Here I am in Rome at the Vatican Library conference with my colleague from Mundelein, Lorraine. This is not working out the way we thought at all, but we are hanging in there (well, I should only speak for myself--Lorraine is doing much better and understands loads of it). The conference was held to analyze the period of the last sixty years, both in terms of the studies undertaken in the Library and its contacts with external institutions, and the life and activities of the Library and the experience it has acquired in its various departments, according to Msgr Pasini, the prefect of the Library. So far, yesterday all the presentations were in Italian except one in French and only one has shown any slides. It seems very odd to me that a scholar would discuss a collection of medieval manuscripts without slides, but it is so. (An aside, for those who are on the no powerpoint bandwagon--if you think you might have non-native speakers at your presentation, kindly use some slides. I was able to read about 95 percent but could not understand anything anyone said!) We did meet Msgr Kosanke, rector at the Polish seminary in Orchard Lake) who is the head of the American Friends of the Vatican Library and Sr Jacinta who is from Connecticut and a secretary at the library. She was able to introduce me to Msgr Canart who was one of the librarians I wanted to meet about my Fr Simeon research. Otherwise, no other Norte-Americanos and there are no name tags so one has no way of knowing who the folks are who might be possible collaborators on the Catholic Reference wiki or who might want to write an article for Theological Librarianship.
Also, last night we went to the exhibit which celebrates the reopening of the library. That is the best we can do; only Msgr Kosanke has the clout to get a real tour of the library itself. The mindset here is just so different from libraries in the states. I think everyone who knows me knows that my theology of librarianship espouses hospitality as a primary virtue. Not here.
Even the exhibit was not hospitable and Lorraine and I practically had to harass the guide to get her to let us take a few minutes to look at the conservation exhibit (which I realize was likely not so interesting to the others in our group, but Lorraine, the preservationist, and I did want to get all the info we could from it). I was the straggler the entire tour and I wanted her to just leave me alone so I could LOOK at the incunabula and other rare works. Another odd thing about the exhibit was the number of facsimiles instead of the actual manuscript or printed book.
What has been useful is the trip to the Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Sometimes nothing can compare to a simple trip to actually see the books available for sale. (I will blog more on book shopping on Via della Conciliazione soon.)
Finishing up on conference...
The rest of the conference was much better--though I could not say for sure, the presenters seemed more like practical librarians! The first part of the conference was on the Vatican Library as a place of research and most of the presenters discussed how the collections began and some highlights of the collections that researchers would find useful (at least I think that was it!). The second part was the institution as a place serving scholars--I find it rather difficult how one would sort out the difference between the two, but the second part covered conservation and restoration, preservation (a lot about the old Vatican microfilm collection) and about how they are going about meshing all the catalogs which was very interesting for me. Well, we read this day that we are two of 350 "experts" attending the conference!