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A new student-run fundraising effort invites donors to help to retire old libary chairs

September 14, 2016

A new student-run fundraising effort invites donors to help buy library seats for students.

Walk through library spaces and you’ll spot students staking out their favorite study spots ranging from hidden-away carrels in the downstairs stacks at Tompkins-McCaw to the blue chairs on the second floor or the womb chairs on the third floor at Cabell. Eames and Barcelona knock-offs on the third and fourth floors, rockers on the reading porch and all-weather metal on the terrace, 1,500 new seats were added to Cabell Library in the 2015-16 renovation.

Among those hundreds of rarely-empty seats, you’ll still see some scrappy, torn and tattered ones. With more than 2 million visitors each year, wear and tear on library furnishings is constant. Replacing chairs is, almost literally, a daily need.

The Cabell Library Undergraduate Advisory Committee aims to answer that need with the Misfit Chairs Project. VCU’s first student-run, student-centric, Web-based crowdfunding effort hopes to raise $10,000 to help replace worn chairs in the libraries.

The student-designed online fundraising site ( is set up like a pet adoption site, with the invitation to donate and help retire a tired old chair. Supporters who give a minimum of $25 are expected to take a selfie with their retiring chair. The photo will be shared on VCU Libraries’ Instagram account with the hashtag #misfitchairs

In addition to the online fundraising portal, the project is participating in the Broad Street Mile 5K run. All registration fees (only $10 each) made in the name of VCU Libraries will go to the Misfit Chairs Project.

To sign up for the Broad Street Mile, please click on the register button and select VCU Libraries then follow the prompts. If you don’t want to run, you can make a gift.  

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In 2015-16, VCU opened five floors of new or updated space at Cabell. Improvements included a plethora of new furnishings. State funding did not fully cover renovation of all spaces or replace furnishings in older sections of the building. Some of these chairs date to the 1970s. Tompkins-McCaw Library’s first floor, last updated in 2001,  is scheduled for renovation with new furnishings this academic year. So, the project is quite timely.

The Misfit Chairs Project is the brainchild of CLUAC members Taylor Calicchia and Mack Edmondson. The CLUAC group, appointed every year, advises library leadership on student priorities and needs.

Calicchia hopes the project will engage people on- and off-campus. “The VCU community extends beyond campus and is full of people who feel connected to the university and want to support its students,” says Calicchia, a fourth-year biology student. “I would feel so encouraged knowing that donors wanted to support a cause that is so important to my peers and me.”

Edmondson, a fourth-year criminal justice student, thinks this is a cause that everyone can warm to. “We hope that engaging students in getting new chairs will help everyone feel welcome. Comfort is critical to help students study efficiently for extended periods of time.”

Although the Misfit Chairs Project emphasizes student involvement, it is open to parents, aunts and uncles, alumni and the broad university community.  Says Antonia Vassar (B.A.’05/A), director of annual giving and donor relations for VCU Libraries, encourages all alumni and community members to support this student effort. “The fact that students themselves wanted to have a hand in improving the library shows how much it means to them.”  

President of the Friends of VCU Libraries Board Stephanie Holt (B.S.’74/E) sees the project as a golden opportunity to support students and encourages alumni to pitch in. “What better way is there to show support for students than by supporting a cause that was their own initiative?” she says.

Gifts made to support the Misfit Chairs Project count toward VCU Libraries’ Seat-a-Student Fund and are eligible to be matched as part of the $1 million challenge grant extended to VCU Libraries by the Cabell Foundation. The challenge grant calls on VCU Libraries to raise $1 million in gifts and pledges by June 30, 2017. When that goal is reached, the foundation will commit $1 million. To learn more about the Misfit Chairs Project, visit

A version of this article by Brelyn Powell, donor communications specialist, Office of Development and Alumni Relations, appears in the fall issue of Impact magazine.

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