‘Globalism, Diversity, Exchange’, ARCLIB conference, Venice, 8-11 May 2019
With the support of ARLIS/UK & Ireland and ICOM UK, I was fortunate to attend the ARCLIB (Architecture Librarians’ Group) conference in Venice, the theme for which this year was ‘Globalism, Diversity, Exchange’. The conference centred on the ways in which library services can contribute to institution-wide initiatives on globalism, inclusivity and sustainability. These issues are relevant to university collections like my own at the Architectural Association School of Architecture (AA) as well as to more general academic libraries. The conference was also a forum for the exchange of ideas internationally as it was held in collaboration with ARCLIB’s Italian sister organisation, CNBA (Coordinamento Nazionale Biblioteche di Architettura). The conference also attracted delegates from North America, including representatives from Harvard University, the Avery Library at Columbia University and MIT.
The conference was hosted by IUAV (Venice University Institute of Architecture) and was a good mix of talks, workshops and visits to libraries and archives, with plenty of opportunities to network.
Three talks I found particularly interesting centred on the challenges facing institutions in addressing the demands of accessibility and inclusivity, as well as highlighting the benefits to the library in terms of improving provision for diverse audiences and finding ways of being more inclusive and encouraging greater representation from a diverse range of users.
The keynote speaker, Jess Crilly, from University of the Arts, London, spoke on ‘Diversity and collections’. Her talk explored theoretical and practical approaches to diversity and collections, including the value of diversity as a term, the influence of critical librarianship and strategies of diversification and decolonisation. She described recent activity at UAL on diversifying content including providing access to non-mainstream material such as YouTube, web archiving and open-source research. She also examined how libraries need to maintain a diverse practice, including collections development in terms of language, shelf-ready material and new cataloguing. She also described initiatives such as the RAS (Retain, Achieve, Succeed) Research Programme and how initiatives to decolonise the arts curriculum led to strategies to decolonise the arts library.
Carol Keddie spoke about some exciting initiatives relating to inclusivity, globalism and sustainability at De Montfort University. Her presentation focused on how the Library and Learning Services has engaged and been involved with the wider work of the university at a strategic level. It was interesting to hear about the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) initiative which began as a strand of the university-wide Disability Enhancement Programme. The three key principles include flexible ways of learning, flexible ways of testing learning and flexible study resources such as providing material in alternative formats. She highlighted the benefits which included aligning the Library’s contribution to the work of the University faculties, and raising and maintaining the Library’s profile, to show how the Library’s contribution is relevant and appropriate beyond formal teaching and learning.
Nick Brown from Christie’s Education spoke about approaches to diversity and globalism in art and architectural libraries and their attempts to decolonize the physical and theoretical space of the library. It was useful to learn about several current campaigns, including how the Library at Goldsmiths is engaging with the Learning, Teaching, Assessment Strategy (LTAS) to support Goldsmiths’ campaign ‘Liberate our degrees’. Other initiatives include SOAS’s ‘Decolonising SOAS Vision’ and UCL’s Inclusive teaching toolkit.
I found that the Knowledge Exchange sessions were useful opportunities to discuss and reflect on what is meant by diversity in library collections and globalisation in the context of library services, and to consider practical outcomes that could be applied to our own collections, such as the digitisation of archive materials and extending the reach of online resources.
In addition to the talks on globalism and diversity, there were interesting talks on developments in other architectural libraries, including one by Ginny Franklin, who spoke about her first year of supporting an architecture degree course at Loughborough University. Carla Marchesan and Vito De Bellis presented the results of their research on open-source mapping tools, a good example of globalism. The conference also provided me with the opportunity to present a paper on benchmarking architectural libraries, to be used as the basis for planning and evaluation. After my talk I was given useful feedback about possible methodologies for such a survey.
The following day we joined our CNBA colleagues for talks around the theme of ‘Publishing Architecture: the future of books and journals’, which was relevant to all delegates. Giacomo Covacich (bruno) gave a paper on books as 3D objects and examined the new wave of publishing in the last 10 years. Elisa Tallone (Alberto Tallone Editore) gave a paper on the book as art form, using her family firm of typographers as a case study. It was surprising to find out that Garamond, a typeface that was established in Venice 500 years ago, is still the most popular typeface for books and ebooks. Erica Foden-Lenahan’s paper ‘Poacher turned gamekeeper: survival of a niche librarianship publication in the age of open access’ examined the move to a collaborative publishing deal that she was involved with as Editor of ARLIS’s Art Libraries Journal. Laura Casagrande (IUAV) gave a paper on the evolution of Urbadoc, a major international online resource, which was followed by presentations by EBSCO and Birkhauser representatives.
In addition to the talks and workshops, visits were arranged to the Library of Fondazione Giorgio Cini, IUAV Library and Materials Library, and the Biennale Arte 2019. I particularly enjoyed visiting the Archivio Progetti, where Teresita Scalo showed us around the extensive stores and reading room, including stunning models of Edoardo Gellner’s vacation colony Il Campeggio in the Alpine village of Corte di Cadore, dating from the 1960s.
The conference gave me plenty of food for thought. I learnt about several initiatives that my Library and institution could implement to ensure better diversity and inclusivity in terms of the collections and access. It was also an excellent opportunity to share my own experiences and build professional relationships with fellow library and archive professionals working with architectural collections.
Eleanor Gawne, Architectural Association School of Architecture