26. Introduction to Rare Book Librarianship (Session I)
(The course was offered twice in RBS 1994; this is the evaluation
of the first 1994 session)
Overview of the theory and practice of rare book librarianship.
Topics include: the function of rare books in libraries; the
interpretation of rare book collections to their publics; patterns of
use; special collections' reference materials; security;
environmental desiderata; exhibitions and publications; friends'
I. How useful were the pre-course readings?
1: Very useful for professional development, although
not crucial to benefitting from the course. 2: They
were a good introduction to the many aspects of rare books
opened my eyes to other issues I had not considered before.
3: Very helpful. 4: Unfortunately I did not
time to complete all the pre-course readings. Those I
completed were very helpful and I hope to complete the others as
time allows. 5: The reading list was excellent.
6: Readings were useful to prompt thinking about the
subject and better understand the lectures. 7: Very
useful, though Cave's book seems a bit out of synch with
current concerns. 8: Very valuable. I may have
learned more of one type of special collections skills from
the readings (ie, practical) than from the course. 9:
Wonderfully useful for the course and for my job in the
future. 10: Very useful. 11: The pre-course
readings were well selected and appropriate.
II. Was your faculty member well-prepared to teach THIS
1: Yes. 2: He was prepared, but did not really
use what he had prepared. I appreciated the handouts and
use them. 3-5: Yes. 6: Instructor was very
knowledgeable and prepared. 7: Yes! 8: Yes,
well prepared. 9: Yes -- very well prepared.
Yes. 11: DT was not only professionally prepared by
virtue of education and experience, but equally as
by virtue of his uncommon range of intellectual and
III. Was the intellectual level of the course content
1: Yes. 2: Yes. Challenging questions and new
ideas were brought up that will keep me thinking for a
3: Yes, higher than I expected. 4-5: Yes.
6: Yes, but I would have liked a bit more basic
approach. 7: At times it was a bit too academic, yet
overall it complemented the subject. 8: Yes.
Pleasantly, it was better than I'd anticipated. 9-10: Yes.
11: The intellectual level of the course was at all
times challenging and simultaneously engaged the
of all the students. I commend DT for his conscientious
attention to each student's unique circumstance and/or
IV. If your course had field trips, were they effective?
1: A very valuable component of the course. 2: The
Special Collections was good for a practical viewpoint. I
I had prepared a wants list for the trip to the bookseller.
3: Definitely. 4-5: Yes. 6: Time away
from the classroom was well spent. It helps to have another
knowledgeable opinion. 7: Absolutely! 8: Yes.
was nice to hear from another Special Collections department
head and his particular views. 9: Yes -- the Special
Collections visit was great. I would have liked more time to
tour the facility top to bottom to be able to see, if only
briefly, how the operation is set up. 10: Yes.
11: Yes. The site visit to UVa Special Collections
discussion with Michael Plunkett validated issues raised in
V. Did the actual course content correspond to its RBS
brochure description and Expanded Course Description? Did the
course in general meet your expectations?
1: Yes, generally speaking, although the descriptions
suggested a specificity in content that did not always
materialize. 2: Most of the topics listed were
discussed -- some more, some less. Fortunately, the ones I was
interested in were the former. 3: It far exceeded my
expectations. I did expect more in the line of contents and
guidelines and standards, and was very delighted to gain a
much greater understanding and appreciations of, eg,
security, ethical issues, development and internal and
external relations, exhibits, etc., etc. I will go back and
look at things differently, and for that I'm grateful.
4-5: Yes. 6: I had hoped to have more definitive
guidelines in an introductory course. 7: The content
corresponded to the description, yet did not meet
expectations. A lack of foundational introduction sometimes
left the discussion ``high on the mountain top, surrounded
grey mist.'' And yet, the intelligence and dedication of the
instructor were too much to resist in the end, and though I
didn't learn what I thought I wanted to know, I learned a
great deal indeed. 8: No. I expected more hands-on
knowledge and the course centered on loftier, broad concepts
in special collections. Yes, it met my expectations in that
expected to be a better librarian when I finished the course
and I think that what I learned will help me be a better
librarian. 9: Yes to both. 10: No, it did not
correspond to the course description, and therefore the
expectations developed from the course descriptions were not met.
I do believe that the course content was appropriate and was
taught well. The descriptive materials sent ahead of the
course were somewhat misleading. 11: The course
description did not correspond to the course content because
it failed to indicate the method and context in which the
specific subjects of rare book librarianship would be discussed.
