Rockford Rare Books Sold

“Two of the books up for sale Thursday – a 1929 edition of Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and a 1903 English Bible – netted $10,800 each. The college will orchestrate another auction of more than 350 other books June 7. Selling off superfluous assets is the college’s latest attempt to brighten its financial picture.”

Rockford president Richard Kneedler said of the sale “This book sale is partly about money, but it’s also about making sure that the rare books and archives of Rockford College are related to the mission of the institution. We were very careful to retain books of a regional interest and those from Jane Addams’ personal collection.”

I really have to say if the college is in such bad shape that $28,000 from selling rare books is what’s going to keep it afloat, that’s a problem. As I wrote before, the amount of money gained from this sale is probably minimal compared to the number of potential donors who will look elsewhere to find suitable homes for their materials rather than ‘entrust’ it to Rockford.

The supreme understatement of the article: “Some fear parting with such gifts may be sending the wrong message to potential donors.” Or, as an ExLibris commenter put it yesterday afternoon, “Rather, they are sending the *right* message to potential donors. Don’t
give us your books, because we can’t take care of them.”

Stories like this are really painful to see. I know firsthand after sitting on the budget committee of my own small liberal arts college how fiscally tight things can be. But thankfully our administrators and trustees knew and cared about our institutional treasures, working to enrich them rather than sell them off for a little bit of short-gain financial gain. In the long run, this maneuver can only do harm to Rockford College, and I hope the institution’s leaders realize that before too much more time passes.

Autor: Klaus Graf

Historiker und Archivar, Blogger

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