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Directors Scholarship Fund Solicitation Letters

A number of Terry Belanger's friends and colleagues recently wrote letters to various bibliographical constituencies, soliciting contributions in his honor to a Rare Book School Directors Scholarship Fund (DSF); Terry will be stepping down as Director of the school on 31 August 2009. The letters explain the purpose of the fund and its disposition. Among the letter writers are the following:

Lynda C. Claassen

Lynda C. Claassen wrote to members of the Rare Books & Manuscripts Section (RBMS) of the Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL), a division of the American Library Association. (She is on the California Rare Book School faculty.)

Dear RBMS Colleague,

You surely have heard by now that Terry Belanger will retire as director of Rare Book School later this year. Although some of us may ponder whether that occasion will shift the earth from its axis, we are reassured that RBS will continue, albeit with new leadership.

As RBMSers, many of us have enjoyed and profited from RBS’s classes over the years. Many of us have had the privilege of teaching at RBS, while many more have been enrolled as students. Some of us are in the fortunate position of being able to send our newly-hired professionals to RBS to enhance their education and their special collections skills, knowledge and skills that are increasingly difficult or impossible to acquire in library school. RBS has also spawned other rare book schools, such as the California Rare Book School, in order to accommodate even more students and scholars.

In honor of Terry’s extraordinary achievements with Rare Book School and its enormous and continuing contributions to our profession, a group of RBS friends is creating a special RBS scholarship fund. We want to raise $30,000 by the end of June 2009 to fund student aid over the next few years. In addition to providing sorely needed scholarship funds in our uncertain economy, this fund will also provide a cushion of time for Terry’s successor, who thus will not be required to launch into fundraising efforts immediately upon taking office.

Please join me in contributing to this special RBS scholarship fund in honor of Terry and the remarkable opportunities RBS has given to so many of us.

Cordially and with gratitude,

Lynda C. Claassen

Ellen S. Dunlap

Ellen S. Dunlap wrote to various friends and acquaintances of Terry Belanger not on other lists. (She is a member of the RBS Board of Directors.)

Dear Friend of TB:

As you probably know, Terry Belanger is retiring this year after more than 25 years as the founding director of Rare Book School, and a life-time of influencing librarians, booksellers, collectors, and others in the appreciation and preservation of books as fascinating vessels of our shared cultural experience.

Ever strategic in his thinking and ever generous toward others, TB asked the group of us who came forward intent on retirement honors for him to channel our efforts instead toward augmenting scholarship funds for RBS. Over the next few years – while RBS is in leadership transition and the global/national/library economy remains in such a fix – these new scholarships will help ensure that every deserving applicant can afford to attend and that every RBS class is full. Thus every bit of considerable effort that the international superstars on our RBS faculty put into their teaching will have the maximum impact on a rising generation of our constituents.

So we agreed to divide up TB’s address book and to ask folks to join in the effort to enlarge the RBS scholarship fund. Even after learning that there are 10,600 names in that address book (whoa!), we remained undaunted. Bill Buice (New York City collector and chairman of the RBS Board) wrote in his letter of the collectors, cataloguers, bibliographers, students, and scholars who these scholarships will serve. Alice Schreyer (University of Chicago) talked in hers about RBS “bringing together specialists and generalists, professional and avocational book people, renowned scholars and neophytes,” all for what Paul Needham (Princeton University) described as the “rare ideal of teaching and studying for the sheer pleasure of thinking, and of learning things.” RBS is “the one and only full-service institution for teaching history of the book,” noted John Bidwell (Morgan Library). In the words of Joan Friedman (RBS board treasurer, Urbana, IL), it is an “unrivalled setting for a unique combination of practical learning, intelligent discourse, and the forging of personal-professional connections that endure.” Michael Turner (Oxford University), who gave RBS lecture No. 1 in 1972, and Jim Green (Library Company of Philadelphia), who gave No. 500 in 2007, teamed up for a Transatlantic appeal, and writing to other dealers of rare books and manuscripts, Ken Rendell (South Natick, MA) stated that “nothing can benefit the future of [our] business more than Rare Book School,” given its ability to engender “real passion” for collections. Melissa Mead (University of Rochester) wrote that in her time on the RBS Scholarship Committee they have received 2-3 times as many applications as they have been able to fund. And Richard Noble (Brown University) concluded, “Contributions large and small are needed, will be received with gratitude, and will do great good.”

