Area and International Studies Librarians have always functioned in a collaborative environment. For them, collaborative activities can take many forms ranging from collection development and reference with colleagues at the national level to close collaboration with academic departments and programs on campus and, in many instances, collaboration with librarians at the international level. The Center for Research Libraries’ Area Microform Projects (AMPs), which include collaborative digitization and microfilming projects with libraries in various areas of the world as well as collaborative collection development projects, are just one example of this wide range of collaborative activities. More recently, several institutions have experimented with and implemented new models of collaboration where an area studies librarian position is shared by more than one institution.
With the increasing awareness in recent years among large research libraries in the U.S. that no library can build and maintain comprehensive collections anymore, combined with developments related to the digital age, collaboration among research libraries in general has been taken to a higher level. The development of shared print repositories, partnerships such as HathiTrust as well as consortial purchase agreements are just a few examples that illustrate the importance of and reliance on collaboration and partnership as defining themes going into the future.
What does this mean for area and international studies library collections?
In light of this scenario, we would like the participants to consider this set of issues:
- What kinds of partnerships and collaborations will take us into the future? For area and international studies librarians, should there be a focus on partnerships at the international level? The increased trend towards partnerships and collaboration has been discussed at recent conferences (e.g., "International and Area Studies Collections in the 21st Century" at Yale University in November 2012; "The Global Dimensions of Scholarship and Research Libraries" at Duke University in December 2012), and area librarians at several institutions are involved with innovative partnerships at the international level. How can these initiatives be linked and networks of partnerships be created?
- The level of electronic availability of scholarly resources among area and international studies collections varies – in some instances there is still heavy reliance on print, in others a combination of print and electronic formats. With this in mind, what forms of collection development should we practice to build strong and relevant collections? What is the model of collecting going forward? Could international partnerships be a form of collaborative collection development? How can we bridge the gap of access to electronic equipment, bandwidth, and training in such partnerships? How can questions of intellectual property be addressed at the international level?
- With the growth of the internet and social networking sites, as well as open access movements in virtually all area of the world, an increasing amount of knowledge is produced outside the traditional publishing channels. While web archiving initiatives exist, they tend to focus on specific subjects, such as human rights, or on a small number of countries in connection with a subject (e.g., a recent ALC project on African countries in conflict). How can knowledge produced on the web be incorporated into our collection activities? How can area and international studies librarians develop strategies for the collaborative collecting of web resources?
- For the past 3-5 years, several institutions have experimented with a new form of collaboration where one area studies librarian shares his/her expertise among two or three institutions. How effective is this kind of position sharing in terms of building international and area studies collections? Is it a way to build stronger, more comprehensive collections for a network of institutions? Does this collaboration come at the cost of other services, such as intense liaison work by the librarian with academic departments on one campus? (While we see the sharing of positions as a form of collaboration, it is clearly also connected to another theme of this workshop, i.e., "Recruitment, Training, Mentoring.")
Area and international studies librarians have a diverse combination of qualifications: they need to combine deep subject background with knowledge of library processes/workflows, an awareness of the ongoing changes in research libraries, and, increasingly, they need to be tech-savvy. They must be competent collection managers with strong language abilities and subject expertise in their disciplines. For some areas, libraries find it increasingly difficult to recruit librarians with the right combination of desired skills and backgrounds. And yet, as the need for "global competencies" and internationalization on our campuses increases, area studies librarians will continue to play a major role in developing and shaping collections, and in being partners in the research and teaching mission of our institutions.
We ask the participants to consider these issues in their responses:
- What kind of training will produce the kind of area librarian described above? For the past 10+ years, libraries, foundations, and library schools have tried to address this question in a variety of ways, through different models. Having observed and worked with these models, we are at a point where we can assess not only their effectiveness, but also future needs. Do we need more training fellowships, such as the Mellon Fellowships, CLIR Fellowships, etc.? Do we need different models of fellowships and what would these be?
- A survey undertaken by ALA’s International Relations Committee/ Eurasia and Central Asia Subcommittee demonstrates that many schools don't offer special courses on area studies. How can LIS curricula prepare professional area studies librarians? How can library schools and libraries collaborate in the training of area studies librarians? Should there be area studies programs or specific courses in library schools? How can this be accomplished in light of the relatively low enrollments of students interested in area studies librarianship at any given time?
- What kinds of qualifications are libraries looking for when they recruit area studies librarians, and are these expectations realistic? Is the perception of job duties the same among librarians, library administrators, and faculty? Is the MLS degree required or do libraries value subject background more highly? At the 1995 conference on "The Future of Area Librarianship" in Bloomington, an analysis of a survey from 187 area studies librarians was presented, and it is reported that participants expressed an interest in having more detailed information about the nature of job duties for area librarians (see Jesus Alonso-Regalado and Mary K. Van Ullen 2009). Has the time come for a detailed, empirical study and analysis of job responsibilities for area studies librarians?
Changes in academic publishing and research, together with growing interest to promote global competencies in North American universities, have led to reviews of library organizational structures seeking to align area studies collections and services with these trends. In some cases, new area studies departments have emerged as distinct organizational units in research libraries. In other cases, such units have existed for quite some time. There is a growing recognition that area specialists share similar issues and challenges which demand more encompassing approaches. Since this is a recent development, these area studies units are still trying to find a common voice and strive to position themselves within their institutions, as well as at the national and international levels.
In light of this scenario and based on your own work and experience, please consider this set of issues in your reply to the provocation:
- How can area and international studies librarians demonstrate the value and impact of their collections and services – within their libraries, but also at the campus level, as well as nationally and internationally? Are conventional measurements (such as budget allocation, collection size, and circulation figures) still adequate standards for assessing library value and impact? Is there a need to develop alternative measurements to gauge the impact of area and international studies library services and collections on institutional goals, student learning, and faculty achievement?
- As libraries respond to changes in the academy, publishing, and the information landscape, how can we position area and international studies collections and services as central to the educational mission of the university? How can we best communicate the values and contributions of the library to diverse constituencies on campus and beyond? Is the time ripe for introducing strategic planning for area and international studies collections and services?
- The current focus on globalization in North American universities promotes an education based on a broad understanding of societies around the world through the study of foreign languages and the acquisition of area-based knowledge. What does this mean for area and international collections and services in research libraries? If greater demand for international resources is anticipated, how can we advocate for continued support for collections and services that adequately support the teaching and research mission of the globalized campuses?