The main preconference program will feature four plenary sessions. Nine distinguished speakers representing different cultural and institutional contexts will discuss major trends and issues that we face in work as library and archives professionals. In addition to the main program, the preconference will feature a lively series of seminars, short papers and discussion groups, as well as workshops and tours.

Click to see a Detailed schedule - updated June 3, 2011


  • Plenary
  • Short Papers
  • Discussion Sessions
  • Seminars
  • Case Studies


Wednesday, June 22, 2011, 9:00-10:30

“Cultural Stewardship: The Challenge of Acquisition, Preservation, and Access in a Time of Perpetual Crisis”

How can we keep building and providing effective access to collections that will remain central in the future, fulfilling our obligation to provide stewardship of the cultural record? While we continue to collect a multiplicity of formats from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries – with the attendant issues of physical storage space, preservation, and access – the twenty-first century offers a new set of evolving challenges. Demographics in the United States and elsewhere are shifting dramatically, and human use of digital technologies is changing what makes up the historical record, in both format and content. These and related issues will be addressed in this opening, keynote plenary. Lee Hampton will speak from his perspective as an academic administrator and a library director. As executive director of the Amistad Research Center, Lee Hampton leads the nation’s oldest, largest and most comprehensive independent archive that chronicles the history of African Americans and other ethnic minorities. Likewise, Greg Gibson will speak from his perspective as a bookseller, author, and cultural critic. As owner and founder of Ten Pound Island Books, Greg Gibson has been active in the forefront of the antiquarian book world for over three decades. In Hubert’s Freaks, his 2008 book about the discovery and attempted sale of an archive of a Times Square freak show and a treasure trove of lost Diane Arbus photographs, Gibson tells a real-life story involving many of the issues central to cultural stewardship and preservation.

Lee Hampton, Executive Director, Amistad Research Center at Tulane University

Greg Gibson, Bookseller (Ten Pound Island Books) and Author

Moderator: Rebecca Hankins, Africana Resources Librarian and Curator, Texas A&M University Libraries


PLENARY 2 - Co-sponsored by the Bibliographical Society of America and the St. Louis Mercantile Library

Wednesday, June 22, 2011, 4:00-5:30

“Sectional Focus, National Value: Why Regional Collections Really Matter”

Attention to Americana collections usually goes to the large academic and independent libraries that collect nationally. But the reality is that dozens of other institutions have built extraordinary collections of regional or one-state historical materials, and those libraries also serve important academic, popular, and research audiences. This session will look at the tradition of regional collecting in America and the role it can play in the library world in the 21st century. A representative panel of directors and curators of regional collections will talk informally about the challenges, opportunities, and initiatives that special collections libraries with a sectional focus will address in the years ahead.

Mark A. Greene, Director, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming

John Hoover, Director, St. Louis Mercantile Library, University of Missouri—St Louis

Jeffrey D. Marshall, Director of Research Collections, Bailey/Howe Library, University of Vermont

Tim West, Curator of Manuscripts and Director of the Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina

Moderator: Kevin Graffagnino, Director, Clements Library, University of Michigan



Thursday, June 23, 2011, 9:00-10:30

“How Special is Your Library?: Special Collections and the Value of Academic Libraries”

Shifting financial landscapes are compelling libraries and their parent institutions to look more closely than ever at their “bottom line”: the unique value they contribute to scholarly research and teaching, student learning and lifelong enrichment. What roles do special collections play in creating and delivering that value? How can those roles be measured, assessed, appreciated? An open “talk show” panel will involve attendees in a discussion focused on how the value of special collections can be more effectively articulated and demonstrated.

Sarah M. Pritchard, Charles Deering McCormick University Librarian, Northwestern University

Christian Dupont, Aeon Program Director, Atlas Systems, Inc.

