It is a tremendous honour to receive the ARLIS/NA Distinguished Service Award, and I cannot but be conscious of the eminence of previous recipients at past Convocations. I thank you all very much.
I would like to share with you for a moment a few reflections on what it means to be an art librarian in Canada. C'est avec audace que j'adresse et inclus mes respectés collègues du Québec, en parlant de la profession de bibliothécaire d'art au Canada.
Qu'est au juste être bibliothécaire d'art au Canada? It means to be immensely proud of this conference in Montréal, and of our colleagues here, in Ottawa and Québec City. They have laboured tirelessly for months to make this not only the usual stimulating ARLIS experience, but also to set the scene for us to enjoy Québec's artistic and architectural patrimoine, and the cultural difference that marks this historic city.
Also, to be an art librarian in Canada is to envy our southern neighbours their sheer numbers, and their ability to use those numbers to make a difference. For example, I doubt that we could emulate our U.S. colleagues who have mounted an impressive campaign in response to the threatened closing down of the Guggenheim Museum library in New York, and to the library's questionable phoenix-like rebirth. Big cuts have just been announced in the Canadian Parliament to the budgets of all our national cultural organizations and agencies, and more are promised in future budgets (although universal medicare IS still intact in Canada!) All of this affects all of us. Some art libraries will close, and others will be absorbed by the general collections. Canadian art librarians care deeply, but we are few, and we are scattered across five time zones. Those of us who live in St. John’s, Newfoundland, are closer to Paris and London than to our colleagues in Vancouver, British Columbia. Un de mes plus chers rêves serait de nous voir exploiter les nouvelles technologies de communication, afin de coordonner nos activités et de faire une plus forte impression que nos nombres justifieraient.
I think that I speak for all Canadian art librarians who are members of ARLIS/NA when I say that our membership is a tremendously important part of our professional lives. ARLIS/NA has provided a forum for us to meet together, and to discuss issues that affect us as Canadian art librarians, but also it forces us out of national isolation and exposes us to valued colleagues throughout North America: to their ideas, expertise and enthusiasm. Une grande partie de ce que nombreux d'entre nous connaissons sur le sujet de bibliothéconomie d'art, est due à notre partipation à ARLIS/NA. Personellement, j'apprécie enormement l'amitié de mes collègues américains et canadiens, amitié qui serait impossible sans la société.
But it must be said that many of us in Canada continue to be concerned about continuing cultural penetration from the south. American NAFTA negotiators and media czars are publicly committed to overlaying, if not replacing, arts and entertainment and publications produced in Canada with their own. For us this represents a kind of cultural colonialism which no other country has experienced to the same extent. I mention this to explain the ambiguous feelings which we express from time to time. We love our American ARLIS/NA colleagues, but we feel a particular responsibility to protect and celebrate the arts in Canada in the face of powerful economic forces from outside.
Although I retire this June, I intend to draw strength from ARLIS/NA’s vitality for at least a few more years. Once again, I thank you all ... et à mes collègues québécois--merci de nous avoir accueilli à cette mémorable conférence. Il m'est spécialement précieux de reçevoir ce prix à Montréal.
Dear ARLIS and VRA friends and colleagues, Thank you so much Greta for nominating me for this incomparable distinction; thank you so much Greta and Ann for the kindest of remarks. I am deeply honored and humbled to have been nominated for and to have received the ARLIS/NA Distinguished Service Award during this second joint conference here in Minneapolis. This honor is magnified because I am privileged to share the stage with my esteemed colleague, Eileen Fry, who is tonight's recipient of the VRA Distinguished Service Award. Thank you ARLIS/NA.
