The last day of YABS was something more than I expected. While we dispersed at the end of the day, I hope somethings stuck with people. Not sure how often, other than exclusive or private conversations, booksellers have frank discussions. I won’t belabor the negatives here, rather that the discussions trigger some action. Before the end summary, we started off the day actually handling materials, one of my favourite things. Sophie facilitated a hands-on session discussing printing techniques and showing examples. It is definitely worth knowing the difference between lithography, engraving, etching, woodcut, photo polymer, etc.
Our after break speaker lead us through a fascinating narrative regarding the extremely real issues around fakes and forgeries. I’ve always known the book world is like detective work, in a sense (not even ironically if you are a mystery specialist). There are people that would spend a lifetime faking antiquarian books, as presented by Adam Douglas of Peter Harrington. No big surprise in our fraudulent and suspect world. Ian even pointed out, it might be interesting to collect faked books, as a theatre of the absurd aspect in a black library. We ended out the rest of the seminar with personal narratives and expertise in the trade from Nigel Burwood, Ed Maggs, and ended the day with gems of wisdom from Jonathan, once again.
I think for me, the important bit was the discussion afterwards, sparked by Jonathan and continued by several of the participants in the class. Gender and race should always be on the table, especially in a profession where the representation is not there. The book trade, much like the rare book librarianship, is desolate with representations of diverse communities and has had a history of marginalizing women. The difference with the profession is the library field has actively tried to cultivate relationships with marginalized communities through mentoring programs, scholarships, and encouraging women, people of color, people who are differently-abled, and gender diverse communities to seek professions in the library. The book trade, well, not so much. Part of that is there isn’t an incentive or action to do so, partially due to the fact that the trade has little to no accountability. I’ve already experienced some form of harassment, and it is almost up to individuals or a few concerned minds to address the issues, there is no Ombudsman Office in the trade. Conflicts begrudgingly get worked out over drinks and sometimes produce piss poor attitudes from people. No one is asking everyone to be at the front of the protest or the march, but more recognition of privilege and some forthright decency and respect would be amazing.
As I suggested, in order to challenge or at least instigate change, even if a small part, YABS might consider supporting a diversity scholarship for individuals from underrepresented communities, with an emphasis on ethnic background. Rare Book School has had great success with their scholarship initiatives with demographics, but it will take some active follow-up and target communication to encourage people to apply without tokenizing communities. It takes thought and work. I think the trade is and should be up for it. However, I don’t think participants ended the seminar feeling threatened or irritated. Rather, prodded consciously to perhaps recognize issues more soundly or even thoughtfully in the future.
So, if you are still reading [blather]… Again, without the support I wouldn’t have been able to attend YABS, ironically what I am talking about here. I could rant on about issues, but would rather end on a note of productivity and inspiration from the collegial nature and accumulated knowledge from YABS. Now, let’s put all this to good use. 🙂