Rare Book School

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Frequently asked questions

“In this work, when it shall be found that much is omitted, let it not be forgotten that much likewise is performed...”

Samuel Johnson. Preface to A Dictionary of the English Language (1755).

This page contains answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about Rare Book School.

General information

  1. How much does it cost to come to RBS?

    See the Program Costs section on our website for more information about estimating expenses.

  2. Does RBS offer course credit?

    No. RBS itself does not offer formal academic or continuing education credit for its courses, in part because our faculty members cannot provide individual assessments for attendees. Because of the high reputation of the program, however, some degree-granting institutions and professional associations will arrange for credit for RBS courses. Contact your own institution or association with questions about arranging to receive credit for an RBS course.

    Students do receive a certificate of completion at the end of the RBS week, stating that admission to RBS courses (which typically meet for a total of about 28 contact hours over a five-day period) is competitive.

    Students may obtain a Rare Book School Certificate of Proficiency by successfully completing five RBS courses within an eight-year period.

  3. Who comes to RBS?

    RBS attracts a diverse student body that includes academics, antiquarian booksellers, book collectors, bookbinders, conservators, curators, rare book librarians, teachers, and professional and avocational students of the history of books and printing. Some courses are primarily intended for particular constituencies (for example, professional rare book catalogers, or private collectors). While the average RBS student is a mid-career professional, in recent years attendees have increasingly included graduate students as well as exceptionally talented high school and undergraduate students

  4. What are the prerequisites for taking RBS courses? Do I need to be a librarian or have a degree?

    For most courses a genuine interest and commitment to the subject is sufficient; however, some advanced courses require additional experience. Consult individual course descriptions for more information.

  5. Does RBS offer online courses?

    No. RBS teaches the history of books and related materials as physical objects. The school brings students into direct, guided, focused contact with actual examples. Its pedagogical preoccupation is quite literally to rub students’ noses in books: to find ways to study the physical artifact directly, and not merely from reproductions via illustrations, slides, films, photocopies, or other facsimile formats.

    We have a great respect for online courses, but what we do requires real contact between students and the stuff.

  6. How many students are in an RBS course?

    Courses are almost always limited to twelve students. One notable exception is Introduction to the Principles of Bibliographical Description (G-10), which uses a team of instructors (the average faculty:student ratio in this course is 1:4). Each year, the total possible enrollment figure must cope with several variables, including the seating capacity of available classrooms, the availability of lab instructors, and evolving instructor/RBS staff requirements and preferences.

  7. What is the program structure?

    RBS provides intensive training over 5 consecutive days. Students make a full-time commitment to any course they attend, from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday, with breaks (one 90-minute lunch and two 30-minute mid-morning and mid-afternoon breaks each day), for a total of between 28 and 30 contact hours in all. Attendance at RBS evening public lectures and other events is optional.

  8. Can I leave an RBS class early?

    No. If, after being accepted into an RBS class, you find that your plans change and you can no longer meet the requirement to attend all classes from Monday morning through Friday afternoon, we ask that you cancel or postpone your enrollment until another year.

  9. Can I audit a class?

    No. Because of the desirability of small student size in classes where a great deal of material is routinely examined, we never allow auditors in RBS courses.

  10. Can you give me the email address of a faculty member?

    RBS faculty members are working professionals who are only in residence during the week they are teaching. Many of our instructors are easily found online at their home institutions. If you are unable to reach an instructor after first contacting his/her home institution, we can forward your message. We do not give out email addresses of faculty members.

  11. Does RBS offer appraisals?

    No. A useful place to begin the investigation of a particular book of potential rarity and/or value is the Your Old Books guide, published by the Rare Book & Manuscripts Section of the Association of College & Research Libraries, a division of the American Library Association. This guide addresses some frequently asked questions about rare and older books and their values; an appendix lists online and print resources for more information on the questions covered. See also our Links section for other resources.

    If you are interested in donating an item or collection to RBS, please contact the Curator of Collections.