I am grateful that I entered visual resources during a period of unprecedented growth as it blossomed from a clerical position into a true profession. It spoke to my personal passion for creating order and putting things into classified cubby holes. It also allowed me to work with both the faculty and students in a flexible collaborative way. I quickly discovered that not only could I organize my growing collections but that I could passionately debate the pros and the cons of how to do this with equally fervent ARLIS/NA and VRA colleagues. Furthermore, my ARLIS/NA cataloger colleagues frequently directed my thinking in crucial ways; they made me think about what I was trying to accomplish and questioned my methodologies. As Sherman Clarke noted in his letter, those trips to ARLIS/WNY chapter meetings in Judith Holliday's VW Beetle were eye opening; I was privileged to sit in the back and listen to Judith and Sherman hash out the intricacies of AACRL and MARC. The VRA Core which is now hosted by the Library of Congress is a collective and collaborative result of many of these discussions held with countless colleagues.
It is in both ARLIS/NA and VRA that I found mentors, colleagues, and friends who shaped my career and inspired me as a professional. My career began in the pre-Internet era in a stand alone visual resources collection; fortunately an abundance of professional colleagues who were somewhat scarce at Cornell were easily found within the membership of ARLIS/NA and VRA. These types of connections are now much easier to establish and maintain thanks to the marvels of technology that provide the communication tools to support rewarding often virtual collaborations. These associations resulted in the establishment of many enduring life-long friendships.
I was twice honored to serve on the ARLIS/NA executive board—once as a regional representative and once in the presidential sequence. These terms on the executive board allowed me while ostensibly serving you to mature as a professional and as a manager and to significantly widen my circle of critical colleagues. Yes, the work was substantial, but I can assure you that I received far more from ARLIS/NA throughout my career than I have given in return. If you have not done so already, please consider serving ARLIS/NA as a member of a committee or on the executive board; you will not be sorry.
Being mentored should logically lead to becoming a mentor. This is the heart and soul of being a professional and a member of a professional organization. Conference mentors are critically important as new members are introduced to and learn to become productive members of ARLIS/NA; career mentors are critical as we learn and navigate through our professions. Mentoring and being mentored represents the give and take that shapes the continuity and constantly renewed energy of our profession as it changes over time. Art librarianship broadly defined continues to support learning, research and knowledge; how this is accomplished has and is changing as we move from the analog into the digital arena and as art librarianship is integrated and merged into different aspects of the structure of our institutions and changing cultures. It is this legacy that our current members and leaders must impart to the next generation. I am proudest of my former employees and colleagues--of which Greta Bahnemann, Eric Schwab, and Sarah Goldstein are shining examples--who are continuing the tradition of excellence and making their own marks as art librarians, visual resources specialists, imaging specialist, and metadata librarians. They are my special legacy.
I continue to participate in and am interested in our constantly evolving profession as a consultant, advisor, and friend. I will always treasure the people I have met, the things that I have learned, and experiences that I have had as a member of ARLIS/NA. I am deeply appreciative of this highest of honors. Thank you.
Receiving the Distinguished Service Award is such an extraordinary honor because is comes from you—from my peers in the art library and visual resources professions. What in the world can I possibly say at this time that would have meaning or relevance to each of us. Thanks to Lyn Korenic you have heard an embarrassingly long description of my career. When I received news of the award in December, I was sitting in an Art Library in Bangkok—Chirayoo Dasri’s office preparing to give talks about my library and ARLIS/NA for librarians, and library school students and faculty at two universities in Thailand. At that time my response was stunned disbelief—I really thought Ted Goodman’s e-mail was for someone else. Being in Bangkok, learning about Thai art and university libraries, and sharing information about what we do in North America just seems to be part of what I have been doing since I started working in the Slide Room at Indiana University in 1966. Indeed, you cannot imagine my excitement in discovering a wall of projected slides and drawers of slides in the University Arts Library in Bangkok. My journey first to explore the world of slide libraries and then art libraries has never stopped. My desire to learn about our diverse collections has taken me from visits to most of the major slide & photograph libraries beginning in the late 60s, to art libraries in China in the 90’s, and then to Thailand last year.
