Art Collection Frequently Asked Questions
Why are some art books non-circulating?
Why can't I find art books and journals?
Why can't I eat in the Art Library?
How can I request books the Art Library does not own?
The book I want is listed in NUSearch as "received," but it has no call number. How do I find it?
Who can reserve a study carrel in the Art Research Center?
Where can I digitize images?
Why are the Art Library's hours limited?
How can I learn more about art research?
How can I find information on a specific artist?
How can I find an image in the Art Library of a specific work of art?
How would I purchase a reproduction of a specific art work?
What sources do you recommend for acquiring art and architecture books?
Why doesn't the Art Library subscribe to every new art periodical that comes out? Can you help me determine the value of a work of art I wand to sell or insure?
Where can I find videos on art and artists?
How can I do research at the Ryerson & Burnham Libraries at the Art Institute of Chicago?
Some items in the art collection have non-circulating status to preserve them and to keep them available for use in the reading rooms by any patron of the library.
Art books are often difficult and expensive to replace; original art journals are mostly irreplaceable. Art books go out of print quickly, usually within one year, and their value inflates as soon as they are out of print. Sometimes circulation significantly adds to the risk of damage and loss.
For more details, read the Art Collection Circulation Policy or pick up a brochure in the reading room.
It is frustrating for everyone when library books are missing. There may be several explanations:
First, art books are classified and shelved according to size into one of three sequences: Regular, Large, and Folio. Sometimes books are mistakenly shelved in the wrong size sequence. Sometimes a book is misshelved if someone mistakes a 1 for an l, or transposes two numbers by mistake in their head. See Locations and Call Numbers for more information.
Using a library well and preventing missing books requires the cooperation, patience, and assistance of everyone. Please return books used in the Art Library to a reshelving cart instead of replacing them yourself or leaving them in the stacks, on tables, or on the floor.
If you can't locate an item, ask for assistance at the Art Desk. We'll check for the book several times and notify you if it's found. If it's missing for a long time, we'll order a replacement copy.
Books can be seriously damaged by spills and stains, and art materials are often very difficult to replace. Crumbs, trash, and food debris also attract mice, vermin, and bugs, which are unpleasant to live with, difficult to eradicate, and can also damage books. Please eat only in Deering's 3rd floor lobby, the Plaza Cafe, or the student lounge in the Main Library. Drinks are allowed in the Art Library reading rooms, but must be in non-disposable covered containers.
We welcome purchase suggestions! Order Suggestion forms are available at the Art Desk and online. On the form, let us know if you'd like to be notified when the item is ready for use. If you need the item immediately, please request it through UBorrow or Interlibrary Loan.
Complete the rush catalog request form, available on the Circulation homepage. You'll be notified when the book is ready, usually within a few days.
Art study carrels are assigned to Northwestern University faculty and graduate students. Carrel space is limited, and we regret not being able to accommodate everyone.
Two flatbed scanners are available in the Martin Reading Room. You may also want to check the ARTstor digital image database to see if an image is available for download. Contact the Digital Collections Department for more image information on image digitization.
During the regular academic year, the Art Library's reading rooms are open 80 hours per week, including evening hours until 10 PM five nights per week. The Art Library relies heavily on student assistants to be open this many hours during the year, so our intersession and holiday hours are limited.
A good place to start is the Art History LibGuide, which will introduce you to some key resources for art history.
Contact Art Library staff to arrange a research consultation or instruction session.
First, check NUSearch, the Library's online catalog. Enter the name of the artist as a subject heading, author, or keyword search. You may find it necessary to perform all three searches for any one artist. Second, consult printed art encyclopedias and biographical dictionaries located in the Art Library's reference collection, and online art reference sources such as Oxford Art Online.
To find articles about an artist, search art databases such as Art Abstracts, Art Index Retrospective, BHA, and ARTbibliographies Modern. These and other online sources are linked on the Art History LibGuide. From the library's homepage, you can also find a list of art databases here.
A helpful place to start is the ARTstor database, containing over a million images that you can download or print for scholarly use.
If you know the name of the artist who created the work, follow the steps outlined above for locating a book or article on a specific artist. You might also check museum catalogues, if you know which museum owns the work. You can then check to see if the work you are interested in is illustrated or discussed in these sources.
For more online image sources, consult the resources listed on the Digital Images LibGuide.
Art museums' shops often sell reproductions of works in their and other museums' collections. If you know which museum owns the original work of art in which you're interested, contact that museum to purchase a reproduction.
Beyond Evanston and Chicagoland bookstores and museum shops, there are many good online bookstores. Among others, try Worldwide Art Books, D.A.P.'s Artbook.com, the AIA Bookstore, Ars Libri, and Yale University Press, which is the co-publisher of many American art museum catalogues as well as numerous books on art each year.
Unlike books, a new journal title represents an ongoing commitment. Northwestern University Library's journals budget does not grow annually to permit routine subscriptions to new titles. Given our commitment to building exemplary research collections, we are always hesitant to cancel existing subscriptions to free up funds for new ones. This philosophy holds even when interest in or curricular demand for a particular journal may be low. If we responded to vacillations in interest and curriculum by canceling journal subscriptions accordingly, we would soon have a haphazard and incomplete collection of journals. As funds are available, the Art Library judiciously subscribes to new titles as well as fills in gaps in existing runs. We give particular consideration to user requests. Please discuss your needs with the Head of the Art Library.
The Art Library does not appraise or identify works of art. For this service, you should contract with a certified art appraiser. A number of certified appraisers are listed on the website for the Greater Illinois Chapter of the International Society of Appraisers.
We have a limited number of sources to investigate prices of major art works sold at auction and recommend that you begin with Mayer (formerly International Auction Records), which is housed in Special Collections (708 I595), and Sotheby's Art at Auction (L708.2 A784), housed in the Art Library. Each annual volume indexes art works sold at auction during the previous calendar year. You may also wish to consult the SCIPIO Art and Rare Book Sales Catalog to find out if there is an auction catalog pertinent to your search.
Art and architecture videos and films are catalogued in NUSearch and are available for borrowing or viewing in the Main Library's Mitchell Multimedia Center. Please refer to the Center's printed guide to the Art & Architecture Video Collection.
Chicago-area students, staff and faculty are eligible to use the Ryerson and Burnham Libraries, a closed stack, non-circulating research collection located within the Art Institute of Chicago. You will find more information on the Libraries' website.