Books as Bridges

A one-hour panel discussion sponsored by RBS followed by 15 minutes of Q&A held on Tuesday, 23 June 2020, 4–5:15 p.m. ET, via Zoom.

Rare Book School draws together many people from across the United States and around the world who are passionate about books, manuscripts, and cultural heritage. One of the great joys of attending a Rare Book School course is having the chance to learn from individuals from all walks of life who share this common interest.

On Tuesday, 23 June, Rare Book School hosted a conversation that built on the kind of lively discussions that take place during RBS course weeks  with Krystal Appiah (Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library), Mark Dimunation (Library of Congress), Selby Kiffer (Sotheby’s), and Rebecca Romney (Type Punch Matrix). These four well-known figures from our community talked about rare books and artifacts with a wide variety of publics in various settings and across different media, including public television. The panel focused on how rare books and artifacts serve as bridges connecting individuals, communities, and institutions with each other and with the past. Panelists also reflected on the challenges of moving from in-person outreach to online venues for public engagement. The panel was co-moderated by Laura Perrings and Ruth-Ellen St. Onge (Rare Book School).

Follow the conversation on social media using hashtags #RBSOnline and #BooksAsBridges.

This panel discussion was presented live in June 2020. You are invited to watch the recording of the event below via our RBS YouTube channel. 


Krystal Appiah, Librarian II, teaches and coordinates instruction for the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, University of Virginia. Before joining UVA in 2017, she was the Curator of African American History and a Reference Librarian at the Library Company of Philadelphia where her responsibilities included providing reference and instruction services to fellows and visiting classes, promoting the use of the African Americana Collection, and coordinating the Mellon Scholars Program of fellowships and internships. She previously worked at the Maryland State Archives as a research archivist in the Legacy of Slavery in Maryland program.

Mark Dimunation has been Chief of the Rare Book and Special Collections Division of the Library of Congress since 1998. He is a past chair of the Rare Books & Manuscripts Section of the American College and Research Libraries, a division of the American Library Association. He is nearing completion of an extensive project to reconstruct Thomas Jefferson’s Library at the Library of Congress. In addition to RBS, he is currently on the faculty at The Catholic University. He is a member of The Grolier Club and is a Fellow of the American Antiquarian Society.

Selby Kiffer joined Sotheby’s in 1984. He has played a role in the discovery (or rediscovery) of several bibliographical treasures, including: three previously unrecorded copies of the Dunlap broadside of the Declaration of Independence; a lost fragment of the autograph manuscript of Abraham Lincoln’s 1858 “House Divided” speech; the first half of the autograph manuscript of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn; and four early notebooks of Walt Whitman, which had been missing from the Library of Congress for more than fifty years.

Rebecca Romney is co-founder of Type Punch Matrix, a rare book firm based in the Washington, DC area. She has published a book on books for a popular history audience, Printer’s Error: Irreverent Stories from Book History (HarperCollins, 2017; with JP Romney). Since 2011, she has appeared as the rare book specialist on the HISTORY Channel’s show Pawn Stars; in 2019, she was featured in The Booksellers, a documentary about the New York antiquarian book trade. She is co-founder of the Honey & Wax Book Collecting Prize.


Ruth-Ellen St. Onge (MISt, Ph.D.) is Associate Curator & Special Collections Librarian at Rare Book School. She is the Past President of the Bibliographical Society of Canada and Interim Editor of the Papers of the Bibliographical Society of Canada. Ruth-Ellen also currently serves on the Board of the Fine Press Book Association.

Laura Perrings is the Director of Programs & Education at Rare Book School in Charlottesville, Virginia. She holds an MLIS from Kent State University as well as a Ph.D. in English Literature from Texas A&M University, specializing in Victorian fiction. Strongly believing in the mission of Rare Book School, Laura loves bringing together students and instructors to build a strong and collegial community centered around the study of books and cultural heritage.