Guild of Book Workers Newsletter
Number 109
December 1996


Susan G. Swartzburg (1938 - 1996)

On Sunday, October 13 the conservation community suffered a severe loss in the untimely death of Susan Swartzburg, one of the most influential preservationists of recent years. Energetic, charming, and persuasive, Susan was known throughout the field of conservation and preservation as a dynamic motivator and facilitator.

Susan Swartzburg graduated from Wells College in 1960, but she did not enter the field of librarianship until 1963, when, shortly after receiving her M.A. in English from New York University, she joined the staff of the University of Michigan Library. Under Roland Stewart she was introduced to library collection development and the management of government documents. She continued working with document collections with the New York Public Library, and enjoyed it so much that she enrolled in Simmons College, receiving her M.S. in Library Science in 1966. Later that year Susan joined the Yale University Library asdirector of an information network for academic libraries. Her experiences at Yale started her in a direction she held the rest of her life: coordination, communication, and facilitation. At Yale, Susan became interested in library and museum preservation, and during her six years there she developed a preservation program for Yale's research collections. She initiated the transfer of rare books to the Beinecke Rare Book Library, developed specific procedures for the maintenance and conservation of the collections, and wrote the first Preservation Office Procedure Manual.

In 1972, Susan moved to Rutgers, where she was to spend the next 24 years. She started as the Director of the newly-formed Alexander Library and also served as the Acting Arts Librarian, but in 1975 she returned to collections and preservation, serving as the Gifts and Preservation Librarian for the entire Rutgers University Library System. By this time she had become widely known and respected in the field, and was an active consultant on preservation issues. In 1982 Susan became Rutger's Preservation Librarian, in which capacity she oversaw the entire system's preservation planning, maintenance, and training program, and in 1990 she was named Assistant Librarian for Collection Management, as well as Preservation Specialist.

In the 1980s Susan's experience in the field and her passion for her craft led her to expand her consulting and writing activities. Her first book, Preserving Library Materials: A Manual, appeared in 1980 (the second edition was published in 1995). In 1983 she edited Conservation in the Library: A Handbook of Use and Care of Traditional and Nontraditional Materials, which is a collection of essays by experts in preservation. Her most recent book, Libraries and Archives: Design and Renovation with a Preservation Perspective (1991), written with her brother, Frank Garretson, and a former student, Holly Bussey, reflects her evolving interest in larger issues of preservation such as the design of spaces for books and the people who work with them. At the time of her death, she and Robert Schnare were working on a revised and updated version of George Cunha's bibliography. In addition to the books, Susan wrote numerous articles and book reviews for journals and newsletters, and was a regular columnist for Art Documentation, Mid-Atlantic Archivist, and Conservation Administration News. Her consulting activities included preservation surveys for numerous private and research collections.

Susan was perhaps best known through her activities at conferences and meetings throughout the world and for her participation in professional societies. She lectured and led workshops on a wide range of topics from the 1980s until this year, informing and inspiring hundreds of people, who have embraced her views on preservation and conservation. A partial list of her affiliations includes membership on the board of trustees of Abbey Publications; on the advisory boards of the New Jersey Newspaper Project, the Northeast Document Conservation Center, and the foundation for the Preservation of Sound Recordings, and on the editorial boards or staff of the New Jersey Library Association and Conservation Administration News. She also was the founder and convener of the Princeton Preservation Group and a member of the State Librarian's Commission on Preservation and Access. She was a long-time member of the Guild of Book Workers.

Susan is survived by her husband, Marshall Swartzburg, and her son Mark. The cause of her death is, as yet, unknown. She returned from a trip to China a week earlier with a respiratory ailment which progressed rapidly.

People in every facet of preservation around the world have benefited from Susan Swartzburg's warmth, enthusiasm, and tremendous knowledge, and the field as a whole owes her a debt of gratitude.

William G. Roberts III (1943 - 1996)

We report with regret the sudden death, on June 19, 1996 in Halletsville, Texas of William G. Roberts III, active member of the Lone Star Chapter of the Guild. In early June Mr. Roberts participated in the 8th Annual Book Workers Book Arts Fair in Austin, demonstrating elaborate gold tooling.

Priscilla Spitler reports that Bill Roberts first seriously learned binding from Harry Brunner at Still's Bookbindery in Houston during the 1960s. He studied also in Galveston with Zoltan Olah, a master binder from Romania. His first binderies were in Houston before moving to Halletsville in 1978. He did work for many clients, including Faulkner House Books in New Orleans. His work was represented in the first members' exhibition of the Lone Star Chapter of the Guild in 1993.

One of Bill Roberts' bindings was selected for the Grolier/GBW exhibition, "Contemporary American Bookbinding", which opened in 1991 at the Bibliotheque de l'Arsenal in Paris and moved to Brussels and the Grolier Club in New York.

A man of multiple interests, talents and careers, Bill loved French binding and collected numerous catalogs and books on the subject. He had, also, an extensive collection of finishing tools. He worked, at times, as a paramedic and fireman and, lately as a movie projectionist in Houston. Bill Roberts is survived by his wife Janice and two children, Marti and Brandon. The Texas book community will miss his warm smile, good humor and eager participation for years to come.