RBMS 2020
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RBMS thanks Jonathan A Hill, Bookseller for sponsoring this Sched.
Thursday, June 25 • 4:30pm - 6:00pm
Power Dynamics in the Reading Room

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There is an inherent tension in the relationship between researcher and staff in trying to balance the need for preserving materials and allowing access to the collections. This session will explore power dynamics in the reading room among researchers, special collections staff, other library staff, security, and administration. Our perspective is derived from a research library within a public library system. Our aim is to gather the different perspectives of power dynamics among special collections reading rooms in a variety of institutions. The session will consist of break out group discussions each addressing different topics. Then everyone will gather for a collective discussion of existing power structures and how they impact the communities we serve. We hope participants leave with a better understanding of the reading room flow in their fellow cultural institutions and are inspired to pursue policy changes in their home institutions.

Questions for Discussion:
- What power dynamics help create or prevent access to the reading room? What avenues do you offer for patrons seeking information on access to your rare books and special collections before they arrive to your institution or reading room?
- How do you distribute your reading room policies and how does this affect your relationship with the researcher? Are you an appointment-only institution and how many first-time researchers do you receive?
- Do you believe the types of collections you service also affect your relationship with researchers?
- Do you ever find it difficult to establish a sense of authority? How about when dealing with donors and other “VIP” patrons?
- Do staff members from your Access Services team and your Security team interact with your researchers? Do you have Access Services staff and/or Security? What is their role in association with the reading room? Are they in the room with you?
- Do you find that when enforcing policies there is a sense of a power struggle? Perhaps your researchers have felt staff are preventing them access to the information as a result?
- Does your reading room provide lockers/coat check beforehand and are researchers already aware of this system before they arrive?
- How does technology affect your dynamics with the researcher? Do you think your OPAC, ILS, Aeon, or other technology requesting system affect the relationship with the researcher?
- How do you address accessibility for researchers with mental or physical disabilities?


Crystal Toscano

Reference Librarian for the Printed Collections, New-York Historical Society


Jessica Gavilan

Special Collections, Music and Recorded Sound Division, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts
avatar for Suzanne Lipkin

Suzanne Lipkin

Special Collections, Billy Rose Theatre Division, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts

Cassia Kisshauer

Research and Special Collections Access Services, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts

Thursday June 25, 2020 4:30pm - 6:00pm
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