This page contains answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about Rare Book School.

Open All
Close All
  • General Information

      1. Does RBS offer online courses?
        Yes, RBS offers a range of online courses. Our Course Schedule details our current and upcoming offerings.
      2. How much does it cost to come to RBS?
        See the Program Costs section on our website for more information about estimating expenses.
      3. Does RBS offer course credit?
        No. RBS itself does not offer formal academic or continuing education credit for its courses, in part because our faculty members cannot provide individual assessments for attendees. Because of the high reputation of the program, however, some degree-granting institutions and professional associations will arrange for credit for RBS courses. Contact your own institution or association with questions about arranging to receive credit for an RBS course. Students do receive a certificate of completion at the end of the RBS week, stating that admission to RBS courses (which typically meet for a total of about 30 contact hours over a five-day period) is competitive. Students may obtain a Rare Book School Certificate of Proficiency by successfully completing five RBS courses within an eight-year period.
      4. Who comes to RBS?
        RBS attracts a diverse student body that includes academics, antiquarian booksellers, book collectors, bookbinders, conservators, curators, rare book librarians, teachers, and professional and avocational students of the history of books and printing. Some courses are primarily intended for particular constituencies (for example, professional rare book catalogers, or private collectors). While the average RBS student is a mid-career professional, in recent years attendees have increasingly included graduate students as well as exceptionally talented high school and undergraduate students.
      5. What are the prerequisites for taking RBS courses? Do I need to be a librarian or have a degree?
        For most courses a genuine interest and commitment to the subject is sufficient; however, some advanced courses require additional experience. Consult individual course descriptions for more information.
      6. How many students are in an RBS course?
        In-person courses are limited to twelve students. One notable exception is Introduction to the Principles of Bibliographical Description (G-10), which uses a team of instructors (the average faculty: student ratio in this course is 1:4). Online courses will typically enroll up to 23 students with a few exceptions. Each year, the total possible enrollment figure may depend on a number of variables, including the seating capacity of available classrooms, the availability of lab instructors, and evolving instructor/RBS staff requirements and preferences.
      7. What is the program structure?
        RBS provides intensive training over five consecutive days. Students taking in-person courses make a full-time commitment to any course they attend, from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, with breaks (one 90-minute lunch and two 30-minute mid-morning and mid-afternoon breaks each day), for a total of between 28 and 30 contact hours in all. Attendance at RBS evening public lectures and other events is optional. Students taking online courses will commit to the schedule set out for their specific courses from Monday through Friday. The typical schedule will be for 22-hour classes to meet from 11:00 a.m. through 5:00 p.m. ET. Shorter online courses have more variable schedules, which will be announced in the Information Guides.
      8. Can I leave an RBS class early?
        No. If, after being accepted into an RBS class, you find that your plans change and you can no longer meet the requirement to attend all classes from Monday morning through Friday afternoon, we ask that you cancel or postpone your enrollment until another year. Online courses will meet synchronously, and students should be present through all course sessions.
      9. Can I audit a class?
        No. Because of the desirability of small student size in classes where a great deal of material is routinely examined, we never allow auditors in RBS courses.
      10. How does RBS address discrimination and/or harassment?
        See our Statement of Values & Code of Conduct. RBS also requires that all of its faculty, staff, students, and guests abide by the University of Virginia’s policy for preventing and addressing discrimination and harassment. The University’s policy appears at http://eocr.virginia.edu/policies.
      11. What are RBS policies on privacy and information security?
        See our Privacy & Information Practices Policy . We also use MailChimp to generate electronic communications to members of our mailing list; you can find MailChimp’s privacy policy at the website of its parent company, Intuit.
      12. Can you give me the email address of a faculty member?
        RBS faculty members are working professionals who are only in residence during the week they are teaching. Many of our instructors are easily found online at their home institutions. If you are unable to reach an instructor after first contacting their home institution, we can forward your message. We do not give out email addresses of faculty members.
      13. Does RBS offer appraisals?
        No. A useful place to begin the investigation of a particular book of potential rarity and/or value is the Your Old Books guide, published by the Rare Book & Manuscripts Section of the Association of College & Research Libraries, a division of the American Library Association. This guide addresses some frequently asked questions about rare and older books and their values; an appendix lists online and print resources for more information on the questions covered. If you are interested in donating an item or collection to RBS, please contact the Curator of Collections.
      14. Where did the RBS lion come from?
        The RBS lion is derived from an early nineteenth-century English watermark, but with many Continental ancestors. The RBS lion made its first appearance on an RBS publication in 1984. See “The Story of the RBS Lions” for a thorough history.
      15. What is RBS’s street address?
        For deliveries requiring a street address, you may use “Rare Book School, University of Virginia, 160 McCormick Road, Charlottesville, VA, 22904” (i.e., omit the usual post office box 400103).
      16. What is RBS’s federal tax ID number?
  • Course Offerings and Timelines

