34. Introduction to Rare Book Librarianship (Session II)

Daniel Traister
(The course was offered twice in RBS 1994; this is the evaluation of the second 1994 session. See above, no. 26, for the evaluation of the first RBS 1994 session)

For a description of this course, see above, no. 26. The first session of the course is intended for professional librarians who have had no formal training in this field but whose duties now include the administration or care of rare book collections. This session of the course is open to all those with an interest in rare book librarianship, whether or not they are currently working in a library or have had formal training in the field.

I. How useful were the pre-course readings?

1: Very useful -- provided good overview of the basic issues that were then addressed. 2: Very. 3: Very. 4: They were indicative of the range of topics to be discussed. 5: Useful. 6: Reading was not necessary for the course per se -- ie, it was not discussed in class. But they are critical readings if you are serious about the profession. 7: Very relevant. 8: The readings were useful but too extensive for me to be able to complete. Much of it, however, did not apply directly to what was discussed in class. 9: They were useful in preparation and could have been more useful had we discussed them, especially those written by persons other than the instructor. 10: Fine, but too much to cover in the three weeks I had after acceptance (but I applied late). 12: Quite useful. Helped me think about rare book librarianship in a kind of theoretical vacuum that is impossible to construct while at work.

II. Was your faculty member well-prepared to teach THIS course?

1: Eminently. 2: Yes -- very. 3: Absolutely. 4: Yes. 5: Very well prepared. 6: Of course! And other courses as well. 7: Yes. Excellent teacher! Vast background, experience, etc. 8: Yes, very prepared. 9: Yes. 10: Absolutely. 11: Yes. DT is obviously very knowledgeable in his field. 12:Yes, DT was a font of informative anecdotes. I learned a great deal from his sharing of his own (and others') experiences.

III. Was the intellectual level of the course content appropriate?

1: Yes -- an even mix of abstraction and application. 2: Yes. 3: Absolutely. 4-5: Yes. 6: Yes. It was what he and we made it. 7: Yes. 8:For the most part. Much knowledge was assumed, however, for an introductory course, which was described as requiring no prior knowledge of rare book librarianship. 9: Yes. 10: Entirely. 11: Yes. Although the tales were amusing and fun, I felt they sometimes took away from the discussions at hand. I think DT handled the problem of different student levels well. 12: Yes, although it was ``lower impact'' than I had expected.

IV. If your course had field trips, were they effective?

1: Yes. 2: Yes -- would have liked additional time, though. 3-4: Yes. 5: Generally. Perhaps the instructor could have held his comments until classroom time to allow the Special Collections librarian more time to discuss her job. 6: We visited Special Collections -- very useful in general, although I had done something similar before. 7: Yes. Visit to Special Collections was especially relevant. 8: Yes, the tour of the special collections department and the current exhibit were very good. 9: Well spent in hearing Kathryn Morgan and seeing the exhibit, but I would have liked to see the collections, too, or part of them. 10: Yes (a visit to UVa Special Collections). 11: I thought the trip was worthwhile. I would have liked to talk to a few other staff members -- maybe some time for informal discussion with them. 12: I was hoping to get a tour of the physical plant.

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 and yes. 2: Yes -- although more people in the course were involved in special collections than I had expected. 3: I was a bit disappointed that we didn't spend more time with books: learning how to handle them, talking about identifying bindings, learning how to determine potential conservation and preservation problems and consequent decisions, etc. 4-5: Yes. 6: I think I expected more ``do this, do that'' and in fact hoped for it. But in retrospect, I think upon reflecting upon the course content a week from now, I'll probably say to myself, ``Oh, yes, DT said do -- -- .'' 7: As I remember the description, yes. The course definitely met expectations. 8: No -- see no.3, above. 9: Corresponded very exactly, but I had applied for the previous week's version and was told that this one would be adapted a bit. I would have liked more actual study of actual books, more cited references of standard reference books (even a list to take home to share). 10: Yes, in all respects. 11: Basically, yes. But I would have liked more information on staff management -- and other relationships within the department. (Really my fault -- I should have asked!) 12: The course description, maybe necessarily, led me to believe that lecture and discussion would be more formal -- that more facts would have been related, even if they were then problematized.

