IASC21 Statement: The Value of International Travel for Area Studies Librarians

November 16th, 2016  |  Published in Uncategorized

Despite rapid and pervasive improvements in international communication streams and marketplaces, it is well-recognized within the area studies communities—both scholarly and library-based—that regular travel to/from “the field” is critical to maintaining subject expertise (“authority”) and effective networks (“currency”).  This is no less true for area studies librarians.  In addition to retaining credibility as experts in a field, area studies librarians are also expected to initiate, establish and nurture their international networks (professional, informational and otherwise) through which they can support the work of others, most notably the students and researchers of our universities. Furthermore, and perhaps the most tangible output of this type of travel, librarians can make the one-of-a-kind purchases and negotiations that distinguish and develop our respective collections.

“Foreign travel” is difficult to quantify and distill as multiple activities and goals are achieved in the process, including those that might seem serendipitous or for which the results are deferred.  However, a number of discrete practices are common:

  • Professional development and (re)training within the area of responsibility through interactions with library- and scholarly-communities in the area of research as well as attending conferences, workshops and symposia
  • Networking with project partners and donors
  • Establishment of direct connections with research institutes, libraries, archives and other sources of information which can subsequently be utilized by library staff, faculty and students
  • Creation of new and/or maintenance of established vendor relationships for more cost- and time-effective acquisition of resources as well as opportunities for mutual education
  • Identification and procurement of unique materials
  • Discovery of secondary sources and out-of-print material and identification of publishing trends
  • Exploring, promoting and/or developing open access initiatives, particularly in a “post-custodial” frame of mind
  • Serving as ambassadors of our universities specifically but also of US higher/public education more generally to a greater world

Be it interpreted as “professional development” or “fieldwork,” international travel is essential to the personal, professional, and institutional success of area studies librarians and their respective collection-building and engagement efforts.  As such, the IASC21 community upholds and asserts that international travel is a valued and expected practice—a documentable and measureable critical competency for all area studies librarians.


Michael Biggins
Head, Slavic and East European Section
University of Washington

Su Chen
Head of Richard C. Rudolph East Asian Library
University of California, Los Angeles

Jim Cheng
Director of the C.V. Starr East Asian Library
Columbia University

Cathy Chiu
Head, Area Studies
University of California, Santa Barbara

Dale Correa
Head of the Global Studies Team
University of Texas at Austin

Jose Diaz
Head of Area Studies
The Ohio State University

David Dressing
Head, Area Studies and Global Affairs
University of Notre Dame

Karen Stoll Farrell
Head of Area Studies Department
Indiana University

Jeffrey Ferrier
Curator, Center for International Collections
Ohio University

Marion Frank Wilson
Associate Dean for Collection Development and Archival Collections
Indiana University

Jon Guillian
Head, International Collections Department
University of Kansas

Pamela Graham
Director of Global Studies
Columbia University

Melissa Guy
Head of Collection Development of the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection
University of Texas at Austin

Ellen Hammond
Director, Department of Area Studies & Humanities Research Support
Yale University

Haven Hawley
Chair, Department of Special and Area Studies Collections
University of Florida

Judith Henchy
Special Assistant to the Dean of University Libraries for International Programs
University of Washington

Nerea Llamas
Head, International Studies
University of Michigan

David Magier
Associate University Librarian for Collection Development
Princeton University

Mary Rader
Assistant Director for Research
University of Texas at Austin

Sarah Sussman
Head, International and Area Studies Resource Group
Stanford University Libraries

Kristina Troost
Head, International Area Studies
Duke University

Lidia Uziel
Head, Western Languages Division
Harvard University

Brian Vivier
Coordinator, Area Studies Collections
University of Pennsylvania

Steve Witt
Head, International and Area Studies Library
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Peter Zhou
Assistant University Librarian and Director of C.V. Starr East Asian Library
University of California, Berkeley

November 2016

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