ARLIS/NA 43rd Annual Conference, Fort Worth, TX
Convocation Program Presentation, 2015
2014 ARLIS/NA DISTINGUISHED SERVICE AWARD Acceptance Speech, by Daniel Starr; DSA Ceremony held at the Omni Fort Worth Hotel, March 22, 2015
I started working at the Art Institute of Chicago's Ryerson and Burnham Libraries when I was fourteen years old -- one afternoon a week during school and full time each summer.
My first job was to paint yellow acrylic dots on the spines of books being moved to storage. You can still see my handiwork today if you visit the stacks: pristine runs of bound journals back to the mid-sixties; anything earlier: a bright yellow dot.
I was lucky to learn about library work at the end of the analog era from Miss Schoneman, Miss Vivian, Miss Fillis, Miss Chin, and so many others who took me under their wing.
These dedicated librarians (with the occasional Mrs. and the rare Mr.) trained me, and taught me the importance of tempering work with a sense of humor. One afternoon when I was shelving books in the basement, Miss Fillis startled me appearing at the head of a solemn delegation to recite a poem that began: Danny's The Elf Boy Who Dwells in the Stacks and Impishly Tweaks you if you Dare Relax Near to his Lair, Where he Lurks Melancholic, Never Venturing Out for a Frolic."
I continued working in this nurturing environment throughout College and Grad School and was lucky enough to get my first professional position there as Reference/Catalog Librarian just as I finished my MLS, a member of the last class to learn cataloging by typing cards.
The highlight of my week in those days was the arrival of The New Yorker. I would make myself a martini, settle in for the evening and pretend to be a sophisticate. I also looked forward to the less regular arrival of the ARLIS/NA Newsletter, and avidly read the cataloging column. So it was natural for me, a presumptuous 27 year old, to answer an ad in the New York Times for Senior Cataloger at MoMA (accurate typing required). Cataloging in New York--what could be better?
I grew up in Chicago; but I became an adult at MoMA. I learned the craft of cataloging, helped by my colleagues in ARLIS.
I learned to be a reference librarian by working with a string of amazing ones: Paula Baxter, Hikmet Loe, Eumie Imm Stroukoff, Jennifer Tobias, Janis Ekdahl, and later, Linda Seckelson. They would give a collective shudder to read one of my early efforts: "Dear Ms. X -- I am sorry but we do not have the staff nor the time to do your research for you, nor do we have any material to send to you -- Sincerely yours, ..."
Also, to paraphrase Nelson Rockefeller, all I ever learned about management I learned at MoMA by leading the union of professional and administrative staff for a dozen years negotiating contracts, handling grievances, and being on far too many committees. I'm pleased and proud that Danny Fermon so ably continues in that role of the activist librarian.
Then fourteen years ago, thanks to Ken Soehner I moved uptown to the Met -- a simple career: three great libraries in three great museums. The one constant has always been ARLIS/NA.
I thank Susan Craig and her committee for deeming me worthy of this honor, Carole Ann and the Executive Board for their hard work, my good friends Sherman and Ted, who nominated me, and to those who wrote in support. Sherman has been a conference roommate and cataloging sparring partner for over thirty five years; Ted is the hardest working person I know, not only at our house (lucky for us) but also for Avery and ARLIS/NA.
To my husband, Gary Miller, you deserve special thanks for putting up with library stuff all these years. Of course, you can't avoid it. Art librarians were there when we met on the Great Lawn of Central Park during a Metropolitan Opera performance 31 years ago and have been part of our life together ever since.
I'm grateful to my siblings, Bob, Loriel, and Steve for being here tonight. Please ask them to fill in the embarrassing details of my past at the reception I know you are all eager to get to.
Finally, to you, the members of ARLIS, both past and present, who are such inspirational role models, generous colleagues, and good friends: that shy little boy who dwelt in the stacks thanks you.