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Re: Libraries and Rare Books

At Rutgers we have a book arts exhibition every year accompanying our
annual New Jersey Book Arts Symposium. Our first year out, Susan
G. Swartzburg insisted that we hire a book artist as a guest curator,
which has worked out extraordinarily well. Since our first guest
curator, Maria Pisano, also happened to be a skilled conservator, I think
we were able to consolidate our exhibition around a very high standard
of care and control.  (Susan's presence contributed to this standard as
well, and with Sheena Calvert and Denise Mullen following Maria the
standard has remained very high.) We have also encouraged artists to hang
their own cases, a luxury that comes with exhibiting artists who live
nearby (or, I should say, one of the luxuries that comes from living in
New Jersey). Since artists hang their own gallery installations, why
shouldn't book artists do likewise? While our exhibitions tend to be
modest in scope (8 or 9 wall cases), emphatically diverse, with merely
serendipitous or inferrential links among the separate cases, I think our
reputation for privileging the artist's work over the curatorial vision
has been a strong factor in the growth and success of our Symposium
(which, by the way, just in case anyone is interested, will be held on
November 3rd, 2000).

Normally self-deprecating,


Michael Joseph
   Rare Book and Jerseyana Catalog Librarian
      Rutgers University Libraries
        Technical and Automated Services
        P.O. Box 1350
        Piscataway, New Jersey 08855-1350

                voice: 732-445-5904
                email: mjoseph@rci.rutgers.edu
                fax :  732-445-5888


On Fri, 17 Mar 2000, David Scott Goen wrote:

>         The alternative to security measures is to make the book unavailable. I've
> had many run-ins with libraries (most notably an institution whom I won't
> mention, in order to protect the overbearing, pretentious, unhelpful
> corporate-think librarians working there at the time, except to say the
> initials of the place are Washington University) where I was told that the
> books I needed to reference were only available by appointment in a limited
> time frame where a working student couldn't get at them. End of lengthy
> sentence.
>         I would rather have a "defaced" copy I can actually read than no access at
> all.
>         And let's hear it for Print-On-Demand publishing and electronic books for
> things like reference and rare books. No breaking spines of the Britannica
> when you can just print the pages you want. No tearing pages out of the OED.
> I'm waiting for publishers to realize that the book with a specialized and
> limited audience can still be profitable if they keep it electronically and
> print it on demand. Ever run into this scenario: "This book can't be removed
> from the room, it's rare. You'll have to read it hear."
>         "But it's 700 pages long and you're only open two-hours a day."
>         "That's not our problem."
>         "Can I copy the sections I need?"
>         "No, it's under copyright."
>         "But it's out of print and you have the only known copy in the whole
> sidereal universe."
>         "That's not our problem. And by the way, we're shorting our reading hours
> to 30 minutes a day."
> Actually, I love most libraries and librarians and they have very specific
> requirements that may be at odds with lovers of books as physical objects. I
> believe most of them are doing their very best. And I am very glad that the
> St. Louis County library system keeps good hours and a good collection as
> budget permits.
> And the comment about a Steven King book being worth more than a book
> printed by Albertus M. just makes me sad. As an honest (i.e., not in any way
> sarcastic) aside, do book collectors really believe that these books will
> hold their value over the years? How many best-selling writers disappear
> from the public consciousness a generation or so down the tracts (pun
> alert)? It even happened to Bach for quite a long time.
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