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Shared Shelf, the Next-Generation Art and Image Cataloging System, Goes Online

After extensive development, the new system launched smoothly last month.

Image of Artstor

April 28, 2015—Pictures say a thousand words, and Shared Shelf, the Library’s latest image cataloging tool, captures them all. The over 4 million images in the Library’s collections should now be even more discoverable through the use of Shared Shelf, which replaced Harvard’s proprietary system OLIVIA last month.

Shared Shelf grew out of a collaboration between nine institutions and ARTstor in response to the growing use of, demand for and importance of visual objects in library collections. Harvard was one of the earliest participants in the project, and much of the functional design grew out of the experience and expertise of the Library’s image catalogers and Library Technology Services (LTS) staff members. The additional functionality created through the Harvard Library’s collaboration with ARTstor is available to all Shared Shelf partners.

“We have enhanced our image-cataloging abilities and service to our patrons through the creation of this shared tool. Our staff’s unique needs and capabilities helped inform key elements of Shared Shelf, to the benefit of all 120 institutions who use it,” said Ann Whiteside, librarian and assistant dean for information services at the Harvard Graduate School of Design’s Frances Loeb Library, who chaired the project team.

An additional upside to moving to a shared service model is that future development and maintenance needs will be managed by ARTstor, with continued input from Harvard.

“Mostly with image cataloging we’re creating it item by item,” explained Bill Connor, visual resources librarian at the Fine Arts Library. Staff members from PCDI, LTS and various repositories participated in the working groups that liaised with ARTstor. “So there’s a lot more original cataloging with visual materials than other types of materials.”

Some of the functionality that has been immediately valuable to users has been the common vocabularies that staff can assign to items, increasing standardization of term usage and speeding up the process of assigning taxonomy, which adds up over time. Other functionalities, such as batch processing, are in final stages of development.

The collections of over 39 repositories were successfully migrated to Shared Shelf and users from 12 repositories have begun to catalog images of all types from their collections. The DRS remains the image storage and delivery system, and VIA is the patron-facing image catalog—Shared Shelf acts as the bridge between the items and the search function. LTS will continue to support OLIVIA until it is decommissioned in the summer.