My First Rare Book School Experience

This past July I, Brittney Falter, Research Services Coordinator, attended my first Rare Book School (RBS) session in Charlottesville, VA at the University of Virginia (UVA). I had been talking to my boss and SCRC’s director, Lynn Eaton, about attending RBS for a while now because I work with a lot of our rare books for instruction and social media. I am also responsible for maintaining our stacks – shelf reading and inventories – and tracking books coming from and going to cataloging. Even though I have worked with books for a few years now, I had never had any training or taken classes about books and the role they had and currently play in our society. With much appreciated support from Lynn, John Walsh, Associate University Librarian, and John Zenelis, Dean of Libraries, I was fortunate enough to participate in The History of the Book in America: A Survey from Colonial to Modern taught by Scott E. Casper and Jeffery D. Groves.

The whole week was very exciting, interesting, and also exhausting – but in the best way possible. All of the RBS students learned so much and it was a great experience to not only get to know and connect with my course-mates (who all came from different book backgrounds and professions), but the other students and staff who were having their own amazing experiences with the courses they took there and all the activities happening that week. Overall, I think the course I took was the best for me because it was a very in depth overview of the social history of books – as much as can be done in a week, at least. I learned about printing processes, the evolution of newspapers, how books and their audiences changed over time, immigrant experiences in the book and printing business, and a little about illustration.

The Class

I got to do so many cool things! Below are some images from my experiences.

The Experience

The lawn at UVA

First I should say that the UVA campus is so beautiful. I loved being there and it was easy to get around campus and off campus for food and other activities. As someone with dietary restrictions, I really appreciated that the staff at RBS provided us with so many options for breakfast and breaks throughout the day that could accommodate anyone with an intolerance or specific dietary lifestyles. This is not always the case when I attend conferences, which I always prepare for, but it was nice that I did not have to worry this time around. Anytime I had a question about ingredients or the food choices, they seemed more than happy to help me find the answer. Lunch was taken on our own every day and there were plenty of choices for eating on and off campus. I went to both dining halls which had some good options for vegans and vegetarians, which was amazing to see. Off campus there were quite a few restaurants that had a variety of meal options that were satisfying and delicious. Here are some places I ate at:

Not pictured: I went to Boylan Heights because they have the Impossible Burger (not advertised online) which was very good. Otherwise, they do not really have many vegan or vegetarian option. There is also a Sugar Shack/Luther Burger that has good breakfast, lunch and dinner options. Donuts are amazing and Luther Burger supposedly has vegan milkshakes but they were out when I went. The food options are very diverse, which I really enjoyed. There is definitely something for everyone.

I decided to stay in the dorms instead of the lawn. I was given access to two dorm rooms and shared a bathroom with others in the other set of rooms. It was cozy overall but I definitely recommend bringing your own blankets because it can get cold and the blankets and sheets they give are pretty thin (college life!) From what I heard, the rooms on the lawn were nice but it did get hot and the area tended to be a bit noisier than the dorms. Others stayed off campus and said that the transportation to and from campus was relatively easy. I definitely enjoyed staying on campus and it is a good option for anyone trying to save some money on accommodations.

If anyone is interested in what RBS has to offer, please visit I cannot recommend it enough, especially the class I took. Scott Casper and Jeffery Groves were great instructors and really allowed the class to flow in a productive and fun way. There were a ton of hands on activities that paired well with the readings. I think it would be a great course for anyone who deals with books on a regular basis but does not have a great amount of background knowledge on books and certain processes. RBS has courses throughout the year and in different locations.

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