Lisa Carter, Associate Director for Special Collections and Area Studies, The Ohio State University Libraries

Moderator: Jennifer Paustenbaugh, Associate Dean for Planning and Assessment, Oklahoma State University Libraries



Friday, June 24, 2011, 10:30-12:00

“In the Eye of the Storm: Preservation and Disaster Recovery in the 21st Century”

One of the most daunting challenges faced by archivists, rare book librarians, and other custodians of cultural history is that of preservation and access in a time of increasingly constrained funding, increasing public interest, and ever present threats both natural and human-made. Lee Leumas will describe the impact of Katrina as well as other storms and events on her work as archivist for the Archdiocese of New Orleans. Julia Marks Young will speak to the current state of the profession in respect to disasters and threats of all kinds to collections of cultural heritage.

Emilie (Lee) Gagnet Leumas, Archivist, Archdiocese of New Orleans

Julia Marks Young, Director, Archives and Records Services Division, Mississippi Department of Archives and History

Moderator: Elaine Smyth, Head of Special Collections, Louisiana State University Libraries


Thursday, June 23, 11:00-12:30

"Collecting in Changing Times"

As special collections libraries rethink their collections, potential holdings and uses may begin to transform. This panel will examine areas in which new collecting domains can be identified, new approaches to collection development practiced, and new tools developed to explore historical materials.

Moderator: Daniel J. Slive, Bridwell Library, Southern Methodist University (SMU)

“Mapping the Boundaries of the Book Trade”
Jordan Goffin, Providence Public Library

“Exploring New Initiatives in Tough Economic Times”
R. Arvid Nelsen, Northwest Architectural Archives

“Special Collections and the Community: Collecting Local History in the 21st Century”
Melissa Nykanen, Pepperdine University


Friday, June 24, 2011, 9:00-10:00

"Student Engagement as Boundaries Shift"

As new demands are placed upon special collections libraries to play larger roles in their associated institutions or to accept responsibilities to serve a wider public, libraries must support traditional audiences while also attracting and serving new users. This panel will examine ways in which special collections materials can engage students both in the classroom and in collaborations with the library itself.

Moderator: Todd Samuelson, Cushing Library, Texas A&M

“Can Using Primary Source Materials Be Defined as a 21st Century Skill?”
William E. Ross, Milne Special Collections & Archives, University of New Hampshire

“Highlighting the Collections”
Sarah Goodwin Thiel, University of Kansas Libraries,


Thursday, June 23, 2011, 11:00-12:30

Tough Times for Collections & Collecting?

The recession has affected budgets at all types of institutions in a variety of ways. How have tough economic times impacted collections and services and how have special collections librarians addressed these challenges?

Elaine Smyth, Louisiana State University
Lois Fischer Black, Lehigh University


Thursday, June 23, 2011, 11:00-12:30

Challenges and Opportunities for Small- & Medium-sized Institutions

The 2009 and 2010 RBMS Preconferences enjoyed large turnouts at discussion sessions dealing with small and medium-size libraries. Those present felt it was a great opportunity to have relevant discussions concerning these types of special collections. This 2011 session provides interested attendees the opportunity to pursue focused discussions along pragmatic lines: sharing ideas and resources, adjusting the scope of larger-scale projects to smaller work environments, and the development of guidelines relevant to these libraries.

Anne Bahde, San Diego State University
Julie Grob, University of Houston


Thursday, June 23, 2011, 11:00-12:30

The Hidden Costs of Hidden Collections?

Hidden collections have been at the forefront of special collections discussions at least since the 2003 "Exploring Hidden Collections" working conference sponsored by the ARL Task Force on Special Collections. This session offers the opportunity to discuss what we have encountered in the process of bringing hidden collections to light and into the mainstream. What have been the rewards as well as the costs and challenges of processing and providing public service for these collections?

Nicole Bouché, University of Virginia
Erika Dowell, Indiana University


Friday, June 24, 2011, 9:00-10:00

Beyond the Coffee Break: Common Issues for Public and Technical Services in Special Collections

Priorities for public services and technical services have points of convergence as well as conflicting priorities. Here is an opportunity to talk about the dynamics of the work place and the sharing of common interests along with the push-pull of issues such as high quality cataloguing, reduction of backlogs, access, and public service.

