No. 24: Introduction to Descriptive Bibliography (G - 010)
12-16 March 2001

Terry Belanger and Richard Noble
Coordinating Instructors

Julia Dupuis Blakely
David Gants
David Whitesell
Lab Instructors

John Buchtel
Curator of the Course Museums

Terry Chouinard
Printer in Residence

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?

2: Very useful, very necessary. The video is quite good, as are the accompanying materials. 3: The pre-course readings are mandatory! It is not an exaggeration when one read that being unable to read the pre-course material should call into question attending the course. The videotape is quite helpful. Its succeeding "chapter" is a "consummation devoutly to be wished." 4: The pre-course readings were extremely helpful. I don't think it would have been possible to grasp descriptive bibliography without having done the readings first. The videotape also was helpful because some of the subjects discussed in the readings were much easier to understand when presented with a visual explanation. 5: Pre-course readings were indispensable. I may not have studied them as thoroughly as I should have. In any case, I found them to be difficult reading at times and found myself looking forward to the actual classes where I could see physical examples that would clarify concepts. Happily that's exactly what happened. The video was a very helpful review of the basics of format. 6: The preparatory materials were essential in order to get the most from the class. The frank advice accompanying the reading list did much to alleviate the anxiety the texts themselves raised. The video was excellent. It was good to learn the material via hands-on, and provided an introduction to TB. By the time the class began I felt I already knew him and was prepared for his humor! 7: Although I was familiar with all but one of the items on the pre-course reading list, I had never before applied myself to following the arguments contained within them. I would not have been able to complete even the first evening's homework without these 'refreshers.' 8: The pre-course readings were very helpful (well, essential) and the video really helped clarify some of the descriptions. So too was TB's article, which is an excellent introduction. 9: The pre-course readings were essential. As was viewing the videotape. It enabled me to hit the ground running - which was required in this class. Without the pre-course readings we would have needed several extra days of lectures. 10: Advanced reading was absolutely necessary as it became "hands-on" without instruction. Without the reading if someone has never described a book they wouldn't know what to do. Video presented format nicely. 11: Pre-course readings were essential. Videotape and materials provided excellent groundwork. 12: The pre-course readings were extremely useful and essential for attending the course itself. Indeed it would have been practically impossible to benefit fully from the course without having done the relevant reading. The video was very useful - although TB's wit and charm and anecdotal stories were sadly lacking. 13: Useful. 14: The readings were absolutely necessary and therefore essential for one to be prepared before the class even began. The video was useful but not really as important.

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: Extremely useful. I would suggest that the notes and the "cheat sheets" the instructors have during the lab be handed out while looking at the books, to augment understanding of those specific examples. I am looking forward to reading the books on the exit reading list. It would have been hard to have to look up all the books mentioned in class. Useful in the reading list is posting an order in which to attack the reading. It will make it less daunting. 2: Most definitely. 3: The materials have been quite useful, but I expect them to be even more valuable in the future. 4: Everything was well done. Being able to look at examples during the lectures made understanding the discussions easier. The exit reading list will be a valuable resource, and I am glad to have such a resource to draw upon in the future. 5: All of the above (save the reading list; who had time to read?) were useful, and I expect they will continue to be of use to me in the future. I'm glad I can take them with me. The exit reading list will provide me with years (a lifetime) of reading suggestions. 6: I think they will form the basis for a new reference collection -- to be consulted as the needs arise. 7: All useful. I am keen to look again at the open access reference materials on offer in my own reading room in the light of the exit reading list -- purchases may be necessary; some additional analytical catalogue records (for the catalogue of open access materials) certainly are. 8: Yes. They are a dauntingly exhaustive resource. (I mean that positively.) 9: The syllabus allowed me to keep track of what was expected next -- especially in respect to homework. And I fully expect to refer frequently to the exit reading list in order to expand upon what I've learned this week. 10: Yes, very robust and well-organized. I think much of it will be useful in the future. 11: All useful. 12: The exit reading list and various materials gathered on the course -- especially from the labs and museum sessions -- will be a source of central reference for me, extremely informative and detailed. 13: Very much so. 14: The course syllabus, or more specifically, the exit reading list, is and will be, extremely useful.

