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The Clements Library is fortunate to have a community of historians, bibliophiles, collectors, researchers, teachers, and students who are willing to come together around this library to support the exploration and examination of history and help make it as accessible as possible. I had the privilege of talking to some of our donors who have set up recurring monthly gifts for the Clements Library. I love hearing about how folks become involved in the library and what prompts them to give.

Lisa Pappas has worked at the University of Michigan for seventeen years. Today, she is not only a recurring contributor to the Clements Library, but she is a regular researcher as well. “I’m just a community member with an innate sense of curiosity,” Lisa said during our phone conversation. Her curiosity first brought her to the Clements when the University was celebrating its bicentennial anniversary. Interested in looking at the Treaty of Fort Meigs–in which the Anishinaabeg ceded land that would then be used for the University of Michigania, she visited the Bentley Historical Library and the William L. Clements Library. After her first visit to the Clements, Lisa attended a Behind the Scenes Tour and was delighted to see more of the archives and learn about conservation efforts.

Having spent a fair amount of time at the Clements Library, doing her own research, Lisa was quick to answer, when I asked about her favorite item or collection. She loves the Richard Porht Jr. Collection of Native American Photography and the Michigan Collection. “Researching at the Clements,” Lisa said, “feels like a sacred experience.” I know what she means: When you are in the Avenir Foundation Reading Room, with its vaulted ceilings and walls of books behind glass doors, everyone uses hushed voices and slow movements. She explained how the staff carefully handled the collection materials and taught her how to do so as well–using foam wedges to support books, keeping loose manuscript pages in order, and holding photographs appropriately. 

Lisa is currently working on a story for The Michigan History Magazine about Amasa Gillet, one of Washtenaw County’s founders who was involved in the Underground Railroad. This project has brought her back to the Clements Library several times now. “You have to support what you believe in,” Lisa told me. “And I believe in preserving history so we can all learn from it.” She elaborated by saying that setting up a monthly, recurring donation was the easy choice for her–she didn’t have to remember to give–she could set up the gift and forget about it. 
Tom Litchford is another recurring donor I got a chance to speak with. Tom and his wife established a monthly gift to the Clements a couple of years ago after learning about the library through a Giving Blueday Campaign. Since both of them are alumni they wanted to start giving back to the University and were interested in supporting one of the libraries. The story of the William L. Clements Library won them over and they have been supporters ever since. “We give to the Clements because today–more than ever before–we need these tangible connections to our history and to knowledge… If we don’t have that concrete connection, then who knows what to believe?” Tom explained. “We live in this age where things are created by Chatbots and there is all this deep fake technology out in the world. That–the tangible connection to history and knowledge–is the power of a collection like that at the Clements.”
Tom and his wife started by donating annually, but–he explained–it’s easy to forget to renew that kind of gift. “The monthly gift? You turn it on and don’t worry about it,” Tom said. As someone who has worked for nonprofit organizations, he understands the value of “sustained, predictable income.” When asked what the Clements Library brings to the University and Ann Arbor community, Tom responded, “For serious book people it’s a real treat. The University of Michigan brings things to our little corner of the midwest that you would normally find in LA, Chicago, or New York.” 

As a book-buyer for thirty-five years and an impressive library of her own, I think you could call her a bibliophile, but Ann Cassidy didn’t label herself as such during our conversation. She attended the University of Michigan as an undergraduate student, majoring in Middle Eastern Studies. While she did not visit the Clements as a student, she attended a Jane Austen literature class later in life which brought her here. During that class, she remembers looking at : The Art of Cookery Made Easy and Refined: Comprising Ample Directions for Preparing Every Article Requisite for Furnishing the Tables of the Nobleman, Gentleman and Tradesman,” by John Mollard and published in 1802. Thus began Ann’s relationship with the William L. Clements Library. (This book is part of the Jan Bluestein Longone Culinary Archive that was housed at the Clements Library, but transitioned to University Special Collections in 2013.) 

One thing I really admire about the Clements–and interests me a lot as a bookseller–is thinking of ways to reach out to the community for education that is not involved with academia,” Ann said. She has really enjoyed the different educational opportunities that our library has offered, including the various exhibits, lectures, and Bookworm episodes. Her participation in the events is what inspired Ann to start giving. Around December 30, every year she would scramble to make donations to her chosen organizations and one year she realized that if she increased her gift by a little bit and spread it over the year with automatic deductions, she could make her life easier! She told me that she loves seeing the Clements line-item on a monthly basis and getting regular updates from the development staff–keeping her in the know of how her dollars are at work. 

Many thanks to Lisa, Tom, Ann and all our regular contributors. Knowing that we have consistent gifts helps us at the Clements Library plan for what’s possible. Please do your part by setting up your recurring contribution today