Current SLIS Student Gets a Summer Job at the Rare Book School

Suzanne Glémot is a second year SLIS student and a third year MFA candidate at the University of Iowa Center for the Book. In the summer of 2017, Glémot was tabling at the Solstice Book Fair held in conjunction with the 2017 RBMS (Rare Books & Manuscripts Section) Conference in Iowa City when she was approached by Amanda Nelsen, who was Director of Programs & Education at the Rare Book School at the time.

They started talking. When Nelsen found out that Glémot was involved in both book arts and library science, she encouraged her to apply to be a summer staff member at the Rare Book School.

Located at the University of Virginia, the Rare Book School is an independent, non-profit institute supporting the study of the history of books and printing and related subjects. It offers about 40 five-day courses throughout the year on topics concerning old and rare books, manuscripts, and special collections. Some courses are broadly directed toward book collectors, bookbinders, conservators, and teachers. Others are primarily intended for archivists and librarians.

Glémot followed up with Nelsen in the fall. After a round of interviews, she was offered a job as a Course Follower for two back-to-back summer sessions at the Rare Book School. Essentially, she served as a course assistant to the two courses that she had been assigned to. She pulled materials from the collections, and prepared the classroom for the instructors.

“I was basically there to make sure that the instructors to which I was assigned could focus on teaching,” Glémot said. She also served as a liaison between the instructors and special collections when class sessions were held there.

Glémot appreciated the collection of original and replica printing presses at the Rare Book School, but her favorite part of the experience was the reference collections, which students work with directly.

"The rare book collections and getting to be around the Rare Book School's materials was a great experience,” she said. “I loved getting to assist faculty members who are so interested in and driven by the physical nature of the book.”

Because of Glémot’s more specialized knowledge, she was offered the opportunity to assist faculty who were leading demos in the letterpress studio, and was also asked to lead the bookbinding demonstration in a course on bookbinding history.

Glémot enjoyed watching the scholars’ reactions to seeing “book guts” up close. Watching a book being bound for the first time was very revelatory to book scholars who had never before experienced the material book in that way. It was an immersive experience for the students as well as for Glémot, giving her a better sense of where she might be able to see herself professionally in the future.

“I’m always going back and forth between the hands-on side of my practice and the more academic-driven interests that I have,” said Glémot. “It was really good for me to be in a space where both are valued."

Photos used with permission of the Rare Book School.