2017 ARLIS/NA DISTINGUISHED SERVICE AWARD Acceptance Speech by Kathryn Wayne; DSA ceremony held at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, February 28, 2018
In the beginning, I was born at Resurrection Hospital in Chicago, Illinois. I grew up in Bensenville, a suburb near O’Hare airport. My mother was an artist and lay teacher at St. Alexis Catholic school, my father was an electrician and glass blower. In second grade, after my First Holy Communion, I decided to become a nun. The following week, my teacher, Sr. Dominia, went running to my mother’s classroom and said there was a serious issue she needed to discuss. “Your daughter wants to become a nun!” My mother’s face lit up until Sister said “She wants to become a nun and marry the Pope!” As you can see, I set my sights high from the beginning, and way Out of Bounds. Shortly after that, my parents took me to see the movie The Music Man because I loved books and libraries so much. Watching Harold Hill and Marian the Librarian sing and dance in the River City Public Library made it crystal clear--I was definitely going to be a librarian.
But at the same time, I was also confronted with another dilemma—my love of comedy. Anyone from Chicago has, at one point in their life, believed they could be a stand up comic—I went back and forth, struggling with the choice between comedian and librarian until it dawned on me that I could just be…a funny librarian.
In third grade, shocked that none existed, I established the first circulation system for the library in my classroom. After that, the nuns were always sure to use me as a consultant whenever library-related issues arose. Skipping to 7th and 8th grade, I worked in my junior high school library, and, as I was about to enter high school, the librarian, Mr. Gunlaw, suggested I apply at the Helen M. Plum Public Library. Interviewed by the very serious Ms. Roloff, I was excited to be hired as a Page at 14. I shelved books, shifted shelves, processed books, and always made sure the 700s were in perfect order.
At 17, I went to Illinois State University majoring in studio art and museum studies, and minored in library science with a goal to be an art librarian. This is when my nickname “Chuck” was coined as a result of entering a dorm-sponsored talent contest my Freshman year. I performed a stand up comedy routine where I talked to an invisible man named Chuck and won First Place and ice cream for my entire dorm floor. And the next day-- keeping things even--I interviewed with Art Librarian Steve Meckstroth who hired me to work in the art section of Milner Library. An inspiring mentor, he introduced me to ARLIS/NA and communicated the importance of connecting to others interested in the field of art librarianship.
At 23, I received my Masters in Library Science from the University of Arizona and was fortunate enough to obtain my first professional position as the Head Librarian at the College of Architecture Library. Ten years later, I assumed the position of Architecture/ Landscape Architecture Librarian at the University of California Berkeley, and then worked as Fine Arts Librarian and Head of the Art History/Classics Library for 19 years until my retirement in 2016. I loved every single minute of my 38-year professional career. What a luxury it was to be able to work in an academic library every single day, surrounded by students and faculty –in a stimulating, challenging, and gratifying environment.
I want to thank Gregg Most for spearheading this effort, along with other colleagues who supported my nomination – Andy Cahan, Jane Carlin, Lamia Doumato, Holly Hathaway, Milan Hughston, Debbie Kempe, Sheila Klos, Professor Margaretta Lovell, mentees Barbara Rominski and Alex Watkins–and several of my colleagues in the Northern California Chapter, led by Abby Bridge. Throughout the years, all of you have made an enormous impact on my professional career. I enjoyed every collaboration I had with you and I thank you for your advice, trust, patience, and help with achieving my goals. I’d like to thank all of the many colleagues I’ve worked with in ARLIS/NA over several decades—there are too many to name but you all know who you are and know how appreciative I am to have had the honor of working with you.
I would also like to thank the many art publishers and antiquarian book dealers that have supported our members and conferences for so many years—I have learned so much from you and the Fine Arts Collections at Berkeley are stronger because of that relationship. Finally, my accomplishments could not have been realized without the encouragement of my supervisors, the unending patience of my staff, the unconditional love and support of both of my parents, and my husband, Gary Nelson.
I would also like to thank Awards Committee Chair, Karyn Hinkle and Distinguished Service Award Committee Chair, Rachel Resnick and their committees for their tireless efforts and recommendation for my nomination. And, to theARLIS/NA Executive Board for its final approval.
I am greatly humbled and honored to accept the Distinguished Service Award, however, most of my goals were accomplished through collaborations with my librarian colleagues, publishers, students, faculty, architects, and artists. So, I share this award with all of you and encourage you to find a potential collaborator that may lead to an exciting new achievement in your own career. Consider putting your name forward to be a Chapter Chair, Committee Chair, or to serve on the Executive Board. I can assure you that experience will be life changing.
