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Looking Back and the Path Forward

Stephanie Beene and I (Kai Alexis Smith) have enjoyed serving as co-moderators for the Architecture and Planning Section. The time has come for us to step down and allow for new leadership of the Section as we take on new adventures within ARLIS/NA. While we both plan to remain active in the Section, I will be joining the Executive Board as the Advancement Liaison, and Stephanie will be serving in a variety of upcoming initiatives on behalf of the Antiracism Task Force and the Documentation Committee, as it prepares for ARLIS/NA’s 50th anniversary in Chicago next year. I have enjoyed being your co-moderator over this past year, and Stephanie has enjoyed serving as the Urban & Regional Planning Special Interest Group (SIG) Coordinator and then my fellow co-moderator since 2018. 


In the short time we have served together as co-moderators, we have successfully led the membership in a vote to dissolve the Urban & Regional Planning SIG and merge it with the Architecture Section after an initial discussion at the 2019 ARLIS/NA Conference in Salt Lake City. Dissolving the Urban and Regional Planning SIG and merging it with the Architecture Section aligns shared knowledge and resources between the groups, amplifies the status and agency of Planning within ARLIS/NA by dissolving the SIG and making it a Section, and allows our members to benefit from one annual meeting at conferences rather than multiple meetings. Stepping into the co-moderator positions, we had high hopes for lots of engagement and programming, but the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic  slowed everything down considerably, including the administrative work that comes with merging these two groups. A component of this work included joining the two separate listservs into one. Unfortunately, this work came at a time when the association was changing management companies so there has been a delay. We see a path forward with the help of McKenna Management and the transition to the new Humanities Commons platform. This work will be continued with new leadership.


Despite these transitions and the pandemic, we were still able to accomplish quite a bit.

  • We updated the policy manual to reflect the change in both the Urban & Regional Planning SIG and Architecture Section and the merging of the two, in conjunction with the Executive Board, the Documentation Committee, and Editorial Board.
  • We restructured the Section’s moderators governance by editing the bylaws, in conjunction with the Executive Board. Previously the Architecture Section had vice-moderators and moderators; with the new Section, the leadership has been restructured to have two co-moderators that overlap one year with each other to support transition and continuity. 
  • We updated the Architecture and Planning webpage on the ARLIS/NA website to reflect these changes and align with other documentation, in conjunction with the Editorial Board and the Executive Board. We also retroactively documented leadership  positions for the Section and updated the conference presentations on the webpage.
  • The Architecture and Planning Section Blog was renamed Arch/Plan Sec ( We worked with McKenna Management on a seamless transition of the url, look, and style of the blog. 

We want to thank each of you for your patience, flexibility, and hard work through what has been a trying year for everyone! Throughout this merge, members were engaged and excited about the future prospects and opportunities.

Some highlights of what was accomplished in the last year include: 

  • In collaboration with the previous moderator of the Architecture Section, Rachel Castro, we submitted a panel for the St. Louis conference, Preserve, Enhance, Reimagine: Examining architecture and urban planning through a social justice lens,” which was accepted for the 2020 Annual conference in St. Louis. This panel featured local architecture and planning experts in St. Louis as panelists and was intended to re-evaluate and re-imagine our roles as critical information professionals in this local, conditional optimism. In particular, as art and architecture librarians contributing to local communities, visual and information literacy instruction and programming, and social justice frameworks, this panel would have thoughtfully reflected upon our roles as information professionals and proponents of social justice.  
    • Unfortunately, the 2020 conference was canceled due to the pandemic. We had a virtual event planned with the speakers in April 2021, but each of our speakers had other obligations and were not able to commit to the timing of this event.


Image provided by Karen Bouchard
Image Provided by Aimee Lind

In addition, Reference Librarian at Brown University Karen Bouchard will be stepping out of the role as Blog Coordinator after serving for two years. Reference Specialist for Architecture Collections and Manager of Interlibrary Loan at the J. Paul Getty Trust Aimee Lind served as Social Media Coordinator, mainly managing the Facebook group, since she was the Architecture Section Moderator in 2018. Both the Blog Coordinator and Social Media Coordinator positions will be recruited by the new co-moderators of the Section.  


