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Ford Foundation Grant to Improve South Asia Study



South Asia scholarly study will be significantly improved as a result of a $90,000 Ford Foundation grant recently awarded to the Sundarayya Vignana Kendram (SVK) research library in Hyderabad for the creation of a South Asia Union Catalogue. The three-year, self-sustaining project will create an on-line bibliography of books and periodicals, including newspapers, in addition to a union catalogue of holdings.

“Currently only a small fraction of South Asian imprints are described with electronic records, resulting in inefficient expenditures of researchers’ time and degradation of the quality of scholarship.” James Nye, bibliographer for Southern Asia at the University of Chicago and co-principal investigator for the project, explained. “The creation of this new program will substantially improve the production, distribution, and consumption of scholarship about South Asia.”

The first phase of the Union Catalogue will focus on imprints from South India and Sri Lanka. Publications in all modern and classical languages in the region — including those in Persian and Arabic, especially important because of India’s role in the nineteenth-century revival of Muslim learning — will be encompassed. Subsequent phases will focus on the northeastern and northwestern regions of the subcontinent.

During three years of funding, the program will:

  • Create bibliographic records for all books and periodicals published in South India and Sri Lanka during the period of 1801 to 1959, a period not well covered through other sources;
  • Distribute the new bibliographic data to the Online Computer Library Center and South Asian bibliographic databases such as INFLIBNET;
  • Prepare a new site on the internet containing bibliographic records for South Asian publications with imprints from 1556 through the present for use by scholars and librarians; and
  • Develop the mechanism for South Asian and other libraries to attach holdings information to the bibliographic records and to upgrade the data on the new website.

International Collaboration Key to Project Success

The project will rely heavily on international collaboration. Initial partners include members of the Council of South Asia Library Centres, the Center for South Asia Libraries, the Digital South Asia Library, and the University of Chicago. The SVK will be the administrative home for the program’s first phase. The University of Chicago Library, a principal participant in the Digital South Asia Library and the Center for South Asia Libraries, will serve as the U.S. base. CRL President Bernard Reilly will serve on the Governing Board. Other collaborating partners include: the Roja Muthiah Research Library and Urdu Documentation Centre. Additional partners will be sought as the program develops.

Work Officially Began in September

To help populate the South Asia Union Catalogue, the Library of Congress is delivering a full set of its bibliographic records for South Asian publications. The database is also expected to receive relevant catalog records from earlier South Asia Microform Projects, the Official Publications of India, the Indological Series project, and other unique records from the Committee on South Asia Libraries and Documentation.

In addition, experimentation with a server that meets the requirements of the Z39.50 protocol started in September.

Funding for subsequent phases will be sought from other sources. The full text of the proposal can be found online.