First, let me thank the Lois Swan Jones Committee for granting me the 2006 award. Thanks to the generosity of the membership, I was able to take full advantage of the Banff conference's professional development opportunities, including workshops and tours. Here is a summary of my conference experience.
I attended the workshop on Digitization Strategies for Preservation and Access led by Howard Brainen, Digital Imaging Consultant and founder of Two Cat Digital. Two Cat Digital's clients include many ARLIS/NA, VRA, SAA, and MCN member institutions. After reviewing definitions, we discussed best practices for digitization projects and the components of such projects. Next we reviewed ideal vs. real world digitization strategies and whether the methods we use for small projects are scalable for larger collections. We reviewed the scanning systems currently available for books, prints, and film, and Howard Brainen generously shared the results of his tests on a variety of book scanners, including robotic books scanners, book scanners on a sliding table, DigiBook overhead scanners, flatbed scanners, and direct digital copy. He evaluated quality, productivity, cost, and special features, and concluded that the real difference between the least expensive systems ($4,000; flatbed and direct digital copy) and the most expensive systems ($250,000; robotic scanners) is in productivity. Scans from either system can "look as good" but robotic scanners never get tired and can scan from 1,200 to 3,000 pages each hour. Scanning operators can achieve 120 pages per hour on a flatbed or up to 600 pages on an overhead system, but they cannot work for more than a few hours at these rates. We ended the workshop by discussing examples of commercial and non-commercial projects and discussing how these projects impact future funding for digitization in libraries. There was also ample time for questions and for sharing of project management strategies among workshop attendees. Two Cat Digital's web page includes useful documents, including: a decision tree, information on color management, tips on hiring a photo shop tech, and more. My goal to have a better understanding of digital project management prior to seeking project funding was more than realized.
After the workshop, I headed for the Exhibit Hall, where the Silent Auction was also held (the Texas-Mexico Chapter contributed a basket to this fundraiser). I had volunteered to participate in the Conference Mentoring program and I met my mentee, a student at Indiana University, at the Welcome Party/Exhibits Hall Opening Reception. This event was a great opportunity to meet colleagues, friends, and vendors, to introduce my mentee to ARLIS/NA members, and to preview items on exhibit.
The next day I attended the session, Planning for Posterity: the Preservation of Art and Architecture Materials. Conservators and librarians shared their expertise and strategies for preserving and assessing collections, and for working with architects to design appropriate storage environments. Of particular interest are some of Harvard College Library's guidelines, and some of the resources available from the Canadian Conservation Institute's web page. I also attended the session on Improving Access to Images and Metadata. This was one of several sessions at the conference that dealt with issues related to image access and description. Ways to share files (peer-to-peer) in order to create or populate metadata fields were discussed, as were trends toward more open content and interoperability among licensed databases, the advent of social indexing and the potential demise of the taxonomic approach (no more pre-coordinated strings, no authoritative lists, no unnatural language?), and changing approaches to cataloging in response to new users. Related issues were also brought up in the session Aggregated Image Collections: Enriching and Aggravating?. One of the trends was dubbed the 'ARTstor factor': new collaborations between librarians and visual resources curators is evidenced now that libraries are licensing image databases. But licensed databases still fall short, as they lack adequate content for advanced courses. Visual resource curators no longer necessarily have a 'primary user' base now that users from all across the campus access their collections. Campus-wide image access results in more complex user education needs due to the size and diversity of the user population.
Of course due to the announcement just prior to the conference of the possible merger between RLG & OCLC, the RLG Round Table was well attended. After a brief presentation by Günter Waibel, the floor was open for discussion. Attendees were keen to know that RLG programs will continue after the merger and contributors to RLIN wanted to make sure that copy specific information would continue to be viewable and indexed.
