No. 21: Introduction to Descriptive Bibliography
Terry Belanger and Richard Noble
Julia Dupuis Blakely
1) How useful were the pre-course readings? How successful was the advance use of the videotape, The Anatomy of a Book, as a teaching tool?
1: Pre-course readings indispensable -- acceptance too late for video. 2: Videotape was excellent and useful. TB's article, Gaskell's summary, Bowers' examples very useful. Bowers Chapters 6 and 7 very hard, but useful to be exposed to. 3: Yep! 4: The video was the best; TB's article in Book Collecting was second best for advance prep. The required reading in Bowers was a bit overwhelming. Perhaps it would be a good idea to reassure people that Bowers doesn't have to be mastered before coming. You really emphasize the requirement of doing the advance readings -- I think this is good because it weeds out the less motivated students -- but perhaps this could be tempered with more reassurance about just how much mastering is required before the class starts, so as not to discourage the well-motivated. 5: The readings were very important. While I found some difficult to digest, the readings made it much easier to grasp the concepts as presented in class. The videotape was wonderful. I watched it once before I did the readings and once after. 6: Pre-course readings: dense, complex, and very necessary. Unravelled in application. Videotape: quite successful: clear, concise. 7: Very good place to start, esp. in combo with the TB article in the book-collecting anthology. 8: Pre-course reading useful and necessar y. Bowers cannot be read too many times. The video was most helpful. Watch it several times and each time follow along by folding the sheets provided. 9: Very. You needn't suggest reading Carter twice. Carefully, one time would do it. The video was helpful, consolidating info (you could suggest watching it twice. I did, and the second time I got more from it.) 10: The readings were all very useful. The video was not particularly (because most of the points were covered in the reading), but the tube material was. 11: Most important and useful were Gaskell and Bowers. 13: Both the pre-course readings and the videotape were immensely valuable. A familiarity with Bowers and Gaskell allowed me to appreciate the course more fully. 14: Pre-course readings very applicable. Video: a very useful review. 15: Both the pre-course readings and the videotape were useful. The advice concerning which sections to read, what not to fret over, &c., was greatly appreciated. 16: The readings were extremely useful. As with any prescriptive rule book, Bowers is best absorbed in the context of direct application of his principles. However (as indicated) it proved necessary to have more than passing familiarity with Bowers before coming. Both the video and Gaskell were delightful, although in retrospect I would have benefitted from pausing the video after each format was presented, and flipping to Gaskell's diagrams to fold up the quire I had just seen and heard about. I did that, carefully labeling [and then relabeling!] each blank BAP page and leaf as Gaskell presents -- but not until Tuesday evening. This proved far more helpful (if slightly less romantical) than the folding of the facsimile sheets in the tube that I did before coming. 17: (a) Pre-course readings were essential. (b) I think it's a good idea to make [the videotape] available, but not essential. Perhaps there should also be others?
2) Were the course syllabus, exit reading list, and other materials distributed in class useful (or will they be so in the future, after you return home)?
1: Undeniably. I plan to refer to them often, and to work my way through relevant parts of the reading list. 2: Yes. Why not give out maps of BAP rooms on first day so we can understand the wealth of materials available and where it is? 3: Whew! 4: Very useful. 5: The syllabus, exit reading list were somewhat useful during the week, but I know that I will make use of them frequently in the future. 6: I believe so, especially the reading list. 7: Yes. 8: Course syllabus useful. The exit reading list will be most useful in the foreseeable future (and beyond). 9: All will be ... for me and my students. 10: Yes indeed. 11: I have picked up many useful reference that will be useful to my institution. 12: I expect them all to be useful in the future. 13: Absolutely! TB said it best when he said that now we have a far better idea of how much help is available to us as students of descriptive bibliography. 14: Yes -- more in the "after return home" phase. 15: Yes -- I'm looking forward to reading many of the works on the exit list. 16: An extremely generous variety and amount of material was provided in class and museums; much will be referred to again and again, if not all of it. The reading list especially will be very helpful. 17: I think they will be.
3) Was the intellectual level of the course content appropriate?
