With the 2018 publication of For the Benefit of All: The CMA’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Plan, Cleveland Museum of Art leadership sought to underscore the museum’s comprehensive commitment to diversity and articulate institutional success strategies to embed this commitment within every facet of operations.
Much of the plan focuses on the CMA as a global leader among art museums and an institution ideally positioned to advance its DEI priorities via the increased acquisition and presentation of works by artists of color and women artists. These and corresponding efforts to invite “new perspectives on our multifaceted collection, reaching out to and engaging visitors who may not know or feel that they are welcome” are a significant focus of the plan, but by no means its sole ambitions. Rather, the plan also acknowledges the CMA as a community anchor, civic space, educational institution, and workplace—and examines the museum’s responsibility to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion within these contexts. Among the commitments it cites is a promise to “ensure that every aspect of our recruitment, hiring, training, advancement, and retention practices are equitable, as measured by our leadership and staff that reflect the diversity we value and the inclusivity to which we aspire.”
Consistent with this ambitious promise, Leslie Cade, director of the Ingalls Library and Museum Archives, and Heather Lemonedes Brown, Virginia N. and Randall J. Barbato Deputy Director and Chief Curator, envisioned a fellowship aimed at making the Ingalls Library an incubator for young library professionals from diverse and often marginalized backgrounds. Their vision will soon become a reality, thanks to the leadership support of the Louise H. and David S. Ingalls Foundation, which recently awarded the museum a grant to launch the Postgraduate Fellowship in Reference Librarianship. The Ingalls Foundation grant will enable the CMA to offer a 12-month, renewable fellowship designed to attract recent master of library science and master of library and information science graduates from communities that are typically underrepresented among librarians and art librarians.¹
With their enthusiastic embrace of this innovative initiative, the Louise H. and David S. Ingalls Foundation—an enduring friend of this museum and the generous benefactor for which the Ingalls Library and Museum Archives was named in 1983—and the intergenerational family members who are its trustees have set in motion a multiyear project with a unique capacity to prepare early-career librarians for lasting professional success. From the relocation allowance built into the position’s budget to its competitive stipend and benefits package, the fellowship seeks to be both appealing to prospective candidates and sensitive to the economic circumstances of recent graduates who may be entering the job market with sizable student loan debt and a lack of financial reserves. What’s more, the selected fellow will gain important exposure to reference needs of the Ingalls Library’s numerous patrons within a world-class art museum library and archives—alongside a caring, committed team of specialists whose wide-ranging areas of expertise and long-term library experience make them ideal mentors.
Nevertheless, while this novel training opportunity aims to provide the selected fellow with an immersive, entry-level professional experience and a thorough introduction to the rich, varied “field within a field” that art librarianship encompasses, there is no doubt that this initiative’s beneficiaries will be far more numerous than the fellows chosen annually for this appointment. As the CMA DEI plan states, “If we are to be a global leader among museums—if we are to succeed in making our collection broadly relevant, in expanding our audience, and in serving the ever more diverse population of our county and our country as a whole—it is essential that we seek and offer new perspectives on our multifaceted collection.”
Indeed, our library, our museum, and the large number of individuals and groups who compose their myriad constituencies will all be enriched by an Ingalls Library staffed with professionals who reveal the authentic diversity of our neighborhood and our world. With recruitment for the inaugural fellow now underway, it is expected that the selected candidate’s tenure will begin later this summer.