RBMS 2015 Blog

Meet the Conference Organizers

This week’s post features a Q&A with the individuals behind the 2015 RBMS Conference, Laura Micham and Danielle Culpepper, Co-chairs of the 2015 Conference Program Planning Committee, and Randal S. Brandt, Chair of the Local Arrangements Committee.

What is your day job?

Laura – I’m the Merle Hoffman Director of the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture and Curator, Gender and Sexuality History Collections, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Duke University.

Danielle – I am the Director of Budget and Finance at Rare Book School, where I began working in 2008.  In addition to financial work, I also help with grant planning and writing; I’m currently managing the IMLS-RBS Fellowship program for early-career librarians and am working on a planning grant to train emerging leaders of special collections libraries. I truly love working at RBS, and count myself tremendously lucky to work in such a vibrant and exciting organization and with a group of such intelligent, hardworking, and passionate (as well as compassionate) colleagues.

Randal – I work at The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, where I am Principal Cataloger. Recently, I acquired a secondary job title, which I think is one of the coolest ever: Curator of the California Detective Fiction Collection.

How many years have you been involved with RBMS? Why have you continued your involvement?

Laura – I’ve been actively involved since 1999 when my boss told me on my first day of work at Emory University that I would be local arrangements co-chair for the 2002 preconference in Atlanta. It was a wild experience to begin that role before I’d even attended a preconference. My first preconference was in Chicago in 2000. I met a lot of great people at that preconference including my longtime conference roommate. Doing local arrangements was an excellent way to get to know the section as well as my new institution, Emory, and town, Atlanta. What sticks with me though is the sincere and enthusiastic appreciation that was expressed by the Executive Committee at their meeting at Annual after our preconference. Section chair, Suzy Taraba, vice-chair, Dan Slive and the rest of the group were very kind and supportive throughout the process and treated us like heroes when it was done!

Danielle – I attended my first preconference in 2007 in Baltimore.  I was a CLIR fellow working in Special Collections at Johns Hopkins (the host institution) at the time, and so I had to juggle attending sessions with duties in the reading room, but it was a really great way for me to learn about the field and to meet some very interesting folks.  I loved the mix of receptions and informative sessions (I remember some fascinating presentations on collecting ephemera and memorabilia).  It was also through connections made at the preconference that I got my job at RBS the following year.  Through advice I received from my new colleagues, I realized that it was okay to attend committee meetings, sit in at information exchange, and go to the executive committee meeting even if I wasn’t a committee member; it was a great way to learn about the section, and made it easy for me to become involved in the work of the section.  I continue my work because I enjoy getting to help shape the content of the conferences, and the work of the professional community.  But I also continue because of the wonderful people who are part of the section, not least of whom is my marvelous co-chair, Laura Micham.  It’s been an honor to work alongside Laura and many others.

Randal – I attended my first RBMS preconference in 2003, in Toronto, and have been an active member ever since. Most of my involvement has been in the Bibliographic Standards Committee, which has been incredibly rewarding. I’ve met so many great people who are so passionate and smart about rare materials cataloging, and who have this immense (and uncontrollable) desire to share that passion and knowledge with the world.

What are you most looking forward to about RBMS 2015?

Laura – I’m incredibly excited about the program that we’ve worked hard to organize. Our committee as well as Workshops, Seminars, and Local Arrangements have put together what I hope will be a truly wonderful line-up of offerings for the section. We have all tried to focus on actively incorporating all functional areas of special collections librarianship as well as content that engages discussion on U.S.-based as well as international collections and librarians, traditional as well as under-represented populations, and the central question-the current state and future prospects of the humanities-that has generated literature and lively debate for decades. As one of our committee members observed early on, “special collections is the raw material of the humanities.” For that reason I believe we play a central role in humanistic inquiry. I hope this conference will give us the opportunity to think critically about how we can do this most imaginatively and effectively.

Danielle – I’m really looking forward to the whole conference!  We have an amazing group of plenary speakers lined up, a fantastic theme, and a whole array of other programming including papers, posters, seminars, workshops, and participant-driven sessions.  We had an entire subcommittee working hard to develop a series of small, “participant-driven” sessions with innovative formats, including a reading group, a hands-on session (with objects!) a​t​ the Bancroft library, and a informal “fireside chat” with the section chair and vice-chair.  I’m also looking forward to the venue; Oakland is great, and I’m thrilled that we’ll get to spend a full day on campus at UC Berkeley.  I can’t wait!

