Archive for April, 2014

New IASC21 Issue Briefs Series

April 24th, 2014  |  Published in Uncategorized

New IASC21 Issue Briefs Series
Pamela Graham, Columbia University


This Issue Brief Series is an outcome of the meetings and discussions that have been taking place since 2012 among managers and directors of international and area studies collections in U.S. academic libraries.  A collective of interested individuals, going by the name of International and Area Studies Collections in the 21st Century (IASC21), first convened at Yale in the fall of 2012 at a small working conference sponsored by the libraries of Yale, Columbia and Duke.

The impetus for the 2012 IASC21 meeting was the lack of a forum to bring together individuals who manage and direct area studies programs within research libraries coupled with an awareness of the value of building such a community as we confront common challenges and transformative forces. We have a strong tradition of professional library organizations dedicated to functional work areas (see for example the ALA committees on reference, cataloging, and so on) and to major regions of collecting interest (e.g. Council on East Asian Libraries, CONSALD, SALALM etc.). Similarly, the Center for Research Libraries has supported and hosted several preservation projects focused on world regions (a.k.a. the “AMPs” or Area Microform Projects). Within each region, these projects have achieved an impressive record of work but opportunities to share information across projects have been limited.  In sum, then, despite sharing common needs, goals, and interests, we hitherto had lacked bridges across these groups and a means of sharing and exchanging best practices and success stories.

In 2012, the IASC21 participants identified issues and challenges as well as strengths and potentials related to our international and world area collecting programs. Two points were especially clear: first, we needed a forum for discussion and action within our own community; and second, we needed to foster and sustain better and more meaningful communication about area studies collections and services, to engage the widest possible audience.

Since 2012, a number of meetings of area and international studies librarians have been convened (the Forum on Global Dimensions of Scholarship at Duke and the Area Studies Librarianship Workshop at Indiana University), adding momentum and deepening the networks among interested individuals. Building upon these confluences, IASC21 participants continue the grassroots development of our professional community and pursue avenues to collectively address our common needs.

This series of issue briefs is designed to focus on specific challenges relating to international and area studies collections and librarianship, highlighting opportunities and innovative approaches that may have broader applicability across the community. “Briefs” are designed to be brief: they concisely state the specific challenge or issue, summarize the approach taken, and summarize outcomes, including lessons learned and best practices. Where appropriate, we provide pointers to more information for those who wish to delve deeper.

The briefs aim to generate open conversation and cross-talk. We seek to open lines of communication not only between established area studies library groups but between area studies librarianship and larger communities of interest. We invite many voices into this conversation, both through posting comments and through the contribution of Issue Briefs from a variety of sources. We also welcome briefs that propose solutions and approaches in the planning or brainstorming phases.

In the spirit of collaboration and open communication, we welcome your feedback on current Issue Briefs and solicit your suggestions for future Briefs.  Please contact us!
Pamela Graham, Columbia University
Mary Rader, University of Texas at Austin
James Simon, Center for Research Libraries

South Asia Cooperative Collection Development Workshops

April 24th, 2014  |  Published in Cooperative Collection Development, Distributed Print Collecting

South Asia Cooperative Collection Development Workshops
James Simon, Center for Research Libraries
Mary Rader, University of Texas at Austin


Major theme(s) addressed:

Cooperative Collection Development
Distributed Print Collecting

Context / background of project

Collecting for South Asian studies faces similar challenges as other international and area studies groups. Foremost among the collection development pressures are a) a burgeoning print publication environment in the region, paired with b) static acquisition budgets. This has resulted in relatively flat collecting levels by academic libraries even as the scope of available publications has grown significantly over time.

Since 1962 the Library of Congress has maintained offices abroad to acquire, catalog, preserve, and distribute library and research materials from countries where such materials are essentially unavailable through conventional acquisitions methods. There are approximately 35 major academic institutions that collect materials from South Asia through the Library of Congress Cooperative Acquisitions Programs (LC-CAP) in New Delhi, India and Islamabad, Pakistan. This poses a threat to a diversified North American collection, as well an opportunity to identify areas of collaboration among participants utilizing a common vendor.

Responding to the imperative to collaborate, since 2010 South Asian Studies librarians have been hosting annual workshops to collectively identify and explore opportunities for cooperation and to put the resultant ideas into action. Recognizing the ubiquity of our common vendor, and the clear pressures to maintain efficiencies in selection, acquisition and description workflows, initial 2010 and 2011 workshops involved adjustments to monographic approval plans and serial subscriptions maintained by LC-CAP. The 2012 workshop saw participants declaring a wide-range of niche collecting interests based on institutional strengths and librarians’ knowledge while the 2013 workshop encouraged reflection upon how we communicate the successes, value, and impact of our collective work, both within our own cooperative structure as well as externally to faculty, administrators, and the library community.

Approaches to topic

The following preliminary assessments were undertaken to identify areas of collaboration:

  • Bibliographer survey to identify the major contours of collection priorities and institutional needs, compared to bibliographer expertise and local collection methods.
  • Analysis of OCLC data on monograph and serial collections across participants, assessed by country and language of publication.
  • Cross-tabulation of profiles / serial title subscriptions for LC-CAP participants.
  • Comparison of interlibrary loan and retention policies of participant institutions, to ensure access to dispersed resources.

Innovative Approaches (“Best Practices”)

For each workshop, organizers conduct open discussions of institutional priorities and needs, concerns of institutions, and potential roadblocks to success.

Participation is voluntary, with the caveat that institutions wishing to participate are expected to commit fully to the assigned exercises (“no lurkers”). Participants are required to achieve “buy-in” from their collection officer to ensure institutional commitment.

Commitments resulting from the cooperative activity are “cost neutral.” Commitments do not presuppose greater investment by institutions, but rather reallocation of resources to achieve diversity.

Rather than rehearsing off-cited debates over the “middle ground” of “core” collections, participants in the first two “South Asia Cooperative Collection Development Workshops” were encouraged to focus their attention on both the “lesser covered” and the “already well covered” subjects (in the case of monographs) or titles (in the case of serials) when considering collaboratively-focused alterations to their collection plans.

The workshops are designed to be flexible, lightweight, and iterative. Participants are expected to routinely report on changes to commitments, notable successes or setbacks.

Outcomes/lessons learned

Through the workshops, over $18,000 worth of annual monographic acquisitions funding was redirected and almost 600 serial subscriptions were altered, both activities which have reduced redundancy and increased diversity in the North American collection of South Asian material. In order to continue exploring collective opportunities while allowing new selection decisions to mature, subsequent workshops focused less heavily on LCCAP/vendor-dominated decision-making and more on local support for the overarching public good.

Rather than focusing on “transformative” change, the workshops seek to address “small but meaningful” shifts in the North American collection, relying on grassroots initiatives to inform and shape the diversity of our collective collection.

More information

2010 Workshop Report [monographic distribution]

2011 Workshop Report [serial distribution]

2012 Workshop Report [library specialization]

2013 Workshop Report [assessment and communication]



  • Bronwen Bledsoe, South Asia Curator, Cornell University
  • Mary Rader, Global Studies Coordinator / South Asia Librarian, University of Texas Libraries
  • James Simon, Director, Global Resources Network, Center for Research Libraries