2013 ARLIS/NA DISTINGUISHED SERVICE AWARD Acceptance Speech, by Joan M. Benedetti; DSA Ceremony held in the Coolidge Auditorium of the Jefferson Building, Library of Congress, May 3, 2014
Note: Benedetti's remarks have been rewritten to delete references to slides that accompanied her talk at the ceremony, but a video of the entire Convocation, produced by the Library of Congress, can be seen at: www.loc.gov/today/cyberlc/feature_wdesc.php?rec=6469 To see Jon Evans' introduction, go to 58:40 on the video; Benedetti's remarks start at 1:03.
When Gregg Most told me about this award a couple of months ago, I was of course thrilled — and terrified. Just like Ted Goodman, I immediately thought: "What am I going to wear?" and then "What am I going to say?" I decided—following Ted's lead—to tell you some things about me that you might not know. You could call it a "case study."
Childhood pictures confirm I already had a book in my hand at age one. I was the daughter of two librarians who had just received their library degrees from Columbia University. My dad's part-time job was typing cards for the Avery Index. He was in the Merchant Marines and became the head of the Merchant Marine Library. My mom headed two New York Public Library branches and then four Illinois regional systems. Incidentally, they were both artists!
In spite of my parentage, I never thought about being a librarian! I wanted to be an actress!! I had parts on the Indiana University main stage and at their Brown County Playhouse. I.U. was where (after marriage and my first baby) I got my B.A. in theater with a minor in art. But at my mother's urging, I went to talk to a friend of her's, the head of the new library science program at I.U. This was unfortunately before BJ Irvine got to I.U.
I thought—well, if I have to be a librarian, I'd like to be a children's librarian—after all, I loved children's literature. My first professional job—circa 1960s-was as a children's librarian in Gary, Indiana—my acting experience came in handy for story hours!
By 1967 I had remarried and we moved to Milwaukee, where—by chance—I got a job as Decorative Arts librarian at the Milwaukee Public Library. Who even knew such a job existed?
Fast forward to 1975—Los Angeles—in the midst of a recession—and two more kids. After an
8-year hiatus as full-time housewife and mother, I was ready to go back to work! It took a
while, but a chance encounter at a cocktail party with a CalArts trustee changed my life.
Edith Wyle (yes she would turn out to be the grandmother of Noah Wyle—but not yet) was turning an innovative and well-loved L.A. gallery and restaurant called The Egg and The Eye into a museum called the Craft and Folk Art Museum—or CAFAM. I didn't know anything about museum libraries, but I asked her if she had thought about including a library in her new museum—and she said "yes."
I started at CAFAM in 1976. They were putting on the first annual Festival of Masks—thousands came—and came again year after year for over 20 years!
I started as a scab—a volunteer—in a small room shared with a copying machine and other volunteers-but I was head of the library! Shortly after starting to work at CAFAM-another encounter enriched my professional life forever—
I met Eleanor Hartman, head of the L.A. County Museum of Art—LACMA—Library, and heard about this new art library organization—ARLIS. ARLIS gave me the confidence to be a real art librarian. And I met Judy Hoffberg, who lived in L.A. and was working on the 1977 ARLIS L.A. conference—a most wonderful introduction to Los Angeles!
By 1978, three successful grant proposals after I had started at CAFAM, we moved the library around the corner from the museum into a small Spanish-style cottage. I had the first of many interns and my first part-time assistant—and we were there happily for 10 years.
At the 1983 ARLIS conference in Philadelphia, we heard that L.A. would again be the conference site in 1985—and Joyce Ludmer (who was the UCLA art librarian) whispered in my ear—"You could do it—you could chair the conference!" Somehow, with an amazing conference committee, we got it done. The Convocation was held at the old Getty—now the Getty Villa.
In 1989 the CAFAM building was closed for earthquake retrofitting and the whole operation moved into the nearby landmark department store—the May Company. The library was on the mezzanine overlooking the perfume counter. Michelle Arens became my first—and only—full-time assistant! We had just received another big grant from the Irvine Foundation.
The grant was to develop a Center for the Study of Art and Culture (CSAC)—an adjunct of the library and a "think tank" for the museum. Among the things CSAC did of which I am most proud was to produce a series of workshops on Diversity and Inclusion, specifically targeting teams of museum staff and board members. Teams from 14 L.A.-area museums signed up.
Toni Peterson and Elizabeth Byrne were on the advisory board that included scholars of art and culture from all over the U.S.
But just three years later the May Co. department store closed and we moved back to CAFAM's original space, now safely retrofitted and redesigned by Hodgetts + Fung. All the offices and
the library were moved into a neighboring building.
So—I designed yet another library—are you keeping track? This was CAFAM Library #4 and we got a fancy new sign: it was called the Edith R. Wyle Research Library. But my idea to name the library after the founder didn't help in the long run because two years later CAFAM closed again—this time we thought it was forever.
Many meetings were held in the library to decide what to do. It was decided to sell the permanent object collection, and instead of packing up the library—which I knew would make it disappear forever—we decided to give it away. Then everyone was laid off.
This was when my ARLIS network really came through for me. After 21 years, I was a volunteer again. I got on the phone to Southern California chapter members and we received proposals from 8 area art libraries to take the CAFAM library and—oh yes—the "archives"— that is 32 years' worth of institutional records, including catalogs, announcements, posters, film, video, and thousands of exhibition and event slides that would otherwise have been thrown away.
The library—around 7000 volumes at that point—was given to LACMA. Thanks to Debbie
Smedstad, who was then the Head, I went to LACMA too as a part-time cataloger.
And the CAFAM Library went back to the May Company, which by that time had been purchased by LACMA and was now known as "LACMA West." This time it went into what had been a back room of the linens department. But it looked pretty spiffy when it was re-done.
CAFAM, by the way, reopened 18 months later-minus its library and archives and its permanent collection, which was sold at auction.
And the CAFAM archives—32 years of staff files that were almost thrown away—first they went to UCLA Arts Special Collections and then they went to UCLA Special Collections—and I got to work on them a couple of days a week for almost 13 years! Several graduate fellows helped me process 250 cubic foot boxes into 550 archival boxes—225 linear feet-it's one of their largest collections. The finding aid went up online last year.
During all this time, ARLIS helped keep me sane. Mari Russell and I co-chaired a panel on Native
American Contemporary Art for the 2001 L.A. conference. And I got to work as writer and editor on the conference publications.
2 years later I retired from LACMA—and that began one of the most satisfying periods of my professional life—finally I had time to write! I reflected on the differences—and the similarities—of working in a relatively small, specialized art museum and a very large encyclopedic art museum-and I persuaded the ARLIS Publications Committee to let me edit a book about art museum libraries and librarianship, which was co-published by ARLIS and Scarecrow Press in 2007.
Four and a half years ago I moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico. I envisioned my life there as an idyll of reading for pleasure and enjoying the eight wonderful Santa Fe museums.
But of course, I've become involved with the ARLIS/NA Mountain West chapter.
And my husband Beny and I live within sight of the Museum of International Folk Art, which has the largest collection of international folk art in the world-so naturally I have been working
with their support group, the Friends of Folk Art.
At the 2013 Folk Art Flea Market, we made over $92,000 for the museum.
But I have a new bumper sticker on my car that says: "I'd Rather Be Reading."
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 boardonce 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.
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...
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.
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.