Hitting the Books

Over the past several years, budget cuts to higher education have been an almost constant presence in local headlines. “It’s a critical issue right now,” said Shelby McKenzie, adding that “lack of adequate funding for higher education is not a new issue.”

The retired Baton Rouge attorney has long been associated with LSU, and his mother, Rosalind Beene McKenzie, was an early member of Friends of LSU Libraries. This philanthropic volunteer group was created in 1962 to assist LSU Libraries in developing the Libraries’ resources.

“I’ve been acquainted with the Friends of the LSU Libraries from its beginning through my mother’s active participation in the leadership of the organization,” McKenzie shared. “My father, Leslie McKenzie, also enjoyed working with the Friends. I know that the Friends always have had a passionate desire to help the LSU Libraries with additional funding.”

In 1966, the Friends reevaluated their activities after realizing that, to truly drive LSU Libraries toward continued academic excellence, they needed to seek substantial assistance from private sources. They began raising money to fund a library endowment, intended to serve as the major resource for the LSU Libraries to obtain those items difficult to acquire within its regular budget.

The LSU Book Bazaar began as a small annual book sale in 1975, and has since become the Friends’ signature event. Funds raised have enabled the Friends to donate more than $2 million to support LSU Libraries over the years. The Friends’ contributions are recognized by their inclusion in the LSU Foundation’s Laureate Society—appropriately, as a Troy H. Middleton Laureate.

“In recent years, the primary, if only, focus has been the Book Bazaar,” Shelby said. He shared that the new LSU Libraries dean, Stanley Wilder, “has a good vision of expanding the role of the Friends of the LSU Libraries back to including assisting him with raising funds in other ways, beyond the Book Bazaar itself. He wants to create a dynamic for the Friends that provides wide support for the library.”

Continuing in his mother’s footsteps, Shelby is an active member of the group, previously serving as its president, and has volunteered to help Wilder with its reorganization.

Shelby’s parents instilled in him a love of books at a young age. “They were always very interested in academic things and made sure that I remained interested in them, even when other high school activities seemed more attractive. I appreciate everything they did for me, including their instilling in me their love of books.”

Published in Cornerstone Summer and Fall 2015.

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