Over these past months, I have given much thought to my remarks this evening. I have tried to recall the comments of past recipients, Bernard Karpel, Antje Lemke, Caroline Backlund, Jacqueline Viaux, Wolfgang Freitag, and Bill Walker. Much to my great pleasure, I announced the award in 1993 for Luraine Tansey when I was President. What a fantastic opportunity since she represented my slide library roots in the profession. After Luraine, awards were made to Mary Williamson, Lois Swan Jones, Bill Dane, Toni Petersen and Pam Parry. These individuals have represented important role models and often mentors for me as well, and I assume for many others here tonight.
This joint conference with VRA is especially meaningful for me since I began my career as a Slide Room Clerk. My first mentor was the head of the Fine Arts Library to whom I would run every time I had what seemed like a really unusual idea for making the slide collection easier to use—ideas like source & order records for slide production, and what she told was an authority file for artists’ names. One day, she just looked at me and said, "BJ, you think like a librarian. Go to library school!" And the rest is history. My career has always been blessed by extraordinary individuals who encouraged me, challenged me, and provided role models for achievement with compassion. This evening I talk to you as members of my professional family of art librarians, visual resources professionals, art book dealers, and print, slide, and electronic publishers. Today, we represent such extraordinary diversity in the vast range of print, multi-media, electronic and visual documentation that encompasses our daily work lives. When I began in the FA Library in 1969, we only had two pieces of electrical equipment—a timeclock and an electric eraser used to correct catalogue cards. Actually when I was in the Slide Collection, I was responsible for more equipment including light tables and viewers plus 35mm and lantern slide projectors. Today, our libraries and visual resources collections have so much equipment—electric, electronic, and digital that we barely keep pace with how to use it all let alone maintain and upgrade it on a nearly annual basis.
All these changes have occurred because of our pursuit of excellence as art librarians and visual resources professionals. We as individuals have been at the forefront of change and innovation in our professions.
When I began my research on the book Slide Libraries in 1968, I had the good fortune of meeting Eleanor Collins, Head of the Slide & Photograph Collection at the University of Michigan. She was so warm and generous, encouraging me to complete my research on slide libraries in the U.S. and recognizing that this was the first such study ever done on this type of "nonprint" or image library. Eleanor became first my mentor in this yet rather undeveloped area of slide or image librarianship. Shortly after this meeting, she invited me to present a paper at the first College Art Association session devoted to slides & photos at the 1969 Boston conference. Other important influences at that time included Nancy DeLaurier at the University of Missouri at Kansas City whom many of you know was also the founding member of VRA, Helen Chillman, Slide & Photograph Library at Yale University, William Dane, Art & Music Dept./Public Library of Newark NJ (including the Slide Collection), Margaret Nolan, Head of the Photograph and Slide Library at the MMA, and Luraine Tansey at UC/Santa Cruz where she helped to develop the first computer-based indexing system for a slide collection. Many of these individuals formed the first "formal group of slide & photograph professionals" which we called the "National Steering Committee for Slides and Photographs" which, as I recall, was led by Nancy DeLaurier and Margaret Nolan. With the early 70s, other significant visual resources professionals also influenced my work including Sara Jane Pearman, Cleveland Mus. Of Art, Christine Sundt, then at the Univ. of Wisconsin, Rosann Auchstetter then at AIC, Eleanor Fink then at the National Coll. Of FA, Smithsonian, Helene Roberts heading the Visual Collections at Harvard University, and Carol Terry then at Stanford. Many may not recall that Wolfgang Freitag, Harvard U., also was an early advocate for the promotion and recognition of slide libraries and, at his request, I co-authored with him, one of the earliest papers on this topic for a book on Nonprint Media in Academic Libraries published by the American Library Association in 1975.