Randal – This year’s conference theme is a very timely and intriguing one, and the program planners have done a fantastic job of putting together a variety of programs that promise to be exciting and thought-provoking. And, I’m really looking forward to the Wednesday evening “Humanities Happy Hour” at the Oakland Museum of California. OMCA is in a beautiful location, adjacent to Lake Merritt, and offers stellar exhibits that illustrate the art, history, and natural science of the Golden State. The Gallery of California History will be open during the reception and I hope that everyone has a chance to explore the exhibit, which tells the story of California, beginning with its indigenous peoples and continuing to the tech boom of today. And, don’t miss the Museum’s new “hot tub lounge,” complete with umbrella, towels, and flip-flops (but no water, we’re in a drought, you know).

What has been the most exciting part of planning for RBMS 2015?

Laura – There have been many exciting moments such as the moment Randy Brandt embraced our dream of spending a conference day at Berkeley, or the day that the website went live as a result of a huge amount of work by folks like Tory Ondrla, Aislinn Sotelo, and Elspeth Healey. One of my favorite moments though was when we confirmed the final plenary speaker. We confirmed all but one of our plenary speakers a year before the conference (by the 2014 preconference). The last one said yes shortly before Christmas. That was a truly exciting gift. I was fortunate enough to be on the receiving end of that “yes” but it happened as a result of extremely hard and thoughtful work by a number of committee members, especially Danielle Culpepper and Shannon Supple. I work in a cube so am very mindful of not disturbing my neighbors. When the call ended almost an hour later I expressed the kind of excitement that doesn’t coincide with my usual approach to cube living. My coworkers were excited along with me. A memorable moment!

Danielle – The most exciting part of planning for me was actually a moment early on, when we decided on our theme, the role of special collections in shaping the humanities.  The role of the humanities is all over the news, and I was excited that we’d have a chance for our section to engage in the discussion — not necessarily about whether there’s a so-called crisis in the humanities, but to think deeply about the ways in which special collections librarians actively and proactively collaborate with academics in ways that support and inform the liberal arts in the 21st century.  As we formed our committee, and began to line up speakers, it was great to see that others shared our interest in this important topic.  I think we’re going to have some truly interesting and productive conversations this summer!

Randal – Getting to know my hometown better and looking at my surroundings in a completely new way. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen something around town and said to myself “Wow, RBMS folks will love that!” or “Oh, RBMS folks will not like that” or “Gee, I hope that construction is finished before RBMS comes to town” or “Please don’t let there be BART delays when RBMS is here…”

What are you most excited about the conference being in Oakland/Berkeley?

Laura – The hotel is fantastic for our purposes: it has all the spaces we need to do what we want to do. The staff we’ve worked with have been lovely. Tory Ondrla, ACRL Conference Supervisor Extraordinaire, has worked her usual magic. And there’s a BART stop just across the street! The neighborhood is fantastic-full of local culture and great food. Oakland is a really amazing place to be sure but I’m especially thrilled that we will have the chance to explore our conference theme at one of the iconic college campuses of the world, UC Berkeley. Thank you, Local Arrangements!

Danielle – In December 2013, I was able to make a site visit to the Bay Area with the other conference planners.  We got to look at some great locations in Oakland and Berkeley, and it was fabulous.  It was lovely to be able to walk around the campus at Berkeley, or to visit sites like the Oakland Museum of California and to picture RBMS in those spaces.  I was very impressed with the venue at the Marriott — it’s such a convenient location, and there’s lots of great space for us.  I remember being especially impressed by the spectacular view from the Skyline room where we decided we would have to host our New Members’ Mixer.  I didn’t know Oakland well before the visit, and was extremely impressed with the food and culture.  The Local Arrangements committee has been hard at work preparing for our arrival in June, and has lined up a number of great tours and receptions for the conference.  I’m excited to return this June!

Randal – Residents of the East Bay often feel like San Francisco gets all the love. It’s “The City,” it’s “Baghdad by the Bay.” It has the Golden Gate Bridge, Coit Tower, romantic fogs, and (gag) the three-time world champion San Francisco Giants. So, why am I excited about the RBMS conference being held in Oakland and Berkeley? Some of my best friends, some of the greatest people on earth — the members of RBMS — are going to find out that there is so much more to the Bay Area than just San Francisco. They’re going to eat at fabulous restaurants, see world-class museums and library collections, and be immersed in a vibrant and edgy urban landscape. They’re going to see the Tribune Tower and Lake Merritt, with its necklace of lights, the Campanile (celebrating its 100th anniversary this year) and the birthplace of the Free Speech Movement. They’re going to experience “The Town” and “Berzerkley”. They’re coming to the Sunny Side of the Bay! To know us is to love us, and RBMS is going to love this.

– Aislinn Sotelo, University of California, San Diego, RBMS, Subcommittee Chair, Marketing & PR, Conference Program Planning