1-2: Yes. 3: At the end ... the beginning was a bit too elementary, if one really had done all of the reading. 4: Yes. I appreciated being treated at this level. 5: I found the course to be quite stimulating. I suppose that means the intellectual level was just right. 6: In my case, yes. 7: Yes, although the "putting it all together" lecture on the last day would have been more useful to me on the first day. When one reads (or tries to read) Bowers first, one cannot see the bibliographic forest for the trees. 8: Very appropriate. 9: Yes, especially because my cohort and instructor were literature people, as I am. DG brought in literary examples, and we discussed the relevance of desbib to literary criticism. 10: Given the preparatory material I'd read, I found a large proportion of the classes (that is, as opposed to the labs) were too basic, treading over ground that I'd covered in Gaskell, &c. For that reason, I found the Museums extremely interesting. They conveyed material in ways that a book or video cannot supply. 11: Nothing seemed inappropriate. 12: Yes. 13: Absolutely. 14: Yes. Just challenging enough. Wish more cancels had been in the boxes for our cohort ... only one (as I recall) and we all missed it! :( 15: Yes. 16: The intellectual level of the course content was appropriate, though I found myself wishing for more deliberate and methodical "footnoting" of the lectures. We were referred to specific titles in the reading list fairly often, but not enough to my liking. This could help increase the intellectual level of the course without leaving people behind too much, not that this seemed to happen much -- I learned a great deal not just from the instructors but also from my fellow students. 17: Yes.
4) To what extent did the Museums (and the BAP Classroom reference book collection and 3-D Carter) contribute to the success of the course? How could they have been improved?
1: Museums were outstanding -- best to be set up, as they were, with lots to look at rather than too little. 2: Museums were very useful and important. Nicely organized, they made pursuing of interests very accessible. 3: I wanted less pressure at other points of the course, so I could have taken more time with the Museums. 4: Good. I would like things in order, e.g. 1-23 so that I know where to find them (not that it was necessary to view them in order). 5: While one could conceivably do the readings for this course from a distance, the hands-on material in the Museums made the abstract in the readings real. I wish I had had more time (and energy) to spend with the material in the Museums, but at that time of day (and with homework to do) I didn't always. 6: Museums were indispensable. I would have enjoyed "guided" Museum tours, some of the time. (The paper guides were/are marvelous, but) I learnt something every time someone discussed the materials. 7: These were my favorite part of the week because they helped give a broader perspective on book/printing history. 8: It was great to go to the Museum and see, look at, touch, and play with the material that was being presented in class. The accompanying handouts will be a useful resource in the future. 9: They helped concretize the information. Since it was my 4th period, I must admit I got over-loaded by one hour. The daily package will mean much more once I decompress. 10: [See answer to question 3.] 11: The binding museum seemed too little detailed. The last museum on bibliographical resources was drawn out. The type museum was highly interesting and well planned. Format was very successful due to the Museum, since hands-on is the best way to learn that. 12: There was a lot of material to go through. It was great to see models and examples of everything, just not enough time for it all. 13: I believe the value of Museums will only increase as we move on. The chance to hold and engage the physical examples is wonderful. 14: Very much. Especially enjoyed/benefitted from the bibliography display. One suggestion: in many of the explanatory blurbs questions were asked. Where does one find the "answer" so as to check one's work? 15: I'm not sure if this is just a result of when the Museums fell in our schedule [last period each day], but I was often too "brain dead" to absorb everything in the Museums. 16: The Museums were fabulous: to have so much physical evidence to hold, handle, examine, read about, compare, analyze ... amazing! While learning Bowers requires doing Bowers, contextualizing the book as artifact requires seeing as much background material as possible. And that the Museum labels were given as part of the course packets will only help. One suggestion: more footnotes, with reference to the reading list, directly on the labels. 17: The Museums were one of the best parts of the course. I think that they could have been left up longer. Also perhaps they could be in the morning when I am more awake.
5) How successful were your format-and-collation labs? How effective was your lab instructor in conveying the material to be covered? How could the labs have been improved?
Julia Blakely's labs: 1: Labs were excellent -- no change necessary. 2: JDB was very kind and patient and able to explain things to us. Because of our small class size we were all able to have all our concerns addressed. 3: More homework! More labs! I'd like to see homework on Thursday evening! Perhaps consider asking us to do five books out of six, allow more time for the Museums, spread the homework out a bit more, and do more of it. 4: We discussed the fact that there were too many books to adequately handle in the time given. Several of us wondered whether the mistakes we made were due to misunderstanding the concepts, or just that we were moving through the books too quickly in 1.5 hours (plus evening) and missed something. 5: The labs were enjoyable (odd as that may sound). After spending hours over the homework it was interesting to have "all revealed" in an atmosphere of mutual support and encouragement. JDB did an excellent job. I was frustrated by my inability to complete, fully, the six books each day despite spending a good deal of time on them. I always debated whether it would be more productive to do four fully or do the best I could with all six. Perhaps I'm just a slow student, but I would have liked to have had more time to do all thoroughly, or fewer books. 6: Highly successful. Even one "assisted" collation would have been enormously helpful. The lab instructor working on an example with the students, not just correcting homework.
