Mark Bresnan

Head, Bibliographic Records | February 29, 2016:

Mark Bresnan, the Head of the Bibliographic Records division at the Frick Art and Refrence Library received his B.A. in History from Fordham University. During his undergraduate career he took a brief hiatus to pursue his love for the theater, attending acting school for a year. Following his Library degree in 1990, Brensen also attended a session at Rare Book School where he studied rare book cataloging. Though he has no official art historical background, Bresnan maintains a heavy interest in the arts favoring artists like Edward Hopper (1882-1967) and Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944).

His time at the Frick Art and Reference Library began by chance when he was living on the upper wet side, working as a stock boy. On his lunch break, Mark would regularly walk through the park. It was during his lunch on day when he ran into Don Swanson, then a page at the library. Through Don, Mark began his part-time position as a page, bar-tending on the side. In 1984 he began working full-time, a position recently having opened. Seeking to further his career, Bresnan decided to go back to school to obtain his Library Degree from the Palmer School at LIU, scheduling his classes around his work schedule. Upon graduating in 1990, Mark was transferred to the Catalogue department to accommodate his new advanced degree. Bresnan began as a copy cataloger, which he states is a practice which should never be done as a professional, working with a large back log of French and English publications. At that time the library employed their own system of classification though RLIN (research libraries information network), later switching to OCLC. The library itself was under a time of transition in the 1990s, experiencing a large staff turnover. It was at this point that Deborah Kempe was brought into FARL and implemented the use of bibco records which relies heavily on authority control. Mark was promoted to his current position in 1997, where his responsibilities increased to reviewing catalogued works before they are entered in the database. Originally part of NACO (Name Authority Cooperative Program), The Frick Art and Reference Library switched to the LC classification system in October of 2008. At this point there had been a long established monthly meeting of art catalogers to discuss their work which proved helpful in the transition into using LC’s RDA tool. It also provided a platform which enabled Mark to meet various other professionals (Danny Ferman at MoMA Library) who he remains in contact with and to whom he can consult when facing issues in cataloguing. Additionally, Bresnan served as the editor of the cataloguing section of the quarterly ARLIS magazine called ARLIS Update (no longer in circulation), contributing to the academic research being produced in the field.

Adopting a realistic outlook on the future of cataloguing as a career, Mark believes that positions like his are beginning to dwindle as self-ready cataloguing becomes popular. He states that it is much cheaper to buy a pre-existing catalogue record then for an institution to hire someone to manually input the data. This also enables the institution to have the text shipped directly to offsite storage without first making a stop to be catalogued. There is however a future in digital cataloguing. Even before the development of web archiving he would be asked to catalogue websites so that they may be entered into FARL’s collection. Now with the new technologies he has begun cataloguing archived websites — which is one of the tasks he has been teaching us to preform — and sees a great need to save digital content which plays a role in art librarianship.While he believes there will always be a need for reference librarians, he predicts that there will be an increased need for people with a coding or technology background, as metadata practices change constantly so too must our approaches to capture and save such information. One new development Mark was excited to share is referred to as a “web recorder”. Similar to Archive-It, this technology will archive a website as the user goes through the site as opposed to preforming various crawls throughout the QA procedure. Additionally this freeware will, with time, be able to more successfully capture dynamic content which will enable for social media to be fully integrated into digital archiving. The big art historical fields he foresees springing from these new developments include Digital Art History (DAH) and the incorporation of linked open data, which currently maintains substantial room for exploration.

Above: Composition IV, Waissly Kandinsky, 1911