Margaret Nichols, Cornell University
Sue Walker, Yale University


Friday, June 24, 2011, 9:00-10:00

Issues for and Questions from People New to RBMS and Special Collections

The new professionals in our midst are our future leaders and trend-setters. This session offers an opportunity to identify and discuss issues and forces that may shape all of our work in the years ahead.

Charlotte Brown, UCLA
Blynne Olivieri, University of Washington

The preconference program will feature eight seminars on a variety of topics pertaining to special collections librarianship. Seminars will be presented in two sessions of four concurrent seminars.

Seminars A-D are scheduled for Wednesday, 22 June at 11:00-12:30 and Seminars E-H are scheduled for Thursday, 23 June at 3:30-5:00 p.m.

A. Z702 Is for Book Thief: The Role of Technical Services in Collection Security

Following the 2010 RBMS Conference Program, To Catch a Thief: Cataloging and the Security of Special Collections, this seminar will explore cataloging rare materials while being ever mindful of securing those collections. This seminar will look at those questions, and possible answers, from a cataloger’s point of view. Are they practicable? What happens if the best answer is in direct conflict with department priorities? What is the responsibility of technical services when it comes to collections security? How should we prioritize our limited time when we consider our responsibility for our collections?

Nina Schneider, William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, UCLA (moderator)

Randal Brandt, Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley

Ellen Cordes, Yale University

Steven K. Galbraith, Folger Shakespeare Library

B. Yes, We Scan!: Innovative Approaches to User-initiated Digitization

This seminar presents innovative experiments with scanning and delivering digital copies of special collections materials at the request of users. The speakers have established different, yet equally creative, streamlined workflows to fulfill their users’ requests, including self-serve scanning in the reading room, collaborating with interlibrary loan (ILL) colleagues to use existing infrastructure and expertise, and using a tiered approach to capture and manage the digital files created by fulfilling user requests. Speakers will discuss workflows-in-progress, lessons learned, and how they learned to stop worrying and love digital copy requests.

Jennifer Schaffner, OCLC Research (moderator)

Anne Bahde, San Diego State University

Anne Blecksmith, Getty Research Institute

Julia Gardner, University of Chicago

C. Digital Intermediation of Physical Stuff: How Technology Influences the Movement of Books from Bookseller to Curator to Cataloger to Professor

The evolving challenges of digital technologies and documentation sometimes obscure the physical objects that constitute the seed grain of special collections. We all -- administrators, booksellers, curators, scholars, and researchers -- look for newfangled digital technologies to speed the plough, be it through researching, cataloging, or promoting our books. Yet, our work remains fundamentally tied to the physical material, and while electronic technology is often sexy, it serves merely as an intermediary by which we explore and interpret our collections.

This seminar will discuss the role of the digital intermediary in the life-cycle of books: from bookseller to curator to cataloger, and finally into classroom. Andrew Gaub will explore the changing relationship between printed reference works and online resources in shaping a bookseller's description, as well as the usefulness (or uselessness) of copy counting in the digital age. Heather Cole will examine the challenges of collection development, outreach, and access in environments of both increased expectation and limited resources for digital projects. Finally, James P. Ascher will depict how progressively organic institutional description moves an object from cataloging to the classroom and how reading lists of books is really teaching.

Michael Inman, The New York Public Library (moderator)

James P. Ascher, University of Colorado at Boulder

Heather Cole, Houghton Library, Harvard University

Andrew Gaub, Bruce McKittrick Rare Books

D. Tell Us Your Story: Putting Diversity into Action

This seminar gives experienced leaders in our field the opportunity to tell a brief personal story that raises philosophical issues while offering practical advice on how to put diversity “into action.” They will address the following questions posed by the Diversity Committee:

  • Collection development: How do we identify contacts in underrepresented communities to help us build collections, while still being culturally sensitive? Libraries that serve the most diverse constituencies often have the smallest budgets – what are some ways these challenges have been met?
  • Outreach/Instruction: What are some examples of outreach/instruction in which special collections librarians have engaged with underrepresented communities whose materials they’ve collected? What are the implications of and challenges to building up a public services staff comprising people from diverse backgrounds?
  • Cataloging/Description: How has cataloging changed in a global environment? How has insufficient cataloging “hidden” racially and ethnically diverse material that already exists in our collections? How has such material been “unhidden”? Bring your own questions, as Q&A with audience is encouraged and will take place during the latter portion of the seminar.

