Editor’s Note (to Future Readers—Especially You Newer Ones)

Moments of change provide opportunities for reflection. I am fairly sure that function is part of what makes us human. When I assumed the editor’s chair for RBM: A Journal of Rare Books, Manuscripts, and Cultural Heritage, I knew that I would eventually turn over that chair to a successor. Such is the lot of we mortals; nothing lasts forever. Even so, in turning over my last issue to you, dear Reader, I conclude my editorial forum with a few musings and admonitions from an old guy with more experience than wisdom, begging your indulgence in this final and somewhat more personal editorial comment.

A suite of acknowledgements should always lead an essay like this. That list includes my predecessor, Dr. Jennifer Sheehan, who took a blind chance on an unknown quantity. Jen telephoned one afternoon with an invitation to consider applying for an appointment that had never crossed my mind. Her trust persuaded me. Amy Cary, Jen Sheehan, and Dr. John Henry Adams served as the journal’s review editors during my editorial tenure. I fretted over articles but never worried about reviews. Jen did much of the practical work launching and populating the review portal on the RBM site, and John Henry keeps that portal filled between issues with comments on professional works both valuable and interesting. The RBMS members who have served on the RBM editorial board during my tenure, a list too long to recall easily, have been a joy to work with, in and occasionally beyond biennial board meetings. My deepest gratitude is owed the ACRL staff contacts, who have been long-suffering with my faults and foibles. As the journal’s production editor, Dawn Mueller has made whatever I’ve given her into something that looks very good. The remarkably competent David Free has been my functional memory, conscience, and on occasion, my rod of correction. They are the firm foundation for the work of the editor across a dozen issues of this professional publication. With this issue “in the can” I turn RBM over to an editorial successor, Diane Dias De Fazio. I met Diane over lunch at the 2017 RBMS conference in Iowa. She comes to the journal with professional experience from public and academic libraries, fine arts museums, and even a zoo. Each editor brings their stamp of personality and their views and visions to its pages.

Meanwhile, as Diane settles into what Bernard DeVoto once called the editor’s “uneasy chair,” I am rather stunned that there is suddenly someone very like an old man in my mirror (I had no hair for much longer than that, so that detail isn’t an issue). Not only am I turning over the journal to a new generation of professionals, but retirement is looming ever larger across my range of vision. I suddenly find myself waxing very nostalgic over the challenges and successes of the past six years and, beyond editorial tenure, over past decades. This year passes my thirtieth season as a credentialled archivist and professional academic librarian but also, I am somewhat shocked to discover, my fortieth season as an academic library employee. With the benefit of hindsight and wishing that I had done some things differently in my career, I am writing to you, personally, Reader.

Volunteer. This means you. There are not nearly enough opportunities for everyone to serve in this particular entity for long periods, but there are many options in any community. Choose one. A professional organization such as ALA/ACRL/RBMS operates by aggregating the work of scores of volunteers. Your views matter. The ideal applicant qualification is willingness. Get into the reviews pool. Offer yourself as a double-blind peer reviewer. Write an article. Offer your time on the editorial board. You are not working in an institution too small to matter (we need more people from those). During my tenure the list of volunteers has never included an individual from an HBCU or tribal college, and only two from a religiously affiliated institution. Neither has a first-language Spanish or French speaker yet volunteered. No matter your skill or experience level, in your volunteerism be eager and willing rather than ambitious or driving, leaving plenty of room around you for the contributions of others, even if the outcome isn’t as good as yours.

Attend conferences. When you do, introduce yourself to three or four people standing close to you and invite them to lunch, then take time to find out about their professional work and interests. They may appreciate it and won’t think you are weird (probably), and you’ll foster connections with some great colleagues. Skip chatty groups; choose those who don’t look or sound like you, and make sure one of those is someone standing or sitting alone. Diane was one of those standing reasonably close by on a warm June afternoon after a session.

Stretch your mind. Read widely in the profession and more widely outside of it. Make yes your default answer, even when you are out of your element, but make no your default response when another person you know would profit more from the opportunity than you, when you are already committed, or when your family or mental health is at risk.

Be kind. Push through disappointments with generosity. Stand firmly against abuses and abusers. Think outside your experience emotionally as well as rationally. Avoid the trap of what do I get from it and prefer is this the right thing for those it most affects? Keep confidences. Be curious. Give credit where it is due, and do it generously. Write thank-you notes—by hand. Work hard and long and take time off to renew and regenerate. Be diplomatic. Avoid retaliating. In institutions, politics are inevitable, but play them with ideas, not people. Be welcoming. Be a mentor because you can be, not because you are perfect, and be a friend and colleague to anyone else in the field. In short, as someone much more qualified than I once said, do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Thank you for reading RBM. Keep it up.

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