Won’t you please join me and my fellow letter-writers and give as generously as you can to support the RBS scholarship fund? It’s a great cause for a great institution, and your gift will be a genuine tribute to Terry, who has given so unstintingly – not just to RBS but to the world of books and libraries at large.

With every good wish,

Ellen S. Dunlap

Joan M. Friedman

Joan M. Friedman wrote to Friends of Rare Book School, RBS's support group. (She is Treasurer of the RBS Board of Directors.)

Dear Friend of Rare Book School:

As you have undoubtedly heard, Terry Belanger is about to retire as Director of Rare Book School.  I am writing to ask you to join a group of RBS friends and allies in a project to raise money for what Terry has assured me is his deepest desire for a retirement present, a scholarship fund for Rare Book School.

The purpose of this scholarship fund – which is to be expended in full, not added as endowment – is to assure that scholarship aid will be generously available for RBS attendees in the next few years, as Terry’s successor settles in to the new job.  It will be a crucial source of continuity for the programs of RBS during this period, and free Terry’s successor to focus on other matters for a time. 

As a friend of RBS, you are already committed to the role that RBS plays in the rare book world.  I can testify to the invigorating effect the school has had on professional and collecting interests over the decades: as both instructor in the early years, and latterly as student again, I have found RBS an unrivalled setting for a unique combination of practical learning, intelligent discourse, and the forging of personal-professional connections that endure.

RBS depends on its scholarships to recruit and encourage students who cannot pay their way and cannot obtain funding elsewhere.  The situation has become more urgent in our current economic hardship, which has wiped out study grants for graduate students and professional development funds for librarians, not to mention the discretionary cash of independent scholars.  The school, in turn, depends on the participation of interesting students from all areas to continue to attract the liveliest faculty and produce the synergy of effects I have alluded to.

I hope that you will join me in contributing to this new scholarship fund, which will provide the means and momentum to get RBS off and running during the new régime.

Yours truly,

Joan M. Friedman

Melissa S. Mead

Melissa S. Mead wrote to present and former RBS staff members. (She has been an RBS staff member since 1989.)

Dear fellow present or former RBS staff member,

I am proud to have the chance to write a letter like this. I hope you’ll forgive me for wishing I could start it thus: “I write to recommend Rare Book School …”

I’ve known Terry Belanger since 1987, and he has written three such letters on my behalf.  For me, Terry and RBS have been inextricably linked for almost 22 years. I have been his student at Columbia, Friend, Follower in his illustration course, Des Bib Museums Curator, friend, member of the RBS Scholarship committee, and staff member. So when Terry announced his retirement in 2006, I started to extricate both (probably to TB’s relief), saying “RBS” where I would have said “Terry.”

Certainly, the many RBS classes I’ve attended have helped me gain the knowledge I need for my professional life (I am currently Digital and Visual Resources Librarian at the University of Rochester), but I think that my experiences as RBS staff have had the most lasting impact (though I’ve been accused of being a contrarian). I’m more adaptable (the presentation topic has changed to what?), work better under pressure (it needs to be done when?), and make better use of the available resources (no internet access? no problem!).

And it’s as a staff member that I’ve learned just how important RBS is to others, because we interact so closely with the students.

More than many educational institutions, RBS runs on student tuition; its endowment is relatively small and relatively new. To be blunt, every paying student – whether funded personally, by an institution, or a scholarship – is crucial to the success of the school. For each of the last three years, the Scholarship committee, of which I am now chair, has received over 90 applications and made 35-40 awards. I expect that this September we will receive just as many applications – if not more, because of the economic climate – but will make far fewer awards, because the IMLS grant (which ran out in 2008) has provided the bulk of RBS’s scholarship money in recent years.

When Terry moved from Columbia, his “dowry” to UVa took the form of gifts to expand the RBS col­lections. The collections, as you know, have now exceeded anyone’s expectations – expanding above (into the McGregor Room) and beyond (into the Dome Room of the Rotunda), and below (into Lower Tibet). Now, Terry has asked that his parting gift take the form of a scholarship fund, which will ensure that more students at the start of their careers will be able to attend RBS, and help assure that RBS remains on a sound financial footing. So I hope that you will join me in honoring Terry’s request.

