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1 The John and Mabel Ringling Museum of Art Library

The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art Library in the Johnson-Blalock Education Center is a jewel in the crown of Florida’s rich library resources. The breathtaking setting for the library is a legacy of historic art collecting amongst blue water, grand green gardens and pink architecture. The library is a magnificent combination of art, history, technology, librarians, and service. Over many decades the librarians of the Ringling Art Library have collectively grown and shared this monumental collection.

History The history of the Ringling Museum of Art Library begins with John Ringling’s personal library. This special collection of books, journals and auction catalogs document Ringling’s methodical study of art and collecting. His original book collection contained one thousand five hundred items. Presently, eight hundred books and journals originally owned by John Ringling are showcased in a custom designed display room within the Ringling Museum of Art Library. John Ringling’s library is testimony to Florida’s cultural heritage, the history of American art collecting and American art research libraries (McKee, 2005).

A small sample of John and Mable Ringling’s original collection of art books

2 Another layer to the history of the library is the Rare Book Room on the second level. This room contains the Ringling Archives (A. Wick, personal communication, February 6, 2013). This collection contains many rarities, although the titles were collected for their scholarly value. Curtis G. Coley the 1969 Director of the Ringling Museum stated, “This collection is determined to a great extent by the holdings of the museum’s art collections.” (John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art., & Schmidt 1969 p.3).

Art Librarian Artis Wick shares some highlights of the Rare Book Room and Archive The John Ringling Collection and the Rare Book Collection have historically and currently provided rich material for collaboration between art librarians, conservators, and registrars (Mckee, Scalera 2010). Today these two historic collections are an important part of the largest art museum library in the southeast United States. The library is currently home to 85,000 items (The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art [JMRMA], n.d.).

Artis Wick

3 In 1936, John Ringling died, and in 1937, Jonce I. McGurk supervised an inventory of the estate, including John Ringling’s book collection. A decade after John Ringling passed, the state of Florida inherited ownership of Ringling’s estate. In 1946, the Astor Room in Ringling’s Museum became the first official library (McKee, 2005). Maud L. Dean became the first librarian from 1944 till 1953 (McKee, 1996). In 1953, Kenneth Donahue was hired as a curatorial librarian. He was the librarian that introduced the Frick Collection classification system (Sarasota Journal 1953). In 1959, Mrs. (Francis) Frank Hoersting became the art librarian (Sarasota Herald Tribune, 1962). About 1965, Valentine Schmidt was hired as the art librarian. During Valentine Schmidt’s tenure, the library owned about seven thousand titles, of which half were in international languages. At this time the collection was still cataloged with an indexing system that originated in N.Y.C.’s Frick Collection (Fottler, 1977). In 1984, the librarian was Lynell Morr; she closed the library for two weeks to convert the library to the Library of Congress Classification System. The LC systems helped the librarians pave the way to computerization (Sarasota Herald Tribune, 1984). Linda R. McKee has been the head librarian since 1994. In 2000, librarian Artis Wick joined the Ringling Library (Rife, 2008).

All of the Librarian offices have welcoming signs on the door


Environment within Which the Library Operates It is difficult to grasp the width and breadth of management and operations of the Ringling Complex. The entire estate belongs to the State of Florida. Florida State University in Tallahassee is entrusted with financial and administrative responsibilities. In July of 2000, a new Florida law assigned responsibility for The John and Mable …….Ringling Museum of Art to Florida State University (FSU). It dissolved the existing …….Ringling Board of Trustees which had been responsible under prior law for management …….and operation of the John and Ringling Museum of Art – and created a Direct Support …….Organization, sometimes called the DSO. FSU elected to have The John and Mable …….Ringling Museum of Art Foundation, Inc., the existing fund-raising arm of the former …….Trustees, as this newly constituted DSO (JMRMOA, 2013). The Johnson-Blalock Education Center, which houses the Library and the Archives, is one of many important buildings on the Ringling Estate in Sarasota. The Library operation services all of the Ringling staff working in these historic buildings.