Image provided by Jeff Alger

We pass the baton to the newly elected co-moderator for 2021 to 2023, Jeff Alger. Jeff is a Librarian II at Iowa State University and was elected to the position with 95.4% (21 of 22) of the Section members that voted. 


Election results for Jeff Alger

Scholarly Resources Librarian at The University of Texas at San Antonio Diane López was elected to the 2021 to 2022 co-moderator position with 91% (20 of 22) of the Section members that voted. However, Diane has withdrawn from consideration. This leaves an opportunity to fill this one-year term. The new co-moderator would serve with Jeff and this is a terrific opportunity for networking and professional development.

Election results for Diane Lopez.

While Stephanie and I set out to do a lot this past year, the pandemic taught us to scale our expectations and learn the limits of what we are able to do while valuing each other and our families. What we accomplished as a Section was plenty, and we are excited for the next year and what it may hold. We enjoyed the work with the Architecture and Planning Section and now move on to contribute to the society in different ways.         

This is not good bye. It is see you around,  

 Kai (and Storm) and Stephanie (and Hayley)


Image left provided by Kai Alexis Smith of Kai holding her puppy Storm.

Image right provided by Stephanie Beene of Stephanie holding her dog Hayley.

ARLIS/NA Architecture Section and Urban Planning SIG to Merge

In May,  survey was recently sent out to all members of the Architecture Section and the Urban Planning SIG of ARLIS/NA. The questioned posed asked if they agreed with the proposal to merge the two groups.

Forty-five members voted. Of these, forty-four votes were in favor of the merger, with only one vote against it.

Please find the breakdown below:


Thank you to all who participated in the survey!

They Stepped Up: Vendors During the Coronavirus

From the Association of Architecture School Librarians column on the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture website.

By Barbara Opar, Architectural Librarian, Syracuse University.

It is a changed world out there. We in academia have had to adjust very quickly—faculty to preparing lectures with the resources on hand and then recording them online using newly prescribed software; librarians to dealing with reference queries that were once easy to answer in the print world but now with limited online content. And what about our students? They can no longer presume that they can consult older periodical issues or study structural systems on actual drawings. Many are unaware of what they cannot access. All of us have had to make quick adjustments to different resources and content.

But we have had support. Many vendors have stepped up and offered free content for the duration of the pandemic without the expectation of purchase. Examples are numerous and often surprising. By March 25, RedShelf and VitalSource opened access to hundreds of textbooks for free to faculty and staff at qualifying colleges and universities impacted by this crisis. Proquest is offering access to 150,000 titles. Sage Knowledge and Project Muse are on board as well as presses like Duke University and the University of MichiganBrepolis and DeGruyter are among more commercial vendors expanding their access to nonsubscribers. Want to keep current with periodical literature? Then you can turn to Flipster or RBDigital. Streaming video content is being offered up by ArtFilms DigitalKanopy, and Swank. The list goes on. Academic libraries with such access have often listed it right on their home pages. Your architecture librarians have taken this one step further and tailored this information for your own institution.

But there are two other important sources of content that I wish to bring to your attention. The first is Hathi Trust which was initially designed as a collaboration of the Big Ten Academic Alliance, the University of California system and the University of Virginia to establish a repository for archiving and sharing digital collections. Many other libraries have joined. As a repository, Hathi Trust contains both public domain as well as copyrighted material. By request, member libraries now have temporary digital access to over 50 percent of copyrighted print holdings. Libraries must meet standards such as no physical access to print collections and adhere to the Trust’s copyright guidelines. Check your libraries’ database menu. There are also ways to access some content as a guest at the organization’s site.

