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Heather Smedberg's picture

2014 Midwinter Meeting Minutes - RBMS Seminars Committee

RBMS Seminars Committee

ALA Midwinter Meeting 2014

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Philadelphia Convention Center 303AB

1:00 pm-2:30 pm


Members Present: Jennifer Borderud (Co-Chair, Baylor University); Heather Smedberg (Co-Chair, UC San Diego); Anne Bahde (Oregon State University); Mark Greenberg (Western Washington University); Melanie Griffin (University of South Florida); Sarah Horowitz (Haverford College); Melissa Nykanen (Pepperdine); Aislinn Sotelo (UC San Diego)

Visitors Present: Meghan Constantinou (The Groiler Club); Elspeth Healey (University of Kansas); Katie Henningsen (University of Puget Sound); Jennifer MacDonald (University of Delaware); Jennifer Nelson (UC  Berkeley); Jennifer Schaffner (OCLC Research); Marten Stromberg (University of Illinois)


1. Call to order


2. Selection of Recorder and Introductions

Healey volunteered as recorder. Attendees introduced themselves. Co-Chairs Borderud and Smedberg encouraged visitors and current members interested in serving on the committee to complete and submit the ACRL committee volunteer form (even those in the middle of a two year term should do this).  There are spaces for new members on the committee. The volunteer deadline is February 15, 2014.

3. Changes/adjustments to 2014 session information submitted in December


There are no changes to the 2014 session information.


4. Review of proposed dates/times of seminars in the preconference schedule


All seminar spots are accounted for, and the proposed dates and times have been finalized.  The “Making the Private Public: Acquisition, Description, and Access for Sexually Explicit Collections” and “Conducting Programmatic Assessment in Special Collections” seminars are on Friday and were the only two groups who specified that time (8:30-10:00am).


5. Role of ACRL staffer Margot Conahan regarding speaker contracts


The Seminars Committee will need to provide ACRL with email addresses for all seminar speakers and moderators.  This is so that ACRL can email speaker contracts out to everyone prior to the preconference.    Committee members should email the Seminars Committee Co-Chairs (Borderud and Smedberg) with the email addresses of all of the speakers so that they can compile this information and send it along to ACRL.


6. Process for assigning onsite coordinators for seminars


The Co-Chairs will ask the committee members to act as an onsite coordinator for one of the seminars.  Typically the liaison to a semimar will also serve as the onsite coordinator for that seminar.  For those who have not been onsite coordinators before, ACRL provides a form; you do a headcount and check some boxes regarding content and then turn it in to the Seminars Committee Co-Chairs so that the forms can be computed and discussed at ALA Annual.  If a committee member is a moderator for his/her seminar, s/he should let the Co-Chairs know so that they can begin looking for another onsite coordinator for that seminar.


7.  Deadline for submitting seminar proposals for 2015 preconference: June 6, 2014


The deadline for seminar proposals for the 2015 preconference is June 6, 2014. This will allow for the proposals to be discussed at ALA Annual in Las Vegas. 


8. Brainstorming of seminar ideas for the 2015 RBMS Preconference


  1. A.     How Special Collections and General Collections Librarians perceive one another

Bahde suggested a seminar that would explore the conceptions and misconceptions that special collections librarians and general collections librarians have about one another.  She believes there hasn’t been a seminar on this topic in the last five years.  Those present brainstormed on this idea, suggesting that such a seminar might touch on the following:

  • Complexities and territorialities involved in each group’s relationship to teaching faculty
  • Issues of how to navigate these relationships successfully; diplomacy and collaboration
  • Special collections librarians’ relationship to digital collections librarians (examining our own territorialities, “Those are my collections” phenomenon); this is especially noteworthy as libraries are reorganizing and positions are changing and being redefined
  • Technical services side of it?  Multi-metadata world

Several present noted that for such a seminar it would be important to include someone who is both a special collections librarian and a subject bibliographer (i.e. someone who curates both “special” and circulating collections).



  1. B.     Practicalities of collecting born-digital materials

Smedberg noted that Lara Friedman – Shedlov, who was not able to be present, sent an email in advance suggesting a seminar on building born-digital collections. This would be a seminar that emphasizes real-world strategies and the practicalities of collecting born-digital materials.  Many people have had theoretical training in this area, but the seminar would emphasize “on the ground” information.