As a result, the course both exceeded and fell short of my
VI. What did you like best about the course?
1: Interaction between students in and outside of
class. Variety of experience represented by students. DT's
stories. 2: Hearing the experiences of DT and the
participants brought the topic down to earth. 3: All
the above; the field trips and out of classroom experiences
were a very important component, but probably the
stimulation would get my highest praise. 4: The
discussions were wide-ranging and thought-provoking. Some of the
class members' comments added new perspectives to the
instructor's presentation of the subject matter. 5:
Discussion of the following topics: 1) criteria for rarity;
history of printing. 6: The instructor welcomed class
comments. 7: The instructor, though he sometimes
focused too much on one type of library rather than allowing
the needs of all participants to have equal standing. The
seminar format worked very well, however. 8: The
that I was able to gather for use in my own collections.
9: Readings assigned, plus those given out and
suggested in class. Instructor's encouraging us to use time to
``schmooz'' -- that it is networking. Lengthy introductions
students was questionable, but I ended up getting a lot out
it and benefitting from it. It was also a great way to make
a group quickly. 10: The class discussions were
worthwhile and most helpful. The visit to Special
was beneficial. 11: I profited most from the
fundamental matrix of service orientation in Special
Collections, providing the springboard for consideration of
all the components in delivery of those services.
VII. How could the course have been improved?
1: By following the course syllabus more closely; by
integrating students' accounts of their experience into
the course more fully; by listening more closely to questions
the students were asking; by having this course co-taught (to
help keep it on track and to have a second voice/opinion).
2: This course is too broad for one person to cover
adequately (even someone with DT's vast store). Either bring
in another instructor or have presentations by others (ie,
technical services librarian, bookseller). 3: The
section on reference books was the least interesting and
maybe the least useful. Inviting and encouraging
more class discussion of personal experiences might have
helped. 4: There was, inevitably, a lot of sitting
around and talking. Perhaps a rare book dealer, perhaps from
outside the immediate community, could have been invited into
class to talk generally about dealer concerns before the
visits to the bookshops. Some assessment of the actual
materials might have been useful to newcomers to the field
-- perhaps this is covered in another course. But generally, it
would have been helpful to see at first hand what the
instructor or a UVa rare book curator would have considered
``fine,'' ``very fine,'' etc. 5: More discussion of
materials suggested on the reading list. A brief overview of
the history of books would have been useful. 6:
Introduce more tools of the trade in terms of reference books and
the kinds of questions they can help answer. 7: By
providing at least some context to the ``older'' practice or
philosophy of rare book librarianship, so that we had a
starting point for the frontal assault on it that constituted
much of the course. 8: A little more practical
information would have been helpful. 9: Possibly making
it two sections, (1) for Special Collections librarians in
academic settings; (2) for librarians in smaller, specialized
libraries who don't deal with the size and scope of academic
special collections. DT did try to address all our situations
with examples and did this very well. Our backgrounds and job
responsibilities are, however, very different. 10: It
could have involved less discussion of the large academic
research library setting and included more about varied
business, government, and other institutional settings.
11: Perhaps a tad less abstraction and fewer references
to the instructor's own collections.
VIII. Any final thoughts?
3: Very heartily recommend it. Thank you. 4: The
course is well worthwhile. Thank you for offering it and for
the care and professionalism evident in all the arrangements
for RBS. I enjoyed it and hope to return in future years.
7: It's an often exhausting roller coaster ride, and a
few more hard facts and answers would have grounded it
more, for those of us with no background. 8: DT is
long-winded and gets sidetracked occasionally, but what he
has to say is worth listening to. This course is definitely
worth taking. 9: You'll get a lot more out of it if you
do the readings! 10: Contact the instructor of the
course directly if you have questions about the contents of
the course or to get an idea of what to expect, rather than
the RBS administrators at UVa. 11: Be prepared to
exercise critical thinking skills and to absorb all you can from
your instructor and student colleagues.
Number of respondents: 11
Leave Tuition Housing Travel
Institution Institution Institution Institution
gave me leave paid tuition paid housing paid travel
100% 98% 60% 64%
I took vaca- I paid tui- I paid for my I paid my own
tion time tion myself own housing travel
0% 2% 22% 27%
N/A: self- N/A: Self- N/A: stayed N/A: lived
employed, re- employed, with friends nearby
tired, or had retired, or or lived at
summers off exchange home
0% 0% 18% 9%
Five students (46%) were general librarians with unspecified rare
book duties; two students (18%) were archivist/manuscript
librarians; and one student (9% each) was a general librarian
with some rare book duties, half-time rare books/half-time collection
development, head of technical services, or a rare book