Everyone has also heard about the Internet Archive. But you may not know much about its latest initiative which some consider very controversial. The Internet Archive is a 501c 3 non-profit organization based in San Francisco and founded in 1996 by Brewster Kahle. To date, it has captured 20 petabytes of data. It partners with libraries to preserve and make accessible 20th-century resources in a broad array of topics and formats. The mission of its Open Library is “universal access to all knowledge”. In early March as the United States was beginning to understand the pandemic, the Internet Archive launched the National Emergency Library. Instead of controlling the number of copies of a title circulating at a time, the Library decided to remove limits. Traditionally, the number of copies available for circulation was based on the number of print copies in its own collection, and a waitlist was created for additional borrowers. That feature has been removed, allowing for unlimited access. The Internet Archive does not claim to include everything, but a quick search of the late Michael Sorkin’s writings shows some interesting content. One of two titles available here, but not commercially through any vendors, is the popular Variations on a Theme Park, making the Internet Archive another valuable source of online content. Initially well received and endorsed by a significant number of libraries including MIT, the Archive is now facing lawsuits and backlash from groups including the Authors Guild.

Life as we knew it has changed overnight. We are all proceeding as best as we can and making use of what is at hand and easily obtainable. What is certain is that each of these initiatives has helped in some way. Library suppliers have been offering deferred payments and cost reductions. The free albeit temporary content has made a tremendous difference in the past month and a half and will continue to do so as we all work to provide the services for which we are responsible.

How diverse is your collection?

Submitted by Barbara Opar, Librarian for Architecture, Syracuse University Libraries

This is the latest piece in what has become an ongoing dialogue about existing architecture collections, censorship and diversity.

This past April, my initial 2019 ARLIS Collection Development SIG column addressed the Shitty Architecture Men list of 2018 and the reactions of some library patrons and staff to certain materials in our small branch.  See My second column, written earlier this month: includes the results of a brief survey distributed late spring to both the ARLIS and AASL listservs as well as students and faculty here at Syracuse.  Some suggestions to “downplay” those architects include refraining from displaying their books, removing such titles to storage and/ or not purchasing new works on those architects. One recommendation from the survey: “I’d say simply stop buying new materials on this person.”

Should we/Could we?  What are the consequences?  How would this affect our image as a library that prides itself on keeping up with new acquisitions? Would we be limiting access to current projects by some major architects? Many current publications focus on the newest works and those are often the projects selected by faculty for study. One response could be that periodicals address the newest works. At the same time, in most institutions current periodicals do not circulate. So we could be restricting easy access to research by failing to buy new titles.

Another respondent stressed “Invest in alternative voices. Seek out more resources on female architects and people of color, etc.–i.e. give more choices to patrons.”  Diversifying our collections is an excellent strategy. It coincides with one of ALA’s 11 core values. However, this task also requires additional work on the part of the selector. The librarian must research the alternative voices and then determine if there are indeed published resources available to add to holdings. Comparing the holdings of other institutions- such as historically black institutions-is one tactic. Libraries with robust budgets may have also collected more broadly.  Institutions with strong gender studies departments may have more diverse library holdings. Organizations within schools may be able to assist with the research and identify names, topics and/or terms.

That introduces another issue. Students need to know these names.  As a librarian, you can certainly create new book displays around these resources. What about after that? Faculty have to be willing to take the time to create assignments that include a more diverse list of architects. Often we see the same names and same projects appear year after year in coursework. How can you help students expand their understanding of the field? The Library of Congress categorizes general histories of women in architecture as NA 1997. That does not address the issue of individual women architects. What about black architects? The call number NA 2543 covers gender and race! What if students do not know that Merrill Elam is a woman or that Paul Williams was a highly regarded black architect in the 1930s. The use of reference works has somewhat gone out of fashion but should be encouraged (including over Google). Bibliographies and pathfinders too are no longer regularly consulted or being compiled with any frequency. However, they remain important ways to extract such information.

