In his own inimitable way, Cicero tells us that gratitude is not the greatest of virtues. It’s just the parent of all them all. That makes sense in its own way because if you cannot be grateful, it’s very likely you’re not going to understand the rest of the virtues. Clearly Stalin didn’t. He thought gratitude was a sickness that dogs suffered from, or words to that effect. Stalin should know; he created millions of such dogs with his view of government, or rather, of his view on how to govern. And to think how many academics …well, okay, I won’t go there, out of a sense of gratitude.
I got to thinking of gratitude this week as I surveyed the progress of our renovations. Our plans have been nothing short of big. If you have trouble believing that, take a look here and you can see all that we have done, and all that we hope to do. The link is to our naming opportunities in both our renovated spaces. The completed one, Pettus, still has some areas where gratitude can still be shown. The uncompleted one, Dacus, has a number of nifty areas where a loved one could be honored, a father remembered, a sister showcased, a family name memorized. Please take a look at these. Not only is it a chance to show gratitude for someone or something, it is also a place where we our gratitude will be shown.
Gratitude came flooding over us this week when a check arrived from one of our many, many vendors. Libraries, whether you realize it or not, are very, very expensive places to run. In fact, more than fifty years ago, a writer talked about them in these terms: financial black holes. Now at first, that phrase sounds like fighting words. But seen through a green visor while counting beans, the realization is inescapable: people, the place, the materials (yes, even books) and then everything new that has come upon us: aggregate databases, iPads, ebooks, laptops, Kindles and so on. (Perhaps this is why Gibbon argued that gratitude is expensive?)
The point of all this is to underscore the many, many people, places –vendors – libraries keep going. Where else but a library houses the complete works of Edward Gibbon or all 65+ volumes of the Summa Theologica? The thing is, such things rarely come to mind, until you need them. And then the only place you can find them is an academic library. (Oh, sure, I want to see you read even one volume online!)
As we thought about all this, we decided that we would provide our vendors with a way of thanking us. So we sent out various letters to a number of them, not asking them to duplicate what we had spent with them for in so many cases we have, over the years, spent literally tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands, of dollars. Too many responded that they contributed elsewhere, to national conferences or regional library collectives. Unfortunately, for a library like ours, a medium-large one, this helps us not at all, while helping the national or regional group or conference quite a bit.
But then, on Friday, one of them, one of our vendors with whom we have done business for more than three decades, replied back with a check for even more than we asked. It’s hard to explain what this means to us. This is an age where economic distress is everywhere, even ubiquitous. Too many of our once devout supporters now think “it’s all on the web” anyway, sandwiched between the cute cats, the Nigerian lords, and the ads for… well, you know (and then are sorry that you do!). So getting that support came at just the right time.
It validated us, our hopes, our dreams.