The late 1960s was an especially fertile time for professional movers and shakers. At an ALA meeting in 1968, Florence DaLuiso, State University of NY at Buffalo, Wolfgang Freitag, and Herbert Scherer, University of Minnesota, were lamenting the sorry state of art librarianship in America noting the critical need for our coming together to discuss and share our concerns and problems. This casual meeting resulted in DaLuiso’s application and receipt of a Title II-B grant from the US Office of Education that funded our first conference solely dedicated to art and visual resources concerns—known as the Buffalo Institute held in June 1969. Do you know that nearly half the speakers at the meeting were slide and photograph professionals—Eleanor Collins, Luraine Tansey, and myself. The art librarians included Judy Hoffberg then at University of Pennsylvania, Wolfgang Freitag, Bill Walker then at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Bernard Karpel, Art Librarian at Museum of Modern Art. It was shortly after the Buffalo Institute that Judy took off to England to gather information about ARLIS/UK & Ireland which had just been founded in 1969. In 1972 ARLIS/NA was born. The Slides & Photographs group in the CAA shifted their focus to the Mid-America CAA and by 1982 VRA was founded. All of these individuals and events helped to shape my professional life.
Not only have I been blessed with extraordinary role models and mentors throughout our profession, I also have had the benefit of working with many outstanding students beginning in the early 1970s. My first student contacts were through the art history research bibliography course which I have taught since 1969 and then through library school internships. Some of my earliest students have become important leaders in our profession and I am so proud of their accomplishments. They include Katherine Martinez, Harvard U., Elizabeth Byrne, University of California/Berkeley, Jane Carlin, Univ. of Cincinnati, Phil Heagy, Menil Foundation, and Betsy Peck Learned, Roger Williams University. By the mid 1980s I established the dual ma/mls in art librarianship at Indiana University which gave many of us an opportunity to study formally our professional literature and heritage which has evolved through the work of the individuals whom I have named as well as many others. I know many of these former students and IU colleagues are here this evening and I applaud each of you and am most grateful for your being part of my IU family. [PLEASE STAND IF YOU HAVE WORKED AT IU OR BEEN AN IU STUDENT—I know many of you are here tonight in ARLIS & VRA!]
In the middle of MY library journey in the world, another remarkable librarian and visual resources professional became part of my Fine Arts Library family in 1975—Eileen Fry, our Slide Librarian at Indiana University, who is well known throughout both the VRA and ARLIS/NA serving as an important contributor and conduit between the worlds of printed media and visual resources, and more recently between the worlds of print and digital documentation. It was also because of Eileen that a second edition of Slide Libraries was published in 1979. When I need education about the visual resources world of digital and electronic media, and about classroom technology, as well as immediate wisdom on any topic, I go to Eileen.
Why do I share what may seem like ancient history with you? I do so because it is a reminder of where we have found our strength and courage to lead the library and visual resources professions into the 21st century. Each of us has pursued our passions to be part of a dynamic and innovative profession which draws its beauty and endurance from the visual arts. At Eileen’s encouragement several years ago I began to paint again, returning to what brought me into this profession in the first place—a love of art. I would hope that all of us, if not already, have found ways to stay connected to the extraordinary beauty and richness of our subject discipline which represents the heart of our professions. We are incredibly productive individuals, but I also think our lives need balance to stay productive throughout our career lifetimes. Christine Sundt calls this connection to art her "cheap therapy". This balance of physical, mental and creative activities is how I stay active and focused in mind and body. And, I encourage each of you to continue to find this balance in your lives and to continue to draw strength, wisdom and well being from the incredible professional families represented by ARLIS/NA and the VRA.
Probably no one in ARLIS/NA's history has more experience in getting up and speaking in front of the entire membership than I do, but at past conferences I needed only to talk with members about the society's activities and achievements during the past twelve months.
However, when Chuck Wayne and Merrill Smith asked me to prepare 15 minutes or so of "reminiscences" about my experiences with ARLIS/NA, I was faced with a real quandry -- how to select and organize into some coherent whole memories of more than 15 years with the society and our members?