  12. Where did the RBS lion come from?

    The RBS lion is derived from an early c19 English watermark, but with many Continental ancestors. The RBS lion made its first appearance on an RBS publication in 1984.

  13. What is RBS’s street address?

    For deliveries requiring a street address, you may use “Rare Book School, University of Virginia, 114 Alderman Library, Charlottesville, VA, 22904-4103” (i.e., omit the usual post office box 400103, but include the zip code and the four-digit extension). If that doesn’t work, try adding “160 McCormick Road.” If all else fails, the loading dock of the library is located at 100 Newcomb Rd S, Charlottesville, VA 22904. The RBS main office is located in room 114 on the first floor of Alderman Library at the University of Virginia (View Google Map).

  14. What is RBS’s federal tax ID number?

    54-1667557

Course offerings and timelines

  1. How often are courses offered?

    The current schedule lists courses offered in any given year; a list of all RBS courses can be found on the Course Descriptions page. Most courses are offered on a yearly basis, while some are offered every other year or so. In general, courses missing from the schedule this year may be expected with some (though not complete) confidence to reappear in the schedule in the next few years. If you have questions about a specific course, contact the RBS Program Director.

  2. When will the course schedule be available?

    The summer schedule is usually posted in early November. Courses offered at other times throughout the year are announced at least four months before a course begins.

  3. Do you accept suggestions for new courses?

    Yes. A successful course requires extensive materials, one or more experienced faculty members, and an audience. If you have a suggestion for a new course (and—equally important—a person who could teach it), please contact the RBS Program Director.

Course applications & admissions

  1. When are applications posted?

    Online applications are generally available no later than five months before a course begins. Course applications for summer sessions are available beginning in early January of each year. Applications for fall courses are available beginning in May.

  2. When should I submit my application? What is the application deadline?

    RBS has rolling admissions decisions. We encourage you to apply early. To be considered for the first round of admissions decisions for summer courses, submit your application for by 15 February. To be considered for the first round of admissions decisions for fall courses, submit your application by 1 June.

  3. Can I apply to more than one course?

    Yes, although you cannot attend two courses in the same week. If you do apply for more than one course, you will need to submit separate applications for each course to which you wish to apply. Please indicate which course is your first choice when applying, as well as how many courses you would attend if offered admission. Applications will be considered in preference order, unless you intend to take—and pay for—two courses. Bear in mind that admission to RBS courses is competitive and many courses have waiting lists; you may want to contact the RBS Program Director about your strategy in applying for certain courses which tend to fill quickly.

  4. Who determines admission for courses? What is the likelihood I will be admitted off the waitlist?

    All admissions decisions are made by faculty members, based primarily on the applicants’ personal statements. Invariably, there are many more qualified applicants than there are spaces. Some qualified students may be placed on a waitlist. If for any reason an admitted student is unable to attend, the instructor(s) will make a selection from the applicant pool, which will include those students on the original waitlist as well as any additional applicants. In our experience, it is uncommon for an offer of admission to be declined, or for a student to withdraw. We encourage those on the waitlist to contact the RBS Program Director for advice in applying for alternatives. If you wish to apply to another course, you will need to submit a separate application. We cannot hold your application for future years.

  5. Can you tell me which RBS courses still have space available?

    Admission to RBS courses is by competitive application, i.e., the availability of space does not guarantee admission. If you have been waitlisted for a course, or are unsure about which course to take, please contact the RBS Program Director for suggestions.

  6. I’m having trouble submitting an online application; is it possible to receive a hard copy?

    No. If you are experiencing trouble with the myRBS system, please contact the RBS Program Director.

  7. Can I submit additional material along with my application?

    A résumé or curriculum vitae may substitute for the professional and work experience portion of the RBS application. Faculty do not require or make evaluations based on letters of reference, certifications, and other supplementary material unless specifically requested in the course description (e.g., samples of cataloging records).