David Gants's labs: 7: DG was wonderfully knowledgeable and personable and a terrific teacher. The labs would have been less frustrating for me if RBS had a handout that gave a few examples of the format, collation, signings, and pagination lines written out with prose explanations of what was meant by them -- that is, if we had a sample of one of the homework answer sheets to look at (with the book being described) before we had to do the homework. For example, Gaskell has a very good section on quasi-facsimile title-page transcription that succinctly does just that. Something similar for the other elements would greatly have helped take the burden out of Bowers. 8: Quite successful even though I didn't always get it right. My mistakes were logical and those of a beginner. This is clearly something one has to do repeatedly in order to really get the hang of it. 9: Excellent. We covered everything and in as much depth as each of us wished. Quite intense and intellectually pleasurable. 10: Very useful, I think. This kind of work must be practiced in order to be understood (albeit rudimentarily). It was very helpful to work in 3-person groups (and if you deliberately assigned me to an all-literary-scholar group, I thank you -- it meant that my fellows' questions were always of interest to me. The most important improvement would perhaps be to trim time from the lectures and provide it for homework, especially when the assignments get longer. No one in my group completed all six books each day. I completed all six Thursday books by skipping the option to visit the BAP. 11: The format-and-collation labs provided many useful examples of how to easily make mistakes and how to fix them.
David Whitesell's labs: 12: The homework and the labs were my favorite part of the course. DW was excellent and patient and he never mocked us! We went through everything thoroughly. The Cleanup Lab was very useful. 13: The labs were extremely helpful, wanting only in additional time. DW was a fantastic instructor -- his patience was bottomless; he took care never to let a student feel inadequate, and he clearly illuminated every relevant point. 14: Successful. 8 out of 10. See comment on cancels above. Lab instructor very good. DW obviously quite well versed in the discipline. 15: These were wonderful. DW did an outstanding job of walking us through the collation formulas and was very nonjudgmental when we were way off the mark. 16: Labs were fantastic; the best Day 1 advice was to "make many mistakes." I took that advice directly to heart and found the labs all the more instructive because I was not shy about it. DW was very patient and helpful and careful with us; he was also very encouraging. The Weds-for-Thurs homework was very complex; holding half of it over until Friday helped us considerably, as it gave us lots of time to discuss everyone's questions. Having a morning homework period helped considerably also; although I would have preferred the option of having at those formulary statements earlier than the 8 am spring break opening time of Clemons. 17: I learned a great deal. The labs were relaxed enough and small enough so that we could interact well. I think if there were some way that all the cohorts could interact at some point(s) in a lab I would be happier. I learned a lot from too short lunch conversations with others.
6 Did the actual course content correspond to its RBS brochure description and Expanded Course Description?
1-3: Yes. 4: I think so. 5-6: Yes. 7: Mostly, although as a non-librarian I didn't really understand beforehand the level of excruciating detail involved. 8-9: Yes. 10: Yes, though of course I couldn't really grasp what was intended till I'd done the Gaskell and Bowers reading. 11-17: Yes.
7) What did you like best about the course?
1: Superior quality throughout -- instruction, materials, scheduling, organization, atmosphere, students. Do not compromise this ever (everyone else seems to, in contemporary society). 2: The organization -- the extreme willingness of all the staff to explain, show things and how they work (esp. TB). The number of resources available is amazing. Love the small intimate class size. 3: Book Jackals. 4: Hands-on practice. 5: The combination of theoretical and hands-on, the stimulating and entertaining faculty, and the wonderful group of students from a variety of professions. 6: Theory and practice, structured and "free" periods, &c. were well-balanced. The variety of activities and materials relating to desbib permitted (eventual) apprehension of the discipline/purpose from various perspectives. 7: Museums. 8: The hands-on. Actually working with the books. 9: The homework. 10: The Museums. The collation exercises. An opportunity for hands-on study. 11: All of the hands-on learning was successful. The staff and their devotion to the subject. 12: The homework and labs -- I prefer hands-on learning to Museums or lectures. I liked the intensity. 13: The labs following the homework. The pattern of attempting the work alone and then discussing it was perfect. 14: The "hands-on" aspect with immediate feedback on performance. Museums also quite interesting and informative. 15: Lab. 16: The combination of close analysis of single books with broad contextualization through Museums of various aspects of printing/publishing/desbib. 17: (1) The impromptu, spontaneous "sharing" of information by TB Wednesday night. (2) The Paper Museum.
8) How could the course as a whole have been improved?
