The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Chief Librarian's Office

Chief Librarian Ken Soehner shows me into his office and fills me in on the significance of this incredible Museum and its Library.
Ken himself is pretty impressive. Director of the Thomas Watson Library for the last 16 years (a tenderfoot compared to the regularly long tenures common in this august institution), he has a Masters in Art History from Columbia as well as the requisite MLIS. He was president of ARLIS/NA in 2008. He teaches Library Science at Pratt as Associate Professor. And was unendingly gracious as my chronically sleep-deprived, caffeine addled brain bumbled through the conversation. There is simply no
rest for those who tackle international travel with small infants.

The Met, founded in 1817, is the largest research institution in the world for the history of art. There are more active, productive scholars working in this place than any other place. On the Planet.
They are researching in all the areas the Met represents in its encyclopaedic collection. And the Thomas J Watson Library, helmed by Ken, maintains a research level collection in all these areas. See the holdings info for the library here and here.

The Book Called Celestina, on the shelf in Ken's office

I ask all the librarians I visit about any bespoke practice, approaches and projects they are doing that sets them apart from the other art school and museum libraries.
Approaches to collection management came up, naturally. A locale such as the Met is a powerful magnet for publications. It is not hard for museum libraries to acquire books. Directors give them, curators give them. Authors give them. Donations are encouraged by the American tax codes. The Watson Library acquires through purchase and donation about 1500 books a month. Making these (hundreds of thousands) of books a viable resource requires some serious library science. So organisational development here at the Watson is paramount.
But dedicated, proactive acquisition practices also came up. To support the extraordinary reach of the museum's collection the Watson is making extra effort to acquire material from far flung corners of the globe. When I spoke to Ken they were working on acquiring modern and contemporary catalogues from Estonia, and also New Zealand.
One does not usually see NZ, Australia and eastern bloc countries lumped in together, but apparently we share a highly ineffective record of distribution of our museum and gallery catalogues. This stuff is simply not getting circulated out of the region. The Met is working to build their collection in these areas, and is soliciting material directly form the organisations when necessary.