Gains & Losses: COVID-19, Institutional Collecting, and the Antiquarian Book Trade

A panel discussion co-sponsored by CABS-Minnesota and RBS followed by 15 minutes of Q&A held on Tuesday, 19 May 2020, 4–5:15 p.m. ET, via Zoom

COVID-19 has changed the world as we know it, both on a large scale and locally, temporarily closing special collections and antiquarian bookshops where many of us work. While the long-term effects of the coronavirus pandemic are uncertain, antiquarian booksellers and curators are continuing to feature collections—virtually, if not physically—even while institutions make difficult decisions about current and future funding streams for maintaining and building their physical collections.

On Tuesday, May 19, Clint Fluker (Atlanta University Center Robert W. Woodruff Library), Victoria Forsberg-Lary (Cellar Stories), Heather O’Donnell (Honey & Wax Booksellers), Katherine Reagan (Cornell University), and Rob Rulon-Miller (Rulon-Miller Books) took part in a conversation about how the pandemic influences their current work in the antiquarian book trade and in special collections. Barbara Heritage (RBS) and Maria Lin (Rulon-Miller Books) co-moderated the discussion. Panelists addressed how the present pandemic compares to past events (e.g., 9/11 and the 2008 downturn), as well as how dealers and curators have been responding to and adapting to the present situation. Panelists discussed some innovative approaches for outreach that have emerged in recent weeks, as well as strategies that dealers, collectors, and curators might want to consider over the longer term.

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


Clinton Fluker is the Assistant Director of Engagement and Scholarship at the Atlanta University Center Robert W. Woodruff Library where he supervises the Archives Research Center and the GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums) Center for Collaborative Teaching and Learning. He also serves as the curator for exhibitions and as the coordinator for digital scholarship initiatives. Dr. Fluker is an adjunct professor in the School of Arts and Sciences Humanities Ph.D. program at Clark Atlanta University, and is the co-editor (with Reynaldo Anderson) of The Black Speculative Arts Movement: Art + Design (2019). He attended the Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar in 2019.

Victoria Forsberg-Lary entered the trade in 2014 as a retail assistant at Cellar Stories bookstore in Providence, RI. Founded in 1982, the store has an inventory of over 70,000 volumes on all subjects, ranging from fifty-cent comics and paperbacks to antiquarian and collectible editions. She took on management of the store following the death of its owner in 2018, and she attended the Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar in 2019. She studies bookbinding and restoration at the Currier Bindery in Newport, RI.

Heather O’Donnell runs Honey & Wax Booksellers in Brooklyn, specializing in literary and cultural history. In 2017, she co-founded the Honey & Wax Book Collecting Prize, an annual cash award of $1,000 for an outstanding book collection built by a young woman in the United States. She serves on the ABAA Board of Governors and the faculty of the Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar (now CABS-Minnesota), and is featured in The Booksellers, the 2019 documentary on the New York book trade.

Katherine Reagan is Ernest Stern ‘56 Curator of Rare Books & Manuscripts and Assistant Director for Collections, Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University. She was Chair of the Rare Books and Manuscripts Section of the Association of College & Research Libraries (a division of the American Library Association) in 2004–05. She serves on the faculty of Rare Book School and also of CABS-Minnesota.

Rob Rulon-Miller owns and operates Rulon-Miller Books in Saint Paul, Minnesota. He’s a past president of the ABAA, past General-Secretary of ILAB, past director of the Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar (now CABS-Minnesota), and current president of the Antiquarian Book School Foundation. He sold his first book in 1969, and is still looking back.


Barbara Heritage is the Associate Director and Curator of Collections at Rare Book School. She currently serves as the Secretary of the Antiquarian Book School Foundation, as the Chair of the New Scholars Program Committee of the Bibliographical Society of America, and on the Board of Directors for Blue Mountain Dharma in Charlottesville. She belongs to the Grolier Club, and is a member of its Library Committee.

Maria Lin received her master’s degree in library science in 2013, and joined Rulon-Miller Books soon after, where she’s been ever since. In 2017, she was the William Reese Fellow at Rare Book School. She teaches at the Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar (now CABS-Minnesota).