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Gifts-in-Kind Policy for Smithsonian Libraries

The Smithsonian Libraries welcomes gifts of books and other research materials. It is, in part, through such generosity that the Libraries are able to add depth to the academic resources available to our community. Particular interest is paid to scholarly, current, or rare items in good physical condition. The following guidelines are offered to assist donors. Based upon these criteria, the Smithsonian Libraries retains the right to accept or decline all potential gifts.

I. General Guidelines

Due to the high costs of managing the gift process, the Libraries’ goals in accepting gifts are to acquire only those materials which are highly relevant to the Libraries’ needs.

We accept gifts that:

  • Support the Smithsonian Institution’s current and evolving collection interests and principles;
  • Sustain the research needs of Smithsonian staff and researchers;
  • Augment collections of depth;
  • Enhance the unique and noteworthy holdings of Smithsonian Libraries’ special collections.

We are not able to accept gifts when:

  • Materials are not in good physical condition, e.g., contain mold or mildew, tears, stains, water damage or are in any way impaired in a manner that results in limited or restricted use. These items are potentially harmful to existing collections.
  • Materials require significant restoration or conservation or unique storage, unless accompanied by appropriate funding.
  • A donor places restrictions that will negatively affect access to and use of the materials.

We also do not accept:

  • Textbooks.
  • Popular trade paperbacks.
  • Single issues of periodicals or broken runs of bound periodicals, unless they fill gaps in our current collection.
  • Outdated media formats such as LPs, cassettes, etc.
  • Materials which duplicate current holdings.
  • Photocopies/facsimiles of original materials.

II: Our process for gifts is:

  1. Donors should provide a title list and description of any gift before it can be considered. In the absence of such documentation, the Libraries may require on-site evaluation of the collection by subject-area specialist or other library staff before a determination to accept can be made. These subject-expert individuals will evaluate potential gifts for appropriateness to the collections.
  2. Gifts delivered without prior arrangement or contact with the Libraries’ acquisitions and gifts staff or staff referred to above will not be accepted or acknowledged.
  3. Potential donors of materials should contact the Gifts and Exchange coordinator or the appropriate librarian of the Smithsonian Libraries.

III. Disposition of Gift Materials

  1. Once we determine that a gift meets Libraries’ selection criteria, we will catalog the items and make them accessible in the SIRIS (Smithsonian Institution Research Information System) online public catalog.
  2. Appropriate donor recognition may be placed within the online catalog record.  The

Libraries is not physically able to maintain separate named collections.

  1. Gifts that are not selected and have never been part of the collection may be disposed of through sale or donation to another institution.

IV. Donor Information

Under current tax law, donors who wish to receive a tax deduction for gifts over $500 but less than $5,000, must file a completed IRS Form 8283 which must then be signed by the Smithsonian Libraries’ director. For gifts exceeding $5,000 the donor must secure a formal appraisal to accompany filing IRS Form 8283. The value of the gift should be determined by the donor prior to transfer to the Libraries. If necessary (for gifts valued at over $5000), a copy of the appraisal should also be submitted to the Libraries.  Information on IRS Form 8283 (the form and instructions on filling out the form) can be found at:,-Noncash-Charitable-Contributions

IRS law prohibits Smithsonian librarians and other staff from appraising materials or the Libraries paying for or arranging for appraisals. Pertinent information is available in IRS Publication No. 561 “Determining the Value of Donated Property”. Because tax laws change frequently, it is advisable that donors seek professional tax or estate counsel prior to making a gift.

Donors who offer materials or collections which the Smithsonian Libraries cannot accept may be referred to other libraries or charitable book donation programs.

For more information please contact the appropriate Smithsonian library.