An Interview with Terry Belanger of the Rare Book School,<br>Recipient of $500,000 MacArthur Award
Columbia did choose to close its School of Library Service a decade later. However, the Rare Book School did not choose to join the library school in shuttering its doors. Mr. Belanger simply up and moved it to Virginia. The University of Virginia offered him an appointment as a University Professor, an interdisciplinary post without fixed responsibilities. It allowed him to reopen the Rare Book School as an officially unaffiliated school in Charlottesville (a formal relationship with the University which will still afford the Rare Book School its independence is expected later this year). Meanwhile, the school continues to thrive and grow. It now offers courses in Baltimore, Washington and its old hometown of New York, along with Charlottesville. Additionally, it has helped to set up similar schools in France, New Zealand and Australia, with another scheduled to open on the U.S. west coast in Los Angeles in 2006.
The MacArthur Fellowships, one of which Mr. Belanger received, represent an unusual type of award. Funded by the independent MacArthur Foundation, you cannot apply for them, and there are no demands that come with them. An anonymous panel of experts chooses individuals who show exceptional creativity across many fields of work, from sciences to humanities to artistic fields and more. Their intention is to facilitate the recipients' achievements in the future, rather than being a reward for past accomplishments. However, it is a no-strings-attached award. Like other recipients, Terry Belanger has complete discretion to decide how the award can best be used.
We asked Mr. Belanger how the award would assist the Rare Book School in reaching its goals. He responded that it will help in several ways. First, some of the award will go directly towards the RBS' endowment. Currently, the school is completing the "quiet" stage of a fund drive to increase the school's endowment by $2 million, with more than half of this amount raised already. Secondly, Mr. Belanger is hopeful that the award and the scholarship it acknowledges will help the school obtain a hearing with foundations and individuals when they ask for contributions toward the endowment. Additionally, these funds will be used to eliminate debts in the operating budget, fund various program expansions, and fund the endowment campaign. The latter means that 100% of money raised during the campaign will go to fund the endowment. None will be used to fund overhead of the campaign itself.