Acquisitions Head, The Frick Art Reference Library
I had the privilege to serve on the International Relations Committee for four years (chairing it for two). My wish to serve the Society through strengthening its international relations came from the need to reconcile my Eastern European roots and cultural background with my professional life as an art librarian in the U.S. and the associated recognition of the relevance of finding common values across different cultures and using them as building blocks for collaboration.
My participation in seven study tours (of which I co-organized two) were rewarding in more aspects than I can describe—first and foremost, it led to establishing lasting relationships with institutions, librarians and distributors in areas our library never had contacts with earlier. The opportunity to learn about sources for geographic areas outside of my areas of expertise had a lasting impact on my collection development work, benefiting in turn our library and its users (in this respect, the tour to Brazil comes to mind in the first place). But the value of the IRC-organized tours goes way beyond the individual experience. Meetings with colleagues from various parts of the world lead to a free flow of ideas, to the discovery of common challenges, and ultimately to the establishment of collaborative international networks to surmount those challenges. I will never forget the 2015 visit with the Brazilian art librarians’ association Redarte, where the U.S. participants had an opportunity to discuss the mission and work of ARLIS/NA with their Brazilian peers, and which led to Redarte’s affiliation with ARLIS/NA a year later. While not yet seeking a formal structure, East European librarians found a way to form a cohesive group and keep in touch via Facebook, an extremely important outcome in a part of the world where the political situation sometimes keeps neighbors apart. Generous support by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation facilitated reciprocal attendance by groups of art librarians from abroad; thus international perspectives on art librarianship were shared by the wider ARLIS community at the 2016 and 2017 annual conferences.
If we take the IRC’s charge of promoting international engagement around issues of concern to the art information community seriously, we need to lend our full support to the study tours as important vehicles for facilitating ARLIS/NA’s mission on a global level. The recently established IRC study tour travel award for entry-level professionals is a wonderful step forward towards involving a broader segment of the Society to contribute to and benefit from these tours.