What our Members Are Saying: Diane Dias De Fazio

WOMAS ,

Acquisitions and Collections Development Librarian, Ingalls Library, The Cleveland Museum of Art

What do you love about your work?

OMG, where do I even start? The books and art are a lot in and of themselves. Reading dealer catalogs and making recommendations, getting to know Ingalls Library’s holdings while coming up with content for Instagram posts, diving into the museum’s history. And, I get to “go to the museum” every day!! (Hopefully, my exclamation points properly convey my excitement.) This is, seriously, a dream come true. 

When I was ten years old, my parents let me enroll in the Carnegie Museum of Art’s (CMOA) Saturday Creative Art classes (now the “Art Connection”), and they drove me from little Salem, Ohio (population 12,000), to Pittsburgh for art class every week for five years. (It’s, like, 72 miles one way! Can you imagine? The generosity and sheer logistics of it all still blow my mind.) We’d started going to the Cleveland Museum of Art (CMA) even earlier, like, when I was four or five. I literally grew up in art museums! At Carnegie, I dove into contemporary art (my first year coincided with the International) and I had exposure to American and European painting and east-Asian art at CMA. Given that museum-based studio and art history education played such a significant role in my formative years, working at the CMA now is kind of a homecoming.

Deep love for museums and art, and appreciation of my life’s interests coming full circle aside, one thing that stands out about work at Ingalls Library and at CMA (for me) in general is that, for the first time in my career, I feel that I’m part of an institution that actually, demonstrably, cares about my future success. No disrespect to my prior employers, but I think a lot of us who graduated from library school in the past decade have shared (in conference discussions, on social media, and more privately) that our work had not been entirely as we expected it would be. I’m very fortunate to be part of an institution that has important rare and distinctive collections and administrators that actively support my ambitions.

What are you working on now that you’re proud of?

In addition to my thesis (see below), right now I’m really proud of three things: I am coauthoring a book chapter with Jay Sylvestre (special collections librarian, University of Miami) and Emily Martin (book artist and faculty, University of Iowa) on artists’ books and zines in special collections pedagogy; I serve as Member-at-Large for the Rare Books and Manuscripts Section, and I am expanding Ingalls Library collections at to include more materials by nonbinary individuals, women, LGBTQ, and BIPOC artists and scholars.

What sorts of ARLIS-related projects have you worked on? Is there something in particular that you found meaningful?

Right now, I serve as the co-moderator of the Architecture and Planning Section (or, Arch/Plan Sec) with Jeff Alger from Iowa State. Our section started virtual library tours in the autumn, collaborated with the Diversity and Inclusion Committee for a session at the 50th anniversary conference that highlights libraries’ efforts to make physical spaces more accessible. I was part of the Bunce Award Committee with Carol Ng-He and Greg Baise for the last two conferences. My most meaningful ARLIS work so far was collaborating with Vaughan Hennen, Marianne Williams, Evan Schilling, Delia Tash, and Joan Jocson-Singh on discussion sessions at ARLIS Salt Lake City and 2020 virtual. I hope to publish with them someday!

How is anti-racist work part of your professional life? How could ARLIS better support and challenge you in this work?

First and foremost, my priority is to center the voices and experiences of people of color in acquisitions and collections development. Secondly, self-reflection is crucial. It took me years to understand that, when I was growing up, there weren’t many women in positions of success and power who looked like me (brunette, Latina, Italian-American) or had my/my family’s experiences (Appalachian, first-generation American, working-class, first-generation college graduates and professional degree holders). I have firsthand experience: I understand the importance of representation, and the value of mentors who can listen with similar lived experiences. So, I always say yes to informational interviews, and I serve as a mentor in a local Cleveland program and in RBMS (the Rare Books and Manuscripts Section of the Association of College and Research Libraries).

My work with RBMS centers on mentoring and working with successive cohorts of emerging professionals. I don't like throwing around phrases like, “having a moment of Reckoning,” but special collections and museums are there, in that moment. Library association membership is too expensive, and conference attendance is often cost-prohibitive. This, founded in systemic racism, fosters a kind of economic gatekeeping, and organizations that do not see that—or cannot, for whatever reason, provide affordable options to participate— will fail future generations of library professionals. Straddling this world of multiple library associations as I do, I feel that ARLIS/NA does a profoundly sensitive and commendable job of dismantling such barriers. Relative to mentoring, I wonder if shorter-term pairings would be possible in the future, as an alternative (or supplement) to ARLIS’s highly successful yearlong mentoring program.

What are you reading? How is it informing your work?

Bah, reading! Who has the time? Wait; sorry. Ask a librarian "What are you reading" and it's easy to just presume the question is "What do you read in your spare time?" —If that's the question, to be honest, the only thing I have time to read anymore are the COVID statistics for my mother’s county, and bookseller catalogues!

On the other hand, I have spent a lot of my days, lately, finding publications by and featuring artists in upcoming CMA exhibitions, and scouring my bookseller resources to add more special collections material to Ingalls’ collections. All of that directly informs my work, of course.

I’m also finishing my Master’s, and my thesis focuses on La Prose du Transsibérien et de la Petite Jehanne de France by Sonia Delaunay and Blaise Cendrars. My thesis examines that legendary artist’s book work through a feminist lens and draws upon Kitty Maryatt’s recent “re-creation”, so I am also reading a fair amount about interwar Europe, women in book arts, and contemporary print media education. So that’s a lot of my time, right there. And, I would also say that my work is rather informed by the innumerable hours of NPR that I listen to every week. (Yep, I’m that person—my stations are WCPN and WKSU, Michigan Radio, OPB, WLRN, and KUOW.) No, I can’t/don’t always listen to the same thing multiple times, and there are long (not very interesting) reasons why those stations have my loyalty, but, in addition to being sometimes frustratingly over-informed, I find the programming has shaped my interpersonal and administrative philosophies.

Tell us about the kind of library you work in. What do you wish other librarians understood about the kind of library you are in? What makes it great? What makes it challenging?

I work in a museum library that also serves a large constituency of graduate students in art history. Ingalls Library also contains the Museum Archives, but our archival collections go beyond black-and-white images of empty galleries. I like that your question is not “what do you wish the public understood about the kind of library you are in?”—that question probably yields common answers across our profession. I hope that librarians who don’t work in a museum understand that 1) not all museum libraries are elite clubs where the staff are alums of the same school, 2) not all libraries double as special events spaces/green rooms in their off-hours, 3) art librarians’ knowledge extends beyond art, and 4) art is for everyone, and museum libraries thrive if everyone feels they are stakeholders. What makes Ingalls Library great? That’s easy! The museum, our great encyclopedic collections, and our staff.

How many years have you been a librarian/worked in libraries? What is the biggest change you have experienced in your career thus far?

I have worked in libraries since 2006, and have been a degree-carrying library scientist since 2015! The biggest change? This is a difficult question to answer—or at least, to isolate one thing is a challenge. It feels like a cop-out to say “budgets have changed”, because talking about funding is evergreen. I would like to say that the diversity of the field has changed, but some subfields of librarianship remain predominantly white. In 2006, I felt like libraries were these marvellous repositories that held endless amounts of information. Now award-winning authors freely admit they don’t use libraries and archives for their research. That’s disappointing. On the other hand, some work is happening to break down barriers, and I’m hopeful that those efforts will continue!