      1. How often are courses offered?
        The current schedule lists courses offered in any given year; a list of all RBS courses can be found on the Course Descriptions page. Many courses are offered on an annual or bi-annual basis, while others are offered on a less regular schedule. In general, courses missing from the schedule this year may be expected with some (though not complete) confidence to reappear in the schedule in the next few years. If you have questions about a specific course, please email rbsprograms@virginia.edu.
      2. When will the course schedule be available?
        The summer schedule is usually posted in early November. Courses offered at other times throughout the year are announced at least four months before a course begins.
      3. Do you accept suggestions for new courses?
        Yes. A successful course requires extensive materials, one or more experienced faculty members, and an audience. If you have a suggestion for a new course (and—equally important—a person who could teach it), please contact the Director of Programs & Education.
  • Course Applications & Admissions

      1. When are applications posted?
        Online applications are generally available no later than five months before a course begins. Watch the RBS website, Facebook, or Twitter feeds for announcements, or sign up for the RBS email list.
      2. When should I submit my application? What is the application deadline?
        RBS has rolling admissions decisions. We encourage you to apply early. To be considered for the first round of admissions decisions for summer courses, submit your application for summer courses by the first round deadline (see the Course Schedule page); after that date, applications are accepted until each course has reached enrolled capacity. Application deadlines for fall and winter courses will be included in the announcement for each session. If the red “Apply Now” button is present on a Course Description page, we are still accepting applications for that course.
      3. Can I apply to more than one course?
        Yes, although you cannot attend two courses in the same week. If you do apply for more than one course, you will need to submit separate applications for each course to which you wish to apply. Please indicate which course is your first choice when applying, as well as how many courses you would attend if offered admission. Applications will be released singly to faculty for consideration according to the applicant’s preference order, unless you intend to take—and pay for—two or more courses. Bear in mind that admission to RBS courses is competitive and many courses have waiting lists; you may want to contact RBS Programs staff at rbsprograms@virginia.edu about your strategy in applying for certain courses which tend to fill quickly.
      4. Who determines admission for courses? What is the likelihood I will be admitted off the waitlist?
        All admissions decisions are made by faculty members, based primarily on the applicants’ personal statements. Invariably, there are many more qualified applicants than there are spaces. Some qualified students may be placed on a waitlist. If for any reason an admitted student is unable to attend, the instructor(s) will make a selection from the applicant pool, which will include those students on the original waitlist as well as any additional applicants. In our experience, it is uncommon for an offer of admission to be declined, or for a student to withdraw. We encourage those on the waitlist to email rbsprograms@virginia.edu for advice in applying for alternatives. If you wish to apply to another course, you will need to submit a separate application. We cannot hold your application for future years.
      5. Can you tell me which RBS courses still have space available?
        If the red “Apply Now” button is present on a Course Description page, we are still accepting applications for that course. However, admission to RBS courses is by competitive application, so the availability of space does not guarantee admission. If you have been waitlisted for a course, or are unsure about which course to take, please contact rbsprograms@virginia.edu for suggestions.
      6. I’m having trouble submitting an online application; is it possible to receive a hard copy?
        No. If you are experiencing trouble with the myRBS system, please contact rbsprograms@virginia.edu.
      7. Can I submit additional material along with my application?
        A résumé or curriculum vitae may substitute for the professional and work experience portion of the RBS application. Faculty do not require or make evaluations based on letters of reference, certifications, and other supplementary material unless specifically requested in the course description (e.g., samples of cataloging records).
      8. What is a personal statement? What is it for? Who reads them?
        Applications to all Rare Book School courses require you to compose a personal statement—a document intended to give applicants the opportunity to explain details that are distinctive to their lives and work, and that might help set them apart from other applicants. RBS faculty member(s) are responsible for reading and evaluating all personal statements from applicants to their courses.
      9. How do I write a personal statement? What should it look like?
        A personal statement is not like a C.V. A good personal statement is specifically tailored to the strengths of the individual and the demands of the application. We ask that your personal statement be roughly one page, single spaced and address the following points: What is your background? What interests, experience, skills, goals, etc. might make you a strong candidate for the course? Why do you need this specific course/how would this specific class help you—and why now? What do you bring to this course and the RBS community? How will you use/share what you have learned? Additionally, please be sure to address any questions listed in the course description for the course(s) to which you are applying.
      10. To whom should I address my personal statement?
        The primary reader of your personal statement will be the course instructor.
      11. Did you receive my application?
        Applications that have been successfully completed will be acknowledged with an email upon submission and will have a status of “Submitted” on myRBS. If your application has a status that reads “In Progress,” it has not been successfully completed. If you do not receive an email, but your application status reads “Submitted,” please contact rbsprograms@virginia.edu for a copy of the email you should have received.
  • Using myRBS

