I am grateful to Bruce McKinney for providing access to this forum to give his subscribers a little bit of information about Rare Book School at the University of Virginia.
To the extent you recognize my name, it is probably through my long association with the Books and Manuscripts Department at Sotheby’s. But I am not writing today as the representative of an auction house. I am writing as a member of Rare Book School’s Board of Trustees. (Full disclosure: I am the chair of the Development Committee; fuller disclosure: Rare Book School is in the closing month of its first capital campaign.)
Many of you, I trust, are familiar with Rare Book School, but if you are not, it is, in brief, the world’s premier educational institution advancing the study, interpretation, and preservation of the world’s printed and manuscript historical record. Our faculty and students are, or will be, on the front lines of curation and administration of libraries and other cultural and educational institutions that benefit not only the scholarly community, but also private collectors of books and manuscripts and the trade dealing therewith. The purpose, mission, and goals of Rare Book School are surely in harmony with those of most patrons of Rare Book Hub and Rare Book Monthly.
My own involvement with Rare Book School goes back to its founding in 1983 at Columbia University’s School of Library Service, where I was a student planning on a career as an academic rare book librarian. In 1992, after Columbia closed its library school, Rare Book School moved to the University of Virginia. Several years ago, after I joined the board, RBS commissioned a feasibility study for what was seen as an ambitious $10,000,000 capital campaign for Rare Book School. The idea of a capital campaign was encouraged by executive director Michael Suarez, who wanted to see the School put on a more stable and professional footing. While Rare Book School owes its very existence to founding director Terry Belanger, it has to be acknowledged that in its early decades the school advanced somewhat precariously year to year, often principally sustained by Terry’s generosity with his MacArthur Foundation Fellowship.
Although the board’s initial $10,000,000 goal was deemed too aspirational by the advisory firm we had contracted, the board not only proceeded, but eventually increased the comprehensive goal of the campaign—by now cleverly named “Bound for the Future”—to $15,000,000. And now with just a month to run before the conclusion of the campaign, I am happy to report that our revised goal has already been exceeded.
However, one element of the campaign has lagged somewhat: fundraising for endowment, which while absolutely vital seems too often to be the least attractive option for many donors. As a subsidiary goal of our capital campaign, the School would like to raise $10,000,000 for endowment; we are currently about $700,000 below that target.
In 2022, 540 students from 13 countries took 39 courses in 9 locations, and, remarkably, 38% of our students received full-tuition scholarships. Over the past decade, students from 30 countries and all 50 states have attended our courses. In 2023, we are running 42 courses in 8 locations. Each course meets for six hours each day (4 sessions of 90 minutes each) of hands-on instruction for five days. Classes are typically capped at 12 or 14 students. Most often, other courses are running simultaneously, and students have ample opportunity to meet and interact at receptions, evening lectures, and shared meals. Fostering community among our students is a vital aspect of the School.
During “Book Week” this past January, RBS celebrated its fortieth anniversary. The purpose of our current capital campaign is to build our endowment and secure the School’s future for the next four decades—and our next two score are off to an auspicious start as our new, bespoke space in UVA’s main library will be opening shortly. If anyone reading this letter is inspired to consider supporting our Endowment Campaign, we would be most grateful to hear from you.
To make a contribution or pledge by September 30, or to be in touch with senior staff at the School, please email campaignforRBS@virginia.edu; or, to donate now, click here. (Please note that pledges to the campaign can be paid over five years, beginning in 2024.)
If you would like to hear more about the School from my personal perspective, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And, to learn much more about Rare Book School, please see our website (rarebookschool.org/), our latest annual report (click here), and a special page devoted to the campaign (https://rarebookschool.org/support/campaign/).
Many thanks for your indulgence, and best regards,
Rare Book School board member