3) Was the intellectual level of the course content appropriate?

1: Yes -- in labs, we seemed to have been separated by backgrounds, which makes it easier for both students and instructors, who can assume a common knowledge base (or lack thereof). On the other hand, it causes those of us who are less knowledgeable to be exposed to a smaller amount of instruction. 2: Yes. 3: This course is a bit like Boot Camp but with gentle and genial drill instructors. One can only hope, pray or even find some means to coerce the senior instructors (TB and RN) in creating a revision of Bowers' textbook. In a word, this course is "RIGOROUS." 4: Seemed just right! 5: Yes. It was. I may have been out of my league in some instances. I felt surrounded by super-intelligence, but enjoyed the immersion and believe I benefitted greatly from it. I'm getting away from course content, though. It was very challenging without being utterly impossible, and that is good. 6: On the whole, yes. Often in lecture, though, I was overwhelmed by references and asides that were meaningless to me. At those times I felt my lack of an ivory tower viewpoint. 7-8: Yes. 9: At the beginning of the week I felt like I had enrolled in a course too advanced for my experience, but by week's end the concepts and context seem to have come together in my mind, and now I feel like I understand what we were taught. The lectures and labs and of course the homework all fit together logically to illuminate. 10: Just right, even though some of Bowers is confusing and difficult. 11: Yes, perfectly so. 12: Yes, definitely. 13: Yes. 14: Perfect.

4) To what extent did the Museums contribute to the success of the course? How could they have been improved? How useful to you were (or will be) the copies of the Museum labels?

1: The Museums were amazing. I wish we had a little more time to peruse the books, tools and other items. The copies of labels seem to be most useful when they contain additional background besides the "here is what you are looking at" so that one can review the lesson. I was never able to see everything I wished to peruse. 2: I found the Museums very helpful; I could even call the idea of them brilliant - well thought-out, and entirely apt. The copies will be useful, yes, though some may be more dependent than others on the things they describe. 3: The Museum exhibits were terrific. A very beneficial part of the course. Please do not consider condensing or deleting this part of the course. If one disregards the time constraints, it would be nice to have more time for the exhibits -- particularly where the examination of the book contents is warranted. Perhaps from 11 pm to 2 am? 4: The Museums were wonderful. Was great to have the opportunity to look and handle a variety of items. Like the video, the Museums aided in grasping concepts and understanding the lectures. The hands-on aspect really added to the learning experience. The labels will be useful as reference and aids to memory. 5: The Museums played a big part in the success of the course. I can't think of any way to improve them except by adding an extra half-hour or so to them. I don't believe I truly missed out on anything by not getting to see absolutely everything, though. I believe the copies of the labels will be very useful in the future. Same for the lab notes. 6: There was too much to see and absorb in the time allowed, but the 1 hours was all I could manage at that time. A smaller Museum would have worked well for me and made me feel I could concentrate on everything in more depth. I'm not sure that the Museum labels will be useful in the future, but they were crucial at the time. Also they were well-written and enlightening. The Jefferson Hall location seemed to be adjacent to where buses idled endlessly. I always immediately got a diesel-fuel headache. 7: Several Museum items were essential for visualizing the key elements of book production, especially Museums I and II. Others were always of general interest. 8: The Museums are FABULOUS. I can only imagine the work behind them. The chance to really examine material with the clear, succinct (and funny) and informative labels is so helpful to making sense of all that we learn in this very short time. We need our own copies as reference for the homework and once we leave. 9: Although I think the course could be taught without the Museums, they were so wonderful and instructive that I'd hate to have to take the class without them. They were the most fun part of the course. And I think I will use the labels as examples and reminders later on. 10: The Museums were excellent for showing examples of various aspects of books (printing, paper, binding, bibliographies). I think the Museum labels will be referred to in the future. 11: Museums were marvelous and impressive, materials organized and explained clearly, examples always helpful. 12: Museums were one of the best aspects of the course. This "hands-on" approach is essential to understanding the concepts and ideas discussed in practical terms and in context. Especially good for recognizing varius bindings, matching catalogue descriptions to actual books, seeing variations in collation formula. Labels are excellent. 13: The Museums were excellent. 14: The Museums give a necessary added dimension to what is taught in class. Without them, the concepts and practices covered would have been half as meaningful. With required space and time, the Museums could be expanded (but not necessary).

