The brittle book problem is a contributing factor to access, as a book with delicate and crumbling pages must be protected. In most cases, the book is removed from the general stacks or placed in a phase box. In fact, this protective action, which prevents the book from circulating and from interlibrary loan service, created the most common access problem faced by the scholars responding to the survey.
Location was a serious access problem for two respondents. Myra Waller, a frequent contributor to Heritage, resides in British Columbia, and Karen Lorene, author of Buying Antique Jewelry: Skipping the Mistakes, lives in Seattle. Access to books for them depends on whether the libraries they patronize are members of a consortia or participate in interlibrary loan. Lorene noted that books on antique jewelry are usually stolen from the public library, and that the libraries in their vicinity have few of the books listed on the core bibliography.
Access to bibliographic data also was mentioned. Some of the respondents employ a research procedure where they follow the citations in a work they are using. One of the discoveries of this report was that the citations given in many of the books were incomplete or misspelled. In some cases the citations in the 11 bibliographies used were incorrect. Some were never found. On the other hand, the respondents’ bibliographies were easily searched. Many studies have been done on the way humanities scholars do research, and true to form, the participating scholars appear to cite items they can find locally. Two of the respondents had developed networks of librarians that helped them with their research. These respondents’ bibliographies were more complete and less location dependent than the other bibliographies. Only one respondent mentioned frequent use of microfilm.
An anonymous respondent stated a common problem: “There is no one center that stocks all the information such as is available in the British Museum.” It was Dona Dirlam who captured the views of Anna Miller and other more sophisticated researchers. Dona responded, “Because our subject is so specialized, standard indexing makes it difficult to access relevant literature.” The effort required to develop this bibliography highlights this need.
Another problem is that records vital to research often are in private hands. They are not indexed or part of any national database. Five of the respondents agreed with Lillian Baker, who wrote,
The failure of jewelry manufacturers to keep records of designs, designers, methods of manufacture and other important archival papers…[indicates] a lack of cooperation between jewelry designers and manufacturers and researchers. Many jewelry companies will not divulge the names of designers who work for them, and oftentimes original designs are destroyed….
In a recent issue of Heritage, an article written by Vivian Swift addressed this issue. Some companies see preservation of their designs and information as one of public relations. Swift reported that Bonnie Selfe, a Cartier archivist, is actively involved in rebuilding the documentation that was lost in 1960 when the firm was broken up and sold.
Some corporate or designers’ and manufacturers’ archives are in private hands, and some have become a part of special collections acquired by research libraries. Access to information contained in these archives and special collections puzzled respondents. In some cases, access to privately-held information was denied or ignored. Some private manufacturers would not respond to correspondence, and some libraries would not lend certain items. Often, there was no way of discovering if the archives and design records of a certain designer or manufacturer existed, and if they did, where they could be found. For example, one respondent erroneously complained of high fees for access to information in The Gorham Company Archives, a special collection housed in the Brown University Library in Providence, Rhode Island. Brown University Library’s policy is clear: There is no charge for scholarly research. The popularity of this enormous collection has made it a collection that is hard to maintain and keep in order. The complaining respondent wished to research a silver pattern. The Brown University librarians referred the respondent to a consultant in Providence who, for a fee, researches the collection for those who cannot travel to the library to do their own research. One misunderstanding arose from the fact that the respondent believed that the university library was profiting from this transaction. The respondent believed that the information in the library should be free and available to anyone who wants it, which it is, but only for those who visit the library. Ironically this respondent charges a fee for his appraisal services, which are based on this type of requested research.