ASSOCIATES (2004, November, v. 11, no. 2) -

*A Gift For A Place And A Place For Every Gift*


Tinker Massey
University of South Carolina

Gifts are a blessing to behold and the bane of our existence in libraries. I worked with gifts and exchanges at the University of Florida years ago, when there was some latitude to find homes for the worthy contributed pieces. At the University of South Carolina Libraries, I have been able to work with the Music Library on the development and implementation of a program to manage and make accessible the gifted music scores and books. The procedure I established also became used with the thousands of CDs presented to us in a recent estate. Solutions for problems are often found in the simplicity of procedure.

It became apparent to me that an institution needs to have a very clear policy for gifts. A contract should be developed that spells out who the institution is, what focus you have (your goals), what function the gifts fulfill (objectives), and on what terms the materials will be received (keep, toss, pass to others, sell, etc.). Also in this contract, a reference must be made to any federal and state/local laws governing the receipt of gifts to an institution. We should be very clear as to what we will do for the materials or the donor. This might be placing gift bookplates in the materials, or housing them in a particular place, making displays of the material, etc. The other factor involved is the evaluation of the material (for tax purposes). Always refer the donor to an outside source for the valuation process. It is legal for you to give a list of materials received to the donor, or a count of those materials, but you can be held liable for valuations used on tax forms, by both the donor and the Federal IRS or State Tax Programs. Try to steer clear of those responsibilities. There are always people outside your library who are certified to do these activities. There is enough responsibility internally for you to handle the donations.

In working with the materials, one must be sure to separate the materials to be kept from those that need preservation or will be disposed to other sources. Priorities are always necessary to establish before managing the “keepers.” For our scores, books and CDs, we needed to discuss what was important in the information process. First, it was determined that we wanted to load a record into the system that correctly identified the material accepted. Next, we needed to design a note that would identify the donor and be visually seen by the public as well as retrievable by the staff for enhancing the notoriety of the donor. We also needed to have a method for identifying where the location of the material would be, if that item is not to be immediately cataloged. In that respect, we could retrieve the material upon request, catalog it and circulate it to a patron. To this end, we found that a local “590” note is keyword accessible and does show to the public in the OPAC. The notation for backlogged pieces is as follows:

590 From the collection of Dr. Henry Smith. Box 19.

The pieces that have been completely cataloged use the above note without the Box number attached. We have recently found that an accounting requirement will be to add a different local note “980” that just says Gift to ML (Music Library). This lets the University accountant know that there is no valuation for that material or an acquisitions record attached. If, in our case, you suddenly find out that the ILS will be changed in the next year, we simply went into the bibliographic records and added another 590 with the local record number, so that we can retrieve this (by keyword) even when the record numbers change in the new ILS. When you become precise about your entries you always run the risk of changes and movements that will disorient your indexing. I believe that we have covered our bases in this circumstance.

Let us recap a moment. With the keyword accessible 590 note, we can pull up a list of everything given by the donor to either give to the donor/family, or satisfy their curiosity or visitation. This, we have found, encourages donors to keep giving. A patron needing something that has been donated but not cataloged, can have access to the material, request it, and receive it within an hour of that request. This time can be shorter if you just circulate the material and then catalog it upon return to the Library. Administrators connected with the gift process can review the lists from time to time to see the progression of the work or to re-contact the donor for more specific or additional items. The accountants don’t worry about any of the in-process materials, as they are flagged as gifts (non-monetary acquisitions).

I was curious as to how recent graduates from MLS/MLIS programs would know these things. I have had a number of professors share their teaching outlines with me and they are covering some of these situations in Collection Development courses, as well as the one at USC on Music Librarianship. I am encouraged that we are being given the tools to find immediate answers to immediate questions and the motivation to remedy situations quickly. I was recently encouraged by the Charleston Conference (November 2004) that allowed me to share this procedure with a number of colleagues from various library venues. There is always hope when we are allowed to share problems, ideas, and solutions. We have found the “bane” to be a “delight” most of the time.

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