Service Review: Queensland Art Gallery Gallery of Modern Art Research Library

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    • #998
      Ruth McConchie

      Due to my interest in the accessibility of research libraries, I have reviewed the website and catalogue of the Queensland Art Gallery Gallery of Modern Art Library (QAGOMA). I am interested in how research  libraries situated in publicly funded art galleries manage and make ephemeral materials available to researchers and the public. I approached their reference service requesting information on two specific Japanese artists; one the library would likely collect resources on “just in case”, the other would be likely to collected “just in time” but both fell into one of the collection strengths: the Asia–Pacific region. I also benchmarked QAGOMA library with other publicly funded art gallery research libraries in Australia as I was unsure of the website and reference service standards. These included: Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA), Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW), National Gallery of Australia (NGA) and National Gallery of Victoria (NGV).

      The QAGOMA library is easily accessed through the main website and the landing page is very simple and easy to navigate with links to some of their special collections.The mobile functionality of the website makes researching more accessible as Google search algorithms now favour websites that are mobile-friendly, 50% of internet access in the UK and the US in 2015 will be via a mobile device, and the growing trend towards mobile-only users in Australia. At the other end of the spectrum, there is no link to the NGV’s Shaw Research Library on it’s website, the MCA’s catalogue appears to be broken and the AGNSW library seems to have a restrictive reference enquiry form. This has led me to think about the responsibilities of research libraries as facilitators of access in publicly funded art institutions. I would also question whether they are, as Reeves explored in the Auckland Art Gallery collection, adequately meeting the expectations of their audience and meeting all the free access to information principles of ALIA.

      According to the QAGOMA library website, it contains 43,000 books and exhibition catalogues and close to 250 current journal titles. There are search tips, an advanced search option and help buttons available and also a suggestion for researchers to contact the library via email before they visit to make sure resources are available. QAGOMA’s artist files are searchable using the online catalogue, making ephemera accessible. These digital records of ephemera collections are also evident, as Coombes explains, at the NGA archives of ephemera, archives of official and personal papers, and oral histories relating to Australian art and artists and at AGNSW with it’s ephemera files documenting Australian art and artists comprising over three-quarters of a million items.

      I sent an email enquiry to the library on 14/8 at 12.16pm and I received a well-researched response 40 minutes later. The QAGOMA librarian attached PDFs of relevant journal articles, detailing their artist files of press, articles and catalogues, specifically their international catalogues. One of the artists is currently exhibiting at QAGOMA and the librarian attached an essay from the current exhibition catalogue. The librarian then invited me to access the materials at the library, listing the opening hours and mentioning that they would be happy to help me “track these resources down”. The librarian continued that they could “get the materials ready for viewing to help streamline your research”. I was very impressed with the level of service I received at the QAGOMA library. Their response was timely and informative but most of all welcoming and easily accessible.

      • This topic was modified 8 years, 11 months ago by Ruth McConchie. Reason: formatting code death
      • This topic was modified 8 years, 11 months ago by Ruth McConchie. Reason: Continuing formatting horror
    • #1029
      Katherine Lee

      Really well thought out and interesting review Ruth! It sounds like QAGOMA library offer very responsive and thorough reference services. Is the service offered to the public or just to researchers, and if so, do you have to demonstrate your particular research credentials before you are able to access the materials?

    • #1060

      Thanks for your informative and interesting post Ruth. The librarians and library staff doing this course have insights into how reference services work that give a really useful perspective that’s helping me to understand this area, that I’m pretty sure I might have taken for granted in the past. I’m loving the forums for that reason. Like Katherine, I’d like to know more about research libraries having read your post and will follow up. Great to know that QAGOMA provided such a positive experience – as someone interested in aboriginal art and artists, particularly in Queensland, I’ll feel less reticent about approaching the reference librarian now! Your statistics about increasing mobile use are also interesting – on Friday I listened to a lecture about human/computer interaction in IFN616 Online Information Services that predicted the demise of the mobile phone and laptops, as we know them today, in favour of wearable devices like watches and glasses. I just hope reference librarians are still reachable as I wink and blink into my digital specs!

    • #1295
      Caitlin .

      Wow Ruth,

      This is a very interesting post of an area I never new existed in public galleries and the service they provide seems very user friendly and well resourced. Is it freely open to the general public or do you have to demonstrate some king of research credentials? When you emailed was their contact details easily accessible or was it necessary to set up a user account? A requirement when approaching many larger institutions. I would be very interested to know if their level of service is representational of the sector as a whole.


    • #1302
      Caitlin .

      My apologies I meant Robynne not Stacey. Not too sure how to edit comments 🙂

    • #1376
      Ruth McConchie

      Thanks for all the comments. In response to your question Katherine, I didn’t need to present any kind of research credentials which was really nice. I was able to just send through an email Caitlin. I didn’t need to setup any kind of account. From my experience, i don’t think that this kind of service is available at all research libraries in publicly funded institutions but it would be nice if it was.

    • #1405
      Paola Beretta

      Hi Ruth! I enjoyed reading your article very much as I have been curious about the QAGOMA library but haven’t got around to explore much until now. It seems to me you did a lot of focused research to write a concise, informative and very interesting post. As the other colleagues have mentioned, this has been a great forum to learn from each others’ experiences and interests and I learnt a lot from your post. Thank you!

    • #1986
      Samantha Maddox

      Hi Ruth, Thank you for such a well informed and specific post. I had no idea that QAGOMA had this facility available with in the gallery let alone the size if the extensive catalogue available! It is great that anyone can send through enquiries in regards to past and present artists and they will respond in such a timely manner.Thank you for such an interesting read, I feel i have gained a lot of information about an organisation that i love to visit and for making me aware of facilities that i will hopefully utilise one day!

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