Monday, June 16, 2008

I go to the Library, alternately titled, I Don't Think They Use the Library of Congress Cataloguing System Here

Clara is teaching a two-day workshop to some paper conservators today, about techniques for storing and displaying photographs.  In Dutch.  So, she suggested that I take the two days to do some research on the artists' whose work will be arriving this Friday (very excited!  Big name artists, to be revealed in the future!).  No problem.  Actually a great plan, as I have laundry I need to do, and research and laundry go together like two peas in a pod.

So I'm placidly researching, the laundry has finished, when I stumble across a reference to a book which may contain the information for which I am looking!  I quickly consult the WorldCat - the worldwide research library catalogue.  A copy would be held in the University of Delaware Library - how perfectly perverse.  

Then I realize that I need to switch my 'central location' on the search engine.  Make it more of a centraal location, if you will.  New search results arrive: the book is in Amsterdam.  In two locations in Amsterdam.  I figure out the addresses, decide which one is closer, and I'm on my way!

I went to the Bibliotheek Universiteit Van Amsterdam.  I believe it is the University of Amsterdam Library... either way I am excited to learn the word bibliotheek, though I cannot pronounce it.

Hello Dutch Card Catalogue!  Please tell me that you also come in English?

I have the title, author, call number, and what section it is in (the kunstgeschiedenis/culturele studies section) all written down in my notebook.  

I head back out to look at the sign delineating where the different sections are.  No sign of a kunstgeschiedenis or culturele studies section.  I have a feeling these sections are in a branch library, the Kunsthistorisch Instituut.  

The muziekwetenschap section might be interesting, and the mysterious wijsbegeerte section could be fascinating, but I really need to keep on with my search.

I walked up to what I assumed to be the main circulation desk and said, "I think I need to go to the Art History Institute, the Kuns... well, it's written here."  The librarian says yes, that's where I need to go, and gives me directions.  It's not very far away, and I'm off once again.

I found the Kunsthistorisch Instituut, waltzed in, and began to scan the shelves.  It was at this moment that I looked at the call number, looked at the spines of the books in front of me, and though, "Oh... I'm sure this isn't the Library of Congress cataloguing systems... This is some new and unknown Dutch method..."

A librarian glanced at the call number, lead me up several twisting staircases into a larger area of books (which I never would have found without help), and directed me right to the very shelf on which the book sat.  And next to it were three other books on the same subject!  Excellent!

I spent about three hours in the library, sitting by this bright canal-view window, reading the books.  

Unfortunately, it turns out that all of the books were duds.  I was (and still am) searching for technical information, and these were all very esoteric and art historical, using many words but imparting little actual information.

On the plus side, I did get to look at many images of the artists' works, and to read some of their 'manifestos' and many older interview transcripts.

It's okay that the book didn't contain the information I wanted.  That's how research goes.  I really enjoyed going to the libraries, pretending to be a Dutch university student.  I didn't have to show any student ID or anything: I think if you look like a college student, waltz in like you belong, with a schlumpy sort of college attitude, you blend right in, whether or not you actually belong to that particular university.

And also, the Kunsthistorisch Instituut was in a really cool building.

1 comment:

Ynn said...

Hi - The librarian really enjoyed this post. They should be using the Michael Uhl Universal Cataloging System. Remember when Michael was up in arms against both dear old Dewey and LC and was going to invent his own logical , free cataloging system? But, the building was lovely - how different European structures that are pleasing to the eye, full of natural light and windows revealing the outdoors as opposed to many American University libraries-boxes with no style or personality and windows that look out on to other buildings or parking lots. I'm really enjoying you blog. Today I am going to begin work on a quilt for either Alpha or Omega. Summer vacation is nice!