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: 1: JB was very patient in helping with simplification of collation and pagination statements. It is very hard to be constantly working on new books, especially when we are dealing with new exceptions each day. There seems to be little time to process -- or time to go back and review a book one has questions on -- due to the amount of homework we had every night. 2: The labs were certainly the heart of the course for me. I would follow JB anywhere -- what a lovely, kind, and knowledgeable person -- I'm very grateful for her help. 3: Any difficulties I had in formatting, collating and pagination I can only ascribe to my knowledge -- or rather -- lack thereof. JB was a superb teacher and the time I had with the others indicated equivalent quality of instruction and availability. In taking this course, there is no substitute for youth. 4: The format-and-collation labs were very successful. I felt like I was back in algebra class, but would not want to have been deprived of the opportunity to put things on the board and have them critiqued. JB was extremely helpful and kind when correcting us. Showed us what we had missed, and was very patient. 5: Labs were successful in correcting innumerable mistakes made in homework and keeping us humble. By the time more difficult concepts were sinking in I was losing some of the basics and it helped to be reminded. JB did a great job in conveying the material and being sure we actually understood things rather than simply pointing out mistakes and leaving it at that. THANK YOU! Again, more time could have been spent in labs but I understand the limitation of a 5-day course. David Gants: 6: The labs were the best learning experiences of the week. It was where we could finally interact. DG was unfailingly positive and clear and was able to underscore the importance of the work. I wish we had had a preliminary opportunity to go through our first effort together, as an example of the work. Also a worksheet or template to structure our work would have been most helpful, especially in the beginning of the week. 7: My format and collation labs were surprisingly successful, with all in my Cohort clearly moving forward together and reaching 80-90% accuracy by the end. I hold my lab instructor's skills in high regard. 8: DG is an excellent instructor. Reveals the principles that make DesBib possible rather than a list of rules to memorize. 9: I think the labs were great. DG's knowledge was impressive and he had a wonderful, relaxed approach which enabled us to painlessly learn from our mistakes. 10: Very good instructor who made us feel at ease. 11: I looked forward to the labs and enjoyed the discussions and analysis thoroughly. And I learned a lot from the homework and labs. Instructor was extremely knowledgeable, pleasant and positive. David Whitesell: 12: Labs were excellent, especially because we were given so many books to handle and describe. This provided a wide variety of problems and issues which were discussed in depth by our instructor. The "no spoon-feeding" approach, although at times frustrating, was effective. Instructor was very clear and patient. 13: Lab instructor was extremely knowledgeable -- labs were great. 14: The labs were excellent in giving a detailed hands-on to the material presented. Being able to speak to an experienced instructor, to be able to ask as many questions as required to fully understand the material, were invaluable.

6 Did the actual course content correspond to its RBS brochure description and Expanded Course Description?

1: Yes. It was not as dry as I feared it would be, mainly due to the lectures and to the Museums. The background information on the period and the physical printing process were invaluable in putting it all together. 2: Very much so. 3-4: Yes. 5: Yes. I may not have read these very carefully as I didn't expect there to be so much work/homework, but that's not a bad thing. Difficult as it was it was so fully engaging that time flew by. 6: Yes. I got what I expected. I wish we had talked about the future of DesBib in the electronic age. How to translate Bowers-ese into HTML, &c. 7-9: Yes. 10: Yes, although the amount of homework might be better indicated. 11: Yes. 12: Yes, definitely. 13-14: Yes.

7) What did you like best about the course?

