Center for Research Libraries - Global Resources Network

Resources for

Current CRL Global Initiatives

James Simon
Director of International Resources, Center for Research Libraries


From January 23-25, 2003, the Coalition for International Education sponsored a conference hosted by Duke University, entitled: “Global Challenges and U.S. Higher Education.” The conference was planned in response to the impending reauthorization of the Higher Education Act by the U.S. Congress. Conference participants, ranging from representatives of language programs and National Resource Centers, professional school and undergraduate educators, librarians, coalition members, and Department of Education administrators gathered to provide a renewed assessment of the adequacy of international education in the U.S. in relation to emergent national needs in a global era. The full conference description, papers, and deliberations may be found at: http://www.duke.edu/web/cis/globalchallenges/

One commissioned paper and breakout session was devoted to library and information resources for international education. Deborah Jakubs (Duke University) and Dan Hazen (Harvard University) contributed a thoughtful and comprehensive assessment of current needs of and challenges to the profession, trends and opportunities that have emerged in the past several years, and areas in which external funds and efforts could be helpful to libraries as they seek to support international education.

The paper and subsequent discussion provide ample background to these issues and will not be detailed here. This article attempts to address how the Center for Research Library is participating in the national effort to meet these needs, described in terms of budgets, collection building, intellectual access, preservation, cooperative efforts, and strategic directions for CRL.

Budgets

As library budgets face increasing strains, CRL proves to be a strong investment for research institutions. Membership fee increases have been kept to a minimum over the years, far below average increases in acquisition and operation costs of its individual members. Yet CRL continues to combat the reduced buying power of the library dollar through emphasis on maintaining its collection spending while achieving savings through staff reductions, technological efficiencies, and external support.

In times of fiscal pressure, we contend it is even more imperative to invest in cooperative programs like CRL, which provide spending efficiencies and enable cost avoidance for member’s own collecting activities. As one library director recently noted, “For $55,000 in CRL dues I get $200,000 worth of new microfilm each year, and I don’t have to catalog or store it.”

Collection Building

The Center’s collection continues to be central to its mission. From area studies material to foreign dissertations, global newspapers and scholarly journals, CRL's international materials are strongly valued by its membership. The wide range of highly specialized material, focusing on less commonly held items, directly addresses the need for information providers to collect “from the periphery.” This sentiment was validated by the participants of CRL’s recent historian’s conference (see last issue of FOCUS), who characterized and praised the Center as an institution that “still cultivates the obscure.”

The Center’s collection continues to be central to its mission. From area studies material to foreign dissertations, global newspapers and scholarly journals, CRL's international materials are strongly valued by its membership. The wide range of highly specialized material, focusing on less commonly held items, directly addresses the need for information providers to collect “from the periphery.” This sentiment was validated by the participants of CRL’s recent historian’s conference (see last issue of FOCUS), who characterized and praised the Center as an institution that “still cultivates the obscure.”

CRL views as an opportunity rather than crisis the inevitable “demise of the completeness syndrome” (as put by Ross Atkinson at CRL’s recent cooperative collection development conference). With the cascading explosion of information produced in print and electronic form, individual institutions cannot and should not attempt to amass comprehensive collections for their local patronage. Instead, institutions must be encouraged to take advantage of synergies and negotiate arrangements with other information providers to develop complementary and codependent collections (see best practices of institutions already doing this). CRL’s four-plus million volumes of material can already be considered a part of this shared national collection of research material. Members’ reliance on and integration with CRL’s collecting strengths will only serve to aid this shift to a national “information commons.”

Intellectual Access

The Jakubs/Hazen conference paper discusses the crisis of access to material through bibliographic control and intellectual property. As cataloging arrearages persist and grow, foreign language materials are often over-represented in these backlogs. The Center, always known for its high quality work in creating and enhancing bibliographic records, continues to make unprecedented gains in its own cataloging priorities. With assistance from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, CRL is processing its renowned foreign dissertation collection, surpassing 100,000 records in the first year of work. Other collections such as its Turkish, Russian, Chinese, and Thai materials have all undergone major cataloging, while other unprocessed collections such as the foreign bank publications and textbooks are described in detailed guides available via the Web. CRL plays a part in indexing foreign language serials through the work of the Digital South Asia Library (DSAL) and Latin Americanist Research Resources Project.