I remembered almost at once that public speakers are always advised to use a lot of humor, so my first thought was that it might be fun to share some narrowly averted behind-the-scenes conference disasters -- like the time in Chicago in 1993 when our first members to register were told by the conference hotel that they were fully booked and we only then found out that the hotel had scheduled an enormous Chicago Cubs Fan Club meeting to overlap with our conference and somehow neglected to inform us, or the time in Los Angeles in 1985 when one of our members fell and broke her arm on the way onto a bus to the convocation and then-Western Regional Representative Susan Malkoff and I spent most of the convocation driving around L.A. trying to find a hospital emergency room that would take an out-of-town patient.
But then I thought that perhaps the start of a new millenium might not be the best time to be dwelling on disasters, past or not. In looking at this year's conference program, and recent ones from ARLIS and other library conferences, it appears that technology and its specific ramifications for libraries and related collections remains a dominant theme. Our brave predictions of ten years or so ago that technology would become such an integral and integrated part of art libraries and visual resources collections that a separate Computer Section or Round Table would no longer be needed may have come true, but it does not mean that we have completely come to terms with the changes technology have brought to libraries, librarians, and library users.
The same is true of the management of professional organizations, and I thought it might be fun to look back at the ways in which technology has transformed how the day-to-day business of the society is conducted.
I became the executive director, then called executive secretary, of ARLIS/NA almost exactly 20 years ago, in early 1980, and I had been editor of the society's newsletter for two years before that. The first president, then called chairman, of the society whom I worked with was Wolfgang Freitag. He was located in Boston, as he still is, and I was at that time living in Iowa City, Iowa, which is where the society headquarters were relocated from Washington, D.C. Wolfgang did most of his ARLIS work at home, and with the difference in our time zones, most of our communication seemed to take place via answering machine, which at that time was still a fairly new-fangled device. I would come into my office in the morning, or return after running errands, and rewind the tape on my machine. If the tape was full, as it often was, I knew it contained an incredible message from Wolfgang, covering answers to a myriad of management and financial questions I had left for him, plus ideas, suggestions, and questions of his own. I would make copious notes, look up or compile information and call him back, and often get his answering machine, and so the cycle would continue.
Membership and conference records were handled almost as primitively as communications in the early days. My predecessor, Charley Mundt with the management firm of J.D. Ferry & Associates in Washington, had computerized the membership records to a certain degree, but they were not in any condition that was transferable. PC's were still a thing of the future, so I went to the data processing center at the University of Iowa to see if they could help in any way. Does anyone else remember when university computer centers had to justify their existences to the parent institution? Well, they did in 1980, and Iowa's computer center tried to do this by contracting for outside work in the community. They were happy to take ARLIS/NA on as a client, but this meant that all the membership data had to be input from scratch and then proofread by me, well over a thousand records.
I would receive enormous weekly printouts on that 11x15" green-and-white striped computer paper our offices were full of at the time, mark up any additions or corrections by hand, then take the printout back to the computer center for them to do the inputting, then get a new printout for proofing, and on and on. So, even with computerized membership records, updating of information was done no more than once a week, less often if the computer was "down," as frequently happened. Conference registrations were done completely manually until the mid-1980s. Remarkably, I think they were quite accurate, but to say the work was labor intensive hardly begins to describe it.
And then there were the ARLIS publications. I remember reading about Judy Hoffberg producing the first issues of the ARLIS/NA Newsletter on some sort of Dickensian type-setting machine that a friend allowed her to use late at night in what I always imagined to be a dark, cobwebby basement lit by flickering candles. Until the 1990s I had to use the more traditional method of taking marked-up paper copy to a typesetter and then correcting page proofs. During the 1980s the typesetters themselves gradually moved to computerized typesetting, but we were still not able to submit copy on disks because we received material from so many different contributors for the newsletter, ART DOCMENTATION, and the Occasional Papers. The typesetters could accept only certain word processing programs and needed everything in ASCII file format, which few of us knew how to produce at that time.