  • Several present noted that Lynne Thomas will be presenting a workshop at this year’s preconference on the related topic of preserving digitized and born-digital materials (http://www.preconference14.rbms.info/?page_id=373)
  • A project that might be of interest in relation to digital collections one being undertaken by Art Librarians at the Met and the Frick; they are working with digitized auction catalogs (http://nyarc.org/content/jstor-auction-catalog-pilot-project)
  • Issues of hiring digital archivists: you have to keep expectations regarding experience level low because there aren’t that many individuals out there in this field at the moment
  • How do digital collections work at different sized institutions?
  • Several present noted the importance of discussing best practices in the seminar and making it as practical as possible so that those attending will have something to think about and build on when they return home
  • One potential snag with regards to proposals for such a seminar is the timeline: proposals are due a year before the seminar, which is tricky when so much changes within this field in a year
  • The Co-chairs recalled that there had been two strong proposals from this past round related to Special Collections Internships and Digital Incunabula.  The latter of the two could have some crossover with the idea of born-digital collections, especially as the theme for the 2015 Preconference has to do with special collections and the humanities (tie to digital humanities).


  1. C.     Team Teaching in Special Collections

Henningsen noted that the Membership and Professional Development Committee had come up with two potential seminar proposals and that it would like to seek the Seminars Committee’s input on these proposals.  The first of the two M&PD proposals relates to team teaching courses with faculty members.  What are we as special collections librarians qualified to teach and how do we negotiate the relationship with faculty?  The emphasis in this seminar would be on semester-long courses.  Several noted a trend toward an increase in team taught semester-long classes (with faculty both inside and outside of the Libraries).  Discussion ensued:

  • Who present has participated in team taught semester-long courses?: Stromberg noted his collaboration on a team taught course on Shakespeare at Illinois; Healey just completed teaching History of the Book for the first time with a library colleague; Bahde noted that they are beginning to offer quarter-long courses for undergrads in information studies
  • Issue of territory as people’s expertise is converging (what we teach and what we have expertise to teach in)
  • Does faculty status matter when librarians teach?  Can you teach as a staff member? (Administrative logistics and issues with blackboard logins; can you team teach when you are not recognized as an instructor of record?)
  • Primary source literacy: what are the skills we teach?  Difficulty of talking with faculty about what we could bring to a class.



  1. D.     Rare Book Cataloging for Non-Catalogers

Sotelo noted that Bibliographic Standards has proposed a workshop  on rare book cataloging for non-catalogers (e.g. Rare Books catalogers and public services people tag teaming on cataloging).  Sotelo noted that there should be at least one seminar proposal forthcoming from Bibliographic Standards.


  1. Cross-training between Digital Humanities and Special Collections

Henningsen noted that the other proposal that the Membership and Professional Development Committee is considering putting forward relates to cross-training between Digital Humanities and Special Collections.  How do we, as special collections librarians, fit into Digital Humanities Centers?  Discussion ensued:

  • Borderud  is in a TEI class with librarians and English PhDs, and together they are trying to figure out who is interested in digital humanities projects
  • What do we need to be doing in our libraries to help the Digital Humanities? How do we position ourselves to assist faculty members with DH projects?
  • We should consider asking people from medium to small institutions how they are starting their digital humanities centers/projects
  • The notion of “post-Digital Humanities” (i.e. all is digital now; it is a regular part of scholarship)
  • DATA: how are librarians working with data in a practical way, even if it is through really simple things; data literacy, data curation and data management (at some institutions they are using the same digital assets management system for data curation as for digitized materials in special collections)
  • Has something relevant to this issue been done in SAA so that we could target potential speakers form there?
  • The Digital Exhibitions workshop will be repeated at 2015 so there is potential interesting overlap there


  1. F.      Mass Digitization of Archival Collections

Bahde raised the subject of mass digitization of archival collections and asked whether we had done anything on this topic recently.  She noted that Seminars has never addressed the OCLC best practices document, so it might be interesting to see how people have applied this.  Are we mass digitizing archival collections (perhaps large-scale digitization a better term)?  Who has followed Jackie Dooley’s advice to stop cherry-picking in digitization? Discussion ensued:

  • Schaffner noted that she has done an about-face on this topic and now thinks that it’s all about selection and selecting
  • Has anyone yet figured out successful integration of digitized material and finding aids?


  1. Special Collections and the Shared ILS

MacDonald raised the related subject of OCLC WorldShare Management Systems and the move away from institution-based catalogs.  How does the merged or shared ILS affect special collections?

