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The Ringling Art Library: A History

The Ringling Art Library ranks among the largest and most comprehensive art libraries in the southeastern United States. However, many people have yet to discover its beautiful Reading Room and extensive collection.

The Art Library has actually existed since The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art opened in 1946. The first collection consisted of a merging of John Ringling’s private library (with more than 600 titles) and that of A. Everett (Chick) Austin, Jr., The Ringling’s first director. Since that time, the collection has grown substantially and has moved twice. Its first home was in what had been Chick Austin’s office in one of the Astor Rooms, now Gallery 20.

The Old Ringling Art Library in the Astor Galleries of the Museum of Art

After many years housed in a small space on the third floor of the 1960s addition to the South Galleries of the Art Museum, the Library found a new home in 2007 in the Johnson-Blalock Education Center.

The Ringling Art Library in the Johnson-Blalock Education Center built 2007

The library serves the research needs of The Ringling’s staff and volunteers, but it is also open to the public from Monday through Friday from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. The following are some statistics reflecting the library’s use last year.  The Library’s impressive collection extends far beyond the walls of the library, attesting to the fact that our Library contains resources that are often difficult to find at other libraries.

  • More than 5,400 users came to the library during the past year, including The Ringling's staff, volunteers, students, and the public
  • More than 600 volumes were sent to academic and museum libraries around the world through Interlibrary Loan, of which 162 were borrowed by other libraries of Florida State University
  • 62 library programs and tours were given to almost 1,500 people

 

Written by Head of Library Services Elisa Hansen 

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