Rare Books and Special Collections Donations

How do I make a monetary donation to support the collection?
To make an online donation to an existing endowment or memorial fund, go to the NIU Foundation website, and enter the fund name in the notes field. A list of endowments that support the library can be found here. The funds that support Rare Books and Special Collections are below:

  • Children's Series Literature: The Gordon W. & Jeanne M. Huber Endowment
  • Horatio Alger / American Popular Literature: The Horatio Alger Society Endowment
  • Science Fiction & Fantasy Literature & Fandom: The Peggy Rae Sapienza Fund
  • 18th Century Literature: The Martin Kallich Endowment
  • Education, Travel, and Leisure: The Bernadine Hanby Endowment
  • General RBSC materials: The Friends of the NIU Libraries Endowment
  • British Drama: The S. Orville and Adra Baker Library Endowment

If you are interested in making a significant monetary donation, contact the Curator, Sarah Cain, for more information about establishing an endowment or memorial fund.

What is the benefit of donating my materials to NIU Rare Books and Special Collections?

There are lots of reasons to donate!

  • Your books, literary papers, or archives are carefully preserved and organized by professionals
  • RBSC provides a secure, temperature and humidity controlled facility
  • Materials are organized and made accessible to researchers from all over the world
  • You can free up space on your own shelves!

If you would like to make a gift to RBSC, there are lots of ways to do that.

  • Our Collection Development Policy explains what kinds of books and manuscripts we are actively seeking.
  • A sample of our Deed of Gift document lays out the agreement when you donate.
  • Gifting digital materials? This guide may help.
  • To make a monetary donation, please contact the Curator for more details.

What kind of stuff do you want?
In short, for literary papers, documentation of the writer’s process. For organizational archives, materials that help explain how the organization functions (official publications, meeting minutes, correspondence, etc.). Items we will not accept include medical and tax documents or checks, stubs, and related records. We will also not accession conference memorabilia such as lanyards, name badges, etc. Textiles (e.g., t-shirts, hats), trophies or plaques, and other objects will be considered on a case by case basis and only accessioned if the items themselves are significant to research. In all likelihood, an image of the textile or object will be captured and included as part of the collection, and the physical item will be properly disposed of. We have limited space and no one on staff with the expertise to care for and preserve textiles or objects. If you feel that a textile or object should remain with the collection, please contact the Curator and explain its significance before it is donated.

How do I donate books to the collection?
Please contact the Curator to discuss potential gifts. Books that are not old or particularly rare can be donated to the library through the Gifts Coordinator, Ken Kamm. Another way to donate books to the Library is through our Friends of the Library Book Sale. In each of these cases, your donation may be tax-deductible.

Donations to the library generally qualify for tax deductions. IRS Publication 526 states that “money or property [given to] federal, state, and local governments, if your contribution is solely for public purposes” is deductible as a charitable contribution. Note that when donating archival or literary materials as the creator, only the cost of their physical production (ink, paper, etc.) can be deducted. For questions about tax donations contact your tax consultant or refer to IRS Publication 526.

Should I organize my archives or literary papers before I give them to you?
Staff are trained in the fundamental principles of processing archives and it is part of our responsibility to ensure arrangement and description. We want to receive your archive in the manner that you established (and used) it. Contextual information such as dates, people in photographs, names of critique partners, or the importance of a significant item are helpful. Please contact the [Curator] scain@niu.edu before weeding, discarding, or reorganizing papers or electronic records.

What does it cost to archive my papers or records of my organization?
NIU doesn’t require any financial donation along with the donation of books or archives. That said, like any non-profit organization, funds to help support RBSC’s acquisitions, processing of collections, and long-term preservation of books and archives are always welcome.

Will you pay for shipping of donated materials?
We have limited funds dedicated to support science fiction and fantasy collection development, including shipping costs. Currently, we do not have the resources to pick up donations from your home or place of business or pay for shipping costs for non-sf/f related materials. Another option would be to drop off the donation. Please contact the Curator to confirm availability.

