Michael F. Suarez, S.J.

H-90: Teaching the History of the Book

13-17 June 2011


1)      How useful were the pre-course readings? (Leave blank if you applied and were accepted late for the course, and thus did not get the list in time.)


1: The readings were very useful. Without them I would not have been able to understand all of the concepts in the course. 2: They were very useful in providing a ground and focus for the course. By this I mean: first, they focused my own thoughts on a body of work that I do not often work with and second, in my reaction to them, I got a sense of knowing which approaches to the subject were more or less to my liking. 3: Very useful but I wish we had discussed them more. 4: Quite useful; probably would have been even more so if I hadn't signed up late and had to read them all in the space of four weeks! 5: Very useful. 6: Useful, but possibly too many. 7: The readings were not particularly useful to me in a direct sense, but only because I was fairly well acquainted with them. That said, it was great to revisit them. 8: Very useful. 9: Very useful; I read all of the required texts and many of the additional ones to prepare. I think it really set the tone for the week. 10: On a one to ten scale, I would give it a six. 11: Very. They introduced topics that were relevant and necessary. 12: Very, although I didn't have time to read everything ahead of time due to other obligations. They were a bit more extensive than I had anticipated. 13: The readings were very useful, including the recommended lists. I was able to think about what texts would be most teachable, while learning a lot (and prepping for the class) in the process. 14: They were very useful. I haven't been thinking in book history terms recently, so they definitely prepared me for this course. 15: The readings were useful as an intellectual orientation to the issues in the course. 16: Extremely. Set the stage nicely for both big issue and small detail discussions. 17: The pre-course readings were helpful, but we did not discuss them at length. 18: Pre-course readings were useful in providing a background and baseline. We spent very little time discussing the details of the reading, but I'm still happy to have read and purchased the books.


2)     Were the course syllabus and other materials distributed in class appropriate and useful (or will they be so in the future, after you return home)? 


1: Oh God yes. The course workbook is full of material that I will need to spend a great amount of time reading and re-reading. 2: Yes, yes, yes. There is so much that may be useful! 3: Yes, yes, yes, yes! 4: Yes, very useful, especially in future development of course proposals and syllabi. 5: After "walking through" the workbook with the professor, it proved to be very useful for future teaching. 6: Yes, and I can see them being even more useful once I've had a chance to look through them all more carefully. 7: Amazingly useful! I can't express how helpful it is, especially in terms of course design. 8: Unbelievable! I dare say the flash drive with the plethora of resources alone was worth the tuition. 9: Yes. However, a short print workbook would also be useful—I got tired of lugging my laptop around constantly. 10: Yes. Very useful as a resource to have. 11: Yes. I will use them to design a course for first-year students on the history of the book. 12: The course packet is worth the price of the class, virtually in and of itself: 1500 pages delivered on flash drive that will be useful for years to come. Thank you! 13: YES! The workbook is a treasure, and I will probably use it forever. 14: The workbook is an amazing resource that I will definitely use in my future work. 15: Yes, these materials will help me tremendously in revising my courses. 16: 1500 pages of material, so we didn't get through all of it. But MFS did walk through much of it with us to point out possible uses. It will be an amazing resource in future. 17: Yes, extremely helpful. I will use the flash drive for my future pedagogical projects. 18: Yes, it appears to be an absolute treasure trove of material that I plan to exploit mercilessly in my future teaching.


3)     What aspects of the course content were of the greatest interest or relevance for your purposes? Was the intellectual level of the course appropriate?