  • Possibility of having someone from ORBIS Cascade Alliance discuss the shared ILS and how this is affecting special collections information; Greenberg noted that the 2 cohorts, all 37 institutions, will be in the system two years from now
  • Interest was expressed in having a University Librarian participate in a panel on this subject in order to get the administrator’s point of view and to hear what they are seeking from special collections


  1. Small- to mid-sized Institutions

Nykanen noted that there have been discussion groups treating the issue of small institutions, but that there might be an opportunity for a more teaching-oriented seminar approach to the topic.  How do you do collection development and digital projects when you are in a one- or two-person department and are doing everything else as well (reference, instruction, cataloging, etc.)  Discussion ensued:

  • It was noted that such issues might also come up at a session being offered at the 2014 Preconference: “Retrofitting Expectations or Redefining Reality: What Does the Future of the Special Collections Professional Look Like?”; possible opportunities for the audience to share experiences about how they work and the environment they work in; how the role of the librarian is changing
  • Constantinou suggested having a representative from a non-academic institution on such a panel
  • It was noted that the Western European Studies Section (WESS) in ACRL has a College and Medium-Sized Discussion Group (http://www.ala.org/acrl/wess/acr-wesdgcmsl)
  • Horowitz noted that a seminar on small institutions might help those at such institutions make the argument for funding to attend the preconference
  • Bahde emphasized the importance of self-identification for this type of session:  If you think you are at a small- to medium-sized institution, you are.  We should be sure to avoid putting restrictions on it or being prescriptive.


  1. Effects of MPLP on Public Services

A seminar was done in 2009 on the effects of MPLP on public services (Public Services and 'Un-Hidden' Collections: What We Know and What We Need to Know” http://rbms.info/conferences/preconferences/2009/schedule.shtml), but the whole world has changed since then and so the topic is worth revisiting.  Another angle might be offsite storage, MPLP, and public services.  Still another angle might be MPLP for digital materials and the effects on public services.


  1. J.      Diversity

Smedberg noted that the Seminars Committee very much welcomes receiving proposals from the Diversity Committee, so they would encourage them to consider submissions.  Henningsen noted that she will share this encouragement with the Diversity Committee when they meet later at Midwinter.


  1. K.    Non-Western Books and Collections

MacDonald suggested a seminar on Non-Western books. For example, they have fabulous East Asian Library at Berkeley, close to the 2015 Conference in Oakland.  In a slightly different vein, the Newberry recently undertook a cataloging project for American Indian books.



9.  Discussion of Other Business


Co-chairs Borderud and Smedberg reported on developments for the upcoming seminars in Las Vegas.

  • The Conducting Programmatic Assessment seminar is looking great and is almost completely fleshed out.
  • The Retrofitting Expectations seminar is under development and those participating are working hard at making it as relevant as possible, with real take-aways, so that it doesn’t become a griping session.  The idea of the seminar is that the nature of special collections is changing.  Borderud and Smedberg asked whether there are specific strategies or outcomes that would make the seminar particularly useful.
    • Issue of what is the work of a professional librarian vs. paraprofessional vs. student worker
    • There is excitement about hearing Brian Schottlaender, a top level administrator well-versed in special collections, discuss what it is that administrators want from special collections professionals
    • Henningsen suggested it would also be helpful to hear what entry- and mid-level professionals can do to advance and move to the next stage of their career; also, how does this change at small institutions?


MacDonald provided updates from the Workshops Committee.  The Workshops Committee (formerly the Regional Workshops Committee) is planning to align themselves with the Seminars Committee in terms of scheduling proposal deadlines (previously, they were about a year behind Seminars).  Though it may take a few years for the Workshops proposal submission schedule to sync up with Seminars, there is a desire have it do so in order to facilitate more fluidity between Seminars and Workshops. I.e. To allow for proposals submitted as a workshop, but which might function better as a seminar, to be funneled to Seminars and vice versa.   The Workshops Committee already has a couple of workshops set for 2015 because they weren’t able to fit them into 2014.  The Workshops Committee is also seeking a way to handle successful repeat workshops (e.g. a cycle of repeating workshops every two or three years, with at least one new workshop each year).


Co-Chairs Borderud and Smedberg thanked those present for a great session, noting that the group had provided many ideas for moving ahead.


Meeting Adjourned.


Respectfully submitted,

Elspeth Healey