Distinguished Service Award: Ann Baird Whiteside

ARLIS/NA + VRA 3rd Joint Conference (ARLIS/NA 44th Annual Conference), Seattle, Washington

Convocation Program Presentation, 2016

2015 ARLIS/NA DISTINGUISHED SERVICE AWARD Acceptance Speech, by Ann Baird Whiteside; DSA ceremony held at the Westin Seattle, March 11, 2016


Ann Baird Whiteside, 2015 DSA RecipientThank you Mark and Jolene for your lovely introduction. I will say that it is a bit overwhelming. In fact, when I received an email message from Kristen Regina and Elaine Paul in early January telling me that I was this year’s recipient of both the ARLIS/NA and VRA Distinguished Service Awards, I had to re-read the email four times to make sure that it was truly addressed to me. I was on the Boston subway at the time, reading the emails of the afternoon—dealing with faculty needing access to course sites, budget questions, the usual emails—and there was this message. I was sure the email was sent to me in error. When I realized it really was addressed to me, my first thought was “How Amazing”. I have been in awe and delight since. To receive these two awards at the same time from one’s peers is truly the best and highest compliment one can receive. And for these awards to be given here at this joint conference reflects so perfectly on my own work on collaborative efforts across both organizations. It is also a tribute to our two organizations here in Seattle at this time. I am so honored and indebted to ARLIS/NA and to VRA.

I want to thank the group of colleagues who instigated the nomination—Mark Pompelia, Jolene de Verges, and Sherman Clarke—and those who wrote letters in support of my nomination. All of you have been my close colleagues and friends for a very long time. Thank you to the DSA Awards Committee chairs of both organizations, Laurel Bliss and Margaret Webster, and their recommendations for my nomination. And thank you to the boards of ARLIS/NA and VRA for approving the awards, especially the presidents, Elaine Paul and Kristen Regina. And thank you to all the members of ARLIS/NA and VRA, you are what makes our organizations so fantastic and you provide the support that makes us excellent professionals.

Those who have been the backbone for me through my career are my family and friends, and I cannot imagine doing anything I’ve done without them. My husband John, here tonight, has always been there with love and support while I work on different projects and travel. Thank you, John, for your support and your patience with my unending supply of new projects. Our children, Leah and David, grew up with ARLIS/NA and VRA; and they know two important things: that art and architecture librarians and visual resources professionals are the center of the information world, and that we have great parties.

My passion about art and architecture librarianship and the visual resources profession was fueled by my first conferences at ARLIS/NA and VRA. At each of those first conferences, I listened to people talking about interesting topics, about how we could make our work better, provide better access to information, how we could provide new kinds of services; and there is an ethos—the deep sense of how important our work is to our institutions and to our society. As I became more deeply involved through volunteering, it fueled my passion for our work.

Through my association with our two organizations, I have amassed an amazing number of mentors, colleagues, and friends. Each of you has been inspirational and have helped to push me forward as a professional. From my first committees—the ARLIS/NA Collection Development Committee, where I volunteered for a project at my first meeting, and the VRA Data Standards Committee, where we developed the VRA Core and a host of other astonishing initiatives, I have been supported and encouraged by the people in our organizations to be creative, imaginative, and to do things I would never have imagined doing. And I have taken that passion and drive back and forth between my libraries and our organizations.

As I progress in my career, I continue to be excited by the changes in our profession, changes driven by technology, but also by changes in higher education and how people learn and do research. As information professionals, we are a critical part of the infrastructure of our cultural heritage institutions. We can lead the changes required to meet the needs of researchers today by continuing to think outside the box about how we support the users of our collections. We also have the opportunity to take the collaboration skills required in a digital world, and use those skills to develop partnerships with scholars to partner in and support their work.

One of the most important things I have learned through my work with all of you and in my institutional homes is the importance of collaboration with stakeholders. Gathering the stakeholders for any project is the primary key to success. It takes time, it takes energy, and it takes political will to bring people along, to try new things, to develop a new model or service. It also takes patience. I am not a naturally patient sort of person, so the development of these skills has been my personal challenge. And yet, over and over, I find that when these skills are utilized, the outcomes are far and beyond the original goal and expectation. Through the process of collaboration, one builds relationships as well as supportive allies, in addition to successful outcomes. And those who have been part of the process like the outcome as well. These skills are critical to the success of just about everything that I do in my work.

For those of you here tonight that are new librarians or first time attendees, like many before me, I encourage you to use this conference to meet people, to attend committee meetings and to participate in the lives of these organizations; test out your ideas on your colleagues here; use your collaboration skills. You will find support and encouragement and joy that you are here. There are many opportunities in our organizations to become involved and through our organizations you will develop life-long skills and collaborations in and across your institutions, as well as mentors and friends who will be with you for your career. I cannot imagine two more collegial organizations to participate in.

