Joel Silver

63: L-25, Reference Sources for Researching Rare Books

23–27 July 2012

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.)

2: Readings were helpful. I also looked at additional sources cited in the readings. 3: Not very useful—but the course itself was brilliant. 4: Since I don't really have a rare book background the pre-course readings were helpful. 5: These were the least interesting and least useful part of the course and could have been skipped. But not a big deal since they were not especially time consuming. Something better might have been a general overview of the many practical uses of reference material. 7: The pre-course readings were helpful as to giving me an idea of what the class would focus on. 8: The pre-course readings were very helpful for someone like me who was pretty unfamiliar with the subject. The readings gave me a general understanding of the subject so I could concentrate on more important things during the actual class rather than play catch-up. 9: Readings were sparse. I am always reading in this field but did nothing extra for this course. 10: Useful but there just do not seem to be [as many] readings for this subject as for RBS courses I have taken. 11: Not terribly. Tanselle could have been limited to pp. 234–259. 12: Quite useful. 13: As JS said in the beginning of the course, there aren't many readings on the subject besides what he gave us—Tanselle's text is very dense, but good for references. 14: Useful, particularly the Tanselle piece in Book Collecting: A Modern Guide.

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

1: Workbooks were very helpful during classes and will continue to be so afterwards. 2: Yes. Even more helpful was an electronic copy, which I requested from the instructor and RBS staff. 3: Extremely useful and will continue to be. 4: VERY useful and well laid out. Definitely will use in the future. 5: Yes, very useful in class and for the future. 6: All very appropriate and useful in class and for future use. 7: I really like the materials JS provided and I will certainly use them in the future. 8: Very useful! Especially the electronic version which I think should be the distribution method in the first place so we can keyword search the list and our notes. There was so much information it's hard to find in the print version. The reproduction workbook was also very useful, especially in the future when I need to refer back to the information. 9: Yes. 10: The workbook was the best: well organized and most useful for the future. I particularly liked how space was left after each entry for notes. 11: Absolutely useful! Also we have received the text electronically, which will allow us to incorporate our notes and make the whole thing searchable. This should be done every time! (We had to ask.) 12: They will be extremely useful. Thanks for providing the electronic version of volume two. Suggestion: email the electronic version on Sunday evening or Monday morning to the members of the class, so we have it the whole week? 13: ABSOLUTELY. 14: Yes, extremely useful in class and future. Also great to have space to take notes in volume two workbook.

3) Have you taken one or more RBS courses before? If so, how did this course compare with your previous coursework?

1: I have taken a few courses previously and this was equally fine in content and delivery. 2: Yes. All were well presented and very useful. 3: Yes, this was one of the very best. 4: I've taken a total of three RBS courses. All very enjoyable. This one certainly lived up to the two previous I've taken. 5: No previous classes. 6: This was less hands-on. 7: This was my first RBS course. 8: No, this was my first course. So far, so good. 9: Yes. Instructors were always first-rate. This is the only time I've seen almost all attendees contributing. 10: Yes. As all courses taken this course was exemplary; this course could be of value to any person interested in bookish topics, i.e., all of RBS attendees. 11: Yes. Rigorous content, challenging, but no outside coursework (i.e., homework)—the ideal RBS course! 12: I have taken two courses previously. While this course may not be as "exciting" as some other RBS courses, it will be extremely useful and there is no other way I could have learned this amount of material in so short a period of time. 13: Yes; DesBib and Paleography, which both necessarily had more course work. 14: Yes. Will use information from this course more on a daily basis.

4)    What aspects of the course content were of the greatest interest or relevance for your purposes?

1: Bibliography and history of historical Americana. 2: The scope of the reference sources discussed, and the instructor's depth of knowledge. 3: The commentary on all the references cited and the wealth of relevant anecdotes. 4: Americana. Also gave me a greater appreciation for the use of bibliographies in specialized areas. 5: The sections on Americana, travel, cartography, science and medicine were of most interest, but it's all likely to be useful in the future. 6: The overall comments about reference books, i.e., that they are all related, that the books should be viewed in different contexts, like what the books say about collecting practices over time, &c. 7: The enormous amount of information and resources. 8: The Americana, book art section on bindings, paper making, and some of the British imprint section. But all could be potentially useful as I work in a manuscript repository with some rare books. 9: Discussions of the strengths and weaknesses of each source, cost of each source. 10: This course provided material directly [relevant] to 90% of what appraising is all about, i.e., determining what the book is that is the appraisal subject. 11: The sense of scope and depth of the available materials (i.e., references, bibliographies, &c.) 12: Easier to say what wasn't relevant, because so much of it was: only some of the Western history materials. 13: The handouts (practice exercises) were the most relevant—and most difficult—part of the course for me. More of those would be helpful. 14: The sources for British books to 1800s and sources for American literature.

