Rare Book Monthly

Articles - November - 2009 Issue

More than Meets the Eye


Immediately following the announcement concerns were raised and reported in Delaware newspapers but no ground swell of opposition ensued. When the Curtis then came up at Christie's on October 8th there was no outcry, only the market's judgment that the starting bid was a tad high. It failed to sell. Following the auction a prospective buyer made an offer and the Wilmington Library quickly accepted. When Christie's then announced the top lots sold in the sale, the set of Curtis was, even after negotiation, the most expensive item. Click here.

One can only wonder if the Friends of the Gleeson Library had been consulted about the Durer prints whether an agreement could have been reached. Perhaps not. But institutions do sometimes need to raise money, if not to pay for improvements to the physical plant, then simply to dispose of out-of-focus holdings to acquire material more germane to the institution's current focus.

The obvious conclusion is that clarity, negotiation and agreement within the library are important and probably essential to successful deaccession. Without these components the prospect of failure looms large.

Separately, I include a proposal for library deaccession [The Gifted Institution: a plan for deaccession] that seeks to honor donors while permitting material to be exchanged among institutions in an efficient way. Dr. Belanger's concerns, clearly expressed in his recent talk at the California Book Club in San Francisco, recognize that institutions may err.

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