Katharine Chandler, Free Library of Philadelphia (moderator)

Jennifer Abraham, T. Harry Williams Center for Oral History, Louisiana State University

Melissa Conway, University of California, Riverside

Chris Harter, Amistad Research Center, Tulane University

E. Assessing Special Collections: Techniques and Benefits

The purpose of this seminar will be to introduce the audience to a variety of means for conducting systematic assessment of special collections functions, focusing in particular on the delivery of public services and instructional outreach. Specific objectives include demonstrating how assessment activities can be folded into existing workflows, how assessment outcomes can be used to refine or transform current operations, and how implementing an assessment plan can be used to strengthen the strategic positioning of special collections in larger institutional contexts.

Joyce Chapman, Libraries Fellow at North Carolina State University, will focus on two case studies: a study of special collections usage at NCSU over the past three years and an experimental return-on-investment study of archival metadata workflows at NCSU. Deborah Davis, Director of University Archives and Special Collections at Valdosta State University, will describe her experiences in creating and implementing a comprehensive assessment plan for special collections that has made use of the Archival Metrics Toolkit. Michelle McCoy, Bibliographic Assistant for Special Collections and Archives at DePaul University, will discuss how quantitative and qualitative assessments of the archival research component of an undergraduate course conducted over six years have been used to modify instructional presentation strategies. Florence M. Turcotte, Literary Manuscripts Archivist at the University of Florida, will discuss the educational outcomes from three different undergraduate instructional programs conducted in the George A. Smathers special and area studies collections. Based on the results of the 2006 ARL SPEC Kit on “Public Services in Special Collections,” she will also reflect on why assessment of outreach and public services activities are important, why they are problematic, and why they are difficult to standardize and sustain.

Shannon Bowen Maier, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming (moderator)

Joyce Chapman, North Carolina State University

Deborah S. Davis, Valdosta State University

Michelle McCoy, DePaul University

Florence M. Turcotte, University of Florida

F. Hidden Collections and Small Budgets

Exposing “hidden collections” continues to be of interest to the profession, but how much change is possible at institutions with large backlogs and small budgets? This seminar presents strategies for increasing rare book cataloging productivity without increased funds, which are culled from the results of a survey of rare book catalogers, as well as the experience of the presenters.

Melissa A. Hubbard, Southern Illinois University Carbondale (moderator)

Anna M. Ferris, University of Colorado at Boulder

Anne K. D. Myers, Southern Illinois University Carbondale

G. Pecha Kucha with Our Stuff: Teaching with Rare Books, Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections

Pecha kucha is a fast-paced and entertaining new format for presentations using brevity and clarity. Each presenter is limited to exactly twenty slides, progressing automatically at twenty seconds per slide, resulting in a 6 minute, 40 second focused showcase of their work. For the first RBMS Preconference seminar using this format, we're taking a pecha-kucha peek inside each other's special collections classroom. Presenters will demonstrate innovative in-class exercises, experimental instructional approaches, or tried-and-true tricks and tools for teaching with the “stuff” of our profession.

James P. Ascher, University of Colorado at Boulder (moderator)

Jennifer Borderud, Baylor University: "The Business of Printing: Rare Books in the Business School Curriculum"

Kathryn DeGraff, DePaul University: "So What's a Primary Source Anyway?"

Lori Dekydtspotter, Indiana University, and Cheryl Torok Fleming, Indiana Wesleyan University: "'The lights are on, and everyone's home': Using interactive learning tools in the rare materials classroom"

Julia Gardner, University of Chicago: "Instruction as Outreach: Promoting Special Collections Through Collaborative Partnerships"

Sarah Horowitz, Augustana College: "Picturing History: Using a Photograph to Introduce Historical Research"

William Modrow, Florida State University: "Why are all the primary sources in Special Collections?"

