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Rare Book and Manuscript Librarians Converge on Minneapolis

By August 5, 2013September 16th, 2023No Comments

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by R. Arvid Nelsen, Archivist, Charles Babbage Institute and Dr. Marguerite Ragnow, Curator, James Ford Bell Library. Arvid and Marguerite served as the 2103 RBMS Preconference Local Arrangements Co-Chairs.

Nearly 400 professionals in rare books, manuscripts, archives, and special collections descended on Minneapolis in June for the annual conference of the Rare Book and Manuscripts Section (RBMS) of the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL).. Local arrangements were made by U of M Libraries co-chairs Arvid Nelsen and Marguerite Ragnow, with a host of U of M and other local volunteers (see below). Many of the conference attendees had never been to the Twin Cities. While we know and love the amazing resources that our region has to offer, this is a fact that may often be unknown to our friends and colleagues from other parts of the country. Based on the overwhelmingly enthusiastic response from attendees, we believe we accomplished our goal of raising awareness of all that we have to offer here. And we anticipate seeing some of our guests again!

RBMS Tote Bag Stuffing Party.JPGThis was the 54th annual “preconference” of RBMS, which every year gathers prior to the meeting of the American Library Association (of which ACRL is a division) for about three days’ worth of informative and professional development programming, networking opportunities, and optional workshops and tours.

The Preconference visits a different city each year. The last time the Preconference was held in the Twin Cities was in 1990, when U of M librarians Martha L. Brogan and Alan Lathrop spearheaded local arrangements. A complete history of the Preconference through its first fifty years (published by ACRL for the 50th anniversary in 2009) can be found on the RBMS website.

The importance of performing arts in the Twin Cities was a key factor in Minneapolis’ selection as the Preconference site. The selection committee was most impressed that we are second only to New York for the number of theater seats. So compelling was this fact that it led the Program Planning Committee to establish the theme “O Rare! Performance in Special Collection.”

Arvid Models the RBMS Tote Bag.JPGPreparing a Preconference takes a few years and a lot of people. Arvid Nelsen, archivist at the Charles Babbage Institute, wrote and submitted the proposal to host the 2013 Preconference back in 2010. When the proposal was accepted in January 2011 Marguerite Ragnow, curator of the James Ford Bell Library, stepped forward and offered to co-chair local arrangements with Arvid. Many people contributed to the development and ultimate success of the gathering, from the University of Minnesota and other regional colleges, including St. Catherine University, to cultural heritage institutions such as the Minnesota Historical Society, the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, the Bakken Museum and Library, St. John’s University, the American Craft Council, the American Swedish Institute, Hennepin County Libraries, as well as local businesses like Rulon-Miller Books and Target Corporation.

The Preconference website features images from the Performing Arts Archives and the James Ford Bell Library, both units of the U of M’s Department Archives and Special Collections (ASC). The overall design for the website and print materials was created by ASC’s own Exhibits Designer Darren Terpstra. Programming featured a plenary presentation by Dr. Elizabeth Haven Hawley, visiting professor at the University of Minnesota’s History of Science and Technology Program and a seminar presentation by Cecily Marcus, curator of the Performing Arts Archives, the Archie Givens Jr. Collection of African American Literature, and the Upper Midwest Literary Archives, part of ASC. A “Technology Petting Zoo” exploring new technologies and their applications in libraries featured many U of M Libraries staff and was arranged with a great deal of coordination by Lara Friedman-Shedlov, an archivist for the Kautz Family YMCA Archives, another ASC unit.

In addition to programming at the conference hotel, the Minneapolis Marriott City Center, visitors were treated to a number of events that showcased our local culture and heritage, as well as “Restaurant Night” experiences throughout downtown. A special concert -free to RBMS attendees – of the Rose Ensemble was held at St. Olaf Church, sponsored in part by the Immigration History Research Center, the James Ford Bell Library, the Friends of the University of Minnesota Libraries and the Associates of the James Ford Bell Library. A major “Welcome to Minneapolis” reception was held at the Mill City Museum, co-sponsored by the University of Minnesota Libraries and the Minnesota Historical Society, with a special performance by the Minnesota Philharmonic Orchestra, the country’s oldest LGBT orchestra and a significant donor to the Libraries’ Tretter Collection in Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies. Optional tours included visits to the American Swedish Institute, the American Craft Council, and Saint John’s University in Collegeville, home of the Saint John’s Bible and the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library, among others.

Please visit the Preconference website for full details on programs, events, sponsors, and volunteers, but we would like to take this opportunity to thank:

University of Minnesota Libraries:
Christine A. DeZelar-Tiedman 
Lara Friedman – Shedlov
E. Haven Hawley
Timothy J. Johnson
Marilyn H. McClaskey
Meredith Gillies
Lois Hendrickson
Cecily Marcus
Daniel Necas
Karen Olson
Sara Wakefield
Margaret Borg
Cheryll Fong
Katherine Allen
Kris Kiesling

Partner Organizations and Individuals:
Juliet Burba, the Bakken Museum and Library
Patrick Coleman, Minnesota Historical Society
Adrian Fischer, the Bakken Museum and Library
Ted Hathaway, Hennepin County Libraries
Rachel Howell, the Bakken Museum and Library
Samantha Klein
Jamie Martin, Target Corporation
Patrick Pfundstein, Mill City Museum
Jeff Rathermel, Minnesota Center for Book Arts
Rob Rulon-Miller
Jessica Shaykett, American Craft Council
Deborah Torres, St. Catherine University
Valerie Urban
Cassie Warholm-Wohlenhaus, American Swedish Institute

Mark Engebretson

Author Mark Engebretson

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