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R. Arvid Nelsen

Curator of Rare Books & Manuscripts and Librarian for Special Collections

Arvid Nelsen

Contact Information

Mailing Address

Bridwell Library
PO Box 750476
Dallas, TX 75275-0476

Shipping Address

Bridwell Library
6005 Bishop Boulevard
Dallas, TX 75205 


M.A., Library and Information Studies, University of Wisconsin, Madison, 2002
M.A., Classics, University of Wisconsin, Madison, 2000
B.A., Greek and Latin, summa cum laude, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, 1998

Areas of Responsibility

Outreach and instruction (presentations for SMU classes and visiting groups, exhibitions)
Rare book and manuscript cataloging
Reference and research assistance
Reader services
Collection development

About Me

I am a relatively recent transplant from Minnesota, where I grew up in a log cabin (really!) on the North Shore of Lake Superior, 40 miles from the Canadian Border. The Grand Marais Playhouse and the church choir offered creative outlets, as well as the elementary and high school bands, in which I played saxophone and oboe. I have not played in years but still harbor hopes of picking up the clarinet I acquired, as well as my grandfather’s accordion. When I was 15-years-old my neighbor – who was also my English teacher and Speech and Drama coach – taught me how to knit and design sweaters. These days I have more yarn than time. Texas winters are a very welcome change – as are the warm people and delicious food!

In 2002 I was the E. Ph. Goldschmidt Fellow at Rare Book School at the University of Virginia. My first professional position was at the University of California, San Diego where I served as both the Classics Bibliographer and the Coordinator of Technical Services for Special Collections. After that I returned to Minnesota and served as the Curator and Archivist for the Charles Babbage Institute for the History of Information Technology, where I developed a new collection focused on social issues in computing and authored scholarly publications on race in the history of computing.

The Rare Books and Manuscripts Section (RBMS) of the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) has been my professional home since 2003 and I had the great privilege of serving as the Section’s Chair in 2014-2015. I have also served as Chair of the Seminars Committee, Preconference Program Planning Committee, and Preconference Local Arrangements Committee. I currently serve as Co-Chair of the Conference Development Committee.

Favorite Authors

Iris Murdoch, Marguerite Yourcenar, Gloria Naylor, Milan Kundera, and Robertson Davies


I still have the comic book collection I started as a child and occasionally add to it. I’m a huge fan of superhero films, as well as other science fiction, fantasy, and adventure films. I love to bake and to make candy and ice cream … but I don’t let myself do this anymore unless it’s for a special event! Thankfully, I discovered that I actually enjoy exercise.