Distinguished Service Award:Louis Adrean

Thank you, Beth and Rachel, for your kind words. I am so touched by the efforts of friends and colleagues who have made me the recipient of ARLIS/NA's highest honor. If you told me on June 23,1986, my first day on the job at the Cleveland Museum of Art's Ingalls Library, that I would be standing here tonight to receive the Distinguished Service Award, I would have been very doubtful!  Thank you, Ann Abid, who was the library director from 1985 until her retirement in 2004 and took a chance on hiring me.  I would not be receiving this honor without her mentorship.

As I wrote my convocation remarks, I reflected on my 41-year career in libraries. My interest in art history was piqued as a child growing up in Utica, New York, where I looked forward to Saturday art classes at the Munson Williams Proctor Institute. Unfortunately, I was not very good at creating art, but was more interested in visiting the galleries to look at art.

The circulating library at the Institute had a much better selection of art books than was available at the public library across the street. Every Saturday, I would go home with a new selection of books to peruse. A class visit to the Institute in1965 to see the exhibition, ”Audubon Watercolors and Drawings” was an ”ah-ha" moment. It was then that I decided I wanted to work in an art museum - of course, not knowing what I might do. I continued taking art classes, but it was not until high school that I discovered art history. I was hooked and went on to major in art history as an undergraduate.

On one of my visits to the Institute's art library, Dr. Julia Sabine, who had recently retired as Head of the Art and Music Department at the Newark, New Jersey, Public Library, and was working part-time at the Institute’s library, asked me if I would be interested in applying for a position as research assistant for the upcoming 1976 bicentennial exhibition "Made in Utica.” I was hired, and my responsibility was to write a chapter on the fine and visual arts in Utica from its early days until 1945 for the exhibition catalogue. As I began using resources at the museum, and archival resources at both the local historical society and at the public library, I thought that maybe I should consider a career as an art librarian rather than an art historian.

With Dr. Sabine's encouragement, I applied to the graduate library program at Syracuse University and was accepted.  Among the faculty were longtime ARLIS/NA members Antje Lemke, and Caroline Backlund who taught summer courses in art librarianship and bibliography. I received my M.L.S. in 1977.

In 1978 I moved to Cleveland, Ohio, when I accepted a position as Assistant to the Director/Special Collections Librarian at the East Cleveland Public Library. I next moved on to the Cleveland Area Metropolitan Library System, known as CAMLS, where until 1986 I coordinated the union list of serials project for a 30+ member multi-type library consortium.

I was still determined to work in an art museum library, and when the position of serials librarian became available at the Cleveland Museum of Art's Ingalls Library, I jumped at the chance. The rest is history; I worked there from June 1986 until I retired in March 2020. It was in 1986 that I became an ARLIS/NA member.

As the third largest art museum library in the United States, Ingalls Library was an opportunity I couldn't pass up. I was responsible for overseeing a large serials and auction catalogue collection as well as regularly scheduled time at the reference desk.

It was an especially exciting time because SCIPIO was in its infancy. For those of us who have been part of the art museum library world for decades, you will remember that the Mellon-funded project was originated by The Research Libraries Group (RLG) and three art museum libraries, The Art Institute of Chicago, The Cleveland Museum of Art, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The responsibility for coordinating the efforts of the three libraries rotated bi-annually among the serials librarians at those institutions and Cleveland was next in the rotation. It was an exciting and rewarding two years and cemented life-long friendships with colleagues at these institutions and, as the group grew to include the National Gallery of Art, the Nelson-Atkins Museum, and UC Santa Barbara, new friendships developed. As serials librarian I was part of the implementation team for the Ingalls Library's DYNIX integrated library system.  We were pioneers in the automated world of art museum libraries and were among the first art museum libraries to move to the electronic world!

In 1991, I was promoted to Assistant Librarian for Public Services. In my newly found role, I interacted daily with museum staff, museum members, and graduate students in the Joint Program in Art History and Museum Studies, co-sponsored by the Museum and Case Western Reserve University. Working with the various curatorial and conservation staff as well as other museum employees was truly rewarding. Each day brought new challenges.

I had the opportunity to assist curators with numerous exhibitions and their accompanying catalogues, provide interlibrary-loan services and shepherd the transition from a paper-based research model to the electronic environment. What a ride it was! At first, museum staff were reluctant to embrace databases and online resources. With perseverance, we won them over!

Other responsibilities were added to my job description and a most welcome opportunity was my involvement with provenance research. I had no formal training beyond what I learned as an undergraduate and from rare books classes in graduate school.

I learned quickly and in 2013 the library received funding from the museum director's discretionary fund to review and ultimately publish on the museum's website 150 provenance histories for European and American paintings in the museum's permanent collection. I supervised the project and was fortunate to hire Victoria Sears Goldman, who had recently earned a Ph.D. in art history at Princeton University. In addition to the provenance research, we organized a successful symposium "Issues in Provenance Research" in which some of the top authorities in the field participated. The project continued with a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and we examined and published additional provenance histories for a group of the museum’s modern European paintings.

Another facet of my position at the Ingalls Library was liaison to the unique Joint Program in Art History and Museum Studies at Case Western Reserve University. The Ingalls Library serves as the primary resource for graduate students enrolled in the program, a situation which necessitates that librarians assume a pedagogical role for all courses taught; this is especially evident each fall, when the research methodologies course is taught. Both M.A. and Ph.D. students are required to take this course. It is a reading intensive course in which each student focuses on an object in the museum's collection and performs an extensive investigation of that object. It is an arduous undertaking and is sometimes overwhelming for new graduate students since it requires exemplary research skills, facility with foreign languages, subject knowledge, and a grasp of the museum's organizational structure.

I am proud to say that many of the students I mentored have gone on to major curatorial and administrative positions in museums around the country.

My accomplishments at the Ingalls Library would not have been possible without the unwavering support of the talented staff including: Leslie Cade, Maggie Castellani, Christine Edmonson, Rachel McPherson, Marsha Morrow, Stacie Murry, Beth Owens, and Anne Trenholme.

It was during these years, that I became involved with ARLIS at both the national and chapter levels. My ARLIS involvement culminated with being elected to the board as Mid-West representative in 1999-2001. It was during those two years that I cultivated friendships with other ARLIS members including Kathryn Wayne and Deborah Kempe both of whom have been recipients of the Distinguished Service Award.

Many other personal connections are at the core of this award. Without these collegial relationships, I would not be the recipient of this award.

Thank you to everyone who submitted letters of support and especially to Rachel McPherson, Beth Owens and Anne Trenholme who worked so diligently to collect the letters. I would also like to thank the ARLIS/NA Distinguished Service Awards Subcommittee chaired by Katie Keller as well as the Executive Board for this honor.

It is truly a capstone moment.

Thank you!