1: I cannot think of a way in which the course could have been improved. 2: I honestly cannot think of anything at this time. 3: More homework, more books. Maybe less time at the beginning of the week on the basics, which we have already read about. 5: Aside from my comments in no. 5, I think the course is excellent as it is. Of course if RN could do the revised Bowers, that would be great! 6: Videos were great. Difficult for me to assess otherwise (I was doing homework on the Study and Bookseller Nights!). The dinner is a very nice welcome. 7: I was never sure whether TB welcomed questions during his sessions. He never clarified this, so I did not ask questions, even though I would have liked to at certain points. 8: I felt it was fine. No improvements needed. 9: I think you've nailed it. (My students might say, "Des Bib is the bomb," meaning a compliment.) 10: I would wish the lectures to have the same kind of concrete application as the other elements of the course. Also, I think it's too much to ask people to either do homework at night or to see the videos or get some rest! So perhaps the essential conflicts (at least between the first two) might be eliminated. For example, show the videos in lieu of the lecture one afternoon -- or provide extra homework time and keep the videos at night. 11: The instructors seemed to be at a loss as to what to do with students on Friday morning. Maybe have two different (new) examples for the students to format, collate, paginate, &c. that morning. They should have been caught up by this time. 12: I would have liked more homework -- but I can't recommend that the current system would be improved by this -- there are only so many hours in a day. 13: More time for labs would have been useful. 16: A format-collation lab provided by TB and RN (or perhaps on Friday?) of a book everyone has seen, and for the whole group would have been nice, as would have more lecturing by all three lab instructors to the whole group. They are amazing resources all, and I didn't have enough exposure to all three. Not to mention a brief presentation by Vincent Golden (and other staff members) on the Museums they put together? 17: In some ways I wish that it could be longer. I really just started to explore when I was leaving. However, with the intensity of the course I wonder if this is possible. The group as a whole was less cohesive than the other class I took.
9) Please comment on the quality/enjoyability of the various RBS activities in which you took part outside of class (eg Sunday night dinner, evening lectures, Bookseller Night, Study Night, videos, &c.).
1: All were congenial. 2: The outside schedule was excellent. Especially enjoyed the Study Night and videos. 3: I think a different order would work better -- how about moving the lecture and the booksellers to evenings that have lighter homework loads?? 4: I participated in all and enjoyed it. 5: The outside class activities provided opportunities for getting to know fellow students while learning more about the course topics. I found them very enjoyable. 7: As mentioned before, I skipped most of these to do homework. 8: Very interesting and well thought out. 9: Sunday night dinner a must -- sets the tone, gets one accustomed to place, &c. Monday evening I was exhausted -- perhaps move it to Wednesday or Thursday. Video night was nice. 10: Missed most of them either to complete homework or eat out. See above comment. 11: Sunday night dinner was an excellent ice breaker (could have used more sustenance, ie sandwiches). The group of students here provided for good experiences, which is more or less the luck of the draw. Good people = good company. 12: I wish I had participated in more of the activities. I'm glad they were available and in the future I would make more of an effort to do so. 13: Everything was wonderful -- but I would have appreciated a tour of UVa's collections. 14: Always enjoy Bookeller Night. :) 16: Great lecture by David Seaman, but I want Q & A! Study Night was wonderful also, but somehow not quite enough time, especially on a night with the most complicated homework. 17: The outside activities introduced me to a lot of people.
10) Any final thoughts? Did you get your money's worth?
1: This is the best and most intellectually stimulating experience I have had in my years as a librarian. I plan to attend each year, if possible. It is far superior to anything I have attended which has called itself "professional development." 2: Compared to my summer courses, what made this course such a success was the small number of participants, which provided an excellent student/teacher ratio. 3: More than [my money's worth]. 5: Get rest. Do the readings in advance. Don't worry about making mistakes on homework -- that's how you learn. My institution certainly got its money's worth and I would be willing to pay for a future course even if my institution would not. 7: Yes, and I hope to be back. 8: Do the reading! Worth every penny. 9: Absolutely worth every penny. This was a first-rate learning experience. 10: Tell students to bring (1) Gaskell); (2) a calculator. I certainly got my money's worth -- it was an exceedingly profitable week. 11: Do not come if you are not devoted to your love of the book. Do not come if you are not punctual. It disturbs the instructors and other students. 12: It wasn't clear until after the first lab (which for my group was Tuesday morning) what was expected of us. I felt lost the first day. I don't know if that can be helped. My initial assumption was that the lectures would be more relevant to the homework. 13: Without question, this week may prove to have the greatest impact on the beginning of my career. I feel I've gotten twice my money's worth or more. Thank you! 14: Well worth time and money. Thanks. 15: Well worth the time and money. I highly recommend the course. 16: Final thoughts: thank you! Advice for future students: take the course! 17: I enjoyed myself totally. It's well worth the money. I think that the energy and focus of the people of RBS is something I hope to take with me and keep for at least a while. I also enjoyed the variety of people and professions.
Number of respondents: 17
There were 3 rare book librarians (17%), 1 archivist/manuscript librarian (6%), 6 general librarians with some rb duties (35%), 2 teacher/professors (12%), 2 full-time students (12%), 2 antiquarian booksellers (12%), and one book-colle ctor (6%).
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