      1. How can I create a new account?
        Visit our myRBS user registration page and follow one of these three steps:

        • If you are applying to RBS for the first time, simply enter your name and email address to create an account.
        • To connect to a pre-existing account from our old myRBS system, check the box indicating that you wish to reclaim that old account. Then enter your name and any email address that you might have entered into your old myRBS profile. The system will attempt to connect you to your account. If no such email address is found, a new, blank account will automatically generate for you; please make sure to fill out email, phone, and address information. RBS staff will then manually match and merge your two user accounts within 48 hours, retaining the new email address you entered as your login. Components of your personal data, such as course history and any past scholarships or fellowships, may not appear in your account right away, but they will be made available within the next few weeks.
        • If you no longer have access to the email address linked to your old myRBS profile, enter the new email that you would like to use for your login and check the box indicating that you have a pre-existing account. The system will generate a new account for you and flag it as one that needs to be merged with a pre-existing account. Please make sure to fill out email, phone, and address information so that RBS staff can use it to match and merge your user accounts.
      2. How can I log into an existing account?
        Returning myRBS users should visit the login page.
      3. I’ve encountered an issue, typo, or other problem with myRBS. How can I report it, or give you suggestions for improving the system?
        Please email rbsprograms@virginia.edu with all feedback. We appreciate your taking the time to do so!
  • Certificate Program

      1. How can I join the RBS Certificate of Proficiency Program?
        Prospective students should complete a Certificate of Proficiency Proposal.
      2. Can my former RBS classes count toward my certificate?
        Yes, so long as all of the courses counted toward the certificate are attended within the required eight-year period. This means that a student completing a certificate in 2023 can apply courses to the certificate from 2016 and on (but not before 2016), a student completing a certificate in 2022 can apply courses going back to 2015, and so on. Due to the cancellation of Summer 2020 courses, all Certificate applicants impacted by the cancellation have an extra year to complete their five applicable courses.
      3. If I’ve already taken the five courses within the last eight years, can I get a certificate?
        Yes, so long as the courses fulfill the requirements for one of the programs outlined on the Certificate of Proficiency page.
      4. Can the same course count towards two certificates?
        No; you cannot “recycle” courses for multiple certificates. Students who have concerns about meeting specific requirements should contact and consult with Programs staff at rbsprograms@virginia.edu.
  • Scholarships & Fellowships

      1. Do you offer scholarships?
        Yes. The Scholarships page provides more details. See especially the Scholarship Terms & Conditions page.
      2. What types of courses do RBS scholarships and fellowships cover?
        RBS-awarded scholarships and fellowships may be redeemed for in-person or online courses. A single scholarship or fellowship award may be redeemed for one in-person course, one 22-hour online course, or two 12-hour online courses within the same year, or three 6-hour courses, or a combination of one 12-hour and two 6-hour courses (partial awards may not be carried over to the second year). For more information, please contact rbs_scholarships@virginia.edu or your RBS-awarded scholarship or fellowship administrator directly.
      3. How many scholarships does RBS award annually?
        The number of scholarships awarded each year varies depending on the funding available. In recent years, RBS has been able to award between 20 and 40 full-tuition scholarships a year, thanks to support from many partner organizations, as well as annual support from the Friends of Rare Book School.
      4. When will the current scholarship application form be available?
        The scholarship application is posted on the Scholarships page by early October, with a 1 November application deadline.
      5. Do I need to pay to submit a scholarship application?
        Absolutely not. Please note that the application links will route you to Interfolio, where you will be asked to create a free account in order to complete the application. If you have any trouble creating a free Interfolio account, please contact the Interfolio support line at 877-997-8807, and they’ll be happy to help. If at any time you or those writing letters of recommendation for you are asked to make a payment, contact Interfolio Support at 877-997-8807. You do not have to pay to submit an application for any RBS-awarded scholarship or fellowship.
      6. How do you determine who receives a scholarship?
        The Scholarship Committee gives special consideration to applicants at the beginning of their professional careers, or who represent under-served communities (or whose institutions do so). The William T. Buice III Scholarships are intended for returning RBS students with demonstrable financial need, with preference given to applicants from small institutions and those serving underrepresented populations.
      7. How soon can I use my scholarship?
        Scholarships are awarded and take effect in early January, and are redeemable for two calendar years. Do not apply for a course with the hope that you will be awarded a scholarship to pay for it.
      8. Can I use my scholarship at a related institute (e.g., California Rare Book School, London Rare Books School, &c.)? RBS scholarships are not valid for courses administered by related programs or organizations. You can, however, redeem your scholarship for a course offered by RBS outside of Charlottesville (e.g., in New York City, Philadelphia, New Haven, or Washington, DC).
      9. If I have a scholarship, do I need to pay a deposit?
        No. Your scholarship covers both deposit and tuition for the course(s) you are attending.
      10. If I am unable to use my scholarship, can you extend it to another year?
        Scholarship recipients must claim their awards within two years of the award (generally December of a given year). If you are unable to use your award within that period, please reapply in a later year, explaining the circumstances of why you were unable to use your original award. Because of the high demand for scholarships, we are unable to issue extensions.
      11. How do I apply for a fellowship?
        Please visit the Fellowships page for information about fellowship opportunities at RBS. Applications for the Goldschmidt and Reese Fellowships are by invitation only.
  • After you’ve been admitted...

