The Digital Age Comes to the Ivory Tower - <i>A visit to some public and private special collections
By Susan Halas
This month AE looks in on a variety of experts from the world of special collections with an eye toward updating our readers on their interests, needs and how technology has changed their focus. There's something here for the book dealer who wants to do more business with these kinds of libraries and archives. There's also information for the collector who may need help with research or other scholarly pursuits.
It would be impossible to speak personally with all the thousands of women and men who make up this unique and rapidly changing field, but we did touch base with the following experts. Their contact information and links to their sites appear at the end of this article.
*Anthony Bliss, Curator, Rare Books and Literary Manuscripts Bancroft Library at the University of California at Berkeley
* Katherine Hedin, Curator of Rare Books and Special Collections at the University of Minnesota Law Library
* Liza Kirwin, Curator, Archives of American Art, Washington DC
* Gina Olaya, Director, Tribal & Public Relations for Cherokee Nation Entertainment
* Louis Pitschmann, Dean, University Libraries the University of Alabama
*Alice Schreyer, Director, Special Collections Research Center at the University of Chicago
Special Collections are Potential Buyers No two of the special collections we spoke with have identical interests or expertise, but all except the Archives of American Art (which only acquires through donation) are prospective buyers of books and related antiquarian materials. They do read their emails. They do read catalogs. They do subscribe to magazines and journals in their fields of interest.
Many of them participate in free on-line listserv XLIBRIS where some of the finer points of antiquarian scholarship are discussed and debated. This list is strictly non-commercial. That said, there is much to be learned from reading the posts or archives and dealers may submit catalog announcements, but only on Tuesdays.
Except for the Archives, they are all interested in receiving quotes on material relevant to their areas of particular interest. The key here is doing your homework. "We welcome and encourage offers targeted to our interests," said Chicago's Alice Schreyer. "Send your query or quote. If we haven't done business before introduce yourself." She and others explained that the offer does not need to be an elaborate presentation. A well written description sent by email will do. There is no need to send photos unless requested.
More often than not the sticky wicket is getting paid in a timely manner. Libraries as a group still want to be invoiced, still have purchase orders, still pay slowly and still expect special consideration. "It might take us a while, but we do pay, said Alabama's Pitschmann. "A library won't stiff you."