Most good things are a long time coming. But a wondrous few just seem to happen. Such a boon from the blue materialized in March 1999, when Elizabeth Clarage received an e-mail from an old friend in New York.
|The friend, with whom she once worked at Columbia University Library, had a question. Did Clarage, who is now assistant commerce librarian and assistant professor of library administration, think the University of Illinois might be interested in providing a home for a major business archive? "I think his reasoning was that we're in the Midwest and have a lot of room," Clarage dryly recalled. The upshot of that conversation is literally enormous a rare microfiche collection of SEC filings, weighing in at a couple of tons and valued at $1 million. Now owned by the University Library, it is housed at several secure places around campus as Clarage works to get it organized and moved to a permanent site. Covering 1978-1995, the collection includes virtually every annual report and statement filed by every publicly traded company in the United States during that seventeen-year period. Not only do many of these companies no longer exist, the documents themselves are artifacts, having been replaced in recent years by electronic filings. "This is truly a historical collection," Clarage said.|
And getting it here is just the beginning. Clarage, who graduated from Commerce in 1991 with a B.S. in business administration and went on to earn an M.S. in library and information science in 1993, is now faced with the Herculean task of organizing the archive. "The microfiche was housed in two separate collections, each of which was alphabetized," she explained. "We're hiring a team of students to merge the two, but it's slow going. There are between 180 and 190 pieces of fiche per inch." And when those inches translate into hundreds and hundreds of drawer feet in a couple of dozen cabinets, it's a long, long way from A to Z. Nonetheless, Clarage is determined to have the collection fully merged as soon as possible.
"I feel the collection is now in excellent hands," noted Contessa. "Before this came about, I knew very little of the University of Illinois. But, on a human interest note, after my local paper in Bronxville printed a press release from the university about the gift, a prominent member of the community, Ray Pfeister, came up to me and said `Thank you for your gift to my alma mater.' Until then, I did not know that Ray was a U of I graduate." (Pfeister graduated from Commerce with an MBA in 1971, and also earned a BS from ACES in 1969.)
"This is also the first time I've ever made a donation of this type," Contessa concluded. "Had this gifting opportunity not presented itself, we would have sold the fiche collection, parsing it out to collectors and commercial entities. I'm glad it's intact at the University of Illinois instead. I also welcome the possibility of a follow-on relationship with the university. Indeed, I am very mindful of the fact that in the emerging knowledge economy, strong academic/ business ties will be an increasingly essential success component."