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

1: The intellectual level was spot-on and the course met its intended purpose. 2: Yes and yes. 3: Exactly on target. 4: Yes. 5: Yes, a great deal of information was conveyed at an appropriate level. 6: Yes. Yes. 7: Yes. 8: Yes it was exactly what I expected and what I was looking for when I signed up for the class. I think the intellectual level was perfect and it kept the entire diverse class interested and I believe everyone learned something. 9: Yes/yes. 10: Yes. Yes. 11: Yes. Yes. 12: Yes. 13: Yes—JS is brilliant—but I do wish we could have practiced more research in class. 14: Yes, the instructor sorted out some very good sources to discuss from the thousands out there.

6) What did you like best about the course?

1: The instructor simply made this class, his knowledge of the subject was/is/should be listed in reference sources for researching rare books itself! 2: Finding out about reference sources that relate to my work, and hearing about how they can be best used. 3: The perfect balance of objective information and personal anecdote. 4: JS. 5: The combination of practical information with biographical details, amusing (but apropos) anecdotes, and thoughts on the academic historical value of these works, as well as the present state of collecting and the book trade. 6: JS's biographical anecdotes about the authors and compilers of the books, and personal asides really helped make a potentially dry subject a delight. 7: What I liked best was JS who managed to make dry academic matter such as reference sources sound fun and a pleasure to study. 8: JS's explanations of books, how to use them, how/why they were created and by when and whom was invaluable knowledge that will help me in the future. 9: This course will improve my business in ways I could not have figured out on my own. 10: Every aspect was only the very best. 11: JS—he's great! Scary smart, super funny, completely charming. A born teacher. 12: JS and his encyclopedic knowledge! (Sorry for the pun.) Any question that came up in class, no matter how tangential, he had a ready and intelligent answer for. 13: JS's humor and anecdotes. 14: Instructor's depth and breadth of knowledge about each source.

7) How could the course have been improved?

2: Electronic copies of workbooks provided on first day. 3: I can't imagine. 5: I would have liked a little more time in class to work on approaches to the few exercises we received, or even to have them formally assigned as homework. More exercises would be welcome as trying to apply the information makes it easier to absorb. 6: Some exercises using books. 7: I honestly cannot think of any necessary improvements. 8: I think JS recognizes the best way to really learn this completely is the use the books, but due to the broad nature of the class this is hard to do. I think some time spent by the class on actually using the books would be a benefit but you might need to break the class into more specific classes to make this happen. It's hard to squeeze everything into one week! 9: I don't know. 10: Good the way it is. 11: 1) Provide text as a Word document from day one (as well as hard copy). 2) Key the text document to the numbered pages in the illustration document. (I started doing it by hand, but not until Tuesday, and it was confusing going back—it was already hazy in my mind). 3) For at least one of the breaks, a follower or staff member should stay in the room, so we could skip the break and examine the books. If we did so during class we missed something essential JS was saying. There was no time outside of class to follow up with the books. 12: No way to cover this many resources in this amount of time without sticking closely to the schedule, but I wish we could have digressed a bit more often to hear more of JS's stories. 13: Perhaps less time covering as many sources as humanly possible, and more time using the sources. The most work I'll have to do for this course will be at home. 14: Include more online sources.

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

1: Yes, and more (and how!) 2: Yes. 3: Yes, it was much better than advertised. 4–12: Yes 13: Yes. But the course might be called "Introduction to Reference Resources" to more accurately convey the content. 14: Yes.

9)    Did you learn what you wanted to learn in the course?

1: Yes (ditto) 2–12: Yes. 13: Yes/No. This was a great course but there just isn't enough time to cover everything and practice using reference sources. I have many resources now, but using them will not be easy without practice. 14: Yes.

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

1: To ensure that what my institution acquires is what the seller describes. 2: Review the reference sources held by the library where I work and online, and use them in providing reference services. 3: In the enrichment of my catalog descriptions. 4: Hard to say. I think I'll be able to apply some in my general reference duties. Also may apply to my work with US and Virginia government documents. 5: It will apply to book cataloging and acquisition and has broadened my horizons generally. 6: I intend to use the knowledge and skills learned immediately. 7: I deal in antiquarian books and the acquired knowledge of reference materials will tremendously help my business. 8: I will bring this back to me library to help build and restructure our references and instruct other staff members on the topic. 9: I will rank the references discussed in order of importance to me, figure out what I have to buy, and buy down the list as my budget allows. 10: I will use it every day that I appraise. 11: Every day, by going out and buying some of the overviews and general introductions. 13: Cataloguing books and manuscripts for sale. 14: To create a guide to sources, with call numbers for my institution, for use of reference stake in reading room.

11)  If your made any trips away from your classroom, was the time devoted to this purpose well spent?

2: No trips. 3–6: N/A. 8–14: N/A.