When I go to Charlottesville at the end of July to work as curator of museums in the DesBib course (for the 10th time!), I know that it will feel different, but the RBS mission will be the same, and the RBS students will be there for the same reasons. I hope all is well with you and yours, and that we can meet to toast Terry and RBS on June 20th.

All best,

Melissa S. Mead

Paul Needham

Paul Needham wrote to present and former RBS faculty members. (He has been an RBS faculty member since 1983.)

Dear fellow RBS teacher,

Even if you live off the web and off the grid, you can hardly escape knowing that this summer Terry Belanger will be retiring as director and founder of Rare Book School. Its first courses were taught in the hot July and August of 1983, in non-airconditioned rooms in Columbia’s Butler Library. The honking of taxis on Broadway helped rouse the students from their post-lunch break somnolence, as the teachers’ luminous oratory slowly transmuted into the murmur of distant bees.

The Rare Book School was, and remains, a remarkable idea, and embodies a rare ideal of teaching and studying for the sheer pleasure of thinking, and of learning things. In shorthand, I think of it as a university without all the (indisputable-evidence-that-cattle-have-grazed-in-a-field). I have experienced it from both sides, having twice been a student in RBS courses taught by a colleague whose name will be remembered permanently in the annals of his discipline. Many of you, I know, have also been RBS students.

In honor of Terry, many friends of his and of the Rare Book School ideal are contributing to an RBS scholarship fund, with the goal of raising $30,000. The fund will be fully spent on student aid over the next few years — years that will be difficult for all cultural and educational institutions.

I can hardly think of an argument for contributing that all of you will not already know and feel. My qualification for signing and sending this letter is that I am certifiably an RBS veteran: one of those (Terry himself, Sue Allen, Nicolas Barker, Dan Traister, Michael Turner, and Michael Winship) who taught in the first year and have continued more or less steadily ever since. And, just at this moment, I am the veteran of veterans, for I taught as recently as January of this year, with my former “student” and valued colleague Will Noel. In the months to come, I will happily surrender this title, as other of the veterans will be teaching in Charlottesville this summer. But just for this moment, let me be the Nestor calling you to arms — specifically, to pick up that mighty weapon the pen, and write a wee check.

With thanks and respect to all,

Paul Needham

Richard Noble

Richard Noble wrote to participants in Rare Book School courses. (He has taught the RBS introduction to descriptive bibliography course since 1997.)

Dear Rare Book School attendee:

Terry Belanger is stepping down as director of Rare Book School later this year, and I write to invite you to contribute to a scholarship fund in his honor.

Closing on the twenty-second anniversary of the library school interview with TB that got me into all this trouble, I write to encourage your support in keeping me and many, many others in it. The Rare Book School course that I co-teach, Introduction to Bibliographical Description – “Des Bib,” to veterans – is the largest that RBS offers, designed to accommodate at least two dozen students. As a foundational course, with a reputation as the RBS boot camp, it attracts a large number of students who are at the beginning of their careers as librarians, library school students, rising booksellers, graduate students with a respect for the material history of texts, even the occasional undergraduate collector in the making.

Because it attracts beginners, the course has always had an appreciable percentage of students whose per­sonal or institutional resources were not sufficient to enable them to take it; their participation was made possible by work/study arrangements and later by fellowships. In recent years, the establishment of RBS scholarships has been a significant factor in the success of the course (and thus to all courses offered at RBS, since attendance in the Des Bib course tends to create recidivists who return in subsequent years for additional helpings). I haven’t got exact figures, but let’s call it a reliable impression.

Personal resources and institutional travel and training funds are taking a hit this year, and the prospects for the next few years look pretty grim. For many fields whose practitioners are few in number but wise in their understanding of the value of what they do, this will be a critical time. Continuity is essential to the maintenance of disciplines, and those who care most about them will have to take responsibility for them. In our case, it is particularly important to build up the scholarship fund at this point as a bridge to the future of RBS. We can’t afford to lose a generation (and educational generations are short).

And so I add my voice in support of the RBS Scholarship Fund. I’m not a fundraiser by nature, but in this case I become one by nurture. Teaching at RBS is the best thing I do for a profession, and its friends, that I cherish. Contributions large and small are needed, will be received with gratitude, and will do great good.