Historical biases, lack of publishing possibilities, and even the academy have led to uneven collections. Diversifying our collections is well worth the effort. “The fix” though will take time and effort.  Collection analysis will not be straightforward.  Tools like the Diverse Bookfinder focus on children and picture books. Reference tools, bibliographies and the other methods suggested earlier in this column will be more helpful. Are there specific publishers to add to approval plans?  In terms of cataloging, though, metadata in itself is limiting. Access and exposure to unique resources requires catalogs to be more explicit and nuanced. Does that labeling create other issues?

So we return to the theme of the Starchitect who is often a white man and could have been on that 2018 list. What should we do? I would side with those who stress we have no right to censor our collections. Our collections need to align with the resources needed by faculty and students for teaching and research. These two points are key. Yet in order to provide new and diverse materials we may have to choose a new and different title over adding more material on an architect on whom we have sufficient material. We must weigh the decision and be sure that we are not compromising collections we do hold. At the same time, we must not be passive selectors. We have a responsibility to seek out diverse resources. Institutional funds might be available to address legacies of bias. Being mindful will eventually improve the scope of our holdings. We must become more proactive in how we address collections holdings and gaps.  Finally, we must help each other to identify new and different resources and improve diversity  across the discipline and our institutions.

Comments and ideas welcome. Email me at 

arch_TECHA_ture: An Interview with Cathryn Copper, Head of the Art & Architecture Library, Virginia Tech

Submitted by Cathryn Copper, Head of the Art & Architecture Library, Virginia Tech. Cross-post with the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture blog.

arch_TECHA_ture (“techa” a play on technology and bilbiotheca, Latin for library) is a curation project created by Cathryn Copper that gathers information at the intersection of art, architecture, and design-related fields, technology and education. We sat down with her to hear more.

Hi Cathryn. How did you first get involved in technology and the creative disciplines?

It was partially serendipitous. I did my graduate work at the University of Toronto’s iSchool. There I focused on information systems and interned with a few architecture firms and think tanks. Fast forward a few years, I attended a conference session solely because the presenters were librarians at the University of Toronto. The session was on the use of iPad apps which gave me the idea to research mobile apps for architecture. That idea really took off and opened a lot of doors for me. I noticed a lot of art and architecture librarians were interested in technology but not a lot was being done on the topic.

You describe this as a “curation project” where do you see it going?

I use the term curation project because arch_TECHA_ture offers a quick look at topics at the intersection of design, information, and technology. I always provide links to more information, so readers can make informed decisions on a topic. As of current, I’m gauging interest. If it turns out it’s worth my energy, then I’d like to see it evolve into a more critical platform where we can have healthy discussions on these topics. I’d love to get more voices involved. Then it could truly be a platform to connect with people from across disciplines and launch projects together—still a curation project, but on a larger scale.

Can you tell us more about the educator-as-futurist model you have adopted, and what makes it distinctive?

I use the term “educator-as-futurist” to mean forward thinking. But, there are no expectations and it’s not meant to be extremist. It’s really about being okay with experimentation and failure or the willingness to try something new. What makes arch_TECHA_ture distinctive is that there is no other place on the Internet, that I know of, addressing the intersection of design, technology, and education from the perspective of a librarian, someone that sits on the edge of all three.

As an art and architecture aficionado and tech lover, what are some of the technology trends you see impacting libraries and the design disciplines?

Without hesitation, augmented reality and virtual reality. There is so much potential for those technologies in libraries and the design disciplines alike. For libraries in particular, artificial intelligence. Information can be delivered in much better and more personalized ways and future generations are going to expect it.

What new projects are you working on that are destined to be included in arch_TECHA_ture?

There definitely will be no shortage of content. First, the Art & Architecture Library is experimenting with hybrid collections. We will be testing the use of our physical collections as an access point to our electronic collections through the use of interactive touch screens. Building on the transition for physical to digital, we are exploring 3D scanning technologies, which should be especially interesting to arch_TECHA_ture readers. More long-term projects include applying for a grant to develop augmented reality for libraries, and the development of Virginia Tech’s Innovation Campus.

