Call for participants: ARLIS/NA 2018 Session – Library collections and object-based learning in the art and design curriculum

The Co-Moderators of the Materials SIG, Teri Dowling and Johanna Kasubowski, would like to organize a session for the ARLIS/NA 2018 Conference on the topic:

Library collections and object-based learning in the art and design curriculum

Increasingly, art and design libraries are broadening the scope of their collections to include various materials used in the art and design curriculum – art objects, material product samples, color samples, design objects, fashion construction samples, natural history samples, games.

These collections pose unique challenges for libraries to organize and provide access for their patrons.  We invite papers on people’s experiences in areas such as:

  • Building, organizing, and providing access to these collections
  • Partnering with faculty
  • Funding, working with donors
  • Uses in instruction and visual or other literacies
  • Lessons learned
  • Digital access and discovery

Proposals and Timeline:

If you’d like to present as part of this session, please submit an abstract by April 21st.  We will compile a session proposal before the May 1st, 2017 deadline.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

Looking back to Karen Munro’s Seattle session before heading to New Orleans

At last year’s Seattle conference, Karen Munro, Head of Portland Library & Learning Commons from University of Oregon Libraries presented: Not just a room of stuff: Architectural material collections 101.  She discussed her findings from touring six materials libraries across the US.  Her talk was a part of the session: Building New Models: Library as Learning Lab.

Karen’s project culminated in a report available through her University’s digital repository.  I thought this group would be very interested in her results:

from Karen Munro:

In 2014, my small Portland branch of the University of Oregon Libraries accepted a large donation of material samples from a local architecture firm.  With the donation came new responsibilities—to figure out how to curate, store, manage, and grow a material sample collection.  To learn more about what others had already discovered, I visited six material sample collections around the country and compiled a report on their differences, similarities, and lessons learned.  The full report is freely available through the University of Oregon Libraries digital repository, Scholars’ Bank.

From even this small cross-section of the material library community, I learned that there’s no such thing as a “typical” sample library.  But whether a collection is made up of 100 items or 10,000, it was clear that librarians and staff needed to clearly articulate the goals of the collection and connect with faculty, students, and the curriculum.  Having clearly-defined and agreed-upon goals helps to inform a collection policy (essential in a field without approval plans) and to standardize collection methods.  Two of the most time- and cost-intensive aspects of a material sample collection are the classification and digital cataloging, so knowing your users helps to determine where (and whether) you should spend money in those areas.  There’s plenty of room for librarians to grow in this field—consortial cataloging, core materials lists, and a national inventory of collections were all on everyone’s wish list.

My thanks go to all the librarians and library staff who generously gave their time and expertise to help compile the report.  I’d be very pleased to hear about other librarians’ experiences in building and maintaining material samples collections.

Materials SIG meeting in New Orleans

We look forward to seeing you at the Materials SIG meeting in New Orleans:
Tuesday, February 7 • 11:00am – 12:00pm

Our agenda:

  • Introduction of attendees, announcements from the group
  • Presentation of our project to build a directory of materials collections, to be hosted on the material|resource blog
    • we will be creating an online survey as a first step toward building this directory
    • a draft of this survey will be presented in order to solicit input have a discussion about the project
  • Suggestions for future projects, areas of interest for this group


Materials @ the ARLIS/NA conference

  • Exhibitors Hall
    Material ConneXion has reserved several spaces to demonstrate their new materials display system
  • Poster Session
    A New Path for Materials Collections: A Shared Materials Database & Materials Consortium

Please email Teri or Johanna if there are other sessions we should highlight.

Hello from co-moderator Johanna Kasubowski

And a hello from me, Johanna Kasubowski.  I join Teri in co-moderating the Materials SIG.  I am the Materials & Media Collections Librarian at the Frances Loeb Library at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design (GSD).  While the GSD Materials Collection has been in existence since 2004, it was in 2011 that it transitioned from a faculty collection to one administered by the library.  Since then I have been involved with the evolution of our collection – collection development, sample storage, circulation, outreach, and research support – as well as participation in a project with the Rhode Island School of Design to develop a shared materials collection management tool. This project’s intentions were not only to replace our existing independently-built database and online discovery system, but to create a standardized and stable system for design materials collections at other academic and cultural institutions.

As one of the five collections of the Frances Loeb Library’s Special Collections, the GSD Materials Collection consists of over 600 material products ranging from innovative, new materials to those found in the everyday built environment. Developed according to faculty and student research agendas, the collection has been focused in these areas: Material Ecology; Fabrication Materials; Bio-based Materials; Recycled Materials; Urban Scale Materials; and Materials in Use.  It is a collection of objects which visitors are encouraged to handle and study.