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

1: Yes, part of the RBS experience. 2: I attended the lecture and forum—both very good. 3: N/A. 5: I was disappointed by both lectures, which I found disjointed and not as good as they could or should have been. Did not attend Video Night. 6: Yes! 7: Absolutely worth it. 8: I only attended the Booksellers' Night which was fun and was a good excuse to explore downtown and look at cool books. 9–10: Yes. 11: Yes. The Paper Museum was terrific. 12: Both lectures were great, especially Matthew Carter. The PBS/NOVA video was a little silly but the Barry Moser film was interesting. Booksellers' Night seems to get "thinner" every year – not much to be done about it, I'm afraid. 13: Yes. 14: Lectures were interesting and as always loved Booksellers' Night.

13)  We are always concerned about the physical well-being both of the RBS teaching  collections and of materials owned by the 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?

2: I thought handling of collection worked well. 5: N/A. 8: As we dealt entirely with reference materials I think what precautions we took were sufficient. 9: None. 10: Materials handled correctly. 11–13: N/A. 14: All materials were handled well. Book cradles would help.

14)  Did you get your (or your institutions) money's worth? Would you recommend this course to others?

1: Yes, definitely on both counts. 2: Yes and yes. 3: Yes, and yes. 4: Yes. 5: Yes, absolutely. Yes, would recommend it. 6: Yes. 7: I have already started talking with colleagues in the trade recommending that they come to RBS and take JS's class. 8: Yes, I would definitely recommend this to other reference rare book librarians. 9: Yes. 10: Yes, as always. 11: Yes/Yes. 12: Absolutely, on both counts. 13: Yes, and I would recommend the course, with the caveat that it is truly an introduction to many valuable sources. 14: Yes. Yes.

15)  Any final or summary thoughts, or advice for other persons considering taking this course in a future year? (If you have further RBS praise or concerns, or if you have suggestions for a new course, please contact Amanda Nelsen [] or Michael Suarez [].)

2: This course should be offered again. Also consider offering courses on reference sources within a subject area, such as American Literature. 4: Take it—please offer it again and again. Also, consider a similar course in just Americana, including government documents. A course in old/rare government documents (US, State, &c.). August Imholtz might be able to teach—though hard to say if there's a market for such a course. 6: Prepare to be overcome with useful material. 7: It was my great pleasure to attend RBS, and I'm looking forward to returning for more courses in the years to come. 9: Beginning and mid-level booksellers absolutely need the guidance presented here. 10: RBS must continue to offer this course. Please ask JS to return every year!! His encyclopedic knowledge is a national treasure! Really! 12: Be prepared to plow through 200–300 resources and come out at the end with a better grasp of the literature of the field as a whole. 13: Take lots of notes—JS has many valuable things to say—and ask questions, because JS knows everything. 14: I hope JS will comeback to teach this course again. It's very relevant and fills a gap in most library school programs these days.

Number of respondents: 14





Institution gave me leave


9 (64%)


I took vacation time




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


5 (36%)


I am self-employed

Work has nothing to do with RBS course





Institution paid tuition


8 (57%)


Institution paid tuition ___%




I paid tuition myself


4 (29%)


Exchange or barter




N/A: Self-employed, retired or scholarship

2 (14%)



Institution paid housing

7 (50%)


Institution paid for ___% of housing




I paid for my own housing


6 (43%)


N/A: stayed with friends or lived at home


1 (7%)





Institution paid travel

7 (50%)


Institution paid ___% of my travel




I paid my own travel


6 (43%)


N/A: lived nearby


1 (7%)





There were six antiquarian booksellers, one curator of rare books & manuscripts, one archivist, one librarian with no rare book duties, one worker in a museum or cultural institution, one librarian with some rare book duties, one other (appraiser, International Society of Appraisers), one cataloguer, and one rare book librarian


How did you hear about this course?


RBS Website

8 (57%)

Work Colleague

3 (22%)



Word of mouth

2 (14%)

RBS faculty or staff recommendation

1 (7%)





Where did you stay?

Brown College: 7 (50%)

Budget Inn: 1 (7%)

Hampton Inn & Suites: 4 (29%)

Other: 2 (14%)

Were your accommodations (and, if you used UVA Housing, your relations with Conference Services) satisfactory? How could they have been improved?

1: Quite satisfactory. 2: Yes. 3: For the price, satisfactory. 4: [The cat peed on the rug—way bad] 5: Satisfactory, if basic. 7: The staff at Conference Services were very friendly and helpful. 8: I had to leave the Budget Inn where I originally made my reservations as they had bed bugs. I moved to Red Roof Inn which was satisfactory. 9: Machinery at the Hampton can be noisy at night (refrigerator, ice machine) but at least they have damped the crashing of doors if you close them softly. 10: Yes, I stay at Dinsmore every year. 11: No. Charmless. Key trouble coming and going, noisy at night (halls) and in the morning(s). Either too cold or too hot. No reading light. But clean, and decent water pressure. 12: Very satisfactory. 13: Yes; satisfactory. The air conditioning was very nice, once I figured out the controls. But I would have preferred the Lawn!! 14: Yes, very nice, comfortable, and convenient.