Interview with Steven Galbraith

We are happy to introduce Climate Notes readers to Steven Galbraith, one of our colleagues on the Rochester Institute of Technology Campus. Steven is in charge of the Cary Collection, one of the country's premier libraries on graphic communication history and practices. The Cary Collection is committed to building comprehensive primary and secondary resources on the development of the alphabet and writing systems, early book formats and manuscripts, calligraphy, the development of typefaces and their manufacturing technologies, the history and practice of papermaking, typography and book design, printing and illustration processes, bookbinding, posters, and artists’ books. Learn more about it at

Steven GalbraithName:
Steven Galbraith

Current Title:
Curator of the Cary Graphic Arts Collection at Rochester Institute of Technology. I have been at the Cary Collection for just about two years.  Prior to coming to RIT, I was the Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Books at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC and Visiting Professor and Curator of Early Modern Books and Manuscripts at The Ohio State University.

Where were you born?
Cheverly, Maryland

What was your professional training?
I have an MLS from the University at Buffalo and a PhD in early modern English Literature from The Ohio State University.  Most of my professional training in special collections has come from my on-the-job experiences and through the teaching of the great mentors that I’ve had over the years.

What was your very first job?
My first job as a professional librarian was as a reference librarian at the University of Maine’s Fogler Library. Working at the Fogler and then later at the Folger made for a few typos!  My first job ever was at an Arby’s.

What would your dream job be?
Honestly, I’ve had the good fortunate of landing two of my dream jobs, first at the Folger Shakespeare Library and now at the Cary Graphic Arts Collection. Otherwise my dream job would be to play guitar in Brian Wilson’s touring band.

How did your partnership with IPI begin?
The Cary Collection’s partnership with IPI began under my predecessor David Pankow, from whom I inherited a wonderful working relationship with IPI.  We at the Cary Collection are very lucky to be on the same campus as IPI and to have their staff as colleagues.  I first learned of IPI when they partnered with the Folger Shakespeare Library.  Although I wasn’t then a contact person for them, I was quite interested in the recommendations they were making toward greater preservation and sustainability in the library.  I was very impressed.

Why does the preservation of museum and library collections matter to you?
The artifacts housed in libraries and museums record human history. Their survival is essential. They also preserve histories and information that are as-of-yet unknown and waiting to be discovered. Thus, librarians and curators also need to make these artifacts accessible so that their stories can be told. I think that it’s not only a great honor to be a part of the preservation of our cultural heritage but a great responsibility.

What is your favorite work of art or your favorite artist?
That’s a difficult question because I find myself continually excited by new artists and new types of art. Working at the Cary Collection, for example, has really turned me on to printmaking and type design. At the moment, I find myself really drawn to broadside specimens of beautiful typefaces and to wood type collages.

What other hobbies or significant interests do you have?
Outside of work, music is my passion. I play guitar in a reggae band called Noble Vibes and run a modest recording studio called 22SineWaves.

What book (or books) would you take with you to a desert island?
I’d like a complete set of the National Union Catalog with which I would build a cabin. Once that was made, I’d like the works of Edmund Spenser.

What is your most treasured possession?
I don’t know if I have any treasured possessions. I’m not much of a collector. What I treasure most are my wife and daughters: Jeannie, Audrey, and Maddie.

What is your greatest indulgence?
I like a tall glass of good beer. Maybe two.

What was the most surprising thing to you about IPI?
After taking a tour of their facilities, I was surprised and fascinated by the number of research projects with which they are involved and all the different media they were studying. As busy as they are I am also surprised how responsive they are to the Cary Collection and me.