American University Library

About the Collection

American University Library has a small collection of artists’ books in the Visual Arts Collection and in Special Collections. Special Collections does not actively collect new artists’ books, but houses a collection on permanent loan from the American University Watkins Art Gallery.

Finding Artists’ Books

The library catalog searches the holdings of the entire Washington Research Library Consortium (WRLC). Universities in the WRLC consist of American, Catholic, District of Columbia, Gallaudet, Georgetown, George Mason, George Washington, Howard, and Marymount. You can either search the collections of all these libraries at once or choose one specific library to search. To find all artists’ books at AU, go to the advanced search page. Hit the “More limits” button and select “American University” from the location menu. Click the “Set limits” button. On the next page, type in “artists’ books” to the text box, select “as a phrase” from the first pull-down menu, and select “subject” from the second pull-down menu. Hit the “Search” button. The results include many electronic resources that reference book art in addition to the library’s artists’ books.  There’s also a handy shortcut to find artists’ books from the Watkins Art Gallery Collection, currently housed in Special Collections: in the library catalog, do a keyword search for “Watkins Collection Artists’ Books” in quotes.

How to Get There

4400 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20016

The library is located at the intersection of Nebraska Avenue and New Mexico Avenue in Northwest DC. To get there by Metro, take the Red line to the Tenleytown/AU station. The university is nearly a mile from the station, but you can pick up the AU shuttle bus on the east side of Wisconsin Avenue. If you prefer to walk, head down Wisconsin Avenue, past the Tenley-Friendship Neighborhood Library, to Tenley Circle. Bear right to Nebraska Avenue. At the intersection of Nebraska and New Mexico Avenue, turn right and walk into campus. Bender Library will be the second building on your left.

What to Expect

Some of the artists’ books are in the Visual Arts Collection, while others are in Special Collections. Members of the public can use the library, but only the American University community or consortium members can borrow materials. For researching works in Special Collections, appointments are encouraged, and can be made by calling 202-885-3256 or emailing .

Other Resources

AU Library

AU Archives and Special Collections

Visual Resources Center

Watkins Art Gallery Collection