Next week, more than 300 rare book and manuscripts librarians and several dozen book dealers will descend on Baton Rouge for a four-day conference, hosted by the LSU Libraries. Titled “In the Hurricane’s Eye: Challenges of Collecting in the 21st Century,” the conference is the 52nd annual event held by the Rare Books and Manuscripts Section of the Association of College and Research Libraries, a division of the American Library Association.
The conference will kick off on Tuesday, June 21, with a “Booksellers’ Showcase” featuring 42 members of the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America, who will display selections of their wares in the Riverview Ballroom of the Hilton Baton Rouge Capitol Center. The showcase is open only to conference attendees; a one-day registration is available for $65.
On Thursday, June 23, attendees will be on the LSU campus attending sessions and enjoying tours of Hill Memorial Library, the LSU Historic Textile Museum, the LSU Museum of Natural History, and a virtual tour of the LSU campus provided by Michael Desmond, of the School of Architecture. The day will end with a tour and picnic at the LSU Rural Life Museum.
In addition to these fun and educational events, the conference will address a serious theme. In the last several years, special collections and archives have assumed a new and more prominent role within their host institutions as well as in the wider library community. Once perceived as peripheral to core library services, special collections are now sometimes viewed as central because of the unique materials they hold. Because of this centrality, they now face a perfect storm of increasing needs in a time of decreasing support.
Librarians and archivists collect materials in many formats from past centuries, which all have special needs for physical storage space, preservation, and access. The twenty-first century offers a new set of evolving challenges. Demographics in the United States and elsewhere are shifting dramatically, and use of digital technologies is changing what makes up the historical record, in both format and content. In a time of severely diminishing support for cultural heritage organizations, librarians are challenged to capture records of the evanescent “now” while continuing to document the recent past.
“In the Hurricane’s Eye” will focus on current work in the profession, both theoretical and practical, that can be used for modeling possible solutions to such challenges, helping librarians and archivists to weather the storm and fulfill their obligation as stewards of the cultural record. Presenters and attendees will address a spectrum of issues that include negotiating collection development for digital collections, collecting across cultural divides, generating buy-in and support from our proliferating audiences, and considering how “uniqueness” and artifactual value will change in an age of born-digital objects. For more information see the conference website at http://www.rbms.info/conferences/preconferences/2011/index.shtml.