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Collections of material samples to support teaching and research in art, architecture, and design disciplines are increasingly created and administered through academic libraries. Providing a unique and valuable hands-on and immersive experience, materials collections offer broad appeal across multiple disciplines and respond to curricular trends that emphasize critical and design thinking skills for students as future practitioners. Institutional collections may have a broad scope or a particular focus such as innovation or sustainability, the built environment, or textiles. Acquisition strategies, organizational approaches, and curricular programming must be adapted to the immediate needs of a particular school, offering opportunities for art and design libraries to engage deeply with research and teaching.

Material holdings can facilitate creative inspiration or research-level interrogation, enhanced through programs such as exhibits, lectures, and workshops. With contents, scope, and academic applications wildly varying among materials collections, no standardized descriptive taxonomy or physical arrangement standards yet exist, pointing to the need for collaboration both within and between institutions.

This chapter is part of the book: Glassman, Paul, and Judy Dyki. 2017. The handbook of art and design librarianship.

Publication Date



Fleet Library


Facet Publishing


Material Libraries, Material Collections, Design Materials, Library Collections, Building and Construction Materials


Architecture | Art and Design | Cataloging and Metadata | Collection Development and Management | Information Literacy | Library and Information Science

Tactile Libraries: material collections in art, architecture and design



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