Center for Research Libraries - Global Resources Network

Resources for

A Library Survey Tool for South Asia

Diane Ryan
Digital Library for International Research


Henna painting designs for display on Indian women on festive occasions. From Memhadi Race Mere Hatha, Jayapura: Pramukha Vikreta Vani Mandira, [n.d.].

Survey data on South Asian libraries from the Center for South Asia Libraries (CSAL) has recently become accessible through a new online research tool. The Council of American Overseas Research Centers funded the CSAL survey in 2004 and then went on to develop a project with the American Institute of Yemeni Studies to conduct library and archive surveys in other global areas, notably Israel, Mongolia, Pakistan, Turkey, and Tunisia. This new project, called Local Archives and Libraries at American Overseas Research Centers (LALORC), was funded by the US Department of Education's TICFIA program in 2005 and will be completed in 2009. The LALORC project created an online survey instrument with the assistance of MATRIX, a technology research division of Michigan State University. This instrument is designed to collect comprehensive library data that can be updated over time. Each participating library and archive will have access to their data. Internet users may browse a directory of libraries or register to see the complete set of data entered for that institution. In addition, a wiki is planned so that researchers will be able to contribute data about using the listed institutions and their resources. The LALORC surveys are currently in progress; their complete data will be available in 2009.

CSAL is an American overseas research center designed to facilitate scholarly research and teaching on South Asia in all academic disciplines through improved preservation of and access to the heritage of South Asian countries. The present survey, funded by the Council of American Overseas Research Centers, was conducted between November 2005 and May 2006. It focuses on major libraries and bibliographic holdings primarily in the region of eastern South Asia and includes the states of Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Goa, Tamil Nadu, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh, the city of New Delhi, and the countries of Bangladesh and Nepal. It follows on an earlier survey conducted by the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta, on libraries in West Bengal in India and in Bangladesh, which is currently available on http://dsal.uchicago.edu/csal/surveys/bengali-survey-india.doc.

The CSAL project had four overarching objectives:

  1. to record the libraries/archives that exist in South Asia
  2. to record the items that are held by libraries/archives in South Asia
  3. to discover ways by which libraries/archives in South Asia can be effectively interconnected both regionally and internationally
  4. to develop long-range planning for certain libraries/archives in South Asia.

Taken as a whole, the common fields of the CSAL surveys are:

  • name of library/archives
  • size (e.g., a number or qualifiers such as large/small)
  • languages in collection
  • condition of the collection
  • format of items.

These types of library documentation projects are important in countries where financial commitments to library development in support of scholarly activities have been minimal. Especially in South Asia, there have been few successful knowledge sharing programs or programs that promote awareness of the many important library/archives collections. CSAL hopes to foster library cooperation through its participation in strategic projects like the South Asian library survey and the South Asian Union Catalog (SAUC). Key partners in these projects are the Library of Congress, the South Asia Microform Project at the Center for Research Libraries, the Raja Muthiah Research Library in Chennai, and the University of Chicago Library's South Asia Language and Area Center.