Message From the WESS Chair

WESS Newsletter

Spring 1999, Vol. 22, no. 2

Association of College & Research Libraries
©American Library Association

Anyone who participates in WESS over a period of time is struck by the steadfastness of our membership: year after year, decade after decade, one experiences, for better or worse, a remarkable constancy in the group of Europeanist librarians who come to WESS meetings and participate in its activities. Also, some say, a preponderance of a certain type of librarian: typically a European-American male, from a large research library (likely active in collection development, and most likely in literature), wearing corduroy pants and a tweed jacket (sometimes updated to suede or even black leather), gray at the temples (at a minimum), and with a receding hairline. Thanks in part to prodding from some of its younger members, WESS has recently made efforts to broaden its focus and to attract and involve a more diverse membership. A new Membership Committee is working hard not just to extend WESS's reach, but to enrich our offerings; the WESS catalogers have organized a discussion group; a Special Topics discussion group provides a forum for learning about issues outside the scope of the standard committees and discussion groups structure; those working in history and the social sciences (e.g., those pesky data sets) now meet twice a year; we are talking now about how to best to weave francophone and post-colonial topics into the WESS fabric; and the College and Medium-Sized Library Discussion Group, started over ten years ago, continues to focus its attention on that important but still too often marginalized constituency. In this spirit, we have taken the opportunity of a general bylaws revision to change WESS's name-from Western European Specialists Section to Western European Studies Section-which is not to say that the "specialists" in the Section won't continue to find it a valuable outlet for their interests and efforts.

There is also a feeling, however, that one of the greatest opportunities for developing the Section is in more actively including precisely those members who do not attend meetings, especially those who never come to the conferences at all, whether this is because they don't receive sufficient funding, or because they dislike large meetings, or because of family obligations, or physical disabilities, or dislike of travel (imagine, for example, not wanting to spend five July days in Dallas). WESS's on-the-books membership has hovered steadily around 700 for some years, but less than 150 vote in the elections, and somewhat fewer than that attend meetings regularly. Presumably we "reach" the remaining 550 by the Newsletter, WESSWeb and the various listservs, and one has only to imagine how much these 550 could add to the vitality of the Section if they (you) were encouraged to participate more actively, if ways were found to bring them (you) into the activities of the Section without having to be physically present at meetings-if we could find ways to make it worth your while. And the benefits do go both ways: a number of abstractors for Reference Reviews Europe who never attend meetings have said how pleased they are finally to have an opportunity to participate professionally as Europeanist librarians and to exercise their talents and energy in a wider professional context. Obviously, it is important to involve those who don't attend the conferences in the discussions about the possibility of creating opportunities for "remote" or "virtual" (but no less active) participation in the activities of the Section. The Membership Committee will be working to make this happen, but you who are reading this might give it some thought as well. E-mail someone (the Chair of the Membership Committee, presently Gordon Anderson, is a good place to start- and declare your interest. We would also be most grateful for your ideas and suggestions on this or any other WESS-related topic: e-mail me (current Chair) at or the incoming Chair, John Cullars, at

Stephen Lehmann

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