Recently, I came across an article in the Guardian about a recent donation to the University of Kansas’ Kenneth Spencer Research Library. The donation in question was the archive of Theodore Sturgeon
To read the article, click here.
For some of you who may be wondering, who is Theodore Sturgeon? Here’s a run down:
1.) a science fiction author of more then 200 short short stories and novels.
2.) He served as an inspiration to Stephen King and Kurt Vonnegut.
3.) coined Sturgeon’s law – 90% of science fiction is crud but then 90% of everything is crud.
4.) he wrote 2 Star Trek episodes and is credited (with Leonard Nimoy) in coining the phrase, “Live long and prosper.”
The Trekkie in me squealed with delight at this last minutes. And, the archivist in me is thrilled to pieces that his daughter decided to donate his archives to a research library. I admit that as an archivist I’m not too thrilled when I hear about an archives collection being sold at auction rather then donated to a library or archives. Who knows the things we could learn about about in these collections that are not opened to researchers?
But, choosing an institution to donate a collection to is a very important decision and shouldn’t be taken lightly. At first, when I read the article, I was surprised his daughter was donating the records to the University of Kansas. I thought to myself, why Kansas? Her decision was due to the work of one man, professor emeritus James Gunn, who has done much to advance the academic study of science fiction.
So, why don’t donors donate stuff?
1.) Monetary reasons – they sell it because they need the money. For this reason, they don’t consider donation
2.) Ignorance – For some donors, who may not need the money, they may not know that donation is an option.
3.) The inability to find a suitable library or archives – So, a donor wants to donate their collection but what archives or library would benefit from having this collection? That’s got to be an intimidating question for a donor. Unless you’re well-connected or in the know you may not realize that there is a library or archives that’s right for your collection.
I think this is an issue to be addressed by archivists and librarians and their relationships or the lack there of with potential donors.
Question to the archivists and librarians: What are your thoughts on the archives/donor relations or library/donor relations? Please, share your ideas and comments on what your organization is doing to advance donor relations.