I attended the Architecture Section Meeting where it was announced that ARLIS/NA is now affiliated with the Society of Architectural Historians (SAH). Members of the section are working on information competencies and volunteers were sought to discuss these competencies with faculty members and test them out with assignments. Max Marmor reported on ARTstor plans with regards to architecture collections, notably the archives of Ezra Stoller (ESTO) and Wayne Andrews. Assistance with prioritizing the material to be digitized was sought from section members. ARTstor is in discussion with SAH to establish best practices for QTVR documents, so that we can get beyond still images to document architecture. I chaired the Membership Committee meeting (see minutes) then joined Texas-Mexico chapter members for an informal get-together (another networking opportunity).
One unexpected highlight of the conference was the NFB Film Night. The National Film Board of Canada (NFB) is a federal cultural agency within the Canadian Heritage Department. Created by an act of Parliament in 1939, its mandate is "to produce and distribute and to promote the production and distribution of films designed to interpret Canada to Canadians and to other nations." The films selected by the organizers were all somehow related to art or artists. Each was unique and though the night was late, I just had to stay for the entire showing. If you missed these films, look for them from your favorite distributor!
Because the University of Texas at Austin recently licensed ARTstor, I attended the ARTstor Users Group Meeting, where new development and future plans were announced and feedback from users was sought. I was a panelist on the Ask ARLIS Session: Reaching Out: Chapter Links to Local Library Schools. Panelists shared ideas for reaching out to library school students and a library school faculty member gave us insights into what the society might do to help educate the next generation of professionals. This was also the day when I volunteered at the Exhibit Hall (the Texas-Mexico basket was highly desirable and the no-so-silent auctioning provided much excitement!).
At the Digital Reconstruction of Illuminated Manuscripts: The Ege Project panelists discussed the history of the Ege manuscripts and their dispersal, as well as ongoing plans to recreate the manuscripts in digital form. A symposium and exhibit on this topic was held at the University of Saskatchewan in 2005. Additional owners of Ege manuscript pages are still being sought. After attending the Academic Division meeting where much of the discussion related to information literacy and to 2007 conference session ideas, I took part in a tour of the historic Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. Not only is this hotel quite charming, but its history is also fascinating, our guide was entertaining, and the views are breathtaking! Well worth the visit.
The Convocation ceremony began with a theater company interpreting several humorous excerpts from Shakespeare, some with a local twist. Award winners were recognized, with Sherman Clarke receiving the Distinguished Service Award. This was followed by a lavish reception in the hotel (yet another networking opportunity where I again met with my mentee).
The second workshop that I took part in was Art in Books: How to Identify Original Works on Paper. This was a hands-on session, our leader having brought numerous examples for us to view (and magnifying lenses). Because I manage a growing special collection, this training will be immediately useful to me. I attended the Hot Topics: Going Green session, where several architects discussed their sustainable design projects and Sue Koskinen reviewed web-based sources for green design information (and she proclaimed that 'green is the new black'). At the membership meeting it was announced that almost 450 members were in attendance. After the membership meeting I finally ventured outside the hotel to explore the park. A short gondola ride brought me to the summit where a 360-degree view awaits. I hiked over to the next peak and saw three mountain goats on my way back! After the hike, it was time to hit the historic hot springs and relax. Refreshed, I ventured out for another hike along the river into Banff for dinner.
Last, but not least, another highlight of the conference for me was the all-day University of Calgary Information Resources Tour. The Information Resources department was formed seven years ago by bringing the libraries, university press, image center, archives, special collections, and Nickle Arts Museum under one director. We visited their Information Commons, their Image Centre (which consists of a Photo-imaging unit, a Film Library, a Copyright Clearance Center, the University of Calgary Press, a Digitization Unit, and a Slide Library), the Archives & Special Collections and its Canadian Architectural Archives, the Fine Arts Library, and the Nickle Arts Museum. Our hosts were extremely generous and we were all impressed with what our Canadian colleagues are up to.
Let me end this report by encouraging new members and conference participants to apply for this award in the future. There just is no substitute for face-to-face interaction with colleagues and visits to other libraries. Thanks again to all the members who make this award possible.Janine J. Henri