Fee for External Users of the Herbarium

Thomas G. Lammers lammers at FMPPR.FMNH.ORG
Tue Jan 28 06:42:00 CST 1997

At 04:12 PM 01-26-97 CDT, Diana G. Horton wrote:
>My Chair is pressing the issue of charging external users (i.e. other
>institutions that request loans) a fee.  He suggests a "standary
>handling fee" of $10 + cost of postage.  His rationale for this is that
>other "centralized, specialized [departmental] facilities" charge a fee
>for their services, and we should too.  These other facilities include
>the phosphorimager, imaging facility, electronics/repair shop and the
>transmission electron microscopy facility.
>The best argument that I can come up with is that the Herbarium is *not*
>comparable to these other facilities because none of these other facilities
>have a counterpart at other institutions that is utilized by our faculty
>at no cost.  I will have to stress the reciprocal nature of herbarium loans.
>However, the difficulty is that there are only three of us who use loans of
>herbarium specimens in our research, and one of these will be retiring (and
>most likely will not be replaced in kind) this year.  The one other thing I
>can think of is to tell him that we will have to pay the cost of returning
>all of the loans that we currently have out (for our research), *plus* pay
>each of those institutions a 'standard handling fee', if we are going to
>institute a fee for borrowers of our collections.  I also suspect that he
>will come back and say that each of us will have to generate sufficient
>grant funds to cover the cost of borrowing specimens.
>Can anyone offer any suggestions?  Is there a stronger way to counter this
>-- Diana Horton
>Herbarium 312 CB
>Biological Sciences
>University of Iowa
>Iowa City, IA  52242
If your chair is going to squawk like a business executive, then your
arguments will also have to be couched in business terms.  As a "net
exporter" of loans, we take the view that sending out our specimens
INCREASES the value of the material loaned.

One, by having it all annotated by the current expert on a given group.
Most specimens of a given group have been identified willy-nilly over the
past century, during which time their classification and nomenclature (and
even the RULES of nomenclature) have changed.  It is genuinely valuable to
have all material of a group examined by a single expert eye (think about
the Greek roots of the word "synoptic") and annotated uniformly.  Point out
how many man-hours this would take, and what it would cost to have done at
even minimum wage, and you can make the case that herbaria are getting the
long end of the stick on the loan deal.

Two, there is also value to having your material and your institution cited
in major monographs and revisions.  It identifies you as a major player in
the community.  It makes it easier to justify support from external sources.

A final note.  Point out that, except for whatever types the herbarium
holds, no one MUST see your material.  If I were revising a group and merely
wanted to include a representation of specimens from Iowa, and I were to
receive a request from you for $10 plus postage, I would mutter some
Anglo-Saxon expletives and write to the folks at Ames, you are much more
sensible about such things.

The main problem, you will find, in charging to use herbarium material is
that almost no one else does.  Ask him/her how much coffee he could sell if
the place next door gave it away free.  The effect of the policy will be to
reduce loan activity to almost zero.  Your material will go unstudied and
uncited, it will be difficult to obtain facility support money, use of the
herbarium will drop off drastically.  And then, some bright person will say,
gee, what the hell do we need an herbarium for anyway?  Let's box the damn
thing up and get rid of it. NOBODY USES IT!

Or maybe that's your chair's ultimate goal?

Thomas G. Lammers
Department of Botany                     Classification, Nomenclature,
Field Museum of Natural History          Phylogeny and Biogeography
Roosevelt Road at Lake Shore Drive       of the Campanulaceae
Chicago, Illinois 60605-2496 USA

e-mail:     lammers at fmppr.fmnh.org
voice mail: 312-922-9410 ext. 317
fax:        312-427-2530

"... what could possibly be easier or more beautiful than 'Campanula'?  What
affectation more gratuitous and silly than 'bell-flower'?"  -- R. Farrer

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