And before I ride into the sunset, a quote from Coco Chanel “if you were born without wings, do nothing to prevent them from growing.”
This award means so much to me. Thank you.
2018 ARLIS/NA DISTINGUISHED SERVICE AWARD Acceptance Speech by Janis Ekdahl; DSA ceremony held at the Grand Ballroom of The Grand America Hotel, March 28, 2019
Thank you, Chantal, for your lovely introduction. And thank you ARLIS/NA for bestowing this incredible honor on me. To be recognized by one’s peers is truly the best compliment one can receive. I am proud to have my name added to those of past Distinguished Service Award recipients—many of whom I’ve known and worked with during my long career.
Since learning of this award I’ve spent a great deal of time reviewing my career and I have become keenly aware that the accomplishments for which I’m being celebrated today are, in large measure, the result of the generous mentoring, tutoring and professional support I’ve received from a host of ARLIS friends and colleagues. I would like tell you about each of these individuals but, in hopes of getting to the reception on time, I’ll mention only a few as I briefly outline my career.
It all began in 1967, after my junior year of college, when the Topeka Public Library hired me as a summer intern to fill-in for vacationing staff members. I was introduced to the library’s various services by spending time in each department: the bookmobile, the children’s room, the circulation desk, special collections, the reference desk and, finally, the fine arts department. I thoroughly enjoyed all aspectsof the work but most especially my time in fine arts. This is when it occurred to me I might be able to put my undergraduate art history degree to some use if I pursued a Master's degree in Library Science.
Columbia University’s MLS program was my first choice because—one, it was in New York City—and two, it offered a Fine Arts Literature course taught by the librarian of the Museum of Modern Art, Bernard Karpel. This turned out, however, not to be a conventional “literature” course with standard bibliographies, reference books and encyclopedias. Instead, Mr. Karpel casually tossed rare Dada and Futurist manifestos and broadsides onto the table alongside piles of current exhibition announcements and brochures. His point, of course, was that we—librarians—must pay attention the ephemera of today's artworld since it would become ourresponsibility to collect, organize and preserve this elusive material for the future.
In 1971, after two years at the Brooklyn Public Library, I was hired by Vassar College to be their Art Librarian. It seems the art department’s first-choice candidate had decided, at the last minute, to accept another job so—with the semester about to begin—they took a chance with this very young novice. I was panicked, though, when I realized I knew nothing about running a library—let alone, an art library—and I didn’t know anyone who could advise me or show me the ropes!
You can imagine my excitement then, the following year, when I learned about a new organization—the Art Libraries Society of North America. I devoured the organization’s inaugural Newsletterand was thrilled to read that this new group, ARLIS, would be holding a one-day conference at Columbia during the College Art Association meetings in January 1973. I could hardly wait. I was finally going to meet colleagues who would understand my problems and challenges.I still remember how immensely relieved I was that day to confirm that, yes, my problems were not unique; other, more seasoned, librarians faced exactly the same challenges.
Of course, the most consequential outcome of that first ARLIS conference was connecting with a communityof art librarians. I will always remember with great fondness the warm, gracious welcome extended by Bill Walker and Wolfgang Freitag. Both of these distinguished gentlemen treated me as a colleague; they seemed confident I could contribute something of value to ARLIS—even as a novice librarian. Indeed, I soon joined a committee and, in 1976, ran to become the Society’s Treasurer.
An election, I’m happy to report, which I lost to my friend Sherman Clarke!
ARLIS—the larger North American organization and the local New York chapter—became my primary professional association. I relied on the annual conferences and the quarterly Newsletterto regularly re-charge my batteries. And I networked with ARLIS colleagues—near and far—when I needed advice about problems I wasn’t able to solve by myself.
After 10 good years at Vassar, though, I was ready for a change and was thrilled when I was hired by the Museum of Modern Art as Special Collections librarian. Through ARLIS, I already knew Clive Phillpot, the Head Librarian, and Daniel Starr, Chief Cataloger. I had a high regard for them both so the prospect of joining them in the Museum Library to work with curators and scholarly researchers was extremely attractive. I was also eager to return to the City where an exciting contemporary artworld beckoned. My weekends soon included gallery crawls and museum visits–-all of which made for lively discussions in the library the following Monday and, of course, lots of additional ephemerafor MoMA’s artist file!
