Changing Face of European Studies

WESS Program Summary by Nancy Boerner

WESS Newsletter

Fall 1996, Vol. 20, no. 1

Association of College & Research Libraries
©American Library Association

Concern for the "Changing Face of European Studies" and what it portends for collection development was the focus of the July ALA program sponsored by the Western European and the Slavic/East European Specialists sections of ACRL. Leena Siegelbaum (Michigan State) noted that until recently "Europe was stable, predictable, and boring." Now, since the end of the Cold War, researchers are demonstrating renewed interest in the area. But, as moderator Martha Brogan (Yale) pointed out, increasingly their investigations are becoming problem-oriented, centering less on specific geographic locations than on border-crossing issues such as migration, multi-culturalism, and the diminished role of government. Siegelbaum suggested that building comprehensive collections for this kind of research may require more cooperative planning among libraries, so that, in addition to core materials, the hard-to-find titles, for example those about European minorities written in their own languages, are acquired as well.

An example of international cooperation was provided by Marcelino Ugalde (Nevada-Reno), who described his library's unique Basque Studies collection and his collaboration with institutions in the Basque countries. A project to produce a CD-ROM index of seven daily newspapers is underway there. Ugalde noted that cooperation is greatly enhanced by the electronic availability of catalog records: after 10,000 titles from UNR's Basque holdings were cataloged with support from a U.S. Department of Education grant, interlibrary loan requests for these materials increased by 700 per cent.

The utility of making research materials accessible electronically was emphasized by David Magier (Columbia). Calling the Internet a "great library, but one where the patrons add the books and decide where they shelve," he proposed a "12-step program" that could serve as a guide for building, cataloging, and maintaining useful electronic collections. Magier stressed the importance of access by subject, and advised that bibliographers should concentrate on evaluation and annotation of web sites. He suggested a "distributed model" in which others would be responsible for such tasks as the initial capture of sites to be considered, the creation of a home page, and classification of the new resources. When queried whether building an electronic collection was worth the effort, because "there's so much junk out there," Magier responded that "there's a lot of junk in paper, too," and noted that an electronic collection offers the opportunity of asking users for feedback about holdings, "like conducting a survey in the stacks."

A volcanic explosion in the proximity of an Australian airport thwarted the appearance of Aristide Zolberg (New School for Social Research), who was to have spoken from the perspective of a researcher whose investigations focus on problems that are common to more than one country or region. Summarizing the discussion, Martha Brogan noted that scholars still need an understanding of individual countries in order to bring informed judgment to bear on issues that affect a number of them at the same time, but perhaps in different ways.

Nancy Boerner
1996 Program Planning Committee

[This report is an expanded version of the piece that appeared in C&RL News-Ed.]

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