ARLIS/NA Collection Development SIG Blog

For ARLIS/NA members interested in collection development issues.

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Thoughts on Gifts / by Susan Craig

Having recently experienced the usual deluge of end-of- the-year donations, this topic has been on my mind. Donors planning to increase their charitable contributions for income tax purposes often donate unwanted books to a library in December. Of course, there are also the generous donors who sincerely want to help the library build a collection.

I’ve learned that gifts can be both a blessing and a curse. I try to avoid accepting items that duplicate material that my library already owns and rarely accept journal issues unless it’s a substantial run of a very desirable and unusual title. Learning to tactfully refuse an unwanted donation without alienating the donor is a necessary skill so my strategies are to suggest other possible institutions which might be grateful for the donation—social service agencies, smaller area libraries, library book sales—as well as to explain our procedures and costs.

A variation on the gift of books is to be offered a donation to purchase material for the library’s collection. Sometimes this money has been intended as a memorial and the donor may ask that the purchased material correspond to a particular interest of the person being honored. It can be very challenging to find a desirable title that matches the prescribed subject and the amount of the donation.

It is important that your library have a written policy regarding gifts. The policy should identify the type of material that the library will accept and the appropriate contact person. It also needs to explain how issues such as appraisals and acknowledgments, such as book plates and donation inventories, will be handled. It might suggest that cash donations to support the processing or personnel costs would be welcome. Perhaps most important, the policy should clearly state that retention decisions for gifts are at the library’s discretion. If at all possible, post this policy on your website so potential donors can find it.

When you are offered a gift of something that is truly desirable for the collection, rejoice and celebrate. It may not happen often. But regardless of how mundane the gift, if you accept it, you need to write a letter of appreciation to the donor and, depending on your organization, copy the letter to your Development Officer and administrators. Make the thank you letters as personal as possible and emphasize not only the library’s appreciation but also how the gift benefits the users of the collection.

And, when it comes time for you to dispose of your own book collection, be sympathetic to the librarian who may not be as enthusiastic as you expected.

Susan V. Craig, University of Kansas, January 2015


Catalog Records from Metropolitan Museum of Art MetPublications

In late 2012, Dan Lipcan forwarded an exciting announcement to ARLIS/L: the launching of MetPublications, an online resource offering access to many of the Museum’s publications. It was a complement to the Museum Libraries’ project to digitize all known Museum publications from 1869 to 1963 within their Digital Collections.

I emailed Dan to see if bibliographic records (MARC records) for these publications would be made easily available so other libraries could load them into their catalogs. In the Fall of 2014, Dan Lipcan was able to offer files to ARLIS/L MARC record sets for online Metropolitan Museum of Art publications (both from the publications department and from the Libraries’ Digital collections). He separated into two downloads: those that offered full text and those that offered preview only.

Columbia University Libraries chose the full-text download only. I worked with both our head cataloger, Kate Harcourt and our systems analyst, Evelyn Ocken to create test records to review what elements in the record needed to be modified to meet with local practices. After some tweaks, happily performed by my technical services colleagues, we loaded the set into our local catalog.

In the end, we loaded all 1,395 records offered by Dan Lipcan which gave us full text online access. If you would like to see the records in our OPAC (, a keyword search on 965MetPub will retrieve all 1,395 records. Thanks to Dan, Kate and Evelyn, we now have access to beautiful exhibition catalogs such as:

Art and love in renaissance Italy / edited by Andrea Bayer ; Andrea Bayer, Beverly Louise Brown, Nancy Edwards, Everett Fahy, Deborah L. Krohn, Jacqueline Marie Musacchio, Luke Syson, Dora Thornton, James Grantham Turner, and Linda Wolk-Simon ; with contributions by Sarah Cartwright, Andreas Henning, Jessie McNab, J. Kenneth Moore, Eve Straussman-Pflanzer, Wendy Thompson, and Jeremy Warren. New York : The Metropolitan Museum of Art ; New Haven : Yale University Press, 2008.
xv, 376 p. : ill. (some col.) ; 32 cm.

Landscapes clear and radiant : the art of Wang Hui (1632-1717) / Wen C. Fong, Chin-Sung Chang, and Maxwell K. Hearn ; edited by Maxwell K. Hearn. New York : The Metropolitan Museum of Art ; New Haven : Yale University Press, 2008.
xii, 236 p. : ill. (some col.) ; 31 cm.

Dan announced on ARLIS/L that he would annually reissue complete sets that will include updated and new records for online MMA publications.

I am thrilled to be able to add these records to our local catalog, giving easy access to this material for our research community.

Thank you Dan, Kate and Evelyn.