Many librarians who manage special collections are grateful for the donations of items or collections that fall within their mission and collection scope. In turn, most donors find satisfaction in knowing that their gifts are housed in repositories, where they will be preserved and maintained by qualified staff and available to patrons for future years. Oftentimes donors, after receiving formal acknowledgement and sincere thanks for their donations, disappear back into the public landscape, perhaps glad to have found a new home for all those books or items. Their donations are unconditional—no strings attached and no demands for special recognition. The feeling that they have donated their items to worthy institutions is enough to please them.

In most cases, our ensuing relationships with donors are valuable and enjoyable. People and families occasionally give to libraries books, artwork, and monetary gifts and endowments. Their thoughtfulness and generosity often knows no bounds.

In rare circumstances, however, we find ourselves dealing with donors who present challenges. To the point that the librarians begin to regret having accepted their contributions, some donors follow their gifts with hints or demands that their contributions be given a large amount of attention. What drives donors to act in such a manner? What can be done about it? Can librarians do anything to prevent such behavior?

Publication Date

Fall 2004