$1.25M donation to fund new librarian

By Channing Robinson, Daily Staff Reporter
Published January 29, 2013

The University Library has received a $1.25 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation — a grant foundation that invests in higher education. It’s one of the largest donations the library has ever received.

The Mellon endowment will be used to create a conservation librarian position and cover the cost of the job for the first three years. The new librarian will join the conservation program’s efforts to provide book and binding maintenance in addition to digitizing the library’s large print collection, including more than eight million books.

Shannon Zachary, head of the University’s Department of Preservation and Conservation, said an addition to the program is very much needed. Currently, the conservation lab is manned by six staff members who work on both the general and special collections. The amount of work covered by the employees is “overwhelming,” Zachary wrote in an e-mail interview Monday.

“The new conservation librarian will expand our capacity to treat rare books and manage conservation projects as well as provide outreach to help other organizations in the region care for their libraries,” Zachary wrote.

Many of the books and projects are detached from their bindings or have damaged pages, Zachary said. Some of these projects include theater posters from an early 20th-century Shakespeare Company, a Turkish manuscript by Ebu Bekir Nusret dating back to 1765 and a pamphlet from the Hubbard Collection of Imaginary Voyages circa 1867.

Bryan Skib, associate University librarian for collections, wrote in an e-mail Tuesday that the Graduate Library’s additional position will help provide for the library's future

“The additional staff will help us keep up with the local demand for conservation services, and will enhance our ability to train future generations of conservators,” Skib wrote.

Skib, the Graduate Library’s former development officer, is exploring several options to raise another $1 million to match the Mellon grant and support the addition of the new librarian.

“Donors have in recent years shown strong interest in supporting our conservation programs,” Skib wrote. “The Mellon grant will provide them with a wonderful opportunity to make a significant, long-term contribution that will serve to extend the useful life of the Library collections.”

Zachary said she is optimistic that additional funds can be raised.

“Our experience has been that many people are enthusiastic about the preservation of books — especially of the extraordinary collections in the U-M Library,” Zachary said.

Dean of Libraries Paul Courant said in a statement that the grant will be an invaluable resource for the University Library.

“We're enormously grateful to the Mellon Foundation for their support, which will enhance our ability to preserve the cultural and scholarly record and to share our holdings with the world.”