By Vic Zoschak and Margueritte Peterson
1. Hooray! Another Reference Book Workshop! Who attended and how was the vibe of the event in your eyes?
This was like the 11th or 12th I’ve hosted this workshop since the first in 2001. Due to space constraints, I limit registration to 7, which was attained this year shortly after the announcement but relatively late cancellations dropped us to 4 folk that actually attended. Diane Black, Holly Chaffee, Zayda Delgado & David Guest. Zayda a librarian at the beginning of her career at UC Riverside; the other 3 individuals are booksellers with varying degrees of experience in the trade. This a typical mix of workshop attendees as the workshop is designed to help new[ish] booksellers who may not be familiar with the standard rare book bibliographies & references, but can also be useful to rare book librarians who need to know those works, as well as collectors just embarking on their collecting journey [though usually collectors have an interest in just one of the 4 subject areas].
I think the day went ok… as I explain to all at the beginning of the workshop, it’s designed to just be a survey, and exposure thereto, of those basic references in four primary subject areas [English & American Literature, Americana, Childrens & Early Printed Books] which one will need in the daily course of business as a generalist antiquarian shop. Which is to say, I know the divers volumes will begin to all ‘run together’ by the end of the first segment. The challenge for me, as host, is to somehow be able to ascribe some aspect of uniqueness to each & every one such that the volumes retain their individuality.
I’ll leave it to the participants to say how successful I was at that effort!
2. How did this past Saturday differ from previous workshops?
Not much different really… people ask questions, different paths are taken during the course of the day, other areas are explored. Two of the individuals were from Nevada, so during the Americana section, I added a few Nevada refs that I thought they should know. One thing I did note… during breaks all 4 individuals were scouring the shelves of the shop, to a degree more detailed than I had noted in the past few workshops. True book people!
3. What is your favorite part of the day?
As you can imagine, I’m the primary talker during the day, and it can be a bit draining… so at lunch, which I host, it’s a chance for the participants to chat with each other, with me, with Kate, and perhaps discuss other topics of interest, with those topics not necessarily being entirely relevant to the day’s subjects. While we do introductions at the beginning of the day, lunch a time where we have an opportunity to say more than “Hi, my name is …. and I’m here to learn ….”. So I get to find out more about the folks that have joined me for the day, while listening, not necessarily talking. I find it relaxing & collegial.
4. What is the most useful part of the workshop for newbies? Or, would you recommend this workshop for newbies, over, say, RBS or CalRBS?
I’m not sure I can point to a specific aspect as ‘most useful’, as that is determined by each attendee, and as such, can be different for each individual. I can say that when I hold up a certain reference book, and introduce it with “This reference book made me $5000” the booksellers usually perk up & pay attention.
Which segues into one aspect of the workshop I try to continually emphasis… the web has lots of useful information available, but it has yet, in my experience, to supersede the reference book library. In my opinion, it still takes both to successfully run a generalist antiquarian business.
While I wouldn’t recommend this workshop ‘over’ RBS or CALRBS, it does have the advantage of being 1 day, vice 5, and the cost is minimal, e.g., there is no entry fee, as I give the class gratis. That said, I do tell people this the beginner version of Joel Silver’s week long ‘Reference Sources for Researching Rare Books’, and I encourage them to attend his class [RBS L-25] if they found mine interesting and/or useful. Tavistock Books even offers a scholarship* to his class.
* here’s a link to the RBS Class description: <http://rarebookschool.org/courses/library/l25/>
** a link to info regarding the Tavistock Books Educational Scholarship to L-25 (scroll to the bottom): <http://rarebookschool.org/admissions-awards/scholarships/>
5. Kate’s opinion – this was your first Reference Book Workshop, right? Was there anything that you learned that you didn’t already know, even having been working for Vic for the last year?
This was indeed my first reference book workshop, of any kind, and I’m glad I got to sit in on it. Despite the fact that I’ve had access to both Vic and his stellar reference library for over a year now, and am even in the process of inventorying that library, I learned plenty on Saturday. I haven’t yet handled all of the kinds of material that would require using each of the references Vic discussed with the class, for one thing — as with any bookshop, certain kinds of books are more likely to come through the door than others — so some reference titles were entirely new to me. Also, the workshop offered a chance for me to think critically about some of the references I only had a glancing familiarity with, and about bibliographic research in general. For instance, does McKerrow’s Dictionary of Printers & Booksellers, 1557 – 1650 cover instances of surreptitious publications? What exactly is the difference between Worldcat and OCLC? How can a bookseller research works by authors that might be un- or underrepresented in traditional “dead white men” bibliographies? And what makes a bibliography authoritative, anyway?
Not all of my questions were answered, naturally, but many were, and I’m happy to have food for thought. Plus, the attendees were great: interested and interesting people, and all, like me, simply trying to educate themselves about professional research materials and standards in the trade. So I can say, with absolute conviction, that it was the best reference book workshop I’ve ever attended/ eavesdropped on. And luckily for me, I get to pester the instructor any day I want from here on out . . .
Closing remarks by V…
Finally, this may have been my last workshop…. they take a lot of energy, and I’m not the spring chicken I used to be. Though on saying as much to Kate as we were cleaning up, she inquired, “How many times have you said that now?” After a moment’s reflection, I replied “After each of the last 3.” She just smiled.