1: Everything, the exercise with looking at the poem gave me an idea for how to look at documents in the same manner. 2: Intellectual level was very appropriate. Specific ways/examples of teaching were very relevant. 3: Exercises that we can adapt/reproduce; hearing about the variety of ways history of the book is/was/will be taught by classmates; seeing/discussing syllabi; references to secondary readings from MFS. 4: I thought the course struck a good balance between practical and theoretical. I liked both the discussions of very specific pedagogical strategies and the much broader conversations about placing our proposed courses in an intellectual and academic framework. 5: Highly appropriate. For me the greatest interest and relevance were in the bibliographical aspects of the course. 6: The pairing idea was something that hadn't occurred to me and I think that I will use. The approach to the examples from the collection is something I will use. 7: Yes, the intellectual level was broadly appropriate, especially taking into account the different kinds of students. I particularly enjoyed learning the perspectives of the special collections librarians. 8: Greatest relevance: object encounters; review of syllabi. Intellectual level was high, completely appropriate. 9: The pedagogical strategies. I'm going to adapt several of the exercises for use in my own teaching. 10: Syllabus examination. The intellectual level was good. 11: Hands-on, fluid approach that's flexible to the chemistry of the class. 12: Intellectual level was appropriate, although there were differing levels of expertise in the class. It was almost all new to me, and I particularly enjoyed the visits to special collections. 13: The course was equal parts challenging and rewarding. Energetic discussion among members of the class added an even greater dimension of excitement and depth to MFS's content. 14: The intellectual level of the course was very appropriate. I learned a lot that is relevant to the kind of work I want to do. 15: The most useful elements of the course were the pedagogical modeling of how to think about teaching book history issues and special collections visits. 16: Appropriate level. All of it was of interest and relevance. 17: Discussions on how to conduct, materials needed, procurement were very relevant. Using gorgeous rare books was icing on the cake. 18: The more we discussed multiple approaches to teaching and presenting material, the more ideas of my own were sparked.


4)    What did you like best about the course?


1: Now, I think that that I have the tools and most of the courage to share what I've learned here. 2: MFS is a treasure of almost unfathomable expertise. The comments discussion from the class participants was very rich and extremely useful and thought provoking. 3: Tenor of class—fun, open; bibliographic review; workbook—wow; other students. 4: I liked the fact that MFS was responsive to specific needs and interests of class members while maintaining a focus on core ideas and priorities. 5: All of it. 6: The caliber of the other students was inspiring, as was the instructor's enthusiasm. 7: MFS! Experiencing his inimitable style has been beyond inspiring. It's something that goes beyond pedagogy. Amazing! 8: Hearing MFS's ideas about the nature of the discipline. The wealth and diversity of what classmates brought to the table. 9: The exercises and group discussion. The variety of viewpoints from the participants was stimulating and noteworthy, and added as much again to the rest of the course materials. 10: The open discussion of various topics. 11: Its open and approachable expert instructor, who is a storehouse of knowledge! 12: MFS is a phenomenal lecturer, and the students in the class were great, so we had great discussions. 13: Discussions about building a teaching exercise; exercises in "reading" different books for material narratives; watching the Pedlar Lady and the discussion that followed; most of all—MFS's deeply passionate and motivating lectures. 14: The instructor's enthusiasm and passion for the subject matter is fantastic. And how generous everyone is at RBS, both with their time and their course materials. 15: The insights into how to present rare book/history of the book issues to undergraduates. 16: Free-flow of ideas. 17: I enjoyed the theoretical discussions about book history. I am a graduate student, my class colleagues were giants in their professions. 18: MFS's boundless knowledge, enthusiasm, and love for books, literature, and history. He is a generous teacher and someone to be emulated.


5)     Did the instructor(s) successfully help you to acquire the information and skills that the course was intended to convey?


1-2: Yes. 3: I think it's very hard to teach about/towards pedagogical skills that will be applied to such a wide range of contexts (discipline variety, term/session variety, &c.) So, yes, and though it didn't always match my exact needs, I could recognize that it was at times aimed at others' needs. 5-6: Yes. 7: Yes, no question. 8: The instructor is so knowledgeable, thoughtful, and kind—a superb teacher. 9: Yes, infinitely! 10: Yes. 11: Absolutely. 12: Yes! 13: Yes. I wanted to leave with a greater sense of how to bring bibliography and book history into productive conversation. I also wanted a set of tools for conveying information to students. I am leaving with these two things and a lot more. 14-16: Yes. 17: Yes. MFS teaches and lectures with extreme enthusiasm and precision. 18: Yes.


6)     Did you learn what the course description/advertisements indicated you would learn? 


1-7: Yes. 8: Yes. The course was as described and a totally positive experience. 9-11: Yes. 12: Yes. And much more! 13: Yes. The content of the class seemed relevant across disciplines but also spoke to me on a very specific level. 14-15: Yes. 16: Yes, although the topic is so huge that at times it could be frustrating in an "I want to know everything" sense. 17-18: Yes.


