The Chicago Tribune reports today on a partnership that has sprung up in Chicago between the Newberry Library and several universities to acquire and share rare books in order to keep them publicly accessible for researchers. Under the program, "when a desirable rare book comes up for sale, the library puts up two-thirds of the money and the school one-third. The Newberry keeps the book eight months a year; the school can have it for four." Given recent trends in university budgets, particularly when it comes to special collections, this is a great idea.
Institutions that have participated in the partnership include Notre Dame (the first, back in 1995), Western Michigan University, Illinois University, Spertus College, DePaul University, and the University of Minnesota. Over the course of the program, the Newberry has helped purchase some 23 books, with total costs nearing half a million dollars. Plans are in the works to "make all documents bought in the partnership program available for travel to all member schools."
As the costs of rare books continue to appreciate (see the Hauck sale posts from a few days ago!), coupled with continued budget problems for educational institutions, this kind of partnership is going to become more and more necessary - it's going to take more imaginative solutions like this to preserve our cultural artifacts, so kudos to the Newberry and the other institutions for their leadership.