Facilities and Staffing Like the Library collection the facilities are grand, they encompass 13,000-square-feet. The stacks are specialized, oversized shelves, designed for the weight and height of art books. The reading room is radiant, and everyone except the faded reference book spines loves it. Many people contribute to the Library’s variety of services. Linda McKee is the Head Art Librarian, and Artis Wick is the Associate Art Librarian. Arwen Spinosa is the Cataloging Librarian, and Megan Oliver is the Assistant Librarian. Twenty volunteers assist in the library each week (A. Wick, personal communication, February 6, 2013). Interns contribute while being mentored by the Librarians (Benedetti, 2007).

Artis Wick Art Librarian The Johnson-Blalock Education Center


Mission Statement The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art and the Library share the same Mission, Position, and Vision Statements. The Library Purpose Statement is unique to the library and states the importance of service to the collection, research, education, staff and the museum. The Mission Statement: “To engage visitors with our collections, exhibitions, cultural programs and the Ringling Estate.” (The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art Library [JMRMAL], 2012) The Position Statement: The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art preserves and enhances the legacy of John ……and Mable Ringling and engages a large and diverse audience through its Museum of Art, ……Circus Museum, Cà d’Zan Mansion, Historic Asolo Theater, and historic grounds ……overlooking Sarasota Bay. The Museum is the Official State Art Museum of Florida ……….………(JMRMAL, 2012). The Vision Statement: “To become recognized internationally as one of North America’s leading cultural institutions, known especially for engaging interpretation of its superb collections, in-depth learning opportunities, and a dynamic professional staff ” (JMRMAL, 2012). The Library Purpose Statement: The purpose of the Library, one of the most prominent art research collections in the …….Southeast United States, is to support research on the Museum's permanent collections, to …….meet the needs of the professional Museum staff, and to support the educational and …….administrative goals of The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. The Library is …….committed to providing excellence in collections and service (JMRMAL, 2012).

Sharing a common mission, position and vision may be useful for the library and museum to work in synchronicity. Organizational planning for such a large historic legacy must be strategic and cohesive.


User Profile The staff of the Ringling Museum is the most prolific of the library users (JMRMAL, 2012). Museum curators use the librarian’s reference service frequently for their publications. Other groups that use the library services include museum docents and volunteers. Independent users include researchers and students. Independent researchers may request permission to use Ringling images for publishing. The general public visits for a variety of reasons. Two common visits are to learn about their antiques or to find some background information about a family member that may have been in the circus (A. Wick, personal communication, February 6, 2013). The 2012 user profile of the Libraries WordPress Blog reflected visitors from eighty different countries (JMRMAL 2013b).

Library display highlights

current Ringling Museum Exhibitions

Paolo Veronese: A Master and His Workshop in Renaissance Venice


Financial Support The Friends of the Library provides their paying members with many resources. The funds that are raised through the sale of these memberships directly benefit the library collection. “The mission of the Friends of the Ringling Museum Art Library is to raise funds solely for special library acquisitions and preservation” (JMRMAL, 2013c). The Library Annual Expense Budget of $75,500 dollars comes from The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art Foundation, Incorporated. Over half of the budget is spent on books and subscriptions. The Foundation also covers service fees, independent contractors, supplies, shipping fees, and membership dues (The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art Foundation, Inc. 2013). The Ringling Museum provides the Library with additional funding from various sources: “Legislative appropriations through Florida State University; local, state and federal governmental grants; contributions from individuals, private foundations, community foundations, and businesses and corporations.” (JMRMA, 2009) An example is the JohnsonBlalock Education Center Building the Library is housed in, which was a gift from two Museum Board members. The building was named after the two donors. The Library receives many gifts and has contributed and benefited from a long standing reciprocal publication program.

The technical services room with outgoing reciprocal exhibition catalogs


Collecting Profile/Policy The Library collects from A through Z of the Library of Congress Classification. The N (art) section is the largest section. There is no weeding of the collection. The Library collects for the centuries and beyond. The library also collects and archives all of Ringling’s institutional materials. This includes a large collection of Museum Object Files that include all small documents of ten pages or less (A. Wick, personal communication, February 6, 2013).


