>Ambition is a terrible curse, and I’ve got loads of it. These collections are pure gold, and if the Institutional Gods had smiled upon this library for the last fifty years, we would have half a dozen world-class collections here. As it is, we still have fabulous collections, but the money to care and feed them is simply not here. I suspect that many of my colleagues out there in other special collections departments across the country understand what I mean.
Given the challenges the Library faces, it is enough that they pay my salary. I do as much as I can with the hours in the day allotted, and the materials I can beg for or scrounge. I don’t want to make too much noise, because we are, after all, a public library, and special collections is only one facet of our mission (I hope to make it an important facet).
That said, here is my dream. An angel will appear (better yet, a chorus of angels), bearing gifts. I cannot speak to the needs of the larger institution–I don’t pretend to know all the issues facing it. But if I had my way, I would have a staff of at least two (2) FTEs (one rare book cataloger and one reading room supervisor, either one with some training in book and paper conservation methods), which would cost about $100,000/year (factoring in benefits). I’d like a healthy acquisitions budget (let’s say another $100,000 per year to start), and a conservation budget, which should run about 10% of the acquisitions budget. As long as I’m dreaming, I’d like a separate fund to found a Center for the History of the Book and Printing (which would sponsor lectures, a handful of fellowships, and printing classes which would utilize both of our hand presses). The center would probably cost another $20,000 per year. All told, annual operating would be $230,000. Let’s throw in another $20,000 for digital initiatives and whatever details I haven’t accounted for, and we have an even $250,000, which would require an endowment figure of roughly $5 million.
That’s my dream. It’s a good dream, and a good goal. (sigh). I’d best get started….