What has surprised you most in your research into tech and libraries?

The slowness. There are a million amazing ideas. Only a few come to fruition because of limited time and money. It’s frustrating because I see the potential for libraries to interact with users in much better ways. I’ve been thinking about artificial intelligence in libraries for over a decade, and just this year I attended my first conference presentation on the topic, which was at a macro-level. So, it takes time.

What do you see as some of the big changes in academic libraries over the next five years?

In libraries generally, a shift to collaborative spaces is already happening. Academic libraries have the potential to function a lot like a WeWork, which are shared workspaces for startups. Also, I see more attention on dispersed libraries and library networks. Our footprint can spread much further if we don’t think of a library as one central space. Drone delivery would be cool too, but that’s probably closer to 10 years away. Art and architecture libraries face unique opportunities, in that our users generally want more traditional library spaces, and that’s okay. It adds diversity to the library landscape.

Coming Soon to a Campus in Upstate New York: The Mui Ho Fine Arts Library

Martha Walker, Architecture Librarian and Coordinator of Collections
Cornell University Library

Rooftop Construction View from Oct 2018 Hardhat Tour. Photo by Susette Newberry

On a beautiful Friday afternoon in late October, a small group of Cornell University’s Fine Arts Library (CUL) staff and affiliates participated in a hard-hat tour of the emerging Mui Ho Fine Arts Library (FAL).

Rendering of the first level of the Mui Ho Fine Arts Library. © 2017 Wolfgang Tschapeller

The renovated facility, designed by Cornell alumnus Wolfgang Tschapeller, will be complete by summer 2019, with staff and materials moving back into Rand Hall before the start of the fall semester.

Construction View from Oct 2018 Hardhat Tour. Photo by Susette Newberry
Construction View from Oct 2018 Hardhat Tour. Photo by Susette Newberry

Although plans have been in the works for years, the physical renovation of the 1911 building began in fall 2017. Library staff are occupying a temporary location in a neighboring facility for the duration of the project, and all but one percent of the FAL’s holdings were shifted temporarily to off-site storage. I’ll note that it has been an interesting 18 months for both staff and patrons. It is also important to recognize what an excellent job CUL’s Library Annex and Shipping staff have done, making twice daily deliveries to the FAL’s temporary location.

Please enjoy these beautiful photographs, taken by ARLIS/NA member Susette Newberry. There will be more information on this project in various library and architecture news outlets. Here is the link to the official project website.

ARLIS/NA 2017 Annual Conference

Minutes of the Meeting                                                                Date:  Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Newberry Room, Hilton New Orleans Riverside, Two Poydras Street, New Orleans, LA 70130

Moderator:  Karen DeWitt

Vice-Moderator:  Nilda Sanchez-Rodriguez

Recorder:  Rebecca Price

Attendees:  Beth Dodd (Univ. of Texas at Austin), Aimee Lind (Getty Research Institute), Katie Pierce Meyer (Univ. of Texas at Austin), Geraldine Billingham (Bloomsbury Publishing), Janine J. Henri  (Univ. of California), Robert W Adams (Boston Architectural College), Kristen Liberman (Boston Architectural College), Katharina Koop (RWTH Aachen Univ.), Barbara A. Opar (Syracuse Univ.), Rebecca Price (Univ. of Michigan), Ted Goodman (Columbia Univ.), Steven Baskin   (Univ. of Nevada), Henry A. Pisciotta (Pennsylvania State Univ.), Eric Chaim Kline (Book Seller), Sarah W Dickinson (Harvard Graduate School of Design), Nilda Sanchez-Rodriguez (City College of New York), Meg Donabedian (New York School of Interior Design), Faith Pleasanton (MMA -Retired), Alan Richard Michelson (Univ. of Washington), Kathy J. Woodrell (Library of Congress), Katharine R. Chibnik (Columbia Univ.), Vania Mara Alves Lima   (Univ. of Sao Paulo), John T. Schlinke (Roger Williams Univ.), Karen Elizabeth DeWitt (North Carolina State Univ.)