So, hard copy it was until several years after we moved the ARLIS headquarters in with Association Managers in Tucson in the mid-1980s, and they developed the skills and acquired the equipment to produce at least ARLIS/NA UPDATE entirely in-house except for the printing.
Even more painful is the memory of producing the three reproduction indexes that I did with Greenwood Press in the 1980s. Greenwood required "camera-ready copy," which meant that I had to type the entire manuscipt myself on special coated paper with my trusty IBM Selectrix II typewriter. The Selectrix did a pretty good job of self-correcting if you caught an error while you were typing, but any mistakes not noticed until after you moved to a different line, or any smudges from the copious blood, sweat, and tears called forth by this nervewracking process meant the whole page had to be started over from the beginning. I'm sure I threw away at least three ruined pages for every one that was completed in truly camera-ready form.
By the time I left ARLIS/NA in 1993, we had made a lot of progress with our publications -- ARLIS/NA UPDATE was being produced in-house, the conference publications were submitted on disk, and we had even adopted the somewhat revolutionary idea of producing some of our monographs with limited projected audiences strictly on demand, printing copies only when they were ordered. The per-unit cost was higher, but we avoided big up-front printing charges and warehousing costs.
At the same time, we were making advances in communications as well, getting beyond the telephone and answering machine stage. When we moved ARLIS/NA headquarters in with a management firm in Tucson in the mid-1980s, I got our first computer, an IBM 286 clone that was still in operation when I left in 1993. Although I know that many ARLIS members were using computers regularly in their own jobs by then, the first ARLIS president I remember using a computer for society business was Clive Phillpot, who was president in 1989.
At that time Clive was working at the Museum of Modern Art in New York but living in Philadelphia and making the daily commute by train every day, two hours each way. He did ARLIS business in New York, in Philadelphia, and on the train in between. I well remember visiting him in Philadelphia and having him proudly show off his brand-new white Apple, which he claimed was preserving his sanity by making him able to transfer files easily from one place to another.
With the 1990s came widespread use of faxes and e-mail. The fax I have to say was a mixed blessing for ARLIS, at least for me and the editors of our publications. While the technology undoubtedly made it easier to transmit documents over long distances, it also had this strange side effect of encouraging everyone to wait until the absolute last minute to send anything in. My husband operates on the theory that no matter how late you are, there is always someone later than you, and it seemed for a while as if the ARLIS/NA membership was out to prove this theory en masse. I believe that at one point we even had to require that reports and publication contributions be submitted by mail in order to get legible copies -- this before the days of plain paper faxes.
In one instance, however, the fax was definitely a lifesaver -- when we were planning the Western Regional Meeting in Guadalajara, Mexico, in 1991. The meeting was coordinated by Winberta Yao at Arizona State University to coincide with a major book fair in Guadalajara, so she had to be in constant communication with the organizers of the book fair. It would be charitable at best to say that at that time phone service to Mexico was less than reliable, but for some reason the faxes almost always went through, so that was how most of our communication took place. Without the fax, Winberta would probably still be hanging on to the end of a phone line, listening to, "If you want to place a call, please hang up and dial again."
E-mail has, of course, been a great boon to a society with members scattered throughout the continent and some abroad, and ARLIS-L has been a wonderful means of stimulating discussion and facilitating exchange of information. However, there have been issues to deal with, chief of which is how to keep fully involved our members who have lesser access to computer technology.
Early on, it was suggested that Internet voting for ARLIS/NA elections might stimulate a larger turnout, but so far we have not been able to ensure that everyone would be able to vote that way. I thought of this particularly just recently because this month I had the privilege of participating in the nation's first Internet presidential primary in my home state of Arizona. There were many dire predictions, and several legal challenges, beforehand, warning that potential voters from minority and lower socio-economic groups would be disenfranchised, even though the traditional methods of mail and in-person voting were still offered. I have not yet seen a breakdown of the voters by ethnic or income group, but I did read that more people voted in this primary than in the actual 1996 presidential election in Arizona, so this does seem to be the wave of the future, though I did kind of miss the trip to the church where I normally vote and getting my "I Voted" sticker.