The Frances Loeb Library provides additional resources to support research of materials: the Materials Collection Primer (PDF), which serves as an introduction for students investigating materials topics in design; a subscription to Material ConneXion’s material database and ActiveMatter; a 100-seat license to Granta’s CES Edupack, a tool that visualizes materials properties to enable understanding on how material families behave; a Materials Collection Research Guide comprised of both library and non-library material resources; and a collecting area of publications that focus on materials for research and practice.

Teri and I look forward to seeing many of you in New Orleans at the annual ARLIS/NA conference, especially at the Materials SIG.

Hello from new co-moderator Teri Dowling


As was announced in June, Johanna Kasubowski and I are the new Co-Moderators of the Materials SIG.  I wanted to introduce myself – I am Teri Dowling, the Associate Director of Libraries at California College of the Arts in San Francisco and Oakland.  I manage circulation, technical services and the collections of our three libraries, including our Materials Library.
CCA has maintained a Materials Library since 1999. We currently have over 1000 material samples, cataloged using modified MARC records.  Material sample records are searchable by material name, properties, composition and potential use.  This year we moved the library moved into a new, glass-walled space adjacent to our undergraduate design studios – greatly increasing visibility and use of the space.


Our collection focuses on materials relevant to current building and design markets, with a particular focus on smart, emerging and sustainable materials. Organized by basic material types [Fibers, Natural, Ceramic, Composites, Glass, Metal, and Polymers] and hung on panels, the Materials Library is designed to be easily browsable.  Work space with an iPad and microscope is available for student projects.  Our Resource Guide provides additional information on doing materials research using the Materials Library, MaterialConnexion, and our related print collections in Simpson Library.


I’m looking forward to seeing everyone at the Materials SIG meeting in New Orleans in February.  We will be posting here soon with more details about the meeting.


Speaker Program Announced for 9th International Materials Education Symposium

Speakers confirmed for International Materials Education Symposium

University of Cambridge (April 6-7)

On behalf of the Symposium Academic Advisory Committee, the full speaker program for the 9th International Materials Education Symposium has been announced after receiving many high-quality abstract submissions.

See full program >

Speakers include:

  • Lorna Gibson (MIT, USA)
  • Mark Miodownik (UCL, UK)
  • Ke Lu (IMR, China)
  • Laura Thurn (Aachen, Germany)
  • William Callister (Utah, USA)
  • Luc Salvo (Grenoble, France)
  • José Y. Pastor (UPM, Spain)
  • Barbara del Curto (Milan, Italy)

Start planning your Symposium: Stay onsite at Clare College with fellow participants at the preferential rate. But be quick, places are limited, register now at the early-bird rate. You may also want to consider joining one of the courses on April 4 & 5 (details to follow soon).

Register here for early-bird discount >

Material Special Interest Group 2016 Meeting Notes

MaterialsSIGnotes2016 (PDF)

Materials Special Interest Group
ARLIS/NA + VRA 3rd Joint Conference. Seattle, WA

March 10, 2016

1) Introductions

2) Shared Materials Database & Materials Consortium

Presentation on collaborative development of a Materials Database and beginning a materials consortium called Material Order by the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) and the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD).

Introduction and Background on the Collaboration: Johanna Kasubowski, Alix Reiskind, Mark Pompelia

The Harvard Graduate School of Design’s materials collection was started in 2004, it was initially run by GSD graduate students under the guidance of a faculty member. In 2011, the collection joined the Loeb Library’s Visual Collections and both administration and curation were put in the hands of the library with a faculty liaison. The collection had an accompanying database, though of questionable stability. The GSD wanted to stabilize the technological infrastructure and improve the metadata, to do this they connected with a like-minded partner – the Rhode Island School of Design. RISD had performed a materials audit in 2009 that showed materials being informally housed in many of its departments; the idea of a centralized collection in its Fleet Library was widely supported and launched. The formation of a materials special interest group within ARLIS/NA and its first meeting in spring 2011 provided the catalyst for GSD and RISD to partner.

In 2012 RISD Fleet Library was the recipient of an IMLS-funded national forum grant to assemble materials researchers, authors, designers, artists, and librarians for a multi-day symposium held in June 2013, Materials Education and Research in Art and Design: A New Role for Libraries. In addition to learning from the critical insights of material considerations by these users, consensus was reached among librarians to establish community and create shareable resources, starting with the symposium’s White Paper. Site visits to many US-based academic and commercial materials collections confirmed their inherent uniqueness but also common needs for collection development, classification and description, and enhanced access and user engagement.

