Arts Library Takes Steps in Digital Direction

    Following a decision by the dean and chair of the Division
    of Arts and Humanities, along with other top UCSD library administrators, the
    circulation of slides in the Arts & Architecture Library will be
    discontinued by the end of Winter Quarter.

    On Feb. 19, faculty members were advised to familiarize
    themselves with ARTstor, an online database for art and architecture slides,
    where UCSD’s collection has existed for four years.

    In summer 2002, the main library in Geisel began to digitize
    its slide collection, after receiving a grant from the Andrew Mellon
    Foundation. The project was completed by July 2004, producing more than 200,000
    digital images and associated metadata, said Leslie Abrams, head of the Arts

    “At the time the project was completed, UCSD was the core
    contributor to the ARTstor database,” Abrams said. “Since then, many
    institutions have followed suit.”

    ARTstor now contains approximately 550,000 images of art and

    In addition to the complete digitization of the A&AL slide
    collection, the various media departments located on Geisel Library’s basement
    level are preparing to be extensively revamped.

    “We are currently in the ‘phasing’ process,” Abrams said.
    “That is to say, we are preparing for the demolition to come by removing things
    to make way.”

    Abrams said the final goal of the renovation project is to
    have a single service desk to coordinate reference, information and reserves,
    where students can locate a wide variety of media materials, from film and
    videos to music scores and recordings.

    “Currently, there are three service points, which is, many
    times, confusing to students,” she said. “We are making the research process
    easier, as well as allowing more open space and later hours.”

    Because of property rights issues, not all film and video
    collections will be added to the digital database. The discontinuation of the
    slide circulation is expected to affect only a small portion of the UCSD

    “There is only a small number of faculty members who still
    use analog slides in their lectures,” Abrams said. “We have planned to give 12
    faculty members access to the slides at their request. All of the slides will
    still be property of the UC regents.”

    Faculty members had until Feb. 29 to inform the library if
    they wished to continue using the slides.

    While the elimination of the slide collection may not
    significantly affect a campus at the forefront of technology, the physical
    reconfiguration of the different collections to provide space for demolition —
    which includes rearranging the Music Library’s books and scores — is ongoing.
    Some students have said they find the changes frustrating.

    “I don’t go down there often, but when I do, I definitely
    will be confused,” Earl Warren
    junior Kevin Lebenson said.

    Though faculty are encouraged to give their lectures using
    the Internet-equipped rooms throughout most of campus, media theorist and UCSD
    visual arts professor Lev Manovich said that the slides’ elimination may be
    detrimental to the learning experience.

    “I think that some complaints may be actually justified,”
    Manovich said. “Being able to work with thousands of images that are
    represented as objects in physical space has some advantages over working with
    digital images in a computer. This is the same reason why today all design and
    architecture studios use physical models, drawings and other physical media
    besides computers.”

    Manovich added that the user interface of databases like
    ARTstor proves visually unrepresentative of the wide amount of information it
    claims to provide.

    “If a library or a social media site has hundreds of
    thousands of images, why can I only see a handful of them at a time?” he said.
    “Why aren’t they arranged in a grid?”

    Manovich and his colleagues at the California Institute for
    Telecommunications and Information Technology are currently working on new
    designs for interfaces for database sites like ARTstor.

    “We are starting to work on new kinds of interfaces for
    online image collections,” he said. “We are hoping to add much more
    functionality to current interfaces. Rather than using a computer as a fancy
    slide viewer, the computer can act as an intelligent assistant, which will help
    view image collections in new ways.”

    Demolition of the A&AL and Film & Video Reserve
    spaces, located within Geisel Library, will commence in summer 2008. The
    A&AL slide collection will close on May 30.

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