Behind the Books: An Interview With Our DMA Librarian

Uncrated tracked down Librarian Mary Leonard to talk about her job at the Museum. Mary is the friendly face that greets you when you enter the Mayer Library here at the DMA. Her knowledge is invaluable to researchers of art—and probably a few of us trivia buffs.

Describe your job in fifty words or less.
I handle reference questions and acquisitions for the library. We are open to the public during certain hours and I help visitors during those times and also assist people on the phone and via e-mail. The Mayer Library is a research library—the stacks are closed—so appointments are recommended. But walk-ins are welcome too!

What might an average day entail?
Sometimes I’m going over new books lists—my favorite job! During public hours, I’m at the reference desk and I might be helping a student with a paper or an appraiser with auction results. I check out books to staff and give orientations to new staff and docents. Every day can be different.

How would you describe the best part of your job and its biggest challenges?
The best part of my job is actually getting to look at all the beautiful books we have in our collection. One of the biggest challenges is keeping up with what’s actually going on out in the Museum—seeing new acquisitions and exhibitions. I can get stuck at my desk pretty easily.

Growing up, what type of career did you envision yourself in? Did you think you’d work in an art museum?
I had no idea when I was a kid out in West Texas that these kinds of jobs even existed! But I’ve always loved libraries and art, so I’m really fortunate my career led me here.

What is your favorite work in the DMA collection?
The Fantin-Latour Still Life with Vase of Hawthorne. Or the Matisse Still Life: Bouquet and Compotier. There’s a pattern here. . . . I also love the Fleischner Courtyard, right outside the library windows. I’ve seen it in every season and I never get tired of looking out the window. See, I’m not daydreaming, I’m looking at art!

Is there a past exhibition that stands out in your mind as a favorite or is there a particular upcoming show you’re looking forward to seeing?
Everyone is excited about Jean Paul Gaultier—we have the catalog here already and it’s massive. I can’t wait to get down and see the African Headwear exhibition. In the past, I loved the J. M. W. Turner show and the Anne Vallayer-Coster exhibition. Beautiful paintings—what’s not to love?

1 Response to “Behind the Books: An Interview With Our DMA Librarian”


  1. 1 katiegail October 5, 2011 at 9:38 pm

    What a cool job! I love libraries and art too!


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