I have to admit too that as we did more and more ARLIS business by e-mail during my last couple of years with the society, I missed the phone conversations with members that gave the personal touch to a job in which I saw most of the membership at best once a year.
I've talked so far mostly about ways in which the society has changed over the past 20 years, so in closing I'd like to touch briefly on a couple of ways in which it hasn't changed. Merrill Smith mentioned in a letter she wrote to the Distinguished Service Award Committee that one of the unique aspects of the job of executive director is it involves having a new boss, or set of bosses, every year as a new president and board are elected, and Merrill mused as to how many other ARLIS members could survive such a situation.
Well, that does present its challenges, and I remember that when I used to attend meetings of the American Society of Association Executives, most of whose members face this same situation each year, it was kind of a running joke that if you got stuck with a real stinker of a president or board, at least they would be gone in a year. However, I can say in all honesty that I have never worked with any stinkers in ARLIS/NA. Each board has its own personality, as all ARLIS presidents quickly recognize -- some are quiet/some are loud, some like to discuss everything to the last detail/some like to move quickly and act decisively -- but I've never seen any real friction among board members, and I've never seen a board that didn't put the best interests of the membership as a whole first.
The same is true with presidents. Some presidents come in with clear ideas of what they'd like to accomplish/others are more interested in hearing what others would like to do, some want to be involved in the day-to-day business of the society/others would rather just deal with the big picture, some are on top of every deadline/some need a little reminding, some love to perform in public/others would rather eat nails than get up and make a speech. But, again, I have truly enjoyed working with each and every ARLIS/NA president I had the privilege to, and most have become dear personal friends.
You are very fortunate in having such a dedicated and hardworking group of colleagues who have over the years taken on the not inconsiderable task of guiding the society to its present level of success.
Finally, this is certainly an occasion that led me to think about what it is that made my years with ARLIS/NA so satisfying, professionally and personally. My thoughts were drawn to an article that appeared in the fall 1999 issue of ART DOCUMENTATION. It was by Michael Gorman and entitled "New Libraries, Enduring Values." One of the enduring values of libraries and librarians that Gorman defines is service, and, in fact, on page 8, he says that "Librarianship is a profession defined by service."
As art librarians we provide service to a variety of types of library users -- students, faculty, museum curators, artists, and the general public. Sometimes our service is more valued than others. In my work with ARLIS/NA, however, I was in a very special position, in that I gave service to my peers -- other art librarians and visual resources curators -- who have always let me know that my services were appreciated, but never so much as this evening. I cannot think of a group of people from whom I would more value receiving an award such as this. Thank you enormously...
First of all, I want to thank everyone who was involved with my nomination and selection for this honor. I am overwhelmed at the thought of you working on my behalf. When I learned of the award from Deborah, I found myself totally speechless for the first time in my life! Fortunately, I've recovered and I'd like to share a few highlights from my career as an art librarian with you.
I have been incredibly lucky. Lucky first of all to realize that I could combine two loves into a career. I have used libraries since I was a child in a very small town in central Kansas--the library was my playground and it opened my consciousness to a wider world--and then in college, I had a job working for the KU Libraries. I also loved art history and was embarked on earning a graduate degree in the field when I realized I didn't know what I was intending to do--I just liked sitting in a dark room looking at pretty pictures and thought anyone who didn't major in art history in college was working way too hard! I attended library school at Emporia State University in Kansas--not a prestigious library school but one I could afford and where the faculty allowed me to direct all my class projects toward art librarianship. The faculty didn't actually understand subject librarianship but were flexible enough to allow me to do projects on art resources for my reference class and to catalog art books for my cataloging class.