Jennifer Sheehan, University of North Texas: "Building Books and Breaking Them Down: Using Historic Materials to Teach Modern Preservation"

Heather Smedberg, University of California, San Diego: "500 Freshmen, 3 Approaches, 1 Quarter"

H. Next Generation Library Catalogs and Cataloging

What constitutes a "next-generation" online catalog? How will the changing discovery and metadata environment affect the creation, management, and use of special collections cataloging data? This seminar will examine some innovative features of existing next-generation catalogs, as well as factors that catalogers should consider relative to the effectiveness of the data that they create.

Elizabeth Johnson, Indiana University (moderator)

Jackie Dooley, OCLC Research

Eric Lease Morgan, University of Notre Dame

Aislinn Sotelo, University of California, San Diego


Wednesday, June 22, 2:00-3:30

Working with Underserved Communities

Speakers will present case studies which document the successes and challenges experienced in collection development, promotion, and community use of their unique archival collections. From the ethics of dealing with culturally sensitive material to fostering relationships with underserved communities, the speakers will share how to reach out beyond typical donor communities to find fresh new collecting areas, fugitive sources, and unexpected partners.

"Archiving H-Town: Working with Local Rappers to Build the Houston Hip-Hop Collection"
Julie Grob, University of Houston Libraries

"Working with Underserved Communities and Non-Traditional Collections"
Dr. Christine Marin, Arizona State University
Joyce Martin, Labriola National American Indian Data Center, Arizona State University

Moderator: Maggie Kopp, Brigham Young University



Wednesday, June 22, 2:00-3:30

Collecting in the 21st Centuruy

How do rare book librarians and archivists collect, preserve, and provide access to nontraditional modern resources like political propaganda or video art? What happens when the arrival of a significant collection causes an institution to completely rethink its focus? These case studies will speak to the complexities of building special collections in the 21st century, drawn from the participants’ curatorial experiences.

"Collecting Madmen and Crazy Ladies, or, Building Collections on Social Issues and Political Movements at UC Davis Special Collections"
John Sherlock, University of California – Davis

"Getting Lucky: Or How to Rearrange Your Career When a Great Collection Lands on Your Doorstep."
Michael Knies, University of Scranton

"The Rare Book Librarian in Pursuit of Video Art"
Sandra Ludig Brooke, Marquand Library of Art & Archaeology, Princeton University

Moderator: Deborah Whiteman, Santa Clara University


Wednesday, June 22, 2:00-3:30

Digital Preservation

The curation of digital collections and born-digital material poses significant challenges to special collections professionals. These case studies will address some of the dilemmas that are becoming increasingly common for cultural institutions: how to migrate digital assets between platforms, how to capture and process born-digital archival material, and how to document and preserve virtual environments.

"Digital Curation, Round One"
Gretchen Gueguen, Digital Archivist, University of Virginia Library

"Processing Born-Digital ‘Papers’ at Stanford: All Hands on Deck"
Glynn Edwards, Special Collections, Stanford University

"Save It For Later: Considering New Approaches to Preservation of Digital Cultural Heritage"
Dennis Moser, University of Wyoming

Moderator: Beth Turcy Kilmarx, Binghamton University


Digitization on a Shoestring

Wednesday, June 22, 2:00-3:30

As cultural heritage institutions increasingly make their collections available online, even the smallest and most cash-strapped libraries and archives face the expectation to digitize from users (and administrators). Three professionals will share their insights into the challenges and rewards of building small but robust digital programs with limited resources, such as identifying an appropriate program scope, dealing with inadequate equipment and facilities, and relying on undergraduate student labor.

"Breathing Life into the University of Mississippi Digital Collections"
Jason Kovari, Cornell University

"'One Way or Another:' The University of Maryland Digitization Experience"
Jennie A. Levine Knies, University of Maryland Libraries

"Capitalizing on (un)limited Potential: Building Digital Collections with a Student Workforce"
Erin Passehl, Digital Collections Librarian and Archivist, Western Oregon University

Moderator: Jason Kovari, Metadata Librarian for Humanities & Special Collections, Cornell University


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