Initial conversations between GSD-RISD included in-depth studies of GSD’s original materials classification protocol, morphing into a broader and more relevant materials taxonomy. GSD-RISD project members interpreted this taxonomy, formed it into a schema, and worked with a local, independent database developer. The team learned a great deal through this exercise; one part was that a developer that had a better understanding of libraries and cultural institutions, the organizational structures and vocabularies they use would serve the project far better. This led to CollectionSpace.

Project Team

Materials Database Schema Highlights

Following are the key concepts of the taxonomy that will provide multiple points of access to meet research needs:

  • Composition
    Classification of materials per 5 compositional families – BIOCOMPOSITES, POLYMERS, METALS, MINERALS, and CERAMICS. The composition classification is hierarchical with identified classes and generics in each of the composition families.
  • Form
    Materials are classified into three broad categories – planar, linear and volumetric – which are then future defined by types and subtypes.
  • Properties
    Mostly derived from the material sciences, properties speak to the abilities of each material to be fitted to the mechanical, hygro‐thermal, electrical, optical, acoustical, and durability task asked of it as well as sensorial properties and those inherent in smart materials.
  • Material Ecology
    Environmental properties that speak to Life Cycle Assessment. They include: recyclable, biodegradable, renewable resource, landfillable, embodied energy, and certification credits.
  • Process
    Processes classifies the manufacturing methods used to make the material. Processes can deform the original substance, be additive, or subtractive. They include: casting, molding, machining, deforming, surfacing, joining, and rapid prototyping.

Additional Data Entry Points
Additional data entry points include the following:

  • Featured applications
    References of highlighted works where the material has been used.
  • Typical uses
    Provides some of the typical uses in the generic sense of the material in the design fields, usually according to the vendor’s description, but will not be exhaustive.
  • Locations
    Accounts for applicable locations – origin, manufacturing, distribution, and application – of the material to allow mapping of distance traveled, which is part of lifecycle assessment.
  • Description
    Very short text that introduces the principal and particular features of the material or product emphasizing the aspects that make it unique or special.
  • Media
    Associated media that represents the material or product.
  • External Resources
    Field to enter data from material standards establishments, i.e., Granta, CSI.

Development of Database and Demo: Megan Forbes, CollectionSpace

Working closely with the developers (first Panoptic and now CollectionSpace), GSD-RISD are able to bring together the taxonomy and schema and make it work. The team is excited about CollectionSpace as it provides a platform that is open source with flexible APIs – allowing members to create a foundation to build upon for future needs and use for many years to come.

Megan Forbes provided a walkthrough of the Material Authority in CollectionSpace.

If interested in seeing the demo, please go to and sign in with the below credentials.


Password: password
Questions? Interested in a more extensive demonstration? Contact Megan.
Megan Forbes, CollectionSpace Program Manager
meganbforbes Skype

Draft Framework for Consortium: Leigh Grinstead, LYRASIS
As part of the CollectionSpace mini-grant award, GSD-RISD hired a consultant to provide guidance in the development of a consortium. The Project Team met with Leigh Grinstead in February 2016. Below outlines the goals of the meeting and foundational framework accomplished by the group.

Consortium Development

  • Create policies, procedures, and foundational documents that will guide the development of the GSD-RISD Materials Consortium
  • Develop steps for the initial formation of a larger consortium including a timeline
  • Assist in drafting the governance structure for a consortium
  • Identify membership activities and membership levels
  • Prepare a report/action plan detailing needs for various working groups
  • Share information at ARLIS/NA + VRA Materials SIG meeting in Seattle

Draft Mission Statement

  • Material Order provides a community-based approach to management and access to design materials collections utilizing and developing standards and best practices. This includes an open-source collection management database, and an access system that allows searching across international materials collections to support research and applications in the design fields
  • Material Order is accepting of all design materials collections regardless of size or collecting scope, it is open, shared, inclusive, and welcoming
  • It is our hope to inspire more to join and expand the consortium

Draft Vision Statement

The consortium is the leading resource for design materials collections.