Preservation

Preservation of intellectual and cultural heritage remains a critical issue for research libraries, even as new technologies enabling broad access compete directly for vital internal and external support. The Center remains committed to preservation of international materials in print and alternative forms. Projects such as the Area Microform Projects (AMPs) and the International Coalition on Newspapers (ICON) acquire material to preserve in durable formats, while new efforts at the Center seek to provide recommendations for a national cooperative framework for the long-term retention and maintenance of artifactual collections, whether in hard copy (see Distributed Print Archive Model in the last issue of FOCUS) or in digital formats (see Political Web archiving project elsewhere in this issue).

Cooperative Efforts

Perhaps the most significant progress in providing new access to international resources has been made through collaborative efforts among libraries and research institutions in recent years. The ARL/AAU Global Resources Program and the Department of Education’s “Technological Innovation and Cooperation for Foreign Information Access” (TICFIA) program provide focus for international cooperative efforts to provide access to foreign language research collections. CRL plays a crucial role in several of these projects, including the administration and management of DSAL and the Cooperative African Newspapers Project.

However, CRL’s commitment to cooperative efforts for international access stretches back to its founding. The Foreign Newspaper Microfilm Project (FNMP) and preservation of foreign official gazettes are key examples of early projects that harnessed the collective will and expertise of the nation’s foremost research institutions. These efforts continue today, alongside the aforementioned AMPs, as models of successful cooperative collection development.

CRL has also long been a champion for institutional linkages with overseas partners. From its exchanges with European universities for foreign dissertations to the partnerships with national libraries to acquire and preserve unique historical research material, CRL is a key player in forging new connections with our distant colleagues. A notable recent example is the Center for South Asia Libraries (CSAL), which was formed as an independent non-profit organization with the assistance of CRL as a mechanism to facilitate scholarly research and teaching on South Asia in all academic disciplines through improved preservation of and access to the heritage of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. CSAL is composed of member institutions in the U.S. and the Indian subcontinent and is based on the principle of mutual benefit to U.S. and South Asian scholars.

CRL’s Strategic Direction

The newly created International Resources division of CRL is closely coordinating its efforts to advance CRL’s strategic plan (approved April 2002). It is aggressively pursuing strategic collection development on a cooperative basis though its coordination of the AMPs as well as through the use of its Area Studies Council. It has pursued mechanisms to facilitate the work of the cooperative projects (staffing needs, infrastructure) and is exploring strategic partnerships and opportunities through existing programs (like the Global Resources Program) and with new partners (such as the Council on American Overseas Research Centers).

It helps optimize resource sharing with and among CRL member institutions and end-users through the continual development of subject-based resources and through its assistance in evaluating and publicizing cooperative initiatives of the international resource community (for examples, see CRL’s hosted TICFIA project and cooperative collection development mapping project pages). It is also assessing the efficacy of the growing movement towards metadata exposure and interoperability through the Open Archives Initiative, preparing to lend its metadata created by the Digital South Asia Library and related efforts of federated South Asian research institutions.

It promotes and supports action for the cooperative preservation of print and digital scholarly materials through the implementation of such projects as the aforementioned Political Web Archive and ICON. It is exploring additional opportunities along this vein through its international preservation initiatives (such as the Title VI African archives cooperative projects and its assistance with the Social Science Research Council-supported Hemingway Collection Preservation Project in Cuba).

Finally, it is assisting with the diversification of sources of CRL revenue and resources through its continuing improvement of its newspaper microform sales program, exploration of cooperative activities with publishers and university press establishments, and providing program and content management experience to other projects seeking assistance.

These efforts, naturally, are not the ultimate solution to the crises facing academic research libraries in the new millennium. However, they do serve to demonstrate that the community is able to pool its efforts through well-proven mechanisms such as CRL to address the changing needs of our profession and, as a direct relation, the needs of the international scholarly community.