In 1989, when the Institute moved into its new home in Somerset House, the departments which now form Academic Information Services inhabited a very different world. The Witt and Conway Libraries occupied palatial amounts of space over four floors of the East Wing, the Book Library – hoping for at least a decade’s worth of shelf expansion space and discovering almost none – has been inserting shelving (and students) into likely and unlikely corners at regular intervals ever since, and the IT section did not exist at all. The Slide Library with its attendant wooden cabinets moved in beside the Lecture Theatre under the East Wing roof and the impact of the digital revolution was beyond imagination.

Over the last seventeen years a lot has changed. Student numbers have increased and staff numbers in AIS have decreased, but a remarkable amount has been achieved. The Book Library is still short of space, but has automated its library management systems, implemented access control through turnstile security gates, established electronic ordering and built electronic databases and journal subscriptions aiming to match the excellence of the bookstock which continues to grow apace. New media formats are collected and new collaborative professional partnerships have been formed. Major bequests such as the libraries of Professors Kitson and Shearman have been received, there has been a major programme of conservation in the Special Collections and retrospective cataloguing into online format of exhibition catalogues, special collections and theses has been undertaken. The Book Library led a national project ‘HOGARTH’ in the online cataloguing of exhibition catalogues in academic libraries. A steady programme of journal binding has continued, as does progressive binding of MA theses. Library Foyer exhibitions are now well established. Technology has had an impact with laptop points, network connections and wireless connections in evidence everywhere. Library sessions for students increasingly focus on electronic use of database and other online resources.

Since 1989 the Slide Library collection has easily doubled in size. It continues to grow, is regularly used, and remains the largest Art History slide collection in Britain, if not Europe. Important sub-collections have been gifted (for example, Ernest Hawkins, Larry Hoey and Daryl Fowler). Slides given by the British Council record major exhibitions sponsored by the Council from the 1960s to 2002.

The first digital projector, a ‘portable’, was bought in the late 1990s. It was the size of a typical holiday suitcase and not used very much; the technology was really still in its infancy. A second projector bought in 2000 was truly portable, of better quality, and used more. The Slide Library Digitisation Project in 2004-5 equipped Seminar Rooms and Lecture Theatre with digital projectors. But as ever, two slide projectors are still in each room. Despite the fact that major manufacturers have stopped making slide projectors and associated equipment, it is possible now to buy well (and even more cheaply than before) on Ebay – committed slide users need not panic!

Setting up of webpages on the intranet – a sort of ‘digital outreach’ – began in 2003. Every year since then, some 5000 images and descriptions go up. By the end of summer 2006, digital copies of all the slides used in Survey Lectures (6,000 or so) were loaded on to the TMS database of text descriptions and images, accessible to students and staff on the Courtauld intranet in October. There are many thousands of other digital images to continue to feed in. Recent years have seen a general move towards multi-media. In the past, we relied upon slides and the occasional video. Now we use powerpoint, DVD, video and streaming media from the internet. Slide Library staff spend ever-increasing amounts of time helping staff and students make the (sometimes painful) transition to new technology and in providing technical support for a growing number of events. Slide Library and Courtauld Colour Slide Scheme activities are increasingly interlinked, using shared space, doing much more with fewer staff, and with part-time student assistants taking on some of the support work and gaining useful experience.

DR SUE PRICE Courtauld Librarian & Head of Academic Information Services


New Directions for the CCSS

Since 1989, the Courtauld Colour Slide Scheme has evolved into a complex scheme supplying unique images to other educational art libraries around the world. It is no longer for the sole purpose of the Courtauld Institute’s slide library and has opened up to an external market by supplying other slide libraries with images through an annual subscription. Since the mid 1990s, the CCSS has expanded its subscribers’ base to the US and Canada, and to the rest of the world (Australia, New Zealand, China) since 2000. More than 10,000 different slides or digital images are available including 3,000 images of contemporary artists or works rarely displayed (private collections etc). Currently, there is a strong incentive to develop contemporary British art, with design and sculpture considerably represented.

In recent years the Scheme has diversified: 2003-2004 saw the introduction of digital images as well as slides accompanied by a strict copyright undertaking protecting the images from reproduction. This has been a huge success. In 2004 a mix and match subscription with the possibility for a subscriber to combine slides and digital images was introduced. Most recently, working with the Slide Library, the CCSS has successfully implemented its own internal reproduction system for slides and digital images and internal photography, providing economic benefits which allow costs to be covered.

The involvement of more student assistants has provided greater energy to the scheme in general (such as a different insight into the current London art world). In return, student assistants have had a great opportunity to develop and improve skills vital to work in the art world (photographic, digital, computer, customer care, analytical and critical skills). We now produce around 30,000 images per year with some 80 subscribers around the world. Financially, the CCSS is self-sufficient and fills a unique niche in operating for educational purposes only and on a not-for-profit basis.


The Conway Library Reconfigured, 2005

Life-long Learning: Sue Price Retires


We offer our very warm thanks to Dr Sue Price who retired at the end of September as Head of Academic and Information Services for her valuable service to the Courtauld. Sue joined the Institute in 1996 as Book Librarian and subsequently became Head of Academic Information Services when the Book Library, Photographic Libraries, Slide Library and IT were combined into a new department in 2002.

Before coming to the Courtauld she worked, from 1982 to 1996, at the Central Saint St Martins College of Art and Design as Deputy Librarian and the Library Manager. Just before taking up her post at the Courtauld, she completed her PhD (The Fitzroy Picture Society: Pictures for Schools, Mission Rooms and Hospitals in the 1890s) at Birkbeck College.

At the Courtauld, she did a great deal to modernise the Book Library, to increase automation and bring it into the digital age. The new web-based catalogue made the collections accessible to the world-wide scholarly community and the successful HOGARTH project, which she directed, involved the online cataloguing of almost all of the exhibition catalogues held in the Library. Her most recent achievement and one which will remind us of her for many years was the stroke of genius which led to the realisation that the Witt and Conway libraries could, with some ingenious adjustments, cohabit in the basement, adjacent to the Book Library. This has brought the Conway collection into a secure environment and into one where it can be efficiently and effectively managed. This initiative has also released the space that was hitherto occupied by the Conway and thereby made possible the creation of the new Research Forum accommodation. In the Academic Information Services department she worked to meld its disparate activities into an effective single unit. Sue also played a major part in the introduction of the purpose-designed IT centre, one of the Courtauld’s most successful initiatives for enhancing student facilities.

Sue has always been a great supporter of life long learning and has led by example. Throughout her career, there are few gaps between an impressive series of learning activities. It is therefore no surprise that in anticipation of having more time on her hands, she has enrolled on a vocational horticultural course.

We wish her the very best in this new endeavour and she goes with our many thanks and good wishes for a long and happy retirement.