VI. What did you like best about the course?

1: Instructor's serious attention to the issues combined with a great deal of humor in the presentation. 2: Instructor was entertaining as well as informative. Informal atmosphere. Useful information. 3: The instructor. 4: The engaging manner of the instructor drawing on his vast experience. 5: Interaction with other librarians and rare book people. Relaxed and interactive tone of the class. Very informed instructor. 6: DT! His intellectual wittiness and sarcastic cynicism and absolutely delightful prose made each hour-and-a-half sitting in one place bearable. 7: The instructor's personal interest in course members. Anecdotes which acted as moral fables. 8: I liked the way DT used stories and anecdotes from his own experience with rare book librarianship as a wonderful tool for teaching. He seems to have a real gift for storytelling. 9: Congeniality and conversation with fellow students; obvious ability of the instructor. 10: The opportunity to hear from someone who thoroughly knows the profession and who was able to impart knowledge without an ``attitude'' (ie, DT is not your typical academic shit, but upon reflection, no one at RBS has been an academic shit, praise God!). DT is a great person, an informed scholar, and a thorough professional! 11: I liked the first few days the best, in discussing the vagueness of the term ``rare book.'' This was to my mind the most thought-provoking material offered. 12: The intensive nature of it -- coming together with people with varying work experience and discussing commonalities/differences.

VII. How could the course have been improved?

1: More visuals, perhaps. 2: More hands-on experience with RLIN or other; more time spent in Special Collections. 3: See no.5, above. 4: No suggestions. 5: More information about selection and identification of rare books. 6: Actually, a little more ``do this, do that.'' Or maybe an individual or small group, ``here's my institution, Help!'' 9: More hands-on with rare books to illustrate the terms we will be, and are, using and seeing on occasion. Course was by lecture -- I felt that there was plenty of ``filler.'' 11: I thought we could have talked more about manuscripts management (also, see the previous comment). 12: Incorporate real live books into the discussions of rarity and conservation.

VIII. Any final thoughts?

1: Be prepared to think and laugh. 2: This is (was) extremely helpful to me; information was practical as well as theoretical. I plan to attend next summer if finances allow. The course left me with definite goals for the future and immediate plans to make. 3: This is a great school. I will be back next year. Oh yeah, the classrooms are way too cold! 4: None. Highly recommended. 5: Bring an umbrella! 6: My sister sells for a T-shirt, sweatshirt company. Sell RBS sweatshirts first break each session to the people who didn't remember their sweaters -- and RBS totes to carry all our stuff. Many thanks for the thoughtful purchase of umbrellas!! Do evaluations right after lunch on Day 5. By 3:40 all you want to do is LEAVE! 7: Read everything assigned, stay on The Lawn, make as many new friends as possible, don't plan any additional activities -- immerse yourself in the experience. I think as with my first year at university I learned as much from my fellow students as from the instructor. (This is not meant to demean the quality of the instructor, who was excellent, but to indicate that the learning experience is the total of the environment.) 9: You'll like the beautiful campus, the well-organized preparations, the capable staff and director. And you'll enjoy the lectures, too, especially TB's report. 11: I would make sure to find out about any prior reading, and also to think a lot about my profession before going into class -- even making a list or notes of possible discussion in case the topics I need don't get covered. 12: Do the readings beforehand so you have a clear idea of some of the issues and can take full advantage of getting opinions of the instructor and classmates.

Number of respondents: 12


Leave         Tuition        Housing        Travel

Institution   Institution    Institution    Institution
gave me leave paid tuition   paid housing   paid travel

100%          71%            44%            42%

I took vaca-  I paid tui-    I paid for my  I paid my own
tion time     tion myself    own housing    travel

0%            29%            31%            42%

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%             25%            16%

Three students (26%) were general librarians with unspecified rare book duties; two students (18%) were archivist/manuscript librarians; and one student (8% each) was an archivist/manuscript librarian/general librarian with unspecified rare book duties, an archivist/manuscript librarian/rare book librarian, an archivist/manuscript librarian/rare book librarian/teacher/professor, an art museum librarian, a music librarian, a rare book librarian, or a special collections library assistant (``a paraprofessional ranking that no doubt involves parachuting behind enemy stacks'').