loan etiquette - best answer

Stuart Fullerton stuartf at PEGASUS.CC.UCF.EDU
Mon Oct 4 07:49:44 CDT 1999


the answers have been many, and the suggestions wonderful and the comments
very helpful. i have still not decided what to do, but am learning a lot.
in starting things here 6 years ago i made many mistakes, and continue to
make them.  i suspect that this particular loan to a chap in sweden will
never return. at the time i was under the impression he was a student at
the Lund University, which has since turned out not to be true. and it
compounds from there. alas i do not hold the people of Sweden responsible.

my fault, my own fault, my most grevious fault.

the anwer below, from Dr. John Bruner i think sums up all the comments and
suggestions. proved with his permission, and one or two lines edited out.
i think it sums up the comments and suggestions of all.

i hope you will all find it enjoyable, as well as helpfull.

there are more of you than i though that have had the same problem.

meanwhile i continue to trudge the path!

cheers!  rof

Stuart M Fullerton ROF, Research Associate in charge of Arthropod
Collections (UCFC), Biology Dept. University of Central Florida, Orlando,
Florida, 32816, USA. stuartf at

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 30 Sep 1999 13:26:07 -0600 (MDT)
From: John Bruner <jbruner at>
To: Stuart Fullerton <stuartf at PEGASUS.CC.UCF.EDU>
Subject: Re: loan etiquette

Dear Stuart,
        I appreciate your problems with return of loans.  I have 29 years
of experience in museums sending out loans and requesting returns.  First
of all, expecting your loans back within one year is  totally unrealistic.
However, on paper, NEVER make a loan for more than one year.  If the
loanee needs more time to finish their work, then put the aegis on the
loanee to request an extension.  If a loan ever goes beyond 5 years, then
only allow three month extensions.  Also, never make a loan to a student.
Always send the loan to the student's supervisor's name.  AND, REMEMBER, a
loan is NEVER made to an individual BUT to the institution at which the
individual works.  If the person dies or is fired while possessing the
loan, then it is the institution's responsibility to return the loan.
NEVER allow subloans of specimens from the loanee to another person.  You
have no control of subloans, neither can you trust the loanee to supply
the correct number of invoices or pack the specimen correctly, or meeting
the postal regulations of the country(ies) the loan is being sent to.
        Now, for your particular problem of getting a loan returned from
"overseas".  I suggest you contact the nearest USA consulate in the
country or the USA ambassador in the country.

I was having trouble with a university in New Zealand returning a 30 year
loan of fossil *Homo sapiens* that had been loaned to an anthropologist
from the Geology Department, Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago,
Illinois. The anthropologist had been fired from the university and the
chairman of the biology department there felt he was not responsible for
having the loan returned.  After several letters to the Chairman, I wrote
to the President of the University complaining about the non-cooperation
of the chairman of his biology department.  I also contacted the USA
ambassador in New Zealand at the time, and was totally surprised by the
full cooperation I got from the ambassador's office.  The ambassador's
office called the President of the university and also the chairman of the
biology department.  This woke up the chairman to his responsibilities.
The loan was finally returned about 4 months ago, which means it had been
out of the FMNH for 44 years.  This is not a record for a museum loan at
all. The Fish Division of the FMNH's Zoology Department had made a loan to
Dr.  Jacob Reighard at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan
about 1912.  The loan was not returned to the FMNH until 1978!
        If your museum is large enough, then you have additional
leverage.  The FMNH is the fourth largest museum in North America.  Since
it covers Anthropology, Botany, Geology and Zoology, it is likely that
loans have been made in the past to the same institution to other
departments of the loanee's university or museum.  If you can get the
other curators at your museum to cooperate, then you can threaten the
President of the university or Director of the Museum that not only will
your department no longer make anymore loans to that institution, but NO
LOANS from any of the other departments at your museum will be made to
that institution. This is strictly a LAST RESORT and should not be taken
lightly.  To make this action effective, you have to make sure that the
people who would be affected by such a threat fully understand why your
museum is resorting to this action (otherwise it will not work).  The
reason this action works is because the chairmen of the other departments
will pressure the recalcitrant chairman of the loanee's department to
cooperate with your museum.
        Another less strigent measure is to use the internet.  On your
museum's website, you can post past-due loans.  You can also post on-going
loans.  These would be useful lists for your museum to keep track of
loans. When the loan is made, inform the loanee that he can keep track OF
the status of his loan at a particular website.  Since this is in a sense
a public list there would be an incentive for the worker to keep off the
bad list. You have to keep these lists anyway for NSF support grants (they
are called activity loans).  So why not let everyone know this
information? Another method would be to use electronic bulletin boards.
You could post yearly reminders to Entomology discussion lists that there
is a website where researchers can check the status of their loans. This
would also be a method of drawing attention to your museum and
advertising it.
        Good luck!
* Mr. John C. Bruner                                 *
* Department of Biological Sciences                  *
* University of Alberta                              *
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