7)    Did you learn what you wanted to learn in the course? Y/N                                                                                  


1: Yes. And more! 2: Yes ... and now I must "go to school." 3-6: Yes. 7: Yes. For me, there was a little too much of "Book History 101" material, but only a little too much. 8: Yes. I believe I've come away ready to construct a syllabus for a course I'll be teaching that can use the resources at my command, and my strengths effectively. 9: Yes. 10: Yes. Although this is more of a seed and a resource. 11: Yes, but I also learned it's a very complex study. 12: Yes. And much more! 13-15: Yes. 16: Yes, see above. 17: Yes. 18: Yes. More sharing of specific teaching techniques and experiences by the class would have made it even better.


8)     How do you intend to use or apply the knowledge or skills learned in this course?


1: When I get back, I will create a course with the history department. 2: I have an opportunity to work with a colleague who teaches a Book Arts class and to provide a book history component. I have come away with a sense of how I might do that. My more usual intro to special collections will also be enriched. 3: I will use them in the class I plan to teach this coming academic year that is not a straight-up History of the Book course—but I also feel inspired to find a way to teach another course in the near future that is a straight-up History of the Book course. 4: I'll be able to apply it immediately in developing an undergrad book history class for spring 2012. 5: In a possible future history of the book course. 6: I will be creating a menu of offerings for "one-offs" that can be taught from my collections and will attempt to create reading lists and suggestions for future visits. 7: Teaching of course, but also research, reading and other scholarly activities. I learned how to be a better and more effective educator, not only in book history but all subjects. 8: In a library school course and collection development. 9: I teach a number of instructor sessions and courses. I definitely want to adopt some of the ideas I learned here: teaching in pairs, Harlequins and mangas, maybe even the exercise boxes. 10: In various ways, my frame of mind about books has changed. Historiographical issues will be integrated in one of my research projects. It will help enormously in redrafting a syllabus for a book history course. 11: By teaching a history of the book course at my university. 12: I will return to my home institution and introduce a "History of the Book" course, as well as integrating approaches into my other teaching. 13: Graduate teaching and dissertation research. 14: I'm hoping to use a lot of what I learned in this course to do a better job of teaching book history, whether in semester-long courses or smaller doses. 15: Revising and expanding my book history courses and to help expand the book history program/activities at the College. 16: On a daily basis in teaching and collection development responsibilities. Also in advocacy for Special Collections on committees, &c. 17: I intend to start a bibliophilic club at the United States Military Academy at West Point. 18: Revising and teaching again a credit course I have taught in the past. Some ideas are likely to bleed over into the more general information literacy instruction I do more frequently.

9)    How could the course have been improved? If you have a suggestion for a new course (and—equally important—a person who could teach it), please contact the RBS Program Director.

1: No, actually I think MFS is the best person to teach the course. His knowledge is so fluid and vast and he's so willing to share what he knows! He empowers you to go forth and share the joy and love of knowledge. 6: Not sure. 7: See note to question seven. Very minor. 8: More discussion/thought about fitting history of the book with academia and current academic ideas. 9: More time on other kinds of instruction would have been useful. At least some reading suggestions or URLs to look at, e.g., for one-off sections for younger groups visiting the library, &c. 10: It would be good to have more structure imposed on the topics to be covered and the discussion. Similarly, it would be good to have lead questions for "students" to consider before coming to class each day. 11: Instructor could do no more—very thorough, engaging, and friendly. 12: I think we should have introduced ourselves more extensively on the first day (rather than the "favorite" book exercise). Sometimes we didn't finish what we started, or not until another day. 13: As it stands, the class was great. I think more exercises like the ones we did on the last day (Friday) could be introduced earlier to keep the pace up a bit. Hard to find anything to improve. 15: (1) additional Special Collections visits with more time in the teaching collection; (2) additional time examining/critiquing syllabi; (3) completing the bibliographical exercises as models for teaching; (4) reduce the Wednesday discussion time of individual student objectives. 16: Perhaps a bit more hands-on exercises or work with original materials. 17: I would have enjoyed more hands-on work with special collections books at the Small Library. 18: A few more "set pieces" earlier in the course (like the syllabus review) that were tied to classroom practice explicitly would have been helpful.

10)    If your course left its classroom to visit Special Collections (SC) or to make other field trips away from your classroom, was the time devoted to this purpose well spent?

