RBMS 2016 Blog


Relationships & Radicals

Photo: Zines and punk publications (Courtesy of Arthur Fournier)

We’ve all got our favorite memories from RBMS conferences past, right? For Colleen Barrett, it was Daniel Slive and E.C. Schroeder’s guided tour of the ABAA Booksellers’ Showcase; for Diane Dias De Fazio, one standout moment was 2015’s “Take Me to Your Leaders” session.

The Participant Driven Sessions Committee is happy to report that RBMS 2016 offers eight sessions—in addition to a few meetups, and the traditional ABAA Booksellers’ Showcase Tuesday evening and all day Wednesday! We spoke with some of this year’s session leaders for a preview, excerpts of which appear below and in a future blog post.

Booksellers: Relationships and Radicals

Two sessions this year are driven by members of the bookselling community, Arthur Fournier (arthurfournier.com) and Howard Rootenberg (rootenbergbooks.com), and promise to bring fresh perspectives about the profession’s present and future.

For Brooklyn-based Fournier, Collection Development in the Underground begins with an observation, and then crowdsurfs into a mosh pit of challenging questions. He explained: “The outcasts, outliers, and so-called radicals of one generation have the funny habit of becoming popular folk heroes for members of the next.” Often, important manuscripts, ephemera—and even entire archives—get lost or scattered along the way. Fournier poses, “At what point does it make sense for rare book and manuscript libraries to step in? As these enfants terribles (or their estates) begin to think more about posterity, can dealers help them comfortably partner with some of the same institutions they may once have criticized, derided, ignored or, indeed, sought to undermine? How can booksellers and librarians work together to ensure that these often fragile and at-risk materials aren’t lost or scattered to counterculture trophy hunters?”

The conversation will include tales of acquiring archives and ephemera from the Black Panther Party, Black Lives Matter, and regional punk and radical ecological movements, and that’s just the beginning! All members of the RBMS community are invited to join the conversation, led by Fournier, Kevin Repp (Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University), and Julie Herrada (Joseph A. Labadie Collection, Special Collections Library, University of Michigan).

Underground Collection Development: Strategies for Identifying and Preserving Visionary, Outsider and Outlaw Materials is at 10:45 AM on Wednesday June 22.

Later that afternoon at 4PM, Howard Rootenberg invites conference attendees to a forum on the eternal axiom, “Maintaining a Strong Relationship Takes Work.” Focusing on librarians and booksellers, Rootenberg says of the session’s lead points, “Though our immediate goals may differ (booksellers being interested in selling books and librarians in providing the material to users), there are many more areas and interests that overlap. …How do we make the most of where we overlap, and how do we continue to be supportive and useful to each other while best performing our jobs?”

To address these questions and more, the panel brings together two librarians (Robin Rider, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Will Hansen, Newberry Library) and two booksellers (Bruce McKittrick and Rootenberg), who will reflect on libraries and the trade. Their adventures will add a new perspective to endeavors undertaken by other librarians and booksellers. As at all participation-driven sessions, the floor will be open to audience questions, stories, comments, and concerns.

The Change in Relationship Between Booksellers and Librarians is also on Wednesday, June 22, from 4:00 to 5:30 PM.

Special thanks to Arthur Fournier and Howard Rootenberg for their contributions to this post!

–Colleen Barrett (Philadelphia Rare Books & Manuscripts) and Diane Dias De Fazio (Brooklyn College), Participant-Driven Sessions Committee