When Clive departed for London in 1994, the Museum promoted Daniel Starr and me— simultaneously—to the position of Chief Librarian—he for Technical Services, me for Administration. It was an arrangement that could have resulted in a struggle for power but, instead, we each were able to play to our strength. At this juncture, I also became de facto curator of the MoMA Artist Book Collection and found myself newly inspired and energized by interactions with creative book artists.
I have especially fond memories of the Library’s talented, congenial staff—professional and paraprofessional—with whom I had the privilege of working during the years I was at MoMA. There isn’t time to list them all, but a few names will be familiar to this ARLIS audience: Danny Fermon, Eumie Imm, Hikmet Loe, Michael Carter, Abby Bridge, Jenny Tobias, Milan Hughston and, of course, Daniel Starr.
It was also during these years—with the support of the Museum—that I become moredeeply involved in ARLIS—serving on the Executive Board twice—once as Eastern Regional Representative and once as President. In between, there were conferences to plan, committees to chair, and sessions to organize. It was all enormouslyenriching—professionally and personally—but I have to admit the details and timeline of this period are a bit of a blur—a result, no doubt, of burning the candle at both ends.
When I accepted MoMA’s early retirement offer in 2002, the only thing I knew for certain was that I was ready for a change. It was serendipitous, then, when the Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts contacted me about a temporary job as the interim Head Librarian. It was fun for me to again work with students and faculty although the academic information landscape had changed radically since my days at Vassar. So, once again, I found myself turning to ARLIS—colleagues, conferences and publications— for guidance and help. After a year I handed over the leadership of the library to Heather Topcik, who continues to ably oversee its steady growth. I, then, switched to a part-time schedule and worked at the BGC for another terrific 14 years—assisting with reference and overseeing collection development—until last August when I retired for a second—and final—time.
I want to close by thanking Liv Valmestad and the Distinguished Service Award Committee for recommending my name to the Executive Board. I also want to extend my deep personal appreciation to Chantal who orchestrated this nomination from start to finish. Chantal managed to locate colleagues from all parts of my long career. And—to those colleagues—I want to express my gratitude for their letters in support of my nomination. It’s been a humblingexperience to read these letters—-remembering the many wonderful ARLIS relationships that have so enriched my professional life.
Finally, though, it is to all of ARLIS—past and present—that I am indebted. The Distinguished Service Award istheperfectcapstone to a fulfilling and satisfying career. I am honored and I thank you.
2016 ARLIS/NA DISTINGUISHED SERVICE AWARD Acceptance Speech, by Elizabeth O'Keefe; DSA ceremony held at the Hilton New Orleans Riverside, February 8, 2017
I am reminded of the time someone told Brendan Behan that the Guinness family had been very good to the people of Dublin. "The people of Dublin have been very good to the Guinness family," was his reply. ARLIS and its members have been very good to me. I regard this award as the culmination of a professional lifetime's worth of support and collegiality from ARLIS and ARLISians, and I would like to devote my response to tracing the history of my association with the Society and the role it has played in my career and achievements.
Unlike many previous recipients of this award, I was a latecomer to art history and art librarianship. I was exposed to art and museum-going from an early age, as evidenced by an essay I wrote after a visit to the Met when I was ten. It began, "The best thing in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in my opinion was the Cellini Bowl", and went on to describe the piece, made of gold adorned with jewels, as "assuredly worth a king's ransom". It concluded rather sanctimoniously, "The Cellini Bowl is a magnificent work of art, contrasting with its maker's shady doings". Since the Cellini bowl was later revealed to be a 19th-century forgery, that judgment may have been apter than I knew.
But despite this early promise, a family orientation toward languages and literature initially steered me in a different direction. I majored in Classics at Smith, and went on to Trinity College Dublin, where I spent eight years or so failing to complete a doctoral dissertation on an Alexandrian pastoral poet. I enjoyed reading the texts, but had no bent for research.
A nudge in the right direction came from an Irish friend whose field of study, Medieval Irish History, was even less monetizable than mine. She suggested that I, too, consider a career in libraries. Back in the States, I took my first cataloging course at Pratt, and was hooked. Maybe there is an overlap in mental processes between decoding heavily inflected classical languages and coding and interpreting metadata elements.
Five years as a generalist cataloger at Brooklyn Public Library taught me the tools of my new trade, and then I was hired in 1988 by the Pierpont Morgan Library, initially as a cataloger and then as Head of Cataloging and the Reference Collection. Six months later, I was blinking in the bright sunlight of Phoenix, on my way to my first ARLIS conference.