1: Yes, UVA Special Collections is a wonderful department. 2: Yes, exceptionally well. This was a very important aspect of the course. 3: Very. 4-5: Yes. 6: YES. 7: Yes. 8: Yes. 9: Largely. However to some extent these visits become "show off" sessions which is its own kind of educating, but possibly not as useful in this context. That said, it did create a nice change of pace. 10: Generally yes. It would have been nice to have digital resources integrated as well as other book resources, i.e., look up the online entry in a database for some of the books then in some of the printed reference works. 11: Absolutely. 12: Yes—wonderful; even more would have been welcome. 13: Yes—Special Collections was a great experience, and all staff acted very professionally. 14: I wish we could have had more time in Special Collections, but what we did have was very well spent. 16: YES! 17: Our visits to Special Collections were outstanding and very worthwhile. 18: Very much so—great materials, great presentation.

11)    We are always concerned about the physical well-being both of the RBS teaching collections and of materials owned by UVa's Special Collections. If relevant, what suggestions do you have for the improved classroom handling of such materials used in your course this week?

1: No, I do not have any suggestions. 3: Very. 4: Instructor modeled very appropriate handling of special collections materials! 6: Less clutter on the tables. 7: None. 8: Materials were handled appropriately. 9: N/A. 10: It was fine, a good balance of safe handling and access to the material. 11-12: None. 13: No suggestions. 17: Classroom handling was adequate.

12)    If you attended the optional evening events (e.g. RBS Lecture, Video Night, RBS Forum, Booksellers' Night) were they worth attending?

1: Yes, but I would like a little more help with the Booksellers' Night. 2: The lectures were, I'm sorry to say, a bit disappointing. All else was great. 3: Yes. The lecture was not amazing but it was very [sic]. 4-6: Yes. 8: Lectures could have been stronger. 9: Both lectures were by book collectors with minimum presentation skills—a more diverse pairing, e.g., a bookseller and a collector, or some such, would have been more interesting. 10: Generally yes, also for the social dimension. 11: Yes. 12: A bit disappointing. 13: Yes. 14: I did not go to Video Night, but the other events were definitely worth attending. Especially Bob Jackson's lecture. 15: The lectures were not as intellectually satisfying as I had hoped. Booksellers' Night was very enjoyable. It might have been nice to have a panel discussion or brief evening presentation by other teachers to get a taste of their courses. 16: Yes! 17: Yes, but there should be an hour break between class ending and lecture beginning (personal admin time).

13)    Did you get your (or your institutions) money's worth? Any final or summary thoughts, or advice for other persons considering taking this course in a future year?

1: OH Yes. I am truly moved and humbled by my experiences here at RBS. 2: Yes!! 3-4: Yes. 5: Definitely. 6: Yes. 7: Yes! 8: Totally worth the expense. 9: Yes. Advice: do the reading, it is so worth it! 10: Yes. 11: Yes. This is the course to learn about teaching the history of the book. MFS is a superb teacher, full of knowledge and passion. A most inspirational chap. 12: Yes, absolutely; a smaller class might be better next time around, with more balance between librarians and academics. 13: Yes. 14: Definitely got my money's worth. 15: Yes. 16: Come ready to be overwhelmed—in a very good way. 17: Yes, well worth the money. 18: Oh, hell yes.

14)    Would you recommend this course to others?

1: Yes. 2: Yes!! 3: Yes. 4: Definitely. 5-6: Yes. 7: Gladly and enthusiastically! 8-9: Yes. 10: Yes, highly. 11: Unequivocally. 12: Yes, absolutely! 13: Definitely! The value of this class extends well beyond this week. 14: In a heartbeat. 15: Yes. 16: Yes! 17: Absolutely. 18: Indeed I would.

Number of respondents: 18





Institution gave me leave




I took vacation time




N/A: self-employed, retired or had the summers off




I am self-employed

Work has nothing to do with RBS course






Institution paid tuition




Institution paid tuition ___%




I paid tuition myself




Exchange or barter




N/A: Self-employed, retired or scholarship





Institution paid housing




Institution paid for ___% of housing




I paid for my own housing




N/A: stayed with friends or lived at home







Institution paid travel




Institution paid ___% of my travel




I paid my own travel




N/A: lived nearby






There were 9 rare book librarians, 2 archivist/manuscript librarians, 1 general librarian with no rare book duties; 4 teachers/professors (Art History; English; English Literature; Medieval History), 1 Ph.D. student, and 1 M.A. student.

Where did you stay?

Brown College — 4

The Lawn — 8

Cavalier Inn — 2

Hampton Inn & Suites— 2

RBS staff housing — 1

Omni — 1