Conference Report: Ambassadors of the Book, part 2

Here’s the splendid 16th-century Hof van Liere where the  conference took place:

Hof van Liere, University of Antwerp
Hof van Liere, University of Antwerp

The first part  of my report is here.

The second day of the conference provided lots of stimulating examples of training for special collections librarians from around the world.

Susan Allen described the activities of the California Rare Book School which was established in 2005  and provides short, intensive courses on a variety of subjects from the History of the Book in Hispanic America to Intellectual Property and other Legal Issues.

Hélène Richard discussed the nature of training for special collections librarians in France. Many municipal libraries hold important special collections but not all have staff who have undertaken the heritage management training programme offered at ENSSIB (the French national library school). A range of continuing education courses have been developed for library staff covering issues such as cataloguing, preservation, digitisation and legal matters.

Raphaële Mouren of ENSSIB described the new Masters course in special collections librarianship that she has been involved in developing and spoke of the importance of the 3Cs – Cataloguing, Conservation and Communication.

Monique Hulvey of the Bibliothèque municipale de Lyon spoke about the excellent outreach work being done there, connecting the history of the book with the history of the city. After creating a provenance database, staff have linked historic libraries and individual books to particular neighbourhoods and streets. They use old maps of the city and walking tours to bring collections to life for the public. They emphasise the particular role of Lyon in the book trade, for example, looking at the Rue Mercière, where many printers and booksellers premises were located in the 16th century. The aim is to stimulate curiosity among local people and visitors; the popular lunchtime sessions with guest speakers are billed not as lectures but as an ‘hour of discovery‘.

Adriana Paolini‘s work is also about stimulating curiosity – and creativity. She talked about projects that she runs with children and young people using objects from special collections to promote writing and reading – and the training that she gives to librarians to conduct such workshops.

Diederik Lannoye spoke about the training workshop in analytical bibliography that has been developed as part of the STCV (Short-title catalogue of Flanders) project. Staff in participating institutions have received practical training in the basics of rare book cataloguing – and the specifics of the STCV method, including bibliographical fingerprints, which follow the STCN model.

Anne Welsh of the Dept of Information Studies at UCL described the new historical bibliography module that she has developed, focusing particularly on the value of experiential learning. The module involves practical sessions working with special collections material and a visit to St Bride Library. Students even had an opportunity to set and print their own text.

Giliola Barbero, who teaches at the Catholic University of Milan, commented on the importance of those involved in the curation of manuscripts and rare books in Italian libraries having some knowledge of IT. She described the gradual introduction of IT into the teaching of cultural heritage management to meet that need. A new postgraduate degree in electronic cataloguing of cultural heritage has now been developed at .

Like Anne, Katie Henningsen of the Archives Dept at the University of Kentucky focused on the value of hands-on experience in learning, but this time, with new rather than old technology. She devised a project for a student intern which involved evaluating digital image software, selecting a suitable product, developing a digital exhibition and writing a guide for other staff in the use of the software. They chose to use OMEKA, an open source software. Katie discussed the problems they encountered, how they overcame them – and showed some of their impressive results.

The final speaker of the day was Michael Suarez, S.J., the director of the Rare Book School at the University of Virginia. His talk was a wide-ranging and inspiring call to special collections librarians to think about the value of the profession and the importance of our role in mediating the encounter with the material object; we need to animate the bones and make it live.

All in all, an excellent conference with a diverse group of stimulating speakers addressing an important theme. Many thanks to Pierre for organising it!

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