Opening Plenary: Book as Archive
– Sponsored by Jarndyce Antiquarian Booksellers
Join us Wednesday morning in Las Vegas for an opening plenary that is sure to raise as many questions as it answers, and which we hope will get the RBMS 2014 conference off to a roaring start!
Our speakers will focus on the artifact (i.e., the book, manuscript, and archive) as the fundamental unit central to our mission and to scholarship. What are the implications, for circulating as well as for non-circulating collections, of increasing numbers of digital representations of the physical artifacts we steward becoming available on-line?
In a presentation entitled An Inobvious Truth, Brian E. C. Schottlaender, the Audrey Geisel University Librarian at the University of California, San Diego, speaking as both a research library administrator and a collector, will address the question of the vast quantities (Google results in the hundreds of millions) of special collections materials already accessible via the web. What are the consequences of this reality and the inobvious truth they portend? As Bob Dylan observed, something is happening … but what? Special collections, as collections, are changing, but how? Special collections – as place – is changing, but how? What are the differences between special collections on the Web and special collections at scale?
UVA English Professor Andrew Stauffer’s presentation, Bookish Histories and Collective Futures: Nineteenth Century Monographs after Wide-Scale Digitization, will raise the question of the future for legacy collections of print materials from the long nineteenth century, many of them still residing in circulating stacks, in the face of wide-scale digitization. As pre-1923 content is increasingly available freely online, user demand for the physical books is waning, and libraries are seeking efficiencies of scale in managing down print holdings. Many books published in the industrial era (post 1820) are at particular risk, being neither rare nor in good condition, and assumed to be identical products of an increasingly efficient publishing system. But, in fact, such presumed “non-unique” copies often contain unique markings, inserts, and other modifications that set the books apart as artifacts (not to mention variant bindings, frontispieces, and the like). Can we envision a national triage workflow for identifying unique copies and a decision tree regarding their handling and disposition? How do we introduce more copy-level information into the data-driven de-selection process, as well as engaging the stakeholder conversation about thresholds for retention, cataloguing, and preservation?
In this regard, Prof. Stauffer will present the Book Traces project (http://booktraces.org), an online initiative aimed at crowd-sourcing the identification of unique pre-1923 monographs in circulating collections. As decisions regarding print retention move to the national collaborative level, how can scholars and librarians, working together, find ways to coordinate the building of the hybrid print-digital future for the nineteenth century?
Please join us Wednesday morning, June 25th, at the Opening Plenary, in the Skyview 3 / 4, for what promises to be an insightful and, we hope somewhat inciting, conversation!
Moderator – Nicole Bouché