Resources for Museum and Curatorial Librarians


This bibliography will provide works which will be relevant to the administration and development of libraries which serve museums (especially art museums) and curatorial staff, as well as those which will be useful to consider when developing such a collection.

The role of the librarian within the museum is not to work with the institution’s collection (of art, artifacts, or the like).  As Esther Bierbaum puts it, the librarian is there to enhance “the scholarship of the curators, the creativity of the exhibitors, and the skill of the educators (2000).”  In other words, the user base of a museum library is the professional staff that runs the museum itself, and whom the librarian is there to support.

Many of the requirements of a museum library will be similar to those in other special libraries – staffing, budgeting, etc.  This bibliography gathers together resources which will address the specifics of how these needs, as well as others, are expressed in museums.

(Sources are listed in alphabetical order by author under the main headings below. Some are general works while some are very specific; the particular utility of each item will be explained in its description)

I. Print Materials


Ahrensfeld, J. L.;Christianson, E. B.; and King, D. E.  (1982).  Special Libraries: A Guide for Management. 2D ed. New York: Special Libraries Association.

This work is included here to provide a general overview of the range of special libraries, including some information on museum libraries in particular.  It may be too broad for the specialist, but will be useful for the non-expert entering the field.  “The manual demonstrates how to start a special library, what a special library does, and what resources the special library needs (Nason 1982).”

Benedetti, J. M. (2007). Art museum libraries and librarianship. Lanham, Md: Scarecrow Press.

This anthology contains essays on the management of art museum libraries, and provides a very broad overview of the field. George Eberhart writes that “this volume is a treasure house of information that covers management, reader services, automation, security, technical services, space planning, collection development, promotion, and professional development (Eberhart 2007).” With such a range of topics, this text should be invaluable to anyone interested in art museum library work.

Anyone wanting to explore any single area of museum librarianship in closer detail will also relish the massive, subject-divided bibliography at the end of the text.

Bierbaum, E. G. (2000). Museum librarianship: A guide to the provision and management of information services. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland.

This is one of the solid textbooks of the field. “All aspects of the museum library are covered here: beginning or revitalizing the library, collection development and the bibliographic process, space and equipment requirements, [etc] (Altman & Pratt 1995).” Particularly useful is the appendix of relevant library and museum associations and organizations.

Carr, D. (2006). A place not a place: Reflection and possibility in museums and libraries. Lanham, MD: Altamira.

This book is much less of a practical handbook and more of a philosophical treatise on the usefulness of libraries and museums in the context of individual learning.  This would probably be most useful for a reader exploring why museum librarianship is important rather than how to go about it. As Reference and Research Book News puts it, “the museum and the library celebrate this solitary way of learning and therefore should be designed to support the importance of individuals’ questions…(2006).”

Larsen, J. C. (1985) Museum librarianship. Hamden, CT: Library Professional Publications.

Another venerable textbook covering everything from staffing to preservation to educational outreach.  This one received really glowing reviews in Library Journal: “it is good news that a most thoughtful, well-edited, and up-to-date [in 1985] publication is now available to those working in or involved with museum librarianship…This publication should be of great help to enlightened trustees and directors who realize that excellent library service is essential for outstanding performance by curatorial staff (Dane 1985).”  One of the most valuable assets of this book is the extensive bibliography attached to each chapter.

Shapiro, M. S., & Kemp, L. W. (1990). The museum: A reference guide. New York: Greenwood Press.

Although it focuses on the field of museum studies in general rather than specifically on museum libraries, this bibliographic work should be valuable for someone without deep pre-existing knowledge of museum-related topics. Jack Perry Brown tells us that “the essays are cogent, substantial if not comprehensive, and clear (Brown 1990).”

Tannert, C., & Tischler, U. (2004). Men in black: Handbuch der kuratorischen Praxis = Men in black : handbook of curatorial practice. Frankfurt am Main: Revolver.

