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Collaboration, Advocacy, and Recruitment:
Area and International Studies Librarianship Workshop

October 30-31, 2013
Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana, USA

Workshop Description

The IU Libraries are planning an invitational workshop on international and area studies librarianship and collections to be held at Indiana University on October 30 and 31, 2013. With this workshop, we propose to debate, think, and develop an agenda for continued conversations that will keep area and international studies librarianship linked to ongoing developments and strategies in the library and information world as it responds to changes and shifts in higher education. We envision several potential outcomes, e.g., plans for collaboration on international partnerships, programs for the training of area studies librarians, positioning area and international studies collections and librarians within the context of current trends in research libraries. The need to address area and international library collections within the contexts of the changing nature of research libraries as well as discussions and efforts to “internationalize” our campuses is reflected in two conferences in the fall of 2012, one at Yale on “International & Area Studies Collections in the 21st Century” (November 2012), and “The Global Dimensions of Scholarship and Research Libraries” at Duke University in December 2012. These topics are also discussed within area studies librarians’ associations, as for example at a joint panel of Romance and Germanist Language Discussion Groups (WESS) on “New Directions for Collection Development in North American Research Institutions” at the upcoming meeting of the American Library Association, and at two connected roundtables organized by the Africana Librarians Council at the annual meeting of the African Studies Association in November this year: “Telling Our Story, Part I: Positioning African Studies to Thrive within Changing Research and Political Landscapes”, and “Telling our Story, Part II: Cross-Dialogue for Strategies to Sustain Area Studies – Libraries, Archives, and Scholarship”. In this last respect, we also hope that our workshop will bring some of these conferences together, possibly in form of a larger conference on these issues at the national level.

Workshop Format:

We will invite 15 participants (representatives of different area studies fields including librarians, administrators, and members from professional organizations and foundations) to engage in in-depth discussion of three broad themes: collaboration, recruitment, and advocacy.

Inspired by similar workshops at Indiana University, the format of this workshop is designed to be interactive. The workshop organizers will post a short Provocation for each theme on a secure site. These Provocations will frame the issues for a roundtable discussion on each of the three workshop themes.

Several invited participants will prepare written Responses to the Provocations. Posted on the website, these Responses will be available to all participants to read before the workshop. The workshop sessions will begin with introductions of the themes and questions raised in the Provocation(s), as well as introductions of participants and keynote speakers. Keynote speakers and several participants will then be asked to speak and comment on the posted Provocations and Responses. Following their comments, each author of the posted comments will have the opportunity to reply to issues raised by the commentators and to the statements of the other participants. All attendees are then invited to join in the discussion.


Interested area and international studies librarians, administrators and members of other organizations and foundations are welcome to attend this workshop (advance registration requested). Announcements and updates will be sent not only through the relevant listservs, but also through the workshop website. The number of in-person participants will be limited to 50.

The workshop will be structured around three themes:

Theme I: Collaboration

From Collecting Global Resources (ARL Spec Kit 2011), Executive Summary: “Global studies librarians, in particular, have always functioned in a collaborative environment. In fact, much of their work would not have been possible without partnerships, especially in the area of collection development and reference. Recently, however, collaboration at the national level has been taken to a higher level. The development of shared print repositories and partnerships such as HathiTrust are just two examples. While global collections librarians participate in and benefit from the initiatives on the national stage, these initiatives take on different, international forms as wells. Collaboration, in fact, emerges as an overarching theme from the survey. And the electronic sharing of materials, either through joint efforts to populate institutional repositories or through collaborative digitization projects, will likely increase. Furthermore, the survey responses indicate that other forms of collaboration, such as sharing the positions of global resources librarians by several institutions, are currently in progress at several libraries. It is still too early to assess the effectiveness and the impact on the profession of these latter initiatives. It seems safe to predict, however, that collaboration and partnerships of global resources librarians within the framework of other collaborative efforts at their libraries (e.g., through consortial agreements), and through partnerships with colleagues and libraries at the international level, will only increase in the future.“

The trends for partnerships and collaboration emerging from the ARL Spec Kit on Collecting Global Resources have also been discussed at the recent conferences mentioned above, and area librarians at several institutions are involved with innovative partnerships at the international level. To our knowledge, there have not yet been efforts to link these efforts and to create networks of partnerships. For area and international studies library collections, what does this mean? What kinds of partnerships and collaborations will take us into the future? What forms of collection development should we practice? What is the model of collecting going forward? What needs to be changed? E.g., could these partnerships be a form of collaborative collection development?

Theme II: 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 (Ph.D.s are often preferred for these positions). 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.

These issues are not new, and libraries, foundations, and library schools have tried to address them in a variety of ways, through different models. For example, we have had Mellon Fellowships for the training of area librarians; CLIR fellowships; at IU, as a result of the 1995 future of area studies conference, dual MA degree options were established between the School of Library and Information Science and the area studies programs. However, specific library science courses for students interested in area studies librarianship are relatively rare.

We have now had 10+ years to observe and work with these models, and we are at a point where we can assess not only their effectiveness, but also future needs. What do we need going into the future? What kind of training will produce the kind of area librarian described above, who can work closely with academic programs and in the library? More training fellowships? If yes, in addition, or as a substitute to the MLS? Area studies programs or specific courses in library schools?

Theme III: Advocacy/Positioning Area Studies Librarians and Collections

Changes in publishing and scholarship, as well as a renewed stress on internationalization have in many instances resulted in reviews of library organizational structures to align area studies with these new trends. Area Studies departments have emerged as an organizational unit in many libraries where previously area studies librarians tended to focus solely on their respective world areas, within different organizational structures. Since this is a fairly recent development, these area studies units are still trying to find a common voice, and to position themselves within their libraries, but also at the national and international levels. Questions that arise in this context: how can area and international studies librarians demonstrate the value and impact of their collections and services – within their libraries, but also at the local level on campus, as well as nationally? What assessment tools should be used? Does the trend towards global and international studies centers lead to a competition for library resources between area and international studies with a resulting fragmentization of services and collections? (see Hazen, “Provocations and Irritations for the Globalized Research Library”). How can we position ourselves so that area and international studies collections will continue to have a place at the table as libraries develop and react to changes in the information and scholarly world?

The workshop will conclude with a discussion of next steps.