The Libraries at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, serve some 13,000 graduate and undergraduate students across more than 90 academic programs. Like other major library systems, its holdings of nearly 4 million books and other media are vulnerable to deterioration through age and steady use. In the fall of 2004, the Libraries introduced a new fund-raising initiative to address this dilemma. “Legacy of Books: A Conservation Program” provides donors with the opportunity to honor friends and loved ones by contributing to the Libraries’ preservation efforts.
A printed brochure, mailed periodically to university alumni, parents, and other library supporters, describes the preservation treatments and donor benefits associated with various gift categories. A tax-deductible gift of $50 covers the cost of basic preservation for a typical library book or an item in another format, and larger gifts cover multiple items or more costly treatments. The brochure invites donors who give $1,000 or more to choose from a wish list of endangered library materials that have been prioritized for professional conservation.
Donors receive recognition for their gifts in the form of a personalized bookplate and a descriptive note in the Libraries’ online catalog. In addition, depending on the size of the gift, donors may receive library event mailings, circulation privileges, campus parking stickers, limited use of the University’s athletic complex, and other benefits.
People who give to the Legacy of Books program understand that preserving existing collections is as important as acquiring new materials. Many of the formats held by modern research libraries—not just books, but periodicals, ancient and modern manuscripts, government documents, electronic media, and sound and moving image recordings—present preservation challenges that require special expertise and costly treatments. If valuable research collections are to be passed on intact to future scholars, vigilant care and proactive preservation solutions are essential. (Courtesy: Washington University Libraries)