Part handbook, part exercise in postmodern design, this volume provides a collection of essays and other writings by practitioners, as well as an appendix with contact information for grant programs, training, etc. Paul O’Neill describes it as “a timely, efficient and welcome anthology of material published on contemporary art curating since the 90s (O’Neill 2005).”

Wilson, T. L. (2004). The twenty-first century art librarian. Binghamton, N.Y.: Haworth.

This one is immensely popular with the critics, who variously describe it as providing “a valuable opportunity for the voices of experience to offer a view of the needs and demands of this specialized area of the library profession (Frosch 2004)” and “a welcome addition to the literature on art librarianship (Wong 2004).”  It includes articles by Susan Craig, Paula Hardin of OCLC, Kim Collins, and of course Joan Benedetti.

Journal Articles

Recommendations for the following articles were drawn from the excellent “Further Reading” bibliography in Benedetti’s Art Museum Libraries and Librarianship (Benedetti 2007).

Benedetti, Joan M. (2003). Managing the Small Art Museum Library. Journal of Library Administration, 39 (1), 23-44. Retrieved October 20, 2009, from

Benedetti gives us a hands-on description of the management of art museum libraries so small they are staffed by a single individual. The article is a fabulous introduction to some of the key issues as well as a bit of a “sales pitch” on the rewards of the field.

McCleskey, Sarah E. (2003). Staffing Standards and Core Competencies in Academic Art and Architecture Departmental Libraries — A Preliminary Study. Journal of Library Administration, 39 (1), 1-21. Retrieved October 20, 2009, from

This is a solid, if preliminary, exploration of staffing levels at a variety of art and architecture libraries. How much staff does a department library need? How many employees should be professionals or paraprofessionals?

Jansen, C. (2003). Art Museum Libraries: Automation and Services to the Public. Art Documentation, 22(1), 21-8. Retrieved October 8, 2009, from Library Lit & Inf Full Text database.

Designed to “a picture of services presently offered to the public by art museum libraries in the light of the development of new technologies,” this article is a valuable crossover between museum-library-specific research and more general library-tech concerns.

Hughston, M. (1991). Funding for art museum libraries. Art Documentation, 10, 83-4. Retrieved October 8, 2009, from Library Lit & Inf Full Text database.

This older article is still a valuable report on the state of museum library funding.


Blais, N. (Ed).  Museogramme. Canadian Museums Association.

A professional journal in the field of museum studies.  This Canadian publication is recommended for inclusion by Larsen in his chapter on professional resources.

Doering, Z. D. & Larson, K (Eds).  Curator: the museum journal.  AltaMira Press.

This is another of the many journals recommended in Larsen’s text.  It focuses primarily on curatorial studies and would be valuable to any museum library with that particular user base.

Dyki, J. & Zimon, K. (Eds). Art documentation: Bulletin of the art libraries society of North America. Art Libraries Society of North America.

Not only is this journal produced by the highly-respected ARLIS/NA, but the sheer number of times that authors like Benedetti refer to articles from it means it will be invaluable for anyone studying museum librarianship. The journal is published semi-annually and is refereed. Ulrich’s selected review (From Magazines for Libraries) calls it “an essential publication for all art libraries and visual resource centers (Ulrichsweb).”

Gracy, D. B. & Dupont, J. (Eds). Libraries & the cultural record: Exploring the history of collections of recorded knowledge. University of Texas Press, Journals Division.

“An interdisciplinary journal that explores the significance of collections of recorded knowledge-their creation, organization, preservation and utilization-in the context of cultural and social history (Project Muse).” Libraries and the Cultural Record regularly reviews books relevant to both library and museum studies, and often deals with the interactions between these fields.

Trant, J. (Ed). Archives and Museum Informatics: cultural heritage informatics monthly. Kluwer Academic Publishers.

As described on Ulrichsweb: “Archives and Museum Informatics publishes articles, reports, news, and commentary on information technology issues related to the field of cultural informatics. Conference reports, software reviews, discussions of standards and networking issues are regular features. Electronic records was a major focus of the journal for many years, but recent issues feature more articles on museums and the World Wide Web. The journal continues to be an important resource for all those interested in the impact of information technology on the management of our cultural heritage (Ulrichsweb).”