As part of the process of becoming used to the honor of being a Distinguished Service Award recipient, I went to the ARLIS/NA and VRA websites to look at past recipients. What one sees in those two lists is that each recipient has helped to shape our profession and our organizations and to push us along paths we may not have chosen on our own. Each has had a vision for what our profession can be, and each individual has made important contributions to the field. It is truly humbling to be among this august group of colleagues.

In closing I want to thank all the people with whom I have worked in ARLIS/NA and VRA—on the two boards, on the various committees, and on the many projects we have taken on and launched. There are too many of you to name as individuals, and you should all know who you are. I will always treasure the work we’ve done together, what you have all taught me, and my experiences in these wonderful organizations. And, there is so much more to do!

Thank you so very much for this dual honor.

Gerd Muehsam Award: Past Recipients

Distinguished Service Award: Joan M. Benedetti

ARLIS/NA 42nd Annual Conference, Washington, DC

Convocation Program Presentation, 2014

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.


Joan BenedettiWhen 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.

benedettiSo—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."


Distinguished Service Award: Mary Williamson

ARLIS/NA Conference, Montreal

Convocation Program Presentation, 1995

It is a tremendous honour to receive the ARLIS/NA Distinguished Service Award, and I cannot but be conscious of the eminence of previous recipients at past Convocations. I thank you all very much. 

I would like to share with you for a moment a few reflections on what it means to be an art librarian in Canada. C'est avec audace que j'adresse et inclus mes respectés collègues du Québec, en parlant de la profession de bibliothécaire d'art au Canada. 

Qu'est au juste être bibliothécaire d'art au Canada? It means to be immensely proud of this conference in Montréal, and of our colleagues here, in Ottawa and Québec City. They have laboured tirelessly for months to make this not only the usual stimulating ARLIS experience, but also to set the scene for us to enjoy Québec's artistic and architectural patrimoine, and the cultural difference that marks this historic city. 

Also, to be an art librarian in Canada is to envy our southern neighbours their sheer numbers, and their ability to use those numbers to make a difference. For example, I doubt that we could emulate our U.S. colleagues who have mounted an impressive campaign in response to the threatened closing down of the Guggenheim Museum library in New York, and to the library's questionable phoenix-like rebirth. Big cuts have just been announced in the Canadian Parliament to the budgets of all our national cultural organizations and agencies, and more are promised in future budgets (although universal medicare IS still intact in Canada!) All of this affects all of us. Some art libraries will close, and others will be absorbed by the general collections. Canadian art librarians care deeply, but we are few, and we are scattered across five time zones. Those of us who live in St. John’s, Newfoundland, are closer to Paris and London than to our colleagues in Vancouver, British Columbia. Un de mes plus chers rêves serait de nous voir exploiter les nouvelles technologies de communication, afin de coordonner nos activités et de faire une plus forte impression que nos nombres justifieraient. 

I think that I speak for all Canadian art librarians who are members of ARLIS/NA when I say that our membership is a tremendously important part of our professional lives. ARLIS/NA has provided a forum for us to meet together, and to discuss issues that affect us as Canadian art librarians, but also it forces us out of national isolation and exposes us to valued colleagues throughout North America: to their ideas, expertise and enthusiasm. Une grande partie de ce que nombreux d'entre nous connaissons sur le sujet de bibliothéconomie d'art, est due à notre partipation à ARLIS/NA. Personellement, j'apprécie enormement l'amitié de mes collègues américains et canadiens, amitié qui serait impossible sans la société. 

But it must be said that many of us in Canada continue to be concerned about continuing cultural penetration from the south. American NAFTA negotiators and media czars are publicly committed to overlaying, if not replacing, arts and entertainment and publications produced in Canada with their own. For us this represents a kind of cultural colonialism which no other country has experienced to the same extent. I mention this to explain the ambiguous feelings which we express from time to time. We love our American ARLIS/NA colleagues, but we feel a particular responsibility to protect and celebrate the arts in Canada in the face of powerful economic forces from outside. 

Although I retire this June, I intend to draw strength from ARLIS/NA’s vitality for at least a few more years. Once again, I thank you all ... et à mes collègues québécois--merci de nous avoir accueilli à cette mémorable conférence. Il m'est spécialement précieux de reçevoir ce prix à Montréal.

Distinguished Service Award: Margaret Webster

ARLIS/NA Conference, Minneapolis

Convocation Program Presentation, 2011

Margaret Webster

Margaret Webster 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 board—once 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.