  8. To whom should I address my personal statement?

    The primary reader of your personal statement will be the course instructor.

  9. Did you receive my application?

    Applications that have been sucessfully completed will be acknowledged with an email upon submission and will have a status of "Submitted" on myRBS. If your application has a status that reads "In Progress," it has not been successfully completed. If you do not receive an email, but your application status reads "Submitted," please contact the RBS Program Director.

Using myRBS

  1. How can I create a new account?

    Visit myRBS. You will be asked to provide basic information and an email address, which will be used as your login name. If you are a returning RBS student/applicant/donor, please be sure to create your account with the email address used in your previous contact with us. This will ensure that your new account is properly linked to your existent RBS record.

  2. How can I login to an existing account?

    Returning myRBS users should visit the login page. Please be sure to use the email address originallyassociated with your account.

  3. I am a returning RBS student/applicant/donor having trouble creating an account.

    You may have received the following message: "A record already exists for this email address, but we cannot confirm a secure match at this time. An alert has been sent to an RBS staff member who will contact you within two business days." This means that your record already exists in the RBS database, but that it was not properly matched. This is a security measure taken to ensure that all of your information is contained in one record and properly linked to your new account. Please ensure that the email address you are using is the one used in your previous contact with RBS.

  4. I have entered my basic information to create a new account, but nothing happens when I click "continue."

    Make sure you've read the Terms and Conditions. You won't be able to continue if you haven't scrolled to the bottom of that text.

  5. Can I reset my password?

    To reset your password, please go to the login page and click the "Forgot password?" link.

  6. I forgot my login name. What should I do?

    Your login name is the email address you entered when creating your account. Try using your most frequently used email address. If this does not work, please contact the RBS Program Director.

  7. I am a returning RBS student/applicant/donor who has created an myRBS account, but there is something missing from my record. What should I do?

    Please contact the RBS Program Director. There may have been an error in connecting your account with the RBS system.

Certificate Program

  1. How can I join the RBS Certificate of Proficiency Program?

    Prospective students should complete a Certificate of Proficiency Proposal.

  2. Can my former RBS classes count toward my certificate?

    Yes, so long as all of the courses counted toward the certificate are attended within the required eight-year period. This means that a student completing a certificate in 2013 can apply courses to the certificate from 2006 and on (but not before 2006), a student completing a certificate in 2014 can apply courses going back to 2007, and so on.

  3. If I’ve already taken the five courses within the last eight years, can I get a certificate?

    Yes, so long as the courses fulfill the requirements for one of the programs outlined on the Certificate of Proficiency page.

  4. Can the same course count towards two certificates?

    No; you cannot “recycle” courses for multiple certificates. Students who have concerns about meeting specific requirements should contact and consult with the RBS Program Director.

Scholarships & fellowships

  1. Do you offer scholarships?

    Yes. The Scholarship page on our website provides more details. See especially the scholarship Terms & Conditions page.

  2. How many scholarships does RBS award annually?

    The number of scholarships awarded each year varies depending on the funding available. In recent years, RBS has been able to award between 20 and 40 full-tuition scholarships a year, thanks to support from William Reese Company, the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, the Book Club of California, Atlas Systems, the Council on Library and Information Resources, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and annual support from the Friends of Rare Book School.

  3. When will the current scholarship application form be available?

    The scholarship application is posted on the Scholarship page in early September, with a 15 October application deadline.

  4. How do you determine who receives a scholarship?

    Scholarships are currently available only to those attending Rare Book School for the first time. In making its awards, the RBS Scholarship Committee gives special consideration to applicants at the beginning of their professional careers, or who represent under-served communities (or whose institutions do so).

  5. How soon can I use my scholarship?

    Scholarships are awarded in December, take effect in January, and are redeemable for two calendar years. Do not apply for a course with the hope that you will be awarded a scholarship to pay for it.