II. Web Materials


The Robert Goldwater Library Online Resource (2009).  Robert Goldwater library blog. Retrieved September 25, 2009, from

The Robert Goldwater Library is part of the legendary Metropolitan Museum of Art, one of  fourteen libraries associated with the museum.  The Goldwater focuses on the arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas, and is one of the more active of the libraries online, maintaining this blog as well as a wiki cited in the next section. While the blog does not update frequently, it does provide insight into the workings of the library, as well as serving as a useful example of using the blog format to gather and publicise new information about a museum library.

Other Websites

Art Libraries Society of North America. (2009) Art libraries society of North America – Occasional papers. Retrieved October 19, 2009, from

ARLIS/NA calls itself the “largest and strongest network of art information professionals.” The organization publishes a series of Occasional Papers, including tools like core competencies listings, sample collection development policies, and their often-referred-to Staffing Standards for Art Libraries and Visual Resources Collections. They are also responsible for publishing the Benedetti textbook described above.

Institute of Museum and Library Services. (2009). IMLS – Resources. Retrieved October 16, 2009, from Institute of Museum and Library Services:

This government website offers material relevant to both museums and libraries, including case studies, best practice reports, and podcasts. The site also has a section devoted to grant-seeking and eligibility, to help institutions apply for funding.

The Robert Goldwater Library (2009)  Goldwater library wiki: Welcome to the Goldwater library wiki! Retrieved September 26, 2009, from

This wiki serves primarily as a guide and help resource for using the Goldwater library.  However, it also includes in-depth information on specific pieces found in the Museum’s collection (browsable by picture)  with links to the library catalog entries of works referring to each piece.  Again, exploring and observing this Metropolitan Museum project is a valuable information source for what one of the top museums in the country does with its library.


Altman, E., & Pratt, A. (1995, January). Special libraries & collections. Journal of Academic Librarianship, 21(1), 76. Retrieved September 28, 2009, from MasterFILE Premier database.

Brown, J. (1990, August). The museum: A reference guide [Review of the book The museum: A reference guide]. Library Journal, 115(13), 106-107. Retrieved September 28, 2009, from Academic Search Premier database.

Dane, W. (1985). Basics of Museum Librarianship. Library Journal, 110(19), 68.

Eberhart, G. M.  (2007, September). Art museum libraries and librarianship. [Review of the book Art museum libraries and librarianship]. College & Research Libraries News, 68(8), 536.  Retrieved September 28, 2009, from Research Library.

Frosch, P.  (2004). The twenty-first century art librarian.[Review of book The twenty-first century art librarian] Library Journal, 129(7), 134.  Retrieved September 28, 2009, from Research Library.

Nason, M., Lewis, M., Mould, S., Main, C., & Williams, J. (1982). The JAL Guide to New Books and Book Reviews; Special Libraries. Journal of Academic Librarianship, 8(4), 239.

O’Neill, P. (2005, April). MIB [Review of the book Men in black: Handbook of curatorial practice]. Art Monthly, Retrieved September 25, 2009, from Academic Search Premier database.

Project Muse. (2009). Project MUSE – Libraries and Culture. Retrieved October 5, 2009, from

A place not a place; reflection and possibility in museums and libraries. [Review of book A place not a place: Reflection and possibility in museums and libraries]. (2006, August). Reference and Research Book News, 21(3). Retrieved October 8, 2009, from Research Library. (2009)  Full Citation [Archives and museum informatics].   Retreived October, 2009 from (2009)  Full Citation [Art documentation]. Retreived October, 2009 from

Wong, S. (2004) The twenty-first century art librarian. [Review of book The twenty-first century art librarian] Technicalities, 24(5), 18.  Retrieved September 28, 2009, from Research Library.

Additional Useful Information

Contemporary museum libraries often need a web presence to reach users who may be unfamiliar with what their library has to offer. In order to help facilitate the building of a website for your museum library, please see Amanda Goodman’s Resources to Develop a Library Website for further information.

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