Yours sincerely,

Richard Noble

Kenneth W. Rendell

Kenneth W. Rendell wrote to members of the Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of America. (He served two terms as a member of the RBS Board of Directors, 2001-2009, before which he was a charter member of the original informal RBS board of advisors.)

Dear colleague,

Almost every member of the ABAA, and for that matter, antique and art dealers, talk about the same thing: the need to involve new people in our passion, and therefore our business. In my view the most dramatic change over my lifetime in this business, now more than 50 years, has been the near total demise of street level high visibility rare bookshops where people are introduced to collecting by dealers who have a real passion for the material and a great interest in developing new collectors. This virtually does not exist today.

I think the greatest hope for our field is to have rare book librarians who have a real passion for the rare books and are not just passive librarians coming up through the system.

Nothing can benefit the future of the rare book business more than the Rare Book School at the University of Virginia founded by Terry Belanger. I have been a very long time supporter of Terry Belanger, financially and personally, and I think his producing rare book librarians is the single most important factor in the future of all our businesses.

It is no longer possible for people to just walk by Warren Howell’s shop in San Francisco or Goodspeed’s in Boston, be enticed by what is in the window, and go in and talk to someone. The next best hope is that people will see an exhibition in a library, and want to talk to the librarian who put it together. If that librarian is a graduate of the Rare Book School they are going to be enthusiastic, and they are going to know how to put that person in touch with people who can help them pursue their new interest – dealers.

After 26 years as founding director, Terry Belanger is about to step down as head of Rare Book School. I have joined with a number of RBS friends and allies in a project to raise money for a fund to provide scholarships for RBS students while Terry’s successor gets up to speed. RBS depends on its scholarships to recruit and encourage students who cannot pay their way and cannot obtain funding elsewhere. The situation has become even more urgent during the recession, which has wiped out extracurricular study grants for graduate students and professional development funds for librarians. I hope that you will join me in contributing to this new scholarship fund (details on a separate sheet and envelope provided).

Yours truly,

Kenneth W. Rendell

Andie Tucher & Robin Halwas

Andie Tucher and Robin Halwas wrote to graduates of the rare book program that Belanger ran at the Columbia University School of Library Service between 1972 and 1992. (Andie Tucher directs the Communications PhD program at the Columbia University Journalism School; Robin Halwas is an antiquarian bookseller based in London; both are 1977 graduates of the Columbia rare book program.)

Dear Fellow SLS Alum,

We write this letter to a select group with whom we know we have some basic, character-shaping experiences in common:

            We have all fondled a 32mo
            We have all wrestled with kerns
            We have all feared pi

And now, as Terry Belanger prepares to step down this summer as director of Rare Book School, we’re writing to all of you who survived Descriptive Bibliography during his twenty years at the center of Columbia’s rare book program with an invitation to share one more common experience. We’re asking your help in putting together a retirement gift for Terry: an RBS scholarship fund to help the school get through the next few years.

We’re hoping that the 250-odd Columbia program grads for whom we have address informa­tion (as well as RBS board and faculty members, 150 or so Book Arts Press/RBS evening lecturers, 200 ARL special collections librarians, 600 Friends of RBS, the 850 personal members of the Rare Books & MSS Section of ACRL, and persons who have taken RBS courses since 1983) will help us raise at least $30,000, which will be spent out rather than added to the endowment and thus be of immediate use to the next rounds of people who come to Charlottesville. Many students pay the tuition, about $900 per course, out of their own pockets with no help from their institutions, while others have no institutions to ask. In this era of skinny wallets and organizational cutbacks, it’s especially vital – for RBS but also for the world of rare books in general – that the resources and excitement of RBS continue to be available to all the interested and talented regardless of their ability to pay.

Those of us who labored over formes and perused chainlines in the crammed quarters of 512 or 502 Butler made up only the first wave of the librarians, bibliographers, booksellers, scholars, collectors, and others whom Terry has taught, mentored, and inspired; Rare Book School, which he founded at Columbia in 1983 and moved to the University of Virginia in 1992, has offered 640 courses to date and can claim more than 4000 active alumni. The world of rare books has been enormously enriched by Terry’s wisdom, his energy, and his passion. We hope you will join us in honoring his contributions by making one of your own.

