Thursday, March 08, 2007

Rockford College to Sell Rare Books

The Rockford Rock River Times reports that Rockford College plans to auction off the institution's rare book collection, just months after selling thousands of pieces of art. "Liquidation of the rare books is the school’s latest attempt at reducing the sizable debt that’s plagued the private liberal arts college for decades," Stuart Wahlin writes for the paper.

Vice President for College Development John McNamara said of the plan "The Board of Trustees has thoughtfully looked at all of our strategies, and asset deployment is one of them. It’s been going very well." Asset deployment? Is that what they're calling it these days?

The sales will not include materials related to Jane Addams (Rockford's most notable alumna, according to the report) or "books that are critical to the history of the college." Two auctions will be held: one on 16 March for fourteen notable pieces, and another later in April. Among the items sold will be the Bertha Holbrook Collection of A-B-C books, containing some 2,000 items; this was donated to Rockford by the collector's husband after her death.

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.