Our Bright Young Librarians series continues today with Rebecca Hopman, Outreach Librarian with the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, New York.
How did you get started in rare books?
I entered Augustana College planning to become a children's librarian, but that changed when I visited Special Collections with my British literature class. There, Jamie Nelson and Sarah Horowitz introduced us to their collections. I was over the moon when I realized I could explore the collections whenever I wanted, but I was truly converted after they let us touch a leaf from the Gutenberg Bible. Special collections was clearly the place for me; I could combine my interests in history, literature, and librarianship, and, let's be honest, read other people's letters and diaries.
I was fortunate enough to be hired as a student worker in Special Collections a year or so later. Both Jamie and Sarah encouraged their students to explore a variety of special collections work, and my experiences there confirmed my career path.
Where did you earn your MLS/advanced degree?
I earned my MLS, with a specialization in archives and records management, from the University of Maryland, College Park, where I worked with the talented people in the University Archives and Special Collections. I tailored my degree program to include classes on the history of the book, outreach, and programming to suit the work I hoped to do as an archivist/special collections librarian.
What is your role at your institution? (And please introduce our readers to your institution as well, which is a bit different from most of the other institutions we've profiled thus far).
I became the Outreach Librarian for the Rakow Research Library at The Corning Museum of Glass in October 2013. I lead our outreach program, which includes planning and coordinating events, tours, a donor newsletter, and the Library's social media campaigns. I also run our oral history program, which documents the voices of glass artists, those who have worked in the glass industry, and former Museum staff. In addition, I serve on the reference desk and provide instruction to groups including our docents and glass artists.
The Museum's mission is to "Tell the World about Glass." We do so through inviting people to explore the glass galleries, Library collections, and special exhibitions; to watch hot glass demonstrations; to make their own piece of glass at The Studio; and to participate in programs and events throughout the year. The Rakow Library is the research center for the Museum, and we aim to collect everything published on the subject of glass. Our collection spans the 3,500+ year history of glass, covering everything from art and design to science and technology. The Library is open to the public, and although we are a non-circulating special library, we make as much of our collection accessible as possible through our digitization and InterLibrary Loan programs.
Favorite rare book / ephemera that you've handled?
I discover new favorites all the time, and as the Outreach Librarian I enjoy sharing those I think our visitors and followers will connect with. I never run out of interesting finds to include on a tour or in a social media post.
However, there is one collection that remains at the top of my list. During my first summer working in Augustana Special Collections, I came across a set of diaries written by a former Augustana student and librarian, Lydia Olsson (1874-1958). I was immediately hooked on her descriptions of classes, social events, and her relationships with friends and family members. As a history lover, it was intriguing to see my college campus 100+ years ago through another female student's eyes. I realized that Lydia's writing might also be compelling to others, so I decided to transcribe her diaries. In addition, I proposed using them as part of an exhibition on early female student life at Augustana College, and the resulting exhibit remains one of my favorite accomplishments.
What do you personally collect?
Lack of space and students loans have kept me from acquiring too much, but I do own several editions of Lucile by Owen Meredith, inspired by Sid Huttner's Lucile Project.
What do you like to do outside of work?
I'm a pop culture nerd, so I consume lots of movies, TV shows, graphic novels, etc. I also embroider, knit, and crochet - I'm currently embroidering a series of 16th-century woodcuts. During warmer months I enjoy hiking and spending time outdoors.
What excites you about rare book librarianship?
The books, of course, but even more so I love sharing those books with our community. The best part of my job is when I can connect someone with a book, document, or collection that inspires them.
In addition, I'm always excited to see what my colleagues in the special collections and archives community are up to. Whether they are using technology creatively to enhance access to their collections, creating popular programming, or sharing fun images of #hatsinthelibrary, I draw inspiration from them for my own projects.
Thoughts on the future of special collections / rare book librarianship?
I am happy to see more special collections doing outreach. To many people, we are still keepers of the restricted section where you wear white gloves to touch dusty old books and boxes. Thanks to the work of many of my colleagues, however, people are beginning to understand how much we have to offer them in the digital age.
Any unusual or interesting collection at your library you'd like to draw our attention to?
As with every special library, we have any number of unique collections. Some of my personal favorites include the design drawings in the Blaschka Archive, the Whitefriars stained glass cartoon collection, and our collection of handwritten batch books (or glass recipe books). The easiest way to take a peek inside our collections is to check out the #RakowLibrary hashtag on Instagram. You'll also see us pop up on all of the Museum's social media channels.
Any upcoming exhibitions at your library?
Our most recent exhibition, "America's Favorite Dish: Celebrating a Century of Pyrex," commemorates the history of Pyrex wares, the brand's development, and its place in the American household. Much of the research done for the exhibition, along with the Museum's collection of Pyrex, can be found on our Pyrex Potluck website. Our next exhibition, "Revealing the Invisible: The History of Glass and the Microscope," opens April 23rd and will explore the history of the microscope and depictions of the microscopic world in books and periodicals between the 17th century and the late 19th century. "Revealing the Invisible" will run at the same time as the Museum's upcoming special exhibition, "Fragile Legacy: The Marine Invertebrate Models of Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka," which features a number of drawings and archival materials from the Library's Blaschka collection.