Membership Benefits

  • Collections management system already built—no need to develop or maintain the software personally
  • Delivery mechanism for users
  • Community and information sharing including access to technical and user support
  • Eligibility to serve on the Steering Team and working groups
  • Authority control is managed by the consortium and decisions made by working groups
  • Maintenance, hosting, and future development costs are shared
  • Potential to drive future development and enhancements
  • Testing and feedback processes are formalized
  • Professional community of like-minded professionals
  • Foundational taxonomy is provided, schema is developed
  • Cataloging standards maintained
  • Training and development provided
  • Shared platform
  • Opportunities to contribute to the ongoing development of the taxonomy
  • Ability to request future enhancements

Budgeting and Costs (preliminary stages)

  • Significant investments have already been made
  • Taxonomy development
  • Schema development
  • Mini-grant from Mellon for CollectionSpace
  • This is not intended to be a cost recovery model
  • Goal is to make the consortium sustainable and affordable

Proposed Organizational Home

The Society shall seek opportunities for collaboration across institutions and cultural organizations to promote the informed management, preservation, discovery, and access to collections amid their evolving publishing manifestations.

ARLIS/NA actively seeks collaborative relationships with other arts and information organizations to further the goals of art information professionals.

Proposed Working Group Structure

Steering Team

Working Groups

  • Needs Assessment and Evaluation
  • Identity, Brand, and Digital Presence
  • Marketing and Communication
  • Taxonomy, Schema, and Testing
  • Training

Conversation about How to Participate

Discussion ensued across a variety of topics with consensus to continue the conversation and formulate next steps.

3) New / Old Business, Mark Pompelia

Mark asked group for a volunteer to chair or co-chair the Materials SIG. Group members are to consider this and, if interested, get back to Mark.

The Materials Shows 2016: SoCal, Northwest, New England

The 2016 Materials Shows summer & fall events are now open with registration for all exhibitors and buyers/attendees:

  1. SoCal Material Show (Los Angeles—July 13–14, 2016)
    50+ suppliers
  2. NW Material Show – (Portland—August 30–31, 2016)
    250+ suppliers
  3. NE Material Show (Boston—September 7–8, 2016)
    135+ suppliers

Global suppliers exhibiting in the Material Shows will be presenting the latest natural and synthetic leathers, technical fabrics, prints, sustainable and green materials, hardware, industry services, components, plastics, chemicals, and much more.

Returning visitors and new visitors are encouraged to register.

Materials Research Librarian at Sandow

At SANDOW, we know the key to being the best is to hire the best. We’re looking for passionate, driven, committed talent to deliver exceptional performance.

Working for innovative, groundbreaking brands in an entrepreneurial environment requires a “do-what-it takes” mentality to get the job done. At SANDOW, there is always opportunity to shine and, in return, we reward stellar employees with competitive compensation, attractive perks, and the ability to take on new challenges – even if it’s outside your wheelhouse. If you’ve got the chops, we’ll take notice and provide the pathway to grow your career faster than you ever imagined possible.

Want to join us? Keep reading.


A Materials Research Librarian is needed for a new and exciting Web service launch at SANDOW. In this critically important role, the Materials Research Librarian will be responsible for overseeing all material cataloging within a comprehensive database that he/she will help to manage and update. The ideal candidate will be expected to maintain a real-time approach to industry standards and trends, and will have a vast depth of knowledge and expertise in identifying various materials and their attributes.

Essential Responsibilities:

  • Develop guidelines for all material cataloging and tagging
  • Support and oversee the quality and accuracy of the material intake and entry process
  • Develop and manage a group of freelance librarians and designers that will help with tagging and writing about materials
  • Seek new items through trend spotting and product launches in order to grow the material database
  • Update attributes for materials that exist within the database and ensure that all critical data points are captured as they become available
  • Review, edit and update technical material content throughout the material database, as well as on client collaterals and in editorial perspectives


  • Minimum 5-8 years in the design industry, preferably as a Research Librarian or Designer for a major design or architectural firm, required
  • Experience with the design and specification process of materials
  • Participation at global materials trade shows or industry associations

Keys to Success:

  • Skilled in the art of visually inspecting materials and identifying key attributes, such as the brand and type of manufacturing
  • Have a current and comprehensive understanding of the design and materials industry
  • Must have overall knowledge of materials, as well as a deep understanding of testing and code standards across industries
  • Constantly on the lookout for new trends and innovations

Harvard GSD & RISD are Recipients of CollectionSpace Grant for Materials Authority

Please join me in congratulating the Harvard University Graduate School of Design (GSD) and Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) on their recently awarded CollectionSpace mini-grant ($26,000). Working together, the project partners will develop a new profile for CollectionSpace designed to improve management of materials collections. The profile will include a new authority for managing materials information, and an innovative expansion of the CollectionSpace authority platform that will allow both collections to contribute to a shared materials authority. RISD and HGSD are also working toward the development of a consortium that will allow materials collections across the country to contribute to and benefit from their ​​work.

We look forward to a long and productive collaboration.

Megan Forbes
CollectionSpace Program Manager