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News . Feature Stories . CIA's Contemporary Artist Index: 31,000 strong, and now easier to use than ever

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December 02, 2013

CIA's Contemporary Artist Index: 31,000 strong, and now easier to use than ever

Student's redesign of web pages will aid artists, students, and scholars internationally.

CIA's Contemporary Artist Index: 31,000 strong, and now easier to use than ever

By Carolyn Jack

Seasonal quiz:

Q. Why is the Cleveland Institute of Art Library like Santa Claus?

A. Because it’s making a list, and you can check it twice. Or 31,000 times.

That’s how many modern and contemporary artist names populate the library’s freshly redesigned and re-launched Contemporary Artist Index (gate3.cia.edu/cia/index.php). And that number grows all the time, along with the roster of first-rank institutions – from the Library of Congress and the National Gallery of Art to universities in Canada, Cyprus and across the U.S. – now using the index for research.

The redesigned index, rolled out in early November, has a help page with background, instructions and handy tips. It also connects to CIA’s online catalog. “Now you can click on the call number associated with a listing in the index and the call number is linked to our online catalog, so you can find out whether that item is on the shelf in our library,” said CIA Technical Services Librarian Dana Bjorklund. Plus, “if you're interested in a particular artist, you can find other artists who have exhibited with that artist,” she said.

As a bonus, the index now makes researching contemporary artists more pleasant, thanks to the redesign by CIA senior Graphic Design major Nora Corcoran. With input from library staff, she brightened up the site’s aesthetics and functionality with clean, simple arrangements of white space and soft color.

Conceived by Bjorklund’s predecessor, Hyosoo Lee, and constructed in 1991 by former staff member Frederick Friedman-Romell, the index long greeted users with a utilitarian look; since Corcoran’s attractive redesign came online, the number of users has increased significantly, Bjorklund said.

The evidence that art researchers value it has been piling up like presents under the tree. Library Director Cristine Rom pointed out that the index was featured as an important research tool at a session of the Art Libraries Society North America’s 41st annual conference in 2012. “In addition,” she wrote in an e-mail, “we have heard from colleagues around the country that many of them include this resource in their guides and use it in their instruction about doing art research.”

Although only those with physical access to the CIA library can actually use the materials, Bjorklund added, the information in each listing allows users in other parts of the world to find the publication they’re looking for in their own library, at a book store, or online.

But big as the database’s impact might suddenly be, it’s likely to get even bigger. Literally: CIA’s library staff members continually add new artist names to the thousands in the index. Observed Bjorklund, “It’s been quite a thing to keep up with.”

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