2: Well...I can't say I liked the homework, but, in combination with the labs, it's what got the job done. Being able to handle the materials is so important -- and again, the quality of the instruction from TB, RN and JB -- was exquisite. 3: Intellectually stimulating, excellent senior and junior instructors, with an obvious passion for this subject. 4: The labs and the Museums. 5: I enjoyed interacting with fellow students and our lab instructor. The lectures with TB and RN were great, even though they may have caught a few of my after-lunch yawns; I swear it wasn't their fault. I should say I'm unused to rising early and am still on West-coast time. Enough excuses. As I said above, the best thing was the degree to which I was able to immerse myself in the work so that time passed very quickly. That may also be the worst part, because now it's over. Of course, a huge part of that was the book collection. I feel so lucky to have been allowed access to so many beautiful pieces of bibliographical history. Thank you. 6: The labs and the 3:00 pm cookies. 7: I liked the mix of activities, whilst allowing lengthy periods of time for each. Homework at the end of the day suited me very well -- answers often came to me whilst sitting on my hotel bed with a bottle of beer! I would have been less comfortable with the alternative arrangement of homework during period I. 8: How much I learned. Breaking into small groups was imperative -- you can only learn by doing. 9: Museums -- although lectures were fascinating. 10: Museums, labs, meeting other people from other library settings, &c. 11: Everything was best in its turn. 12: Museums -- huge variety of materials covered and exposed, brilliant for comparing binding types, understanding terminology and vocabulary in context. Labs -- extremely instructive, build confidence. TB's anecdotes inserted into very interesting and informative lectures. 13: The staff. 14: The amount of knowledge learned at all levels.

8) How could the course as a whole have been improved?

1: 1. Having samples of "normal" books available the first night of homework or as Museum display. 2. Suggesting that TB's article be read before any of the other materials when reading the preliminary Bowers, &c. 3. Having the relationships between Gaskell, Bowers, &c., explained earlier in the course -- it was helpful to see the discrepancies between their methods. 2: I do think it's very intelligently laid out, and presented, just as is. I never got to see a couple of videos I wanted to see -- the lunchtime showings were a problem (especially with the Pavilion closed, and no next-door lunch place). 3: Although it may well fall under the category of being a "wimp," an abbreviated outline of Bowers would be valuable. 4: I think it is fine the way it is. It's very well-planned and well-run. 5: At times I was frustrated when we would learn about the norms of say, collation, but there were few examples to back them up and reinforce the concepts. Every book was full of exceptions, and once I thought I understood, the next night's books had even wilder exceptions. Of course, adding "normal" books would add time that we don't necessarily have. Also, I can see that this teaches a valuable lesson. In the real world there are probably more exceptions to the rule than not. Also, that one must and will continue to learn. Complacency will not lead to anything of value. 6: There was so much pressure to accomplish the homework that I was unable to participate in the many extra-curricular opportunities at noon and in the evenings. Either there were too many books to work with each night, or we should have been told to work more than _ # of hours. I found an hour of work per book was my norm. An additional 5-6 hours of work each day spent this way limited other things I could have learned this week. 7: Sorry, no ideas here. 8: Nothing comes to mind. It's clear that you have been revising the course over the years and it's great. 9: If there was some way to reduce the homework load, the class would be much less stressful. 10: Nothing I can think of. 12: The course, as a whole, was excellent; very well-structured and balanced between theory and practice. It would have been useful to have a more detailed lecture on bindings in particular, and possibly tailor some of the labs to providing/discussing trade catalogue descriptions. 13: From my lonely point of view I would have benefitted from a lab or labs where we practiced cataloguing specific to my needs; i.e. take a catalogue with the type of exposition I am expected to produce -- and a selection of tricky books for instance, with elaborate bindings, and work through them with a real pro like DW. I expect many of the students' needs vary somewhat. In my case I could have brought some Christie's catalogues, and done some sessions in that style. That would have made the course even more useful, but I am pleased with all I learned. 14: Make it last a semester!

9) Please comment on the quality/enjoyability of the various RBS activities in which you took part outside of class (e.g. Sunday afternoon tour, Sunday night dinner, Video Night, evening lectures, Tuesday evening Bookseller Night, Study Night, hand-press printing demonstrations, Rotunda exhibition, &c.).

