Archive for April, 2015

Chicago-Minnesota Libraries Area-Studies Collections Expertise Exchange

April 1st, 2015  |  Published in Uncategorized

Francophone and Scandinavian Collections Expertise Exchange [FRESCOE]
March 2015

Gordon B. Anderson, University of Minnesota
Sarah G. Wenzel, University of Chicago


Near the beginning of this decade, the librarians for Francophone studies at the University of Minnesota and Scandinavian studies at the University of Chicago left their respective positions to pursue other library opportunities. When this happened, these language-subject responsibilities were transferred to other colleagues. And so it was that French collection development was assigned to Gordon Anderson, Librarian for Scandinavian Studies at the University of Minnesota Libraries and Sarah G. Wenzel, Bibliographer for Literatures of Europe & the Americas at the University of Chicago Library acquired Scandinavian Studies. At first we occasionally consulted one another on advice for acquiring specific titles, but it became clear that our capacities were stretched an area too far. Over the summer of 2013 we worked out a plan for sharing our individual area-studies strengths to facilitate collection development for our two libraries. We submitted a proposal to our respective associate university librarians for their comment and opinion. Their response was most enthusiastic, and in September 2013 the two University Librarians signed a Memorandum of Understanding establishing a formal collection-development partnership between The University of Chicago Library and the University of Minnesota Libraries.

The Arrangement

As stated at the beginning of the Memorandum of Understanding, the two parties have established an

… arrangement to share professional librarian expertise and cooperation in collection development for French and Francophone Studies (Francophone Studies) and Scandinavian Studies. The purpose of this arrangement is to pool our subject and language knowledge and skills for the mutual enrichment of each other’s collections and services. The understanding assumes that resource selections will be made within each Library’s annual appropriation for the respective subject fund and assumes no additional expenditures. –start of the Memorandum of Understanding

This is a cooperative exchange of expertise and labor. Anderson and Wenzel continue to be employed by their home libraries and are not in any official employ of the other library. Our professional responsibilities remain the same: monitoring large monograph collections and serial subscriptions; expediting the spending of the materials funds; identifying and recommending electronic resources; incorporating new media into the collections’ profiles; cultivating relationships with our new faculty clientele and library colleagues; and providing reference service to students and faculty on both campuses.

The Collections

The University of Chicago Library’s Scandinavian Studies Collection has been very strong in Norwegian studies, and more recently the scope of collecting has been broadened to include more literature and history/social-science resources from the other Scandinavian countries. The Library maintains an approval plan for contemporary Norwegian belles-lettres with Norli Libris AS in Oslo. The Library also has a plan with YBP for books in Scandinavian Studies. The major work of Norwegian and Scandinavian collection development has been carried out through firm orders via major vendors’ catalogs, largely Otto Harrassowitz and YBP, and by retrospective purchasing from antiquarian dealers.

As Librarian for European Studies at the University of Minnesota (UofM), Gordon Anderson is responsible for anticipating and fulfilling the present and future needs of the University of Chicago’s Scandinavian-Studies collections, primarily for materials in the Scandinavian languages but also for scholarly resources in English about the Nordic region (which includes Scandinavia).

The University of Minnesota Libraries Francophone Studies Collection is largely Europe-oriented but with significant holdings of current and recent French-language materials from the Americas, Africa, and Asia. French-language books & journals are supplied by Amalivre in Paris. The Libraries maintain a monographs approval plan for French language and literatures (including new works of fiction and belles-lettres) and a plan for French history, the social sciences, and current affairs. The Libraries receive current English-language monographs in Francophone studies via similar plans with Yankee Book Peddler (YBP).

Sarah G. Wenzel, Bibliographer for Literatures of Europe & the Americas at the University of Chicago (UChicago), is a language and area-studies collections expert in Francophone Studies. She is responsible for anticipating and meeting the present and future needs of the University of Minnesota’s French & Francophone Studies collections, primarily for materials in the French language but also for scholarly resources about these French-speaking regions.

Both librarians represent the other’s collection in related library consortia, such as CIFNAL and GNARP, in CRL-hosted Global Resource Network collaboratives, and in CIC-led cooperative acquisitions undertakings.

The process

From the start our faculty and library colleagues were receptive to our project. Sarah and Gordon moved quickly to establish relations with the faculty and to familiarize themselves with the faculty’s teaching and research interests and the strengths of the library collections. Heads of reference have added us to their campus lists of subject experts for on-line and personal reference services. Heads of acquisitions provided us with access and selection rights to the other’s major vendor accounts and viewing and downloading capabilities within the other’s acquisitions system. Thus, we can now view the other’s proprietary electronic resources and related tools, such as in-house trials to new electronic products.

The Memorandum of Understanding calls for site visits to be made to the other’s library and campus at least once per semester. These visits are a special opportunity to meet with faculty and library colleagues.


This is an arrangement between a large state university library and a large private university library. Although the UofM has at least three times the number of students enrolled, in the realm of languages and literatures, the two departments — French & Italian and Germanic Studies –have roughly the same number of full-time faculty and graduate students. Combined with an equal number of area-studies professors affiliated with the language departments, both universities have important area-studies programs in French/Italian and German/Scandinavian/Dutch.

The two treat area-studies collecting somewhat differently. Minnesota follows the area-studies pattern, with one librarian versed in all the disciplines of the arts, humanities and social sciences under the roof of one language area. Chicago follows the language/subject pattern, where subject librarians are responsible for acquiring resources in all relevant languages. In practice, however, no matter the pattern, cooperation among librarians with subject expertise and librarians with language expertise is essential to insure the optimal mix, and neither approach is superior.

In the realm of foreign-language and area-studies collection development and management, a few academic libraries have cautiously tried modest trial projects in the sharing of specific areas of expertise. Examples include the joint hiring of one bibliographer to handle the same collection at more than one library, or jointly hiring a cataloger to process foreign-language materials for several libraries. The Columbia and Cornell University Libraries, through their 2CUL partnership, are embarked on an extensive integration of infrastructure across the libraries. And certain vendors have long provided these kinds of services for groups of libraries, through approval plans, selection profiles, and shelf-ready cataloging of new materials.

The UofM-UChicago exchange is an attempt to pool intellectual resources while keeping financial resources in-house. It is likely that we will see more of this kind of inter-institutional subject-expertise sharing as libraries seek to support the broader academic move, away from traditional foreign-language and area-studies approaches, towards concepts of “international studies” or “global citizenship.” Perhaps future exchanges may even include more than two libraries.