— Approval of minutes from last year’s meeting. Motion to approve as amended.  Motion seconded and passed without opposition.

— New Business

Social Media and Online Presence

  • Facebook Page: ( Our facebook group page is not very active. The settings are such that anyone can post. We discussed if we want to restrict that – but decided to keep the posting open, since we’re not getting any posts.  Nilda will moderate the page.  There was consensus to keep the page going and for there to be periodic prompts to the section members to participate and post events or updates about their libraries or architecture librarianship.  The name of the group is Architecture Section of ARLIS/NA.

  • Blog page:  This is a wordpress blog, with postings of articles. No one has posted anything since 2015.  Do we want to keep it?  Do we want to change what we put here?  While what is posted there is wonderful, there was discussion about whether we can maintain that (given that there have been no posts in almost 2 years).  Karen asks the group if there is interest in keeping it up.  It was suggested that we need a designated person to maintain it: soliciting and gathering posts, moderating content, etc.  Perhaps we could concentrate on shorter notices; but then it was pointed out those would be better suited to our Facebook page.
    1. It was suggested that it could serve as an aggregator of other content that we often post on our ‘home’ institution blogs.
    2. It was suggested that we investigate establishing a Pinterest page. Steven Baskin offered to share more information about that on our email list.
    3. Identifying our audience is an important consideration
    4. Looking at other section blogs might help us: g., Coll Dev Section’s blog
    5. Discussion about need for an ‘editor’ – we looked at our Bylaws and there is no editor position; we could consider adding this in the coming year.
    6. Several members offer to contribute something this year (Alan, Ted, Steven, Aimee)
    7. Consensus was to proceed with plans to post occasionally (at least every 2 months) to the Blog and Facebook pages. Nilda will send out bi-monthly prompts to the section list to solicit posts.

Session ideas for next year’s conference in NYC

  • Back Room / Behind the Scenes Tour of the Avery
  • Tour of Ground Zero – or session that would connect with such a tour
  • Session presenting NYC Resources
  • Potentially include: Avery Library, NYPL (Digital Archive), Artstor, BWR, etc. Ted and Kitty volunteer to put together these ideas into a proposal for “Digital NY”
  • Architecture Mapping Projects
    1. Examples: NY, Philadelphia, LA, Getty

— New Directions

  1. Hannah Bennett notes that the IviesPlus group is preparing an online resource that will include books about their schools and regions. Suggests that we could do something like that more broadly. Could add ephemera and local publications.  It was suggested that she add that to our blog as a post.

— Reports

  1. Janine Henri reported out about SAH. They met in Pasadena last year and while there she extended invitations to architectural historians to join us here.  This summer they’re meeting in Glasgow Scotland in mid-June.  The upcoming annual meetings will be in St. Paul, MN, Providence RI, Seattle WA.  Janine will begin posting their monthly newsletter to our list.
  2. Aimee Lind reported out on CalArchNet. They met at UC Santa Barbara and had about 20 attendees.  One of their action items is to look into statewide digitization projects and see if there are initiatives they could participate in in some way.  Still in very early stages of discovery and exploration.  Will meet again at the Getty in April.
  3. Rebecca Price reported out on the upcoming AASL meeting – March 23-25 in Detroit MI. She invited all to attend.
  4. Ted Goodman reported out about the Avery. They’re working with ProQuest on the issue of A+U Special Issues not appearing with complete information in their results.  He notes that there are lots of new journals being indexed – he showed us how to access the online list, which is updated about every 6 months.  Ted requested that we send on any suggestions for additional journals.
  5. Aimee Lind will be our next vice-moderator.

— Meeting Adjourned