Yours truly,

Andie Tucher & Robin Halwas

Michael L. Turner

With support from James Green, Michael L. Turner wrote to persons who have given Book Arts Press or Rare Book School evening lectures (Turner gave the first lecture in 1972; James Green gave lecture no. 500 in 2007).

Dear BAP/RBS Lecturers,

I made my first visit to the United States in November of 1972; needless to say it was prompted by and the occasion was managed by Terry Belanger. He first persuaded “Doc” Robert Leslie to include me in a series of his Heritage Lectures dedicated to the memory of Stanley Morison. This was occasion enough for me to persuade the Bodleian that I should make the trip. If “Doc” was not already in his nineties he was very close to them; Terry was the new boy on the faculty at the Columbia University School of Library Service, and he had just set up the Book Arts Press. We had become friends during his post-graduate years in England. Having got me to New York, he invited me to give a talk at Columbia under the auspices of the BAP, which I did on 16 Nov 1972. This has gone down in the annals as the first of the now five hundred plus BAP/RBS Lectures.

I cannot over-state how much my life was enriched by that and subsequent visits to Columbia in the following years; and, how it still is by my continuing links with RBS at Virginia. The memorable “happenings” it has provided and friendships it has given me seem endless. How many of us BAP/RBS Lecturers would not say the same? Being introduced into the American world of rare books by TB was a wonderful privilege, and having the chance to witness the subsequent career of the man and what he has created, from those early years to his imminent retirement, an added bonus.

Terry has written of how, in the early years, the Lectures could only take place when he persuaded Dean Darling to provide a subvention. The school’s finances have improved, but it is necessary to ensure the continuation of RBS. As a final gesture Terry wishes to create a special RBS scholarship fund to help get the school through the next couple of years during the transition between him and his successor. Can I strongly urge you all to send a donation for this purpose and to ensure that others benefit as we have by being involved in this great project which Terry has created?

James Green (Librarian of the Library Company of Philadelphia), who gave RBS lecture no. 500 at UVa in 2007, has agreed to mail out for me letters addressed to BAP/RBS speakers with North American postal addresses. Jim is just one of the many American friends I first met at BAP/RBS lectures. I believe it was in the fall of 1976, and our meeting somehow led to his spending a very happy month poking around Oxford libraries looking for early American books. He joins me in urging you to give generously.

Michael L. Turner

Karin Wittenborg

Karin wrote to the heads of special collections in Association of Research Libraries (ARL) libraries. (She is a member of the RBS Board of Directors.)

Dear colleague,

As the University Librarian of the University of Virginia and as a member of the Rare Book School Board of Directors, I am writing to invite your contribution to a scholarship fund that will hon­or Terry Belanger on the occasion of his retirement as founding director of Rare Book School (RBS). These are tough economic times and we are all besieged by requests for worthy endeavors. I urge you to give this one special consideration, and assure you that every gift will count.

As you may know, Terry founded RBS at Columbia in 1983 and moved it to the University of Virginia in 1992 where it continues to expand and thrive today. RBS is one of the few places to offer specialized professional development and educational opportunities for library practitioners at every level. The program brings an internationally renowned faculty together with specialists and generalists, pro­fessional and avocational book people, distinguished scholars and neophytes. Their shared passion for learning about books and newer forms of publication creates an environment of intense collegial interaction across groups and generations. It is no surprise that RBS alumni return as often as they can. You can see the rich array of opportunities that are offered now at www.rarebookschool.org.

Receiving a MacArthur Award is clear evidence of the impact that Terry has had not only on our profession, but on our culture as well. Terry has kept RBS alive and well in the face of daunting challenges. He has, with the help of many of his friends, successfully completed a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Challenge Grant that will ensure a much brighter future for the School.

Yet we are concerned that, in this economy, individual students or their institutions will find it increasingly difficult to pay tuition and expenses to attend RBS. As special collections become a more central part of all our institutions, training such as the RBS offers is more important than ever.

The Directors Scholarship Fund at RBS will help to strengthen this vital and essential program and extend its benefits to those who might otherwise not be able to attend. Please see the enclosed information on how to make a gift to the Fund to celebrate Terry's work and support students seeking to attend RBS. Please consider making a tax-deductible gift to honor Terry and to enhance all our special collections. You will help build the expertise for the special collections of the future.

Sincerely yours,

Karin Wittenborg