1: I would suggest removing The Paper Growth Cycle video from the lot. The rest of the videos were fairly informative. The lecture (Greer Allen's) was WONDERFUL. 2: I didn't have time for too many activities (DesBib = Boot Camp), but the hand-press demo by Terry Chouinard was wonderful, the tour was very helpful, the dinner very pleasant (despite seating shortage). 3: Evening lecture and Sunday night dinner were a positive feature. In this course, every night is study night. 4: The Sunday night dinner was a nice way to meet everyone in RBS. The hand-press printing demonstration made some aspects that were still a little fuzzy about the printing process much clearer. The Rotunda exhibition was interesting, although I must admit I spent more time on the Rotunda itself. 5: GA's lecture on the illustrations was excellent. Bookseller Night was definitely interesting, though it cut into my homework. I thoroughly enjoyed the hand-press demonstration. Likewise the Rotunda exhibition. All in all there was far more to do than I could keep up with. 6: Sunday night activities were a gracious introduction to RBS, and my spouse was truly welcomed. 7: Sunday afternoon tour was essential for me; perhaps some hints for those not familiar with the USA would have been good (e.g. where do you buy international postage stamps here?) 8: The hand-press printing demo was really great -- I have never seen one, so it put the printed sheets we've been working with into context. 9: I didn't take advantage of many evening activities because of homework. The lecture was very enjoyable, as were the hand-press printing demonstration and Rotunda exhibit. 10: I thought the hand-press demo was great. It should be incorporated into the class. 11: I was quite tired by the demands of the course, and extra-curricular activities in mid-week were a bit much. Exceptions were dinner and superb lecture. 12: Very enjoyable. 13: Excellent. 14: The activities were enjoyable, but I wish everyone would have participated as a group or small groups.

10) Any final thoughts? Did you get your money's worth?

1: As I have read in previous evaluations, do the homework, every night. Read all the materials before coming -- reading more of Gaskell on the process of printing would also help. Definitely got my money's worth. 2: I am utterly satisfied -- an excellent investment of my time, and I'm so glad this place exists! Thank you, TB, and thanks, JB! 3: The more time spent reviewing Gaskell and Bowers' textbooks, the more one will got out of the course if this is done prior to the course. I did get my money's worth and then some. 4: Make sure to do the reading before arrival; it is essential. Definitely worth the money. 5: Thank you for all the great effort you put into this course. I most certainly got my money's worth. I would advise anyone taking the course in the future to read all of the advance material two or three times instead of once. Also to be willing to learn from their mistakes. 6: Come early and stay late. This is a rare opportunity to meet people with your own interests. Next time I'll bring walking shoes and a larger book bag. 7: The whole experience was wonderful. 8: Definitely [got my money's worth]. And many thanks to you all for making the week so useful and enjoyable. 9: I feel certain my institution got its money's worth. My advice to those coming into the class would be to read and re-read Bowers. 10: Yes. I got my money's worth. Come prepared! Read Bowers. It's a week of hard work but GREAT! 11: Take this course as soon as you can if you seriously want to learn about the book as object, and all that follows from that. 12: Absolutely [got my money's worth]. I would definitely recommend this course and advise in-depth pre-reading in order to got the most from it. 13: Absolutely [got my money's worth]. 14: Descriptive Bibliography should be a required course for any beginning rare book librarian; otherwise there is no sound and stable basis for their career.

Number of respondents: 14


Leave Tuition Housing Travel
Institution gave me leave Institution paid tuition Institution paid housing Institution paid travel
79% 79% 79% 79%
I took vacation time I paid tuition myself I paid for my own housing I paid my own travel
7% 21% 21% 21%
N/A: self-employed, retired, or had summers off N/A: self-employed, retired, or exchange N/A: stayed with friends or lived at home N/A: lived nearby
14% 0% 0% 0%

There were six rare book librarians (44%), two archivist/manuscript librarians (14%), two auction house employees (14%), one general librarian with no rare book duties, one antiquarian bookseller, one book collector and one other (7% each).

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