Partnership makes Speed Museum library virtual 'branch' of University Libraries
Does an art museum that sits next to a university with a stellar fine arts program really need its own library?
That's what the Speed Art Museum asked itself and an outside consultant when it started to plan for its upcoming renovation and expansion.
The answer — no — not when the University of Louisville Margaret Bridwell Art Library is less than five minutes away — has led to a partnership between the longtime neighbors that will benefit the museum, UofL art scholars and art scholars in general.
The Speed approached Gail Gilbert, UofL art library director, about helping the museum library downsize and catalog its remaining collection several years ago. The two libraries signed an agreement on how to make that happen in late 2008.
Basically, Gilbert said, they agreed that the museum would give books and journals it no longer finds appropriate for its collection to University Libraries. UofL will add the holdings the Speed library keeps to its online Minerva catalog.
Duplicate items or those that don't fit within the collections of the Art Library, which has 90,000 volumes, or in Ekstrom Library will be sold. Proceeds from the journals will go to the Speed, and proceeds from the books will go to University Libraries, she said.
The arrangement strengthens the ties between the libraries and establishes a more reciprocating relationship, said Allison Gillette, transitional library at the museum. She and Gilbert noted that it benefits both parties.
University Libraries will save money because it will be able to fill in gaps in its journal and book collection from the Speed items, Gilbert said, and as the museum receives books and catalogs from other museums and dealers in the future, UofL will be able to select from the ones the museum doesn't intend to keep — again saving money.
Also, with the materials that the museum keeps appearing in UofL's online catalog, students and faculty will have easy access for the first time, she added.
As for the Speed, the museum gets invaluable assistance in automating its collection, said Allison Gillette, transitional librarian for the museum.
"It is a really big endeavor," she explained. Having the collection online as part of the Minerva system means the Speed holdings will be "a lot more public to students and to anyone in general."
Essentially, she said, the Speed's library becomes a branch of University Libraries.
"The focus of our collection is going to be for the (Speed) curators since the Art Library is so accessible to them (for other things)," she said. "We figured that focusing on art work in our collection or on holdings for curatorial use makes more sense. A lot of our collection — although the books are wonderful — don't have anything to do with the Speed collection right now."
Plans for the physical library space are not set.
"The library is really hidden," Gillette said of the current museum floor plan. "I hope the library will be in a much more public place after renovation and expansion so people will feel free to walk in and browse."
The transitional project is being paid for by a $122,622 Institute of Museum and Library Services grant.