  6. Can I use my scholarship at a related institute? (e.g., California Rare Book School, London Rare Books School, &c.)

    RBS scholarships are not valid for courses administered by related programs or organizations. You can, however, redeem your scholarship for a course offered by RBS outside of Charlottesville (e.g., in New York City, Philadelphia, New Haven or Washington, DC).

  7. If I have a scholarship, do I need to pay a deposit?

    No. Your scholarship covers a full tuition credit, including deposit.

  8. If I am unable to use my scholarship, can you extend it to another year?

    Scholarship recipients must claim their awards within two years of the award (generally January of a given year). If you are unable to use your award within that period, please reapply in a later year, explaining the circumstances of why you were unable to use your original award. Because of the high demand for scholarships, we are unable to issue extensions.

  9. How do I apply for a fellowship?

    Please visit the fellowships page for information about fellowship opportunities at RBS. Applications for the Goldschmidt and Reese Fellowships are by invitation only.

After you’ve been admitted...

  1. How do I accept my offer of admission? How do I pay my deposit?

    Please login to your myRBS profile and click the "accept" button under "Current Course Applications." Click the "pay" button to receive instructions for how to submit a payment by check or by credit card, or generate an email invoice for your institution.

  2. My institution intends to pay for all or part of my course tuition. What should I do?

    Please use the payment screen on myRBS to generate an email invoice for your institution.

  3. When is payment in full (i.e., less my deposit) due?

    Your balance is due thirty days before your class begins. If you have a scholarship or fellowship, your tuition credit will be available automatically through myRBS.

  4. Can you send me a receipt?

    An electronic receipt will be emailed to you once your payment has been received and processed. If you need a more detailed receipt for accounting purposes, please contact the RBS Administrator.

  5. If I cannot attend, will RBS issue a refund?

    Your $250 deposit is non-refundable. The remaining part of your tuition is refundable so long as you let us know at least two weeks before the start date of the course.

  6. What is the best way to get to Charlottesville? Where should I stay?

    RBS has created an Information Guide to help guide you in making these decisions. See also our Program Costs page.

  7. What should I bring with me to class?

    RBS participants are encouraged to come to class prepared and on time. Before leaving home, check the RBS Information Guide and your online course description for specific instructions on what to bring. It is not always necessary to bring copies of your advance reading, so be sure to refer to the course information on the RBS website. Additionally, you may find it helpful to read previous course evaluations for information about what to expect.

  8. When do I need to arrive for an RBS course?

    RBS sessions begin with student registration at 5 pm on Sunday evening. Students will have their photos taken for the RBS bulletin board, and will receive the RBS Student's Vade Mecum and their name badge. This is followed by a welcome reception and the Director's Welcome at 6 pm. We strongly suggest attending Sunday night registration, but if you are unable to attend, you must register outside the Rare Book School Suite at 8 am Monday. On the first day, RBS will announce classroom assignments and a member of the RBS staff will lead students to their classes.

    NB: Courses outside Charlottesville may have slightly later start times; consult the RBS Information Guide guide for details.

  9. What should I wear?

    At RBS, dress is informal for all events. All RBS classrooms and other spaces are well heated and/or air-conditioned; however, if you chill easily under refrigeration, bring a sweater.

  10. What happens during the RBS week?

    The Information Guide gives a day-by-day look at what happens during RBS sessions.

  11. I haven’t received my admission email. How do I receive it?

    Please login to your myRBS profile and accept your offer of admission. An admissions email will be automatically sent to the email address you provided with your application. If you do not receive an admissions email after accepting your offer of admission, please contact rbs_programs@virginia.edu.

  12. I'm supposed to order a DVD. How do I get it?

    If you are in courses G-10 or G-20, part of your course preparation given on the reading involves watching the DVD The Anatomy of a Book: Part I: Format in the Hand-Press Period. Use this order form, and mail, fax, or email it to RBS using the address at the bottom of the page. If you are not admitted and enrolled in this class, but would like to order this DVD, please visit the RBS Store.