ARLIS was the first professional organization I ever joined. Though for years I tended to skulk in the shadows when the conversation turned to art, fearing to expose my ignorance, ARLIS was actually a very good fit for me. I was somewhat dim and retiring; ARLIS was small, friendly, and very welcoming, with lots of opportunities to get involved at both the national and chapter level. The Society was particularly hospitable to catalogers, thanks in large part to Sherman Clarke. The Cataloging Problems Discussion Group he presided over gave me my first exposure to the idea that catalogers could lobby for changes to rules they didn't like, instead of just whingeing about them. There was even someone from the Library of Congress at the session! I was so impressed.
During my early years in ARLIS, I focused on issues affecting the description of traditional library materials. But as the 1990s wore on, the winds and the currents began to set in new directions, carrying many to strange shores of metadata. The Montreal conference in 1995 initiated the first of many conversations between Morgan librarians and the visual resources community within ARLIS and VRA. This led to involvement with early VRA data projects such as VISION and Reach. It also planted the idea that art librarians could move beyond book cataloging if they partnered with the providers of content, repackaging curatorial information into a sharable, well-established data format.
To test this theory, Maria Oldal and I created MARC records, with curatorial encouragement, for various Morgan collection items. The results were successful enough to persuade the Morgan's director that a library system was the best way to bring together information on all the Morgan's collections into a single database. I was given responsibility for making it happen, with Maria's able assistance. Funnily enough, it was actually an advantage not to have a degree in art history. I could reassure curators wary of non-specialists meddling with their data that there was absolutely nothing of value I could contribute to the description of their collections--except maybe to say that they were magnificent works of art assuredly worth a king's ransom.
In the end, as Maria has noted, all our big lies did come true. But the building of CORSAIR brought to light all sorts of problems with fitting object information into the library data framework. These provided helpful evidence of the need for change, since rule-makers are always more sympathetic to real-world use cases than to hypotheticals. But If I had gone to standards bodies as an individual, I would have had very little traction. Instead, I was able to work through the Cataloging Advisory Committee (CAC) of ARLIS, which had formal liaisons with all the big players in the library standards world.
I joined the CAC in 1997 as the ARLIS liaison to the MARC Advisory Committee. This was my first step into the chilly, sometimes murky waters of standards development-less chilly because Sherman Clarke's many years of participation in various standards organization had built up a reserve of credibility and good will for ARLIS catalogers. And it was by no means a solitary journey. All the work that I did was in collaboration with the many outstanding ARLIS catalogers who served on the CAC or who provided input at CAC meetings or list-serve discussions.
The experience and contacts made through ARLIS led to involvement in other organizations' standards work. There was the VRA's Cataloging Cultural Objects, continuing the conversations begun in Montreal, and the Rare Books and Manuscripts section of ALA's guidelines for the description of medieval manuscripts, and, later, modern manuscripts, and various task forces and what not. Currently I am on a task force working on aligning the descriptive rules for rare materials with the new cataloging standard, Resource Description and Access (RDA). Old catalogers may retire, but they can't stop haggling about cataloging rules.
Maria mentioned that it is difficult to think back to where art documentation was when I entered the profession. It is gratifying to see how things have changed, and I am proud to have participated in those changes, both in the realm of data standards and within the august precincts of the Morgan Library. But I am prouder still to have won the regard and recognition of my ARLIS colleagues, mentors, dare I say friends? I would mention you all by name if I could, but time forbids.
In conclusion, I would would like to extend my heartiest thanks to Maria and Marie Chantal for their persuasive skills and the enormous amount of work they devoted to my nomination; to the DSA committee, which had to read all those letters, and to the ARLIS board for approving the award (special thanks to you, Heather, for warning me to have a box of tissues at my side when I read the letters—it came in handy.)
Jason Kaplan and Caroline Frank for their paper, “Der Berliner Kunstmarkt: An Analysis of the Berlin Art Market, 1930-1945.”
Lily Brewer and S.E. Hackney for their project “Historical 'Big Data': Visualizations of Algernon Graves' Art Sales in the Early 20th Century and Today.”
Roderic Crooks, Haley DiPressi, Megan Driscoll, Stephanie Gorman, Sally Márquez, Tiffany Naiman, Raphael Sasayama, and Tori Schmitt for their project “Experiments with the Getty’s Provenance Data.”
A compilation of winners 1974-present.