Monthly Archives: May 2020

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.

Society of Architectural Historians (SAH) Virtual Conference, April 30-May 1, 2020

By Aimee Lind, ARLIS/SAH Liaison

The 73rd Annual Conference of the Society of Architectural Historians, scheduled to take place in Seattle, WA from April 29th-May 3rd, promised to be one for the ages, with a full roster of paper sessions, roundtables, workshops, seminars, social events, and tours of Seattle and the surrounding areas. On March 10th, however, the SAH Board of Directors announced their difficult decision to cancel the Seattle conference due to the COVID-19 crisis. SAH leadership quickly pivoted to a new online model, a virtual conference with a registration fee of $100 featuring 36 paper sessions, with many papers recorded and available to registrants after the conference.

A welcome from the conference chairs Victoria M. Young, Ann C. Huppert, and Thaisa Way, SAH President Sandy Isenstadt’s State of SAH address, the keynote [“Seattle’s Inventions and Reinventions” delivered by Margaret O’Mara, University of Washington], and the Eduard F. Sekler talk [“The Home of the Oppressed”: Democracy, Slavery and American Civic Architecture, delivered by Mabel O. WIlson, Columbia University] are accessible online to all. Paper sessions as they were delivered live and, through May 31st, as recordings, require a registrant log-in. Roundtables will be held via Zoom from May 19th-May 28th and are free and open to the public. 

While it is regrettable that so many roundtables, seminars, tours, etc. did not survive the transition to the virtual model, there were many unexpected benefits to attending SAH online: fewer paper conflicts due to the ability to watch recordings later, a more accessible registration fee that led to many first time attendees, and the ability to follow along at your own pace to a certain degree. Moving forward, I would appreciate a hybrid model where the in-person conference takes place but there is a less expensive registration fee for virtual-only access to select aspects of the conference and all registrants have the ability to go back and review recorded sessions for a limited period of time. 

While it is difficult to know what we all have in store for us in the coming year, the 2021 SAH conference is scheduled for April 14-18 in Montreal, Canada.

As mentioned above, the State of SAH address is available in its entirety online but I have included my notes below.

State of SAH Address [Sandy Isenstadt, SAH President]

  • Switch to virtual conference
  • SAH Data Project
    • Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Grant assessing the field of architectural history in higher education  in order to finetune commitments of SAH
    • Survey response rate started strong but dropped off after COVID-19 hit; Sarah Dreller adopted a snapshot questionnaire and extended time on original survey
    • Report should be available in 2021
    • More info on SAH website https://www.sah.org/publications-and-research/sah-data-project
  • SAH Affiliate Groups:
    • Meet in person or remotely to pursue common interests
    • SAH board approved 4 inaugural groups
      • Asian American Diaspora Architectural History
      • Historic Interiors
      • Minority Scholars
      • Race in Architectural History
  • SAH IDEAS Initiative
    • Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Accountability, and Sustainability
    • Sparked by November 2019 Membership and Diversity meeting; further developed by Pauline Saliga and Carolyn Garrett
    • Among other efforts, SAH is co-organizing a summer teachers institute with Lakeforest College to enhance humanities education through deep engagement in issues of race; urban field trip program for underserved youth; events sponsored by the global architectural history and teaching collaborative; graduate student scholarships; childcare subventions for annual conference; formation of SAH affiliate groups (see above); SAH Data Project (see above).
  • Establishment of David B. Brownlee dissertation award; $1000 stipend to attend conference
  • Gill Family Foundation : Multi-year grant for $5000 in research travel for a doctoral candidate in architectural history. NB: The Gill Family Foundation also sponsored the $100 registration fee for the virtual conference for 160 graduate students.