Friends Receive “Grant Gratitude” for the Rare Book School

June 28, 2022 By Maren Mayer, E-Resources and Special Collections Cataloging Specialist

Dear Friends of the UW-Madison Libraries,

I am writing to express my utmost thanks for helping me to take the Rare Book Cataloging course at Rare Book School in Charlottesville, Virginia. Although I have been working in Special Collections for about twelve years, I did not have much formal training in the specific standards of rare book cataloging. This experience was a much longed for and greatly appreciated one, especially since the course was cancelled in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID.

The Rare Book Cataloging course was taught by Deborah Leslie from the Folger Shakespeare Library and her assistant, Brenna Bychowski from the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Yale University. It covered cataloging hand-press era items as well as materials from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Over the five-day course, I spent much time attempting to reconcile what I had observed in my years of practical experience with what was being taught in the class. I learned the meaning/purpose behind aspects of rare book cataloging that had previously confused me, such as how to distinguish between folio, quarto, and octavo and the difference between woodcuts and engravings. I had the opportunity to practice cataloging books using the Descriptive Cataloging of Rare Materials (Books) standard as well as the RDA compliant version; I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the two titles I was randomly assigned are currently held in Special Collections and one was originally cataloged by someone at UW (although I am hoping to update the record with my version when I get the chance).

Maren Mayer at RBS at last!

Not only did I have the chance to learn the proper way to catalog materials using rare book standards, but I gained eleven new colleagues from institutions across the country (and Canada) to collaborate with and learn from. It was so nice to meet people who are working with similar materials and facing the same challenges as I do.

Having taken this course, I feel confident in my knowledge and experience with cataloging rare materials and look forward to applying what I learned in creating detailed, accurate records for our unique Special Collections materials, making them discoverable to students, faculty, staff, and patrons. I am exceedingly grateful to the Friends for giving me this opportunity to expand my cataloging skills and professional network.


Maren Mayer, E-Resources & Special Collections Cataloging Specialist