Category Archives: Librarianship

William H. Loos, former B&ECPL Rare Book Curator passes away…

William H. Loos

William H. Loos (February 26, 1937 – January 24, 2017)


Sad news for current and former Rare Book staff to learn of the passing of William H. Loos, the highly respected Rare Book Curator who held the position for 30 years, retiring in 2002.  A native Western New Yorker, Bill Loos graduated from the University of Buffalo and Syracuse University, specializing in Rare Book Librarianship.  During his distinguished career with the library system, Bill was instrumental during the recovery of the missing Huckleberry Finn manuscript part, as well as the acquisition of the Milestones of Science collection.  He also “rediscovered” among our collections the Negro Exhibit pamphlet from the Pan-American Exposition in 1901. His work with local and national literary celebrities garnered him much acclaim in numerous local publications during the 1980’s and 1990’s, and he appeared as an articulate lecturer throughout the northeast, regaling his listeners on the pleasures and perils of being a rare book  custodian.  He will be sadly missed.

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Filed under Collections, Librarianship, Uncategorized

Travel Scrapbooks of former Grosvenor Librarian

A recent donation of five travel scrapbooks that once belonged to a former Grosvenor Library staff member have been added to the many unique collections in the Grosvenor Rare Book Room.


Jane Van Arnam, later Wiseman, was the daughter of Seymour and Harriet Van Arnam who resided at 76 Highland Ave. in Buffalo. Seymour was an executive at the Pitts Company, a leading manufacturer of machinery prior to World War II, and Harriet was active in church, clubs, and charity work. Jane graduated from the Buffalo Seminary in 1920 and soon after joined her sister Anna as an assistant in the Catalog Department of the Grosvenor Reference Library, later moving to the Periodical Department and working as a librarian until 1954. Her meticulous skills as a reference librarian are evident from the 5-volume travel scrapbooks she maintained from 1925 until the late 1940’s.

Within the carefully organized volumes are photographs, post cards, letters, menus, passenger lists and pamphlets from the many trips she took throughout Europe, Canada, the U. S., South America and other exotic places.  The scrapbooks as a whole provide a glimpse into the life of a working Buffalo blueblood, as well as the world of popular travel in the early-to-mid-20th century.  Jane died in 1989 at the age of 86.


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Filed under Acquisitions, Librarianship, Post Cards, Scrapbooks, Travel

Farewell, Peggy and Best of Luck!

The Grosvenor Room of the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library is sad to announce the retirement of the first Deputy Administrator of Special Collections, Peggy Skotnicki.   After 26 years of public service, with many years spent as reference and children’s librarian, Peggy spent her final years promoting and advocating for the improvement of policies and procedures in the Special Collections department.  She will be greatly missed.

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What is a rare book and special collections librarian and what do they do?!

Do you read all day?  Do you just shelve books at work?  How do you get to be a rare book librarian?  What is a special collections librarian?  These are just a few of the common questions rare book room staff is often asked about our profession.  We don’t mean to be mysterious, so here’s our best explanation of what we do and how we ended up in this professtion!

First, special collections and rare book librarians specialize in the unique, rare, and historically significant holdings of a library.  Examples include books, artwork, maps, photographic material, manuscripts, and archives.  Keep in mind that rare and unique does not automatically mean valuable in terms of money!  A single photo of mid-19th century Buffalo may not be worth much money, but its historical value make it a unique and precious object.

To handle, exhibit, interpret, collect, and describe objects such as these, specialized training is imperative.  Librarians [all kinds] have an advanced master’s degree.  Librarianship offers many specializations: children’s services, cataloging, and information technology are just a few.  How to choose?  Most choose a path based on their passion.  For those of us in special collections, rare and historical books and manuscripts are what we love.  But training doesn’t stop there, all librarians take extensive continuing education courses throughout their career.  After all, the way we access and use information changes each day, and being an information professional is what we do!

Rare book and special collections librarians wear many hats.  Each special collection itself is unique, which dictates the training and skills of staff.  In our own Grosvenor Rare Book Room, these are just a few of the skills and services our staff provide:

reference, cataloging, digitization, Web tools [like this blog!], exhibit design and curation, xml coding, tour guide, copywriter, foreign language interpreter, grant writer, project coordinator, manager, preservation librarian, conservator, general office management, collection development, preparation and maintenance of budgets, teacher, historian, program and event creation, and archivist.

Learn more about rare book and special collections librarians:

  • Terry Belanger, founding director of the Rare Book School at the University of Virginia, wrote a great article on rare book librarians.  Although more than 20 years old, the article still has great information.
  • Library Trends, summer 2003 focused on special collections.   A great resource.
  • Librarians, different kind of.  View here.
  • Interview with Jessica Pigza, New York Public library rare book librarian.

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