Hirsch must budget for collection development, we must look at an example from another art library.The collection development librarian for art and art history at University of South Florida determined that, in order to expand the library’s collection to match those of its peers, the library needed to purchase at least 7,000 titles. At an average cost of $68.77 per fine art book, the library determined it needed to spend about $481,390.00 (Powers). From this, it can be inferred that the Hirsch Library is likely spending an amount comparable to the amount being spent by the USF library.
  • 43. Approximate Budget This dollar amount is likely larger in the case of Hirsch because, as a museum library, it must collect materials for bothits permanent collection as well as any traveling exhibitions that come into the museum. Because of this, “museum libraries that are non-circulating can have a more focusedcollecting policy, but rarely does this relieve any budget constraints. Their main prioritiesmust be to collect actively in fields tied to their permanent collection and to collect very wisely on subjects related to traveling exhibitions.”
  • 44. Approximate Budget Furthermore, although Hirsch patrons cannot check out books from the library some exceptions can order books notavailable at Hirsch from other institutions through interlibrary loan.The patron can then view the material at Hirsch at the patron’s leisure. However, because Hirsch has to “establish relationships with other institutions orconsortiums in order to take advantage of the interlibrary loan option for theirpatrons,” this arrangement “usually does carry some budget repercussions.”
  • 45. Marketing and Public RelationsAs discussed in the article, Marketing-A Critical Policy for Today’s InformationCentre by S. Ganguly and Debal C. Kar, there are three marketing targets to consider:•Initially, the client base needs to be identified.•Once the client base is known, the “needs”, “wants”, and “satisfaction levels”of the clients should be established.•Products and services should be suitable to fulfilling the client’s requests.
  • 46. Marketing and Public Relations The Hirsch Library does not have a publicinformation officer or public relations staff position, however, one of the staff members did work in a public relations position in her previous career. The library would like to devote more attention to the marketing area. Currently, all of themarketing is done in house at the Hirsch Library.Programs, e-blasts, and blogging are some of the non-print resources used. They do implementprinting information sheets on their own, as well as oversized bookmarks. Their web site hasbeen up for one year and has seen many visitors.
  • 47. Marketing and Public Relations One of the marketing challenges for the Hirsch Library is to market specifically to usergroups that would benefit from this specialized library. The promotion of computer use would be primarily for art research and database access, not for general use of by the public.Another avenue of marketing or promotion for the library is the library tours, orientations, and presentations. Docents, staff, outside groups and classes are able to participate.
  • 48. Problems or DifficultiesThe largest problem expressed by Ms. Wexlerat Hirsch was a lack of space for the storage of art books and materials. The very nature of art libraries, functioning as a researchfacility, mandates the collection of numerous print materials, such as catalogs and other ephemera.
  • 49. Marketing and Public RelationsThe collection of auction catalogs and exhibition catalogs is a standard practice “for patrons to use while researching provenance, conducting appraisals, or simply locating color images of artists’ works.” The use of off-site storage is a common practice to address storage issues in art libraries. However, space issues are not unique to art libraries like Hirsch. According to Payne, “College and universitylibraries in North America hold a billion books, and add approximately 25 million more each year…and libraries face great pressure to find efficient and cost-effective ways to house their existing holdings and to make room for new materials.”
  • 50. Marketing and Public RelationsThe Hirsch has one main off-site storage location,three miles from the library itself, but also sharescollection space with the Kitty King Powell Library at the Bayou Bend House museum. Storage at Hirsch’s off-site facility is done on a high-density model. Hirsch’s off-site facility, as well as most high- density facilities, uses a modified version of what is known as the “Harvard Model” of storage. According to Payne, “Harvard-model facilities are designed to achieve maximum space efficiency at the lowest cost of construction.”
  • 51. Marketing and Public RelationsThe Harvard Model consists of high-fixed shelving with volumes stored by size, rather than Library of Congress Number, inside cardboard trays. A mechanical picker operated by a human worker retrieves the volume from the stacks and delivers it for shipping. Delivery to the requesting library is usually the next day.In Hirsch’s case, a library staffer visits the off-site facility once a week to retrieverequests for materials and return materials that are no longer needed on-site at the library. The cost to build a Harvard model high-density storage facility compared to another popular model, the Automated Storage and Retrieval System (ASRS), is $3 per volume for Harvard compared to $10 per volume for ASRS.
  • 52. Marketing and Public Relations In relation to the problem of storing materials, Hirsch is also working toward digitizing its large collection of serials and magazines. One of the largestcollections of materials the library holds is a collection of auction and exhibition catalogs and library staff would like to digitize these catalogs and make them searchable for patrons. However, because Hirsch’s integrated library system is not fully realized, the serials component is notyet ready for public use. The progress toward digitizing Hirsch’s serials is slow because there are many considerations to be made. The library must determine whether the serials are in the public domain and whether they have already been digitized elsewhere (OCLC has a registry for this). In addition, consideration must be made to presentation and accessibility).
  • 53. Marketing and Public Relations Another one of the problems the Hirsch Library has encountered is the use of their computers by the general public who aren’t necessarily there for art research.Approximately two years ago, library staff found that many children would come into the library after school to simply “hang out” and play games or use social networking on thelibrary computers. Since then, the library staff has had to “re-claim” their space by askingthe computers be used strictly for art research. Since their revenue is not generated from public funding, rather from endowments and donations, the library can limit computer usage as such.
  • 54. Marketing and Public RelationsMs. Wexler also expressed an issue with the lack of Internet filtering software on the public computers. It must be mentioned that, because Hirsch does not receive federal funding, it does not have to filter its Internet access in accordance with the Children’s Internet Protection Act of 2000. Because many works of art depict the nude human form, this causes problems withfiltering software. For example, a high school student in Maine doing research on Renoir foran art project was unable to access pictures of Renoir’s nude works on the school’s Internet servers. However, if she desired, she could have gone to an art library and seen the exact same Renoir nudes in many different books. The problem Hirsch runs into is that, because, due to the nature of certain art works and forms, the library cannot filter their Internet on public computers, the facility runs the risk of a patron using the public computers with more a prurient agenda. Hirsch staff has mitigated this problem by restricting public computer access to patrons conducting only art research.
  • 55. Marketing and Public RelationsFinally, Ms. Wexler also mentioned that the library suffers from a lack of marketing andadvertising; many members of the public do not know of the existence of Hirsch, or are surprised to learn that there exists such a facility when visiting the museum. On one hand, Ms. Wexler stated that the staff would like to advertise to let more usersknow that they do exist, but, at the same time, the library wants to limit their marketing because of the desire to avoid crowds and kids coming in to simply “hang out.”