What happens to my materials when they get to RBSC?
First, we mail you an donation acknowledgment letter accompanied by our deed of gift, which you will need to sign and return. Once received, the Curator and the Dean of Libraries signs the deed. RBSC mails you a copy of the fully signed deed, keeping the original in our files. If you are in need of documentation for tax purposes please contact the Curator prior to your donation. Your gift (non-money gifts are called "gifts in kind") is reported to the NIU Foundation. They generate the letter that you will need at tax time.

Second, we shelve the materials in a secure, environmentally controlled area of the library. It is placed in the processing queue and will become available to researchers once processing has been completed.

What does it mean to “process” materials?
Archival processing, frequently referred to as simply processing, is the arrangement, description, and housing of archival materials for storage and use by patrons. This is done by professional librarians, archivists, and library staff. Electronic records have a unique challenge because their maintenance and access must also include systems technicians. The length of time that it takes a donation to be processed and accessible depends on several factors (staff size, resources, the size of the collection, and its place in the queue), which may result in materials not being available to researchers for several years. Ultimately, archival standards and principles are followed to ensure the proper arrangement and preservation of records in the hope that they will remain accessible long after we are all gone.

Creation of a finding aid is completed during the processing phase. This is the document that researchers will use to discover information. The finding aid contains information about the collection such as provenance, scope and organization notes, and a series or folder level inventory of the contents.

To best preserve the paper materials, we remove non-archival fasteners and holders (paper clips, staples, rubber bands, plastic protectors, etc.) and store the materials in acid-free boxes and folders. We then create a publicly accessible, relatively detailed list of what lives in which box.

NIU’s library is currently beta testing preservation of RBSC digital archive records. Digital objects are currently backed up on two external hard drives and the central campus servers. Once the preservation system is fully configured, those files will be transferred into the system, and the appropriate metadata (descriptive information to help with searching) added. Access to digital records not protected by copyright law or donor placed restrictions can be given on the computer in the RBSC reading room. Access much be prearranged to your visit. Please contact the Curator.

Will everyone be able to look at my papers?
We are part of a public university, so any materials available to researchers are also available to the public. Materials do not leave the department. We currently use read-only external hard drives on site in the department for electronic materials.
To use materials, you must fill out a call slip for each item requested, detailing the title, author, and call number of the items found in the catalog or the collection title and box number for archival materials. Coming prepared with this information is not necessary, but it will speed up the paging process. We have a public terminal in the reading room if you need to look up material during your visit. We are happy to assist you in your search and answer any questions about the process. In addition to completing a call slip for each item requested, you will need to complete a registration form if you have not done so in the past. For more information about what to expect during your visit, click here.

What if I want place access restrictions on my donation, such as I want my papers to remain closed until after my death?
We will honor restrictions of portions of the collection from research use in certain cases. We will not accept materials that are to remain restricted as our mission is to support research and make our collections accessible to the public. We require you to designate a specific time period (e.g. 25 years) rather than a trigger event (e.g. death of the author; age of majority of author’s heirs; etc.) for releasing the restriction, as we do not have resources to track these records. If there are materials that you do not wish to be available until after your death, we advise you to designate the final gifting of those materials as part of your estate. In all cases of restricted materials, RBSC staff are permitted limited access to them to ensure their safety and longevity.

What if I want my donations returned to me?
Once we accept materials into the collection, they become the physical property of the NIU University Libraries and the State of Illinois (your copyrights remain with you for literary papers). In the case of archives and literary papers, we ask that you only donate materials when you are no longer in need of them (i.e. they are no longer part of your working papers or are records no longer required to be retained by you). If you donate materials that you later find you need to reference, we are happy to provide copies to you.

What happens if RBSC decides to deaccession or withdraw my donation?
We try very hard to say “yes, this” and “no, thank you, not this” before accepting materials. We suggest alternative places for donations when possible. RSBC retains the right to dispose of unwanted or unsolicited gift materials in the manner of its choosing in accordance with the deed of gift. However, should we find that we accepted something in haste, our first course of action is to offer it back to the original donor.

Contact Us

Dean Fred Barnhart

Phone: (815) 753-1094
Email: lib-admin@niu.edu

Founders Memorial Library
Northern Illinois University
217 Normal Rd
DeKalb, IL 60115-2828

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