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June 28, 2011

Special Collections and the Challenges of Collecting in the 21st Century

It is said that adversity is a fact of life over which we have no control, save for our reaction to it. Last week the 52nd annual Preconference of the Rare Books and Manuscripts Section of the Association of College and Research Libraries met in Baton Rouge, Louisiana to explore the many and varied reactions of Special Collections librarians, archivists and curators to challenges in our field under the umbrella topic of “In the Hurricane's Eye: Challenges of Collecting in the 21st Century”

Unique book catalog/promotional item from RBMS book seller Between the Covers "a fabulous selection of the best first editions in the world, each book presented on a collectible non-sport trading card with a picture on the front and "stats" on the back."

Highlights of the week included four plenary sessions addressing different facets of this theme, including a sobering view of the challenges faced by cultural institutions whose missions have been compromised by such recent man-made and natural disasters as oil spills, hurricanes and floods. The current economic crisis affecting all cultural institutions was of equal concern to those in attendance, providing fuel for discourse and a trove of anecdotal wisdom shared in a continuous exchange ranging over the course of the week.

For all the challenges outlined by plenary speakers, short paper authors, panel discussion leaders and seminar presenters there were ample solutions offered and debated by all conference goers. Group participation is the byword at this annual event, and self examination a respected working tool for the members of this Association of College and Research Libraries section.

The Pre conference is unique in that dealers in rare books and manuscripts are active participants in discussions and presentations as well as hosts to several events throughout the week. One such event is the annual book sellers showcase and Welcome Reception co-sponsored by the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America.

Of interest to Clevelanders may be the Division Leap Gallery, Rare Bookstore and Publisher from Portland, Oregon. Owners Kate Schaefer and Adam Davis (below) were promoting their inaugural exhibition catalog “Art Terrorism in Ohio: Cleveland Punk, The Mimeograph Revolution, Devo, Zines, Artists’ Periodicals, and Concrete Poetry, 1964-2011".

Division Leap owners Kate Schaefer and Adam Davis,
one of the many fine book seller displays at the
Welcome Reception for RBMS 2011 in Baton Rouge

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