      1. I haven’t received my admission email. How do I receive it?
        Often when applicants do not receive their admission emails it is because the emails have been misdirected to a SPAM folder. Regardless of whether you have received an emailed offer, you may log into your myRBS profile and navigate to the application of interest to check your application status. If you have been admitted, you will see buttons allowing you to “Accept” or “Decline” your offer of admission.
      2. How do I accept my offer of admission? How do I pay my deposit?
        Please login to your myRBS profile, navigate to your application, and click “Accept”. Once the system registers your acceptance it will display a “Pay Invoice” button and will also send you an email with further instructions. The payment process will present you with options to pay electronically or by paper check; redeem scholarship or fellowship awards (in lieu of deposit and tuition payments); apply any tuition credits you may have; or generate an invoice to be sent to a third party (such as your institution) who intends to pay tuition on your behalf.
      3. My institution intends to pay for all or part of my course tuition. What should I do?
        Please login to your myRBS profile, navigate to your application, and click the “Pay Invoice” button. Select the institutional (or third-party) payment option, then enter an institutional contact name and email address to generate an email invoice for your institution. Your institutional contact will be sent instructions on how to pay your invoice.
      4. When is the deposit due? When is payment in full (i.e., less my deposit) due?
        The nonrefundable deposit is due two weeks after you are emailed an offer of admission to a course. The balance of your tuition is due thirty days before your course begins. If you have a scholarship or fellowship, it will be available to you as a payment option (covering both deposit and tuition) when you visit your RBS course application and click the “Pay Invoice” button in myRBS.
      5. Can you send me a receipt?
        An electronic receipt will be emailed to you once your payment has been received and processed. If you need a more detailed receipt for accounting purposes, please contact our finance team.
      6. If I cannot attend, will RBS issue a refund?
        Your $250 deposit is non-refundable. The remaining part of your tuition is refundable so long as you let us know at least thirty days before the start date of the course.
      7. What is the best way to get to Charlottesville? Where should I stay?
        RBS has created an Information Guide to help you in making these decisions. See also our Program Costs page
      8. What should I bring with me to class?
        RBS participants are encouraged to come to class prepared and on time. Before leaving home, check the Information Guide and your online course description for specific instructions on what to bring. It is not always necessary to bring copies of your advance reading, so be sure to refer to the course information on the RBS website. Additionally, you may find it helpful to read previous course evaluations for information about what to expect.
      9. When do I need to arrive for an RBS course?
        RBS sessions in Charlottesville begin on Sundays at 5 p.m. with student registration. Students will have their photos taken for the RBS bulletin board, and will receive the Student’s Vade Mecum and their name badge. This is followed by an opening reception and the Director’s Welcome at 6 p.m. If travel delays prevent your attendance, you must register on the second floor of Edgar Shannon Library (formerly Alderman Library) at 8 a.m. Monday. On the first day, RBS will announce classroom assignments and a member of the RBS staff will lead students to their classes. N.B.: Courses outside Charlottesville may have slightly different start times; consult the Information Guide for details.
      10. What should I wear?
        At RBS, dress is informal for all events. All RBS classrooms and other spaces are well heated and/or air-conditioned; however, if you chill easily under refrigeration, bring a sweater.
      11. What happens during the RBS week?
        The Information Guide provides a day-by-day look at the RBS weekly schedule.
      12. I’m supposed to order a DVD. How do I get it?
        If you are in courses G-10 or G-20, part of your course preparation involves watching the DVD The Anatomy of a Book: Part I: Format in the Hand-Press Period. You can purchase the DVD and accompanying materials for $45 via the RBS store. You can also watch the video on YouTube and purchase the workbook and facsimile sheets separately via the RBS store.