Object Files

The Libraries Word Press Blog reports, The Library conducts and supports research on the Museum’s collection of Italian and …...European Baroque art, Contemporary Art, Decorative Arts, Peter Paul Rubens, …...Contemporary Art, and Photography. The Library collects research materials encompassing … the entire history of art, art education, and conservation and houses a collection of rare … …...books from the 16th – 21st centuries, including the personal library of John Ringling … ….. …...(JMRMAL, 2013b).

New Book Shelves


Collecting Profile/Policy The 2012 Collection Development Policy provides the details of the scope of the collection. a. The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art and its publications b. Peter Paul Rubens c. Baroque Art d. Italian and European Art Collections e. Museum Studies f. History of Collecting g. Decorative Arts Collections h. Antiquity Collections i. Modern and Twentieth Century Art; Contemporary Art j. History of Photography k. Non-western art (emphasis on Asian) l. Garden History m. Historic Homes and Preservation n. Florida and Sarasota artists, artist groups, and architecture o. History of dance, music, and the theater p. General performing arts q. Juvenile r. Collections Management/Registrar s. History of the American Circus and its roots t. Exhibition catalogues u. Rare Books v. History of Sarasota and its founders w. Publications in which a Ringling Museum image has been reproduced (Gratis) x. Museum Collection Catalogs y. Selected artist made books (A. Wick, personal communication, Feb. 6, 2013) z. Art Libraries and librarianship (office collection) (A. Wick, personal communication, Feb. 6, 2013) (JMRMAL, 2012, p.2)

Over 100 current journals and a comfortable seating area Museum Exhibition posters displayed


User Services User services include many ways to contact a reference librarian. Reference questions can be answered by phone: 941-359-5700 extension 2704, or email, The Collection Catalog OPAC is online and available through the Florida State Universities Library web site, (JMRMAL, 2013b). The Library has published six online collection subject guides: Ca’ d’Zan, Circus, Deco Japan, Bertha Palmer, Peter Paul Rubens, and Paolo Veronese. (JMRMAL, 2013c) Although the collection does not circulate, the library does participate in an interlibrary loan service. In the 2012 fiscal year, eight hundred libraries used the Ringling’s ILL. Although The Art Library will not authenticate or place a monetary value on art, the librarians are happy to provide researchers with information and/or materials to allow them to draw their own conclusions. The Library also provides a list of professional appraisers and dealer associations on the web site (JMRMAL, 2013c).

Reference Desk at the entrance to the Library The reading room is in the background and reference books are shelved in there.


Programming and Promotion The Academic Internship Program provides the library and students with eight weeks and up to one semester of partnership. This program is promoted by the library through universities, CAA, and ARLIS. Librarians choose interns that have a similar interest to the libraries’ projects. The librarians plan and create the internship experience to share the many facets of the library and the larger organization. Often several interns work on large projects such as digitization of historic documents and the compilation of annotated bibliographies (Benedetti, 2007). The Friends of the Library members benefit from specialized, timely programs. “The Literati book club at the Ringling Museum Art Library is designed to intrigue, inspire and educate readers regarding the fields of art and art history.� (JMRMAL 2013c). The Social Media initiative is multifaceted and includes the following interfaces: WordPress, Facebook, Flicker, Twitter, and Pintrest. Ringling Librarians organize all these endeavors as well as participating in professional organizations and hosting events for these organizations.

Evaluation and Measurement of Service The measurement of services is well documented in the Library Annual Report. In the 2012 fiscal year, five thousand library patrons asked six thousand reference questions. The questions mainly fell into the categories of staff projects, provenance, and museum exhibition histories. Librarians serving in outreach presented fifty programs that were attended by almost six hundred patrons. The librarians mentored twelve interns from five different colleges and universities. Digitization statistics for 2012 were five hundred full text research file scans and four hundred historic book cover and title page scans. About three thousand items were added to the online catalog (JMRMAL, 2012a).


