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GBW Library – Feedback Requested


Since the late 1980’s the Guild’s Library has been housed at the University of Iowa Libraries. Through an agreement with the University, GBW has maintained ownership of the collection, which is available for use by members via the mail - and all materials can be used onsite at the by both members and non-members.

 The University of Iowa Libraries has requested that we revisit our agreement with them. Iowa has proposed that we end our loan agreement and instead gift the collection to the University of Iowa Libraries. Under this agreement:

  • The collection would remain “The Guild of Book Workers Collection”, and we would have the option to have a bookplate inserted into each volume. A collection note would also be added to the online catalog.


  • All items would be fully cataloged and made available for use. Items would still be available for use by the general public onsite at the Library.


  • Rare items or those with special provenance would remain in Special Collections.


  • Some non-rare items would be moved to the circulating collection as appropriate.


  • Any items that Iowa does not wish to keep in their collection (i.e. duplicates) would be returned to GBW at the University’s expense. We could keep, sell, or donate these items as desired.


  • By taking ownership of the collection, Iowa would be able to add certain items to their digitization queue (something not possible under the current agreement).


  • Iowa would be able to provide conservation or rehousing services for fragile items (something not possible under the current agreement).

While the terms outlined above are open to discussion and/or negotiation, if we cannotcome to some kind of agreement, Iowa would like to terminate our agreement and return the collection to us. While a complete inventory of the collection is pending, we estimate this to be about 1,000 items. Without a building of our own, storing these items in perpetuity would be a challenge. We could of course sell the collection or work to find another home for it – but considerable planning and discussion would be required. Selling the collection could be complicated since disposing of such a large monetary asset would raise some questions for the IRS – especially since our organization is in good financial health.

To learn more about the library’s current holdings and its history, please visit our website:

 For context - use of the print collection has waned over time – in fact, neither GBW or Iowa have any records to show that items have been requested via the mail for at least 10 years. According to Betsy Palmer Eldridge’s President Report in August 2002 Newsletter (143:4), a survey of the membership indicated that  “The Library is clearly the least used facility. Almost 85% have never borrowed from it. Most have never checked the online catalogue for books, although substantially more have checked it occasionally for videos or journals”. A 2013 member survey also ranked the GBW Library as one of the Guild’s “least important” resources.

 The Board discussed the future of the GBW Library at our April meeting, and decided that more discussion and research is required. Regardless of the option that we choose, it seemed that having the collection fully inventoried and appraised was necessary. To that end, we voted to approve the cost of having the collection appraised in a manner that meets IRS requirements should we decide to gift or sell the collection. The appraisal took place in late April, and the report is forthcoming. We are also consulting with both a tax professional and a lawyer to determine how to proceed with various options.

 Because use of the GBW Library is a benefit of membership, the Board has requested feedback from the membership on this matter. We will be including a survey following the election ballot (the election will open in July), but I welcome any feedback that you’d like to share with me via email ( Please contact me to let me know your thoughts – were you aware of the GBW library? Have you requested items for use? Do you consider the library to be a valuable resource? Do you think GBW should donate the Library to the University of Iowa? Sell it for profit? Or find a new home for the collection? 

 The Board will discuss this topic at the August Board meeting (and beyond as required), and we will update you with new information when it is available.

Bexx Caswell-Olson
President, Guild of Book Workers