Arlis News-sheet to ARLISmatters: Keeping art librarianship updated

ARLIS/UK & Ireland has always played a role in keeping art library and archive workers in a wide range of contexts updated on the latest developments in the field. From the early 1970s to 2016 ARLIS produced its own bi-monthly printed news bulletin/magazine, the ARLIS News-sheet, sent out to all ARLIS members, which aimed to keep people working in art, design and architecture libraries and collections , and indeed anyone else interested in art and design resources, up to date on developments in art and design documentation, collections and promotion, and other professional matters, as well as offering current awareness for the latest publications and exhibitions.

Features of the illustrated magazine included art and design library news and announcements; reviews of new books, exhibition catalogues and other resources, later on including a section on online resources; a museums and galleries column detailing a selection of forthcoming and current exhibitions around the UK and Ireland; artists’ books news, which focused on new artists’ books and associated events; students and trainees news; a column on international developments; reports on visits and meetings and ARLIS conference reports,  and ARLIS Council news. A number of ARLIS members over the years took on the voluntary role of ARLIS News-sheet editor, chasing copy and editing and proofreading the magazine, sourcing images and overseeing production, and it was seen as a valuable addition to ARLIS’s more heavyweight and scholarly Art Libraries Journal. 

However, in 2015, it was decided that in the digital world a more appropriate means of current awareness would be something in an online format, and a WordPress blog, ARLISmatters, was born in January 2016, offering an opportunity to rethink the approach to content, and with the advantages of immediate news updating, full-colour images, and a more fluid deadline-free and more demographic and hopefully inclusive editorial approach. The blog was designed and established by Alex Duncan, Cathy Johns, final editor of the ARLIS News-sheet, and Angie Applegate, all members of ARLIS Publications Committee. The online format has been largely successful in attracting attention to art library news more widely from a range of interested people internationally, being more up to date in its approach to news and offering the opportunity to link with other online and social media resources. An interesting opportunity was taken by Alex Duncan to launch a series of podcast chats on ARLISmatters, featuring discussions between art librarians about issues of interest to the art and design library community. Some regular columns have continued, such as Artists’ Book News, which has been contributed by Sarah Bodman of the Centre for Fine Print Research at UWE for many years, and reports of activities in art libraries are featured regularly, and of course the opportunity for ARLIS to respond directly and immediately to news such as the second tragic fire at Glasgow School of Art in May 2018. However, the challenge remains to encourage a wider range of people to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the more accessible and informal online format to contribute more content for the site – book and exhibition reviews would be particularly welcome.