Worldwide Books' unparalleled inventory includes more than 30,000 backlist titles published since the 1960s, among them thousands of hard-to-find and now out-of-print exhibition catalogues. This unique resource allows us to readily assist libraries interested in compiling retrospective collections or needing to fill gaps in their holdings.

Because each of the exhibition catalogues we have selected over the years for inclusion in our approval plan program has been carefully ranked according to its relative importance, and painstakingly catalogued and indexed based on subject matter and other criteria, librarians interested in compiling retrospective collections can make use of the various search features on the Advanced Search screen to create bibliographies for retrospective purchasing. Worldwide’s experienced staff is also happy to assist clients in filtering and prioritizing titles for retrospective purchasing based on a client’s particular collection priorities and budget.

After the Flood: The Clemson/Worldwide Collaboration

Worldwide's vast backlist of exhibition catalogues and other museum publications dating back to the 1960s stands as a unique resource for libraries collecting in the areas of art, architecture, photography and design, not least because our active inventory of nearly 30,000 such titles offers myriad options for assembling significant retrospective collections. Over the years we have worked with a number of institutions whose libraries have sought "curated" collections of exhibition catalogues of varying size, among them the Hong Kong campus of the Savannah College of Art and Design, for whom we assembled an opening-day collection of some 5,000 volumes in 2010, and the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, which purchased several hundred catalogues on American art following its opening in 2011.

An unusual and ultimately very gratifying opportunity came our way in the summer of 2014, several months after a catastrophic water-main accident at the Emery A. Gunnin Architecture Library at Clemson University resulted in the loss of nearly 1,000 volumes on art and art history. An insurance settlement had provided sufficient funding to replace the lost books, but the collection-restoration strategy devised by Kathy Edwards, the library's Research & Development Librarian, involved more than just replacing many of the titles that had been destroyed. Her plan was to use a significant portion of the insurance settlement to build the library's holdings of important English-text exhibition catalogues on Western art, and toward that end she contacted Worldwide Books.

"I turned to Worldwide for this project because I knew, from our previous approval plan experience, that David Fogel and his team had the inventory and expertise to customize lists to meet my library's needs," Ms. Edwards wrote in a recent email. "Their tiered plans allowed me to fine tune selections according to the needs of Clemson's art programs, and to expand our holdings to embrace a more global perspective."

The process of assembling a retrospective collection of museum publications from the available titles in Worldwide's inventory is facilitated by the multi-tiered ranking system that has shaped our approval-plan program for decades. With a budget figure and a broad set of selection guidelines in hand, we determined that we would be able to supply the library with up to 900 upper-tier catalogues altogether, and we began by putting together a list of some 450 Plan 9-level titles published since the early 1990s, a period that saw the exhibition catalogue achieve full maturity as a publication type. (Plan 9 is a relatively rarefied subset of our Basic Selection, composed chiefly of English-text catalogues that document major shows at important international museums.)

The list of Plan 9 titles was supplemented by a list of more than 330 Plan 8-level catalogues published since 2007, drawn from the next tier down in our ranking "pyramid." Finally, in response to a specific request from the library, we created a third list composed of 110 catalogues of numerous biennial and triennial exhibitions mounted worldwide since the mid-1980s, and provided a special ranking of those far-flung recurring shows.

Any overlap among the three lists was filtered out, and before presenting the selections to the library we checked all the titles against the Clemson Libraries online catalog and deleted any duplicates that we uncovered in the search. The final, vetted selection of 892 titles was sent to Ms. Edwards just eight days after her initial contact, with the three lists presented in both spreadsheet format and as text documents. Over the next few weeks, the library reviewed the selections, ultimately choosing to acquire the vast majority of the titles in the wide-ranging collection we had put together. Within days of our receiving the go ahead, the books arrived at their destination in Clemson.

The collaboration between Gunnin Library and Worldwide was a true win-win experience. What began as a disastrous loss for the library was turned into a net gain when its holdings were significantly augmented and strengthened through an influx of important exhibition catalogues published over the past quarter century. For Worldwide, the sale came as a welcome opportunity to once again demonstrate the range and depth of our unparalleled backlist, and our ability to craft a retrospective collection that fulfilled the specific acquisitions needs of our client.

"Worldwide turned what might have been a daunting project into a very productive, efficient and even enjoyable experience," Ms. Edwards wrote. "My faculty very much appreciated having title lists and descriptions to review, and I have clear documentation of the great improvement in collections that we achieved by working with Worldwide. Because we collaborated with dedicated professionals, the Gunnin Architecture Library's replacement project grew instead into a resoundingly successful collection expansion."