Use of Technology The library is well represented online and the use of technology is evident in all of the librarians’ work. Searching the FSU Online Catalog at , one can limit the search to just the Ringling Library by using the “Narrow Results Box” on the left, scrolling down and clicking on the link, “FSU Ringling Museum”. Bibliographies and six subject guides can be enjoyed on the library web site. These Subject Guides are Ca’ d’Zan, Circus, Deco Japan, Bertha Palmer, Peter Paul Rubens, and Paolo Veronese. The library has seven digital collections available These digital collections are the Ringling Museum Publications, Ringling Museum Newsletters, Peter Paul Rubens Books, Fashion and Costume History Books, Will Pogany Collection, Palmer Collection, and the 17th Century Book Collection. High resolution images can be found on the Flicker social media sites. Links to these sites are provided on the Library Home Page. Facebook Flicker Twitter Pintrest WordPress


Key Issues / Strengths and Weaknesses of the Library The strength of the library has to do with the complimentary contrast of history and technology combined with constant professional educational service. The key issue for this strength is the library’s steady evolution of growth and development. The strength that stands out the most is the professional mentorship program provided by the librarians. An endowment specifically created to enrich this program may be an important consideration for the future.

Weakness is not a word to consider using when describing the Ringling Library. Artis Wicks responds to this question by mentioning what may be considered a low number of visitors. Mrs. Wicks recognizes this is an attribute of a specialized library. Although the number for actual visits is small, promoting the Library online may prove to be far reaching. The WordPress Ringling Art Library Blog received 12,000 views from eighty different countries in 2012 (JMRMAL 2013b). Cultivating virtual visitors may become a key issue for the continued growth. A new addition that will likely strengthen user services is the recent addition of a multi format children’s collection.

15 References Benedetti, J. M. (2007). Art museum libraries and librarianship. Lanham, Md: Scarecrow Press. Fottler, M. (1977, June 13). SPECTRUM. Sartasota Hearld-Tribune, p.2B. Retrieved from =6659,5491355&dq=ringling+spectrum+art+library&hl=en McKee, L.R. (1996) The Education of a connoisseur. In The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, John Ringling: Dreamer, builder, collector : legacy of the circus king (p. 113). Sarasota, Fla: John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art McKee, L. R. (2005). The history of John Ringling's library: Preserving the heritage of a great cultural institution. Florida Libraries, 17-29. McKee, L. R., & Scalera, M. (2010). Goya/not Goya: professional research collaboration between the art librarian, conservator, and registrar at The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. Art Documentation, 29(2), 40-43. Rife, S. L. (2008, June 8). Art of librarianship at the Ringling. Sarasota Herald-Tribune Retrieved from 806080469?p=1&tc=pg Sarasota Journal. (1953, October 19) Ringling Museum expert testifies on art. Retrieved from =4287,1574441&dq=ringling+librarian&hl=en Sarasota Hearld-Tribune. (1962, January 6). Recruitment committee art librarian joined group Retrieved from 5375,1109497&dq=mrs-frank-hoersting&hl=en Sarasota Hearld-Tribune. (1984, June 17). Art museum updating its library system, Retrieved from IBAJ&pg=4160,962391&dq=ringling+museum+art+library&hl=en St. Petersburg Times. (1954, February 28). Michaelangelo’s criminal career Ringling lecture topic tonight Retrieved from =3327,5652824&dq=ringling+librarian&hl=en The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. (n.d.). Friends of the library [Current Brochure].

16 The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. (2009). Volunteer handbook. Retrieved from ,, 0_14_09.pdf The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art., & Schmidt, V. L. (1969). Rare books of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries from the Library of the Ringling Museum of Art: Sarasota, Florida. An exhibition prepared by Valentine L. Schmidt and presented by the Ringling Museum November 3-23, 1969. Sarasota, Fla. The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art Foundation, Inc. (2013). Actual expenses compared to budget 2012-2013 [Fact Sheet]. The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art Library. (2011). Art Library. Retrieved from The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art Library. (2012a). Library annual report 2012 and .Library stastics/FY12 [FactSheets]. The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art Library. (2012b). Collection development policy 2012. Retrieved from `````````Library/Details/CollectionDevelopmentPolicyFY12-13.pdf The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art Library. (2013a). Facebook. Retrieved from The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art Library. (2013b). The Ringling Museum of Art Library: WordPress blog. Retrieved from and The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art Library. (2013c). Retrieved from

The John and Mabel Ringling Museum of Art Library 2013  
The John and Mabel Ringling Museum of Art Library 2013