My next piece of luck was to send my resume to the ALA job placement service where an H.W. Wilson staff member saw it at the summer 1971 Chicago conference. They contacted me for an interview, I flew to NY, and was hired as an indexer for Art Index. For the next 4 years, my job was to read art magazines and determine what the articles were about--what an education! It also meant I was living in NY when the first ARLIS/NA annual conference was held in a classroom at Columbia University and I attended. I participated in the organization of the New York Chapter and served as the first Secretary-Treasurer of that chapter. I had an unbroken string of attendance at the next 16 annual conferences and it was there that I began to meet colleagues from all over North America and where I truly received my education as an art librarian.
I was lucky that Jean Finch, the 2nd President of ARLIS/NA, was the art librarian at Stanford and recommended me for the job at Univ. of California, Berkeley in 1974. This was a new position as the Art History/Classics Librarian at Berkeley but it had been open for 2 years by the time I applied. Although funded by the library, the Classics Dept. had a say and they wanted someone with a PhD in Classics; the Art History Dept. had a say and they wanted someone with a PhD in Art History; and the library had a say and they wanted someone with an MLS who could serve the two academic departments and keep the faculty relatively happy--or at least out of their offices. I've always known I was a compromise for all of them but I spent 7 years there working with a fabulous collection, colleagues, students, and faculty. I also got involved in the Northern California ARLIS/NA chapter and served as the chapter's Vice-chair/Chair from 1979-81.
It was at the 1981 ARLIS/NA conference in San Francisco that I had my first interview for the position as art librarian at Kansas. Leaving Berkeley was difficult but it was both a personal decision--returning to my family and my alma mater--and a professional one--going to a brand new branch library with lots of space and money to build a collection. It also meant involvement in a new ARLIS chapter, ARLIS/Central Plains, where I now have a group of valued colleagues.
So what has ARLIS/NA meant to me? It has been the source of education, of support, of information, of fellowship, of wonderful conferences, of opportunities to visit different cities and get special tours of the art and architecture, to attend incredible parties. ARLIS/NA has been there throughout my professional career as my primary professional organization. Many of you won't realize that there was opposition to the founding of ARLIS. Some art librarians felt we should ally with Special Libraries Association and work within their structure. Some felt ALA, as the most prominent library organization, was the right home for us and others lobbied for uniting with College Art Association. But there was something about having our own Society and our own conference--a conference that would allow programming to address our needs and allow us to visit a variety of locations where our local members would host the conference and show-off the local sights.
There's something about knowing our colleagues across this continent and being able to call on them for advice and help. We see reference questions posted online, requests for advice on vendors and equipment, notices--especially right before conference--of volunteer opportunities to serve the Society.
My advice is to use ARLIS/NA. Make it your professional association. If you don't like some of the policies or practices of the organization, get involved and help shape the future. If you want a Directory of Members, as I do, let the officers know. If you ever feel the conference programs aren't relevant to your needs, volunteer to develop something that does address a topic you care about--chances are that others will be interested as well.
Use the connectivity available through ARLIS/NA. I love the fact that I know the director of the library at the Metropolitan Museum of Art or the director of the Fogg Library at Harvard. If you or one of your clientele has a special request that involves another art library--impress your patrons, drop some names, and use your connections. Many of us work in single-staff libraries or as the only art library specialist within a university, a museum, or a public institution. We need each other.
I regularly prepare a report on the ARLIS/NA annual conference and distribute it to the entire KU Library staff. I report on the program sessions that I attended and provide links to any handouts or Power Points, I talk about the museums I saw, the tours I took, and I always report on the parties--I am the envy of the Library that I have such a great organization.
Being an art librarian has been the perfect career for me. Several years ago, we had a new Library Dean who asked me, "Susan, why haven't you ever become an Assistant Dean?" My immediate reply was: "but why would I? I'm already an art librarian."
May each of you be blessed with the same sort of LUCK that I've experienced in having a career in a field that you love--and I hope that I've given you